In almost all cultures, food has always played a dual physical and spiritual role, and with that many rules have been passed on. Jewish tradition forbids eating pork, Hindus forbid eating meat, and many Native American tribes forbid eating foods that are not sacred. On the other hand, there are spiritual foods that confer spiritual power. Indigenous ceremonies are often based on strict rules about what foods to serve. Sometimes the medicine is in what we take and sometimes it depends on what we leave out. The question is, how do we know what to eat or drink and what not to eat? This is the realm of spiritual nourishment.

In the midst of many (often conflicting) choices, there is the still, small voice within each of us that knows the answer to our question. It is the voice of our intuitive selves, the part of us that is innately connected to our deepest truth and always attuned to what we need in body, mind and soul. Our intuition reminds us to slow down, listen, and pay attention to the messages and signals our bodies are continually transmitting about which spiritual foods are best for us at any given time. These messages can be conveyed in a variety of ways, such as genuine hunger, cravings, addictions, allergies, good and bad moods, high-low energy levels, physical discomfort, and feelings of pleasure. As you begin to understand the subtleties of spiritual nourishment, you will understand what all these signs mean, as described below.

The following list of connections between food, emotions and beliefs can be used as a standalone reference or in conjunction with the intuitive eating awareness process and journaling worksheet.

Desires are important reminders of the body and are a way of telling us about our emotional needs. They can also provide clues to limiting beliefs or negative self-talk that may be contributing to an emotional disturbance, whether that disturbance is a minor, temporary state or a chronic, debilitating pattern Desires are tools and guides in the discipline of spiritual nourishment.

The food and feeling connections outlined here may shed some light on the interaction between certain thoughts, feelings, and emotions that may be seeking your attention. Here are some examples that we can all relate to.

The Emotional Messages of Food

Using this list can help you begin to see your food cravings and choices through a lens of self-acceptance, self-respect, and kindness and, as a result, move toward healthier spiritual foods. For example, if you find that you’ve been eating mostly crunchy foods like popcorn, celery, and French fries, you can imagine that you’re angry. Take some time to find out what or who you are angry with, and perhaps what subtle energy boundaries you believe have been violated or are violating in other people. If your diary page is full of sticky, gooey buns, you’re probably looking for solace in all the wrong places—in food rather than relationships. By taking stock of your diet, you can get in touch with your inner heart and respond to its deepest needs in more loving ways than literally nurturing your feelings, which is ideal when living in line with the principles of spiritual nourishment. If you change your attitude and behavior, your eating cravings and eating habits will also become healthier.

Crunchy food: anger. Crunchy foods help us to express our anger in a safe way, providing an outlet so that we don’t have to deal with the people or circumstances that make us angry.

Salty Foods: Fear. We crave salty foods because we want to have more “spice” in our lives, but we’re too afraid to take chances.

Products with high gluten or wheat content: Comfort and safety. What’s more comforting than a warm cinnamon roll, mashed potatoes or a bowl of noodles? Gluten-based products give us the comfort and security we need in a non-threatening way. Has a cinnamon roll ever rejected you?

Sugar: excitement and need. When we cannot provide excitement for ourselves, sugar does it for us; if we cannot allow someone else to share the joy with us, we can use sugar as a substitute playmate.

Dairy products (milk, ice cream, full fat cheese): Love. Our first food was milk – breast milk. Rich, sugary and/or fatty dairy products represent the unconditional love we received – or should receive – during childhood. We crave dairy and food when we want unconditional love and protection and cannot find them in our everyday lives.

Chocolate: sexual desire. We are all sensual and sexual beings. Eating chocolate is a sure way to feel sensual when romance is lacking in our lives. It’s also a substitute for the sex and physical love we need but can be too scared to get.

Alcohol: Acceptance. If you don’t feel accepted for who you really are, or worse, if you were punished for being yourself when you were young, alcohol can give the illusion of self-acceptance. It can also protect you from the perceived dangers of intimacy. The sugar in alcohol can replace excitement. Corn in alcohol can ease the feeling of failure, and grain alcohol can give us the warm feelings we may miss in our relationships.

Corn: Success. We all want to have and feel successful. Eating corn or corn products can not only momentarily imbue us with a sense of professional success, but also protect us from deep feelings of insecurity and failure.

Greasy food: shame. Foothe greasy ones hide our inner shame. They also envelop us in a bubble of shame (fat), so that we are protected from other people. After all, letting someone get close can make us feel even worse about ourselves. This is not a rule, but just a new look to be studied in light of our emotional needs that we instinctively lead to food addiction.