Starting keto to lose weight? Yeah I did too but then I discovered the thousand other ways keto helps beyond the scale. One major plus of keto, besides weight loss, is that it can help break the binge cycle that is all too familiar to those of us with carb addiction. Breaking the binge cycle stops us using food for reward and punishment. When we go keto we remove the sugar crashes that can trigger a binge and send us down a rabbit hole of guilt, shame and embarrassment.
How the binge cycle works
It starts with a fleeting thought or image in your brain. A chocolate bar, a doughnut, bread or other food that makes you feel good. Maybe you’re tired, maybe you had a bad day or you’re stressed and you tell yourself that you deserve the food that you’re craving. You go to the kitchen and take out the chocolate, rip off the wrapper and take a big bite. A wave of aaahhhh floods over you and you feel better, more relaxed and calm.
You feel so much better but still not quite as relaxed as you could be so your mind goes back to the other chocolate bar in the cupboard. Maybe one more will get you over the line and you’ll be satisfied and relaxed. So you go and eat the second bar of chocolate. Your brain is flooded with dopamine, the feel good hormone, and right now you feel good!
Then comes the crash. “I’m such a greedy pig, I ate all of that chocolate. Why can’t I stop at one? I’m an idiot and I’ve ruined everything. I’m going to be fat forever. What is wrong with me? How am I ever going to lose weight? Why can’t I control myself? I’ve ruined it now, I might as well have the whole lot.”
Then it’s time for weigh in and you’re up. You begin to berate yourself once again. “I knew I would weigh more. No matter what I do, I can’t seem to lose it. I’m just a big fat pig. That’s it I’m starting again tomorrow”. Determination is strong and you’re so tired of battling these feelings, exhausted by the emotional rollercoaster.
For a couple of days you’re on fire! Sticking to keto, counting your carbs and you might even lose a couple of pounds. Life is good!! Until you’re faced with temptation. You know that you can’t tolerate that doughnut, it’s dangerous to even attempt to have just one. But then you feel deprived. You want to be able to just have one doughnut if you like. This doughnut will make you feel good, food has always been a great comfort. “I’ve already got so much stress in my life, I don’t need another one. I’ve so much going on right now, all of these emotions are threatening to overwhelm me. I’m so full of anxiety. Pass me the doughnut.” “I can’t believe I’ve done it again, I’m such a greedy pig. I have no self control. I’ve ruined my diet again, I put all of the weight back on and I’m even fatter than before. I will never succeed. I’ll never lose the weight.”
Change your mindset
And so the cycle begins again. I’m sure that this is such a familiar scenario that you could have written it yourself. I had a client who came to me because she couldn’t shift the extra 5kg she carried around. I spoke to her about this cycle and she was adamant that she wasn’t addicted to carbs and had no issues with food. For 7 weeks we worked intensely together to get her fully on keto but like clockwork every 4 days she would end up binging on carbs. She was shocked to realise that she was reliant on carbs for stress relief and needed to do some self exploration to get to the root of the problem.
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Breaking this cycle has been fundamental to my ability to maintain my weight loss. Having awareness of my emotions and why I used certain foods to numb, to relieve stress or to reward myself was key in breaking this cycle. Exploring emotions is not easy and can be quite uncomfortable but only by pulling back the layers can we get to the root of the problem. I’ve learned to change the way I deal with the emotions that come up for me without turning to food and triggering this cycle of shame, guilt and feelings of failure.
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