Just one spoonful gets your mouth watering. And you can’t stop at one. 

Peanut butter. It needs no introduction and seemingly, it solves all problems. Hungry? Peanut butter. Stressed? Peanut butter. Tired? Peanut butter. Got nothing to wear? Peanut butter. Ok, so I’m taking some poetic license there but you get the idea – the spread has gained cult status. 

And ever since some human in the 80s touted it as diet food smeared on celery sticks or apple slices, this simple food has become the dieter’s kryptonite. It can be triggering and it can be tricky to eat in moderation – especially when going at it straight from the jar. 

What is peanut butter?

First up, peanuts aren’t actually nuts, but legumes since they grow underground. When pulverised to turn into a butter, they create the golden trio of salt, sweet and fat. Peanut butter is a nutritious food containing many vitamins and minerals including E, B3, B6, magnesium, iron, copper and manganese. 

But like many things in life, not all peanut butters are created equal. You want the real stuff. Look for 100% peanuts with a dash of salt as the only extra ingredient. Bonus points if you can see the red-ish shells in your peanut butter as they’re higher in antioxidants. 

You could always make your own too with a food processor and the patience to scrape it out. Image: Unsplash

Why do we crave peanut butter?

That’s your clever brain. It can cause cravings or thoughts that make you fixated on certain foods, convincing you, you need them to survive. Your body is programmed to crave fat especially since it’s an essential nutrient to being able to live and absorb nutrients. We learned from the 90s (the hard way) that cutting out all fat isn’t a good idea. We need to include healthy fats into our diet. Peanut butter is one of those – but the key remember with healthy eating is variety. Eating peanut butter every day isn’t all that varied – but rotating your healthy fats, for example, almond butter, avocadoes, tahini, hummus, etc is only going to do good things for you. 

Why can’t I stop eating peanut butter straight from the jar?

If you’ve dieted before, you’re much more likely to find yourself dipping your spoon into the peanut butter jar, again and again. Often, it’s a behaviour we do in secret – when no one is looking – because we feel ashamed that we’re doing it. If this sounds familiar and all-too-relatable, then it’s possible that the very reason you can’t stop eating peanut butter is that you consider it a ‘bad’ or forbidden food.

If you believe peanut butter is ‘fattening’, you’re almost setting yourself up for a troublesome relationship with this yummy (and perfectly) healthy ingredient. Sure, eating spoonfuls of peanut butter isn’t exactly going to assist you in quick weight loss efforts, but the great irony is, forbidding yourself from eating it will have the opposite effect you want.

What oftens happens is that the more out of control you feel about a certain food (like peanut butter), the more you beat yourself up (hello, guilt!) about eating it. And the more dedicated you become to trying to avoid it. This gets you stuck in a vicious binge eating cycle.

  1. I shouldn’t eat peanut butter
  2. I crave peanut butter because I’m not allowed it
  3. I give into my cravings and eat more than I ever thought possible!
  4. Guilt sets in…. Why did I do that?!
  5. REPEAT

If you want to feel normal around peanut butter, then you need to give yourself permission to eat it. Like any binge food, as long as you believe that you have to limit or avoid peanut butter, you will continue to feel out of control around that food.

You need to get to a place where you trust that: ANY TIME I WANT PEANUT BUTTER, I AM ALLOWED TO EAT IT!

Help yourself. Image: Unsplash

But won’t that just mean I really can’t stop eating peanut butter? Well, funnily enough – no. When we restrict foods, that’s when we feel out of control around them. When you do the opposite and actually allow yourself to eat it, your body can regain trust, and understand that this food is allowed, not something that has to eaten in large quantities in secret.

Still feel out of control around peanut butter? Follow these tips

  1. Normalise peanut butter. This is a strategy I teach in my Keep it Real Program (if you’re struggling with binge eating, check out the program here). If peanut butter feels like a food you ‘shouldn’t’ eat, then it’s important to reintroduce it as a food that is allowed. You might give yourself to eat peanut butter on toast for breakfast, dip slices of apple in peanut butter or drizzle peanut butter on hot porridge. By including it as part of your daily routine, you normalise it again – meaning that you’re less likely to overeat it straight from the spoon.
  2. Eat enough during the day. Make sure you’re getting enough energy during the day. Your body needs it to function and not feel like it needs to binge come 5pm. Be honest with yourself: are you under eating and over exercising? Have a good hard listen to your hunger cues during the day and crowd in those healthy foods so if you fancy peanut butter come evening time, you’re more likely to moderate. 
  3. Eat a variety of fats. Eggs or avocado toast for brekkie are a good one, as is salmon or oily fish with salad or veg for lunch.  Make sure you’re getting that variety of good fats as they help your body with a whole heap of things – including hormone moderation and handling stress. So don’t restrict yourself.
  4. Don’t stop eating it all together. I know from experience that feeling as though food is forbidden, only intensifies the desire to eat it. Stopping eating peanut butter isn’t the answer. But you could consider changing the environment you eat it in. For example, if you find you feel yourself losing control standing in front of the pantry with an open jar, make sure you always spoon it out onto a plate. You could also moderate your intake by spreading it onto something like wholegrain toast, or an apple, so you get all the flavour, plus the fill up. 
  5. Learn how to relieve stress. Research by Harvard has demonstrated the link between stress and overeating. Turns out, when you’re stressed your body naturally wants food with lots of fat, protein and calories. Oh hey peanut butter! Instead of eating your feelings, because that can make you feel pretty crappy afterwards, work out what stress busters work for you. Is it meditation? Going for a walk? Journaling? Talking to a therapist or mate? Stress happens but your reaction to it and the subsequent disappointment doesn’t need to.