So you’ve been on keto for a while, but still experiencing cravings that seem out of control at times?
You’re not alone, and there are some very good reasons why…
After discovering the delights of the ketogenic way of eating, it doesn’t take very long before most of us experience the early physical effects of eating meals that deeply satisfy us. Because they signal to the brain that we’ve eaten. Sending a message to the nervous system of fed. This signalling occurs in a variety of ways:
- The most immediate response happens in the brain. A hormone called leptin is emitted when we’re full and satiated. This is picked up by the Amygdala (the gland that runs our Fight or Flight nervous system response to threat)…it literally ‘switches off’ the urge to eat. Our Amygdala becomes quiet, and we move on to something more interesting instead.
- Over the course of a few weeks, the stomach shrinks back to its’ natural size. (There is some debate about this, but takes about 3 weeks or so). It might have been distended for a long period of time, if it’s been filled with very bulky foods such as processed carbs (think pasta, bread and potatoes). So as it shrinks, the nerve endings surrounding the stomach can regain their sensitivity. They may have been unresponsive for many years, then their message has become dull, confusing our genuine appetite. Once their sensitivity increases, they send this message to the Amygdala -we’re full. We’re fed. The stomach is full, yet again switching off the desire to eat.
- Fats and proteins are dense, heavy foods, and they sit in the stomach for hours. They transit slowly through the digestive system, releasing their gentle, sustainable energy, so your body regains it’s natural vibrancy.
- The Sugar Fog evaporates from your brain and you are able to focus and concentrate more easily.
- Eating fat particularly changes our experience of taste. Although not necessarily as satisfying as protein, from an appetite point of view, the 2 combine naturally to complement each other, and round off the simple pleasure of eating satisfying food. They naturally occur together for a very good reason!
(I set a challenge to the members of one of my weight loss groups a little while ago: To try and eat something very sweet after eating a very high fat food, such as mackerel. At the next programme session, they all said that the attempt had actually repulsed them. Even the thought of it made them feel sick. It’s interesting how strong the ‘disgust’ mechanism is, in relation to the food we eat. And I believe that is what’s at play here. At the very start of ingestion the taste buds, once tuned to fat, simply won’t tolerate high sugar stimulation. From a survival perspective, the jury is out on exactly why, but let’s just say that the Amygdala always has it’s reasons! It may be that once we are satiated, there is actually a danger in over eating? A baby (who is born already tuned in to its’ natural appetite), will refuse food once full, and will become distressed if forced to eat more than it needs. I remember my grandson getting upset when he thought he had to eat more- he didn’t want his “tummy to be too full!” So from a survival point of view we automatically switch off the desire for sugar immediately after a high fat/protein meal).
- Insulin production is drastically reduced on a ketogenic diet. As this is the hormone that stimulates our hunger, we no longer have that constant, nagging feeling that we need to eat something. That “what’s in the cupboards?” foraging urge, even though we’re not hungry. So we return to a simple natural appetite. (Hunger pangs occur for all kinds of reasons, eating processed or simple carbs has confused our appetite, and we weren’t really aware of the true message of empty till now. It’s the nature of the erratic energy processed carbs deliver us).
So this is what we are looking at…we are re-setting our body back to its’ natural appetite. From a psychological perspective, this is an experience of not noticing something. Switching off an alarm message of not fed that we no longer need to hear. The absence of the diet drama.
This is merely STAGE 1 of the weight loss process for many of us though. Not all of us. But many. A lot. And there are some interesting reasons for this. The fact of the matter is that your body may feel satisfied now, but it hasn’t always been…and that’s where the whole problem begins.
In all honesty, most of us don’t arrive at this lovely happy physical state of affairs of feeling fed, without first enduring a long and illustrious weight loss/dieting career. This has deep physical and emotional connotations for us. Let me explain a little further so you can see what I mean. And, more to the point, what you can do about it! The simple truth is this…
Food is half your therapy. Therapy is the other half of your therapy…
First of all, we have a rich and deep emotional relationship with food. It is the most intimate connection we have with the world around us. It’s highly personal and the necessity is non-negotiable.
My mum fed me sugar sandwiches for my tea. As a child of the 60’s, this really wasn’t anything odd. My parents were products of the austerity of the war years, so sugar was a sign of love. A real treat. And what a treat! I have been a sugar addict since about 3 years old, and I think the early years trigger may well have been the bread and butter, lovingly dipped in the sugar bowl.
We don’t yet know why some get triggered into sugar addiction, and others escape that shameful state, but it’s very, very common. Sugar is sensed as a reward. A symbol of maternal love. An emotional crutch. A friend and ally in times of stress. We build it up into unrealistic, mythical proportions, containing magical powers for human happiness! In fact, a lot of clients will declare to me “I simply can’t cope without it!” at our initial session. In The Break The Crave System I explain more fully about the emotionally charged, addictive relationship to sugar. if you’d like to know more about your own relationship to it You could take this quiz, and find out.
Secondly, there is something much deeper and more powerful at play, and that is the physical impact of our un-natural dieting habits. If we’ve ever (even just for a few weeks), been on a diet, then we have triggered the ‘starvation’ threat message in the Amygdala; this gland that runs our survival is the most dominant gland in our brain. By a mile. And the message it sends out is CRAVE. And that baby is not to be messed with! The CRAVE message is triggered in 3 different ways.
- By eating simple sugars (that’s a done deal, whether you realise it or not!).
- Eating processed carbs.
- The 3rd way is by going on a diet (not taking in enough calories for fuel).
CRAVE is such an integral component of calorie reduction diets, that weight loss companies float shares on it. It is that reliable.
The Amygdala sends a barely noticeable, almost imperceptible sensation. It’s delivered via the nervous system. The tiny little tickle that is our CRAVE message will drive the out-of-control REACHING mechanism over and over and over again. Once triggered, it’s dominance will over-ride our depressingly unsuccessful desire to be thin. Because that’s it’s job, and it is brilliant at it!
This leads to a lifetime of being in the grip of food addiction. We might call it emotional eating. But it is a holding pattern. Driven by a consistent message, held on ‘repeat’, which will only stop when we find a way to switch it off. This needs to happen where it lives- in the nervous system.
Lastly, we have habit. It sounds so innocuous, but habit is vital to our survival. Therefore it’s also far too important to be left to our intellect. Habit is run by our subconscious. It sounds like nothing too hard to deal with- the changing of a habit. Have you ever tried? To stop a habit and then literally not been able to, no matter how hard you tried? Charles Duhigg’s book The Power Of Habit shines a light on just how strong the pull of habit is. Because it doesn’t reside in the intellectual realm, but rather in the subconscious, it means we are not in charge of all of that. You’re not supposed to be!
Just because you know you shouldn’t, doesn’t mean you don’t want to…
Habit is a way for us to be able to run our day without consciously think through every action. From tying your shoelace to driving the car, you barely notice that you’re carrying out these day to day tasks. It frees up your conscious mind to run your day, make decisions and interact with the world. There is a growing understanding that the subconscious is, in reality our whole body. And our body is the subconscious. We are not aware of its’ activity as we go about our day, because we would be overloaded within minutes with the amount we’d have to think about…can you imagine talking yourself through the process of getting dressed every single day? You’d not get out the house!
As humans, we’ve steadily evolved the skill of living in the conscious realm over the last 2 million years. We’ve yet to develop the capacity to jump in and change subconscious programming. Any eating habits you bring to your present day life, even with a wonderful new Way of Eating, will still be there…they are part of your programming, and don’t conform to a timeline of change very easily. If you binged before, the chances are you’ll still feel a strong urge to carry out that same behaviour…it may be modified, but it will still be lurking in your neural pathways as a set of triggers, and in your subconscious is where it resides.
Do you know what else the subconscious controls? The Amygdala. You have no conscious control over it whatsoever. Because it runs your survival, which is far too important to be left to YOU! It is one of the most elegant designs in the universe, your fight or flight mechanism, and it runs your whole life. Do you really think it’s going to let you starve to death?? No. Not ever.
So you can see how you might be a bit of a done deal. And how it might be a much better idea to give up the illusion of control over all this! This is what has got us into this out-of-control state in the first place. We’ve had more than 50 years of being told that if we could just suppress the desire to be a greedy pig, and be as fucking amazing as Skinny Bitch Beryl over there, then we’d be thin! And how has that worked out for us?! Dismally, that’s how. We may as well sit on a beach and rant at the tide. No way is this ever going to end well. The Amygdala is dominant for a reason. It’s our survival. And not one cave-girl ever watched a dinosaur running towards her at 100 mph and considered the pro’s and con’s of it being vegetarian. No. Our survival is not handed over to the intellect for a very good reason…we’d all be dead. The species would have died out, and the cockroaches would be running the place.
It sounds complex, and in some ways it does appear that way, but let me just break this down a bit…
The subconscious is the part of your mind that runs your body’s systems. Including your Fight or Flight alarm and CRAVE messages. To take this to the next level is to understand the role of the CRAVE message. It’s job is to get us to REACH for whatever our Amygdala is driving us to take into our body. Whether that’s out of emotional comfort (which is still a deep part of survival, no matter how old we are); or out of nutritional need. The fact that the CRAVE sensation is tiny, is where it’s power to direct our behaviour really does lie. This little stirring in your abdomen that you don’t even register. You think it’s your thoughts. Your own fully autonomous persuasion. But those thoughts are just along for the ride…constructed by your intellect to support the REACHING mechanism. We’re not supposed to notice the CRAVE message, and that is how it drives you to REACH. Irresistibly, uncontrollably, because it operates behind-the-scenes. And that my friends, is what the food and weight loss industries KNOW about you and your little Amygdala. If I do, you can bet a container load of Mars Bars that they do!
There are some very clever little techniques that you can use. Therapies that help you gently dive into the subconscious landscape and make subtle changes to the programming that is driving your behaviour. You can connect with it in a natural, and very pleasant way. The 2 most common therapies for re-setting the CRAVE message are:
- Using progressive muscle relaxation to access a slower brain wave state (as in- hypnotherapy)
- Creating a sort of ‘lifting’ sensation in your Solar Plexus, where the CRAVE lives.
These therapies will re-set your little Amygdala back to zero. Allowing you to move on and let go of your out-of-control eating habits…whether they be for sugary, processed carbs or for over eating the proteins and fats.
The fact is, that we must address the physical CRAVE first before we begin to work on the emotional stuff… if we try to unpick years of complicated emotional eating habits without first letting go of cravings we will just confuse the body even further.
Believe me…a lot of the complicated emotions, behaviours and thinking we have around our food will simply dissolve off anyway, once the electrical storm of CRAVE has fizzled out. This is where your real power is. Working with your own natural processes, and understanding the role of your subconscious, will help you gain control over your food choices. Over time. And none of us are done till we’re dead, by the way, so take the pressure off yourself, and see this as a bit of an experiment- you’ll learn so much about yourself that way.
There is an amazing percussive technique called TFT that works by gently disengaging the CRAVE message from the Amygdala so you don’t register it, and therefore don’t feel it. This is the ‘lifting’ technique I described above. TFT is used either as an intervention, or before you’re intending to be around temptation, such as eating out. The technique scrambles the message so you don’t register it in your Solar Plexus (just below your ribs). And you know what? Once you’re quiet there, you’re done! The rest will fall into place. I’ve used this intervention when having a private conversation with the sugary mince pies in the kitchen cupboard, and many other times too…and it works. Once a particular food has been ‘switched off’ it rarely rears itself again. Here’s a link to a video I made a while ago, where I talk you through the technique… try it yourself and see how it works for you. And after 10 years of using these kinds of techniques, I’ve gained a very deep understanding of what’s going on for me as far as my relationship with sugar is concerned… it’s such an interesting journey, once you realise this is all an experiment!
I will mention Hypnotherapy here too, as it’s an awesome therapy! It works to ‘switch off ‘ the CRAVE message right where it lives, in the nervous system. It will gently encode the control over your REACHING mechanism by handing it right back to you. If you’ve never experienced it before, then give it a try…I personallythink it’s something everyone should be using (but then, I suppose I would!). To let go of old issues and negative stuff we’ve gathered in our lifetime, and simply be able to move on is a liberating experience, to say the least!
At the end of the day, insight and understanding take time, maybe even years. But I do know this after working with clients for over a decade…address the CRAVE first, and then you can deal with whatever you un-earth after that so much more easily, and in a way that feels congruous to your own needs. If you’re a grazer…fine! Be a grazer. If you feel emotional comfort from nibbling the cheese in the fridge…great! We’ve been doing it for about 2 million years already (minus the fridge!). Once you take the pressure off yourself to be constantly ‘good’ you will be pleasantly surprised at how easily you’ll regulate the amount you eat. We stop seeing food as the ‘enemy’ that way… so much kinder!
Once you take yourself out of the holding pattern of the Cravings Cycle, you’ve got a chance to see the whole picture. To see your own cyclical patterns, driven by habit and a fight or flight system that has been running the show for 2 million years! Seeing the bigger picture will naturally happen once you understand the role your conscious mind is actually playing in all this. It is one of Persuasion and Justification. Directed by an almost invisible influence, whose sole mission is to stop you starving to death.
I worked in drug and alcohol services for some years, and recovery began with the words “I’m not in control of this. I need help”. The illusion of anything otherwise is what locks us into a myopic and enduring addictive cycle that lasts a lifetime.
If you’d like to learn more, there are lots of useful hypnotherapy downloads out there…mine amongst them.
Take a look if you’d like to investigate them further at the website: www.breakthrough-weightloss.co.uk. Let me know what you think if you do try them out, I’m always interested to hear your story!
Enjoy the journey,
Everything you need to get going with your weight loss is contained in this little book. It’s an amazon top 100 seller with 39 ***** reviews and counting! Click on the images to grab your copy today, and enjoy lots more Break The Crave wisdom!