Banting, Keto and Food Addiction

You may be well versed in the ways of keto or just starting on your Real Meal journey, either way no one is immune to those cunning thoughts that can creep in with a gentle whisper:

 “It will feel so good to eat that gummy bear… just one”.

For some, this voice may not be so gentle and definitely not so quiet. It can be surprisingly persuasive and slowly wear down your resolve to continue eating what you know is healthy for you. That voice can get so loud and menacing that eventually it might say: “That gummy bear wants to be eaten, if you do not eat it, it will not fulfil its destiny, you need to eat it.” Before you know it, you are reaching for that gummy bear, and soon thereafter, all of its friends and family (best the gummy bears all meet their destiny together – that voice again).

What is described above is called addictive thinking and behaviour. These thoughts are irrational and distorted and create justifications to engage in unhealthy behaviours. The word “addictive” is used because it is closely related to what happens to someone with an addiction. Basically, when an alcoholic consumes alcohol, the brain is physiologically impacted and the brain’s reward centre is unable to function normally. This leads to overuse, cravings and, importantly, a loss of control and inability to make rational and well thought-out decisions. The alcoholic will convince themself that continuing to drink is not only ok, but necessary! This is all despite the fact that drinking that alcohol will cause harmful consequences (and has done so in the past).

“The alcoholic is not in control when they are drinking alcohol. “

A similar thing can happen with the consumption of sugar. For one, the problem has been compounded because we have previously been told to eat sugar and carbs as part of a “healthy diet”. Think about being on those endless diets where, without knowing it, your brain and body were actually hijacked by the sugar fixes you were having throughout the day. You were probably constantly hungry, unsatisfied, obsessing about eating and craving sweet things. Eventually you might have given into those cravings, ending in an episode of binging or even worse, that despairing state of feeling out of control. That low-fat organically sweetened strawberry yoghurt (you know the one) you were told to eat, was essentially setting these unhealthy thought patterns and behaviours in motion. Irrational and distorted thinking around eating started to creep in.

Secondly, psychologically we have also learnt to rely on sugar for a little dopamine fix and an instant way to soothe any kind of uncomfortable feeling. Even now, when you might be on the keto path and can recognise these old ways of thinking as misaligned with your health goals, the old justifications remain. The temptation to get that quick fix remains too. Keto (AKA Banting) helps in that your brain is no longer taken hostage by sugar, so you can think clearly and make rational decisions, but those old distorted thought patterns can still get activated. 

“For some people, sugar should be avoided at all costs as it leads them into a sugar death spiral where they are no longer able to make rational and healthy decisions.”

For some people, sugar should be avoided at all costs as it leads them into a sugar death spiral where they are no longer able to make rational and healthy decisions.There is total loss of control that ends in the demise of all the gummy bears, the community of chocolate buttons, and the whole population of cookies in the cupboard. For other people, this loss of control is not as intense, but some aspects of addictive thoughts and behaviours are difficult to manage. It can be very useful to identify them so that you can work on changing them.

Here are 10 Addictive Eating and Thinking Behaviours

  1. Eating things that you know will not leave you feeling good (physically and emotionally)
  2. Eating food despite harmful consequences (weight gain, sickness, unhappiness)
  3. Attempting to control eating but being unsuccessful 
  4. Eating to numb or disconnect from emotions
  5. Eating to distract yourself 
  6. Eating until you are uncomfortably full or even feeling sick
  7. Making excuses and justifying eating unhealthy food 
  8. Justifying that food is a reward or treat that was earned 
  9. Obsession or preoccupation with eating sugar/processed foods
  10. Dishonest behaviour around food (lying about eating)

If you experience any of these thoughts and behaviours, it’s important to acknowledge them and normalise them. They are bound to happen and you are not alone in that. Recognising them and seeking help with them is really the first step towards gaining back control, both physically and psychologically. Trying to tackle this alone can be tricky, because when things don’t go to plan you can be left feeling confused and ashamed. Addictive thoughts and behaviours are fuelled by shame.

Surround yourself with people who can support you and offer a sanity check, helping you recognise and address these old addictive patterns. A solid support system is incredibly important because some of your old addictive thinking is pretty sneaky and convincing, and it’s very helpful when other people can notice it and point it out to you. 

This is where the RMR Coaching Program, RMR Online Course and the Hero Group Support Program can help you. All three of the packages include weekly workshops with coaches, dietitians and me (Victoria, the clinical psychologist). You can ask for help with these patterns and figure out how to create alternative thoughts and behaviours that are much healthier. The importance of asking for help cannot be underestimated.

So next time that gentle voice whispers to you that it is a good idea to have “just one”, or whatever justification you will tell yourself, recognise it for what it is, talk about it and ask for help with it. You can then congratulate yourself for not acting on these old and distorted thoughts. You will feel more in control. You will feel a sense of relief… and so will the gummy bears.  

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