Author Topic: Sugardude's Diet Puzzle  (Read 27050 times)

Offline SUGARDUDE

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Sugardude's Diet Puzzle
« on: March 20, 2010, 05:15:08 PM »
     I'm not obese, but I'd like to lose my belly and even get a 6 pack. I'll be 46 years old on Monday, stand 6'0' and currently weigh 212. I've been trying diiferent approaches for about 4 years with varying degrees of success..........all temporary.

      I recently experimented with the deconditioning diet with great success for about a week. With this diet, as with all other approaches, once I slipped, I couldn't get back on the horse for quite a while. I'm currently waaaaaaaaaayyyyyyy off.

     I have a ton of deconditioning to do. I've had unfettered ability to eat whatever  I want my whole life. My childhood home was always stocked with a plethora of cookies, ice cream, sugar laden cereal, and other "goodies".

I have issues with sugar on both a physiological and psychological level. I've been focused on finding a physiological remedy but I think it is time to reall attack the psychological issues. For example, I noticed yesterday while I was running an errand that I was not hungry and had no sugar cravings but knew I was going to be faced with an opportunity to eat a sugary snack. self knowledge of this fact was not enough to deter me from ultimately gobbling up a candy bar.

(Continued to post number 2)

« Last Edit: March 21, 2010, 06:32:58 AM by SUGARDUDE »

Offline SUGARDUDE

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Re: Sugardude's Diet Puzzle
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2010, 06:47:49 AM »
     Another psychologicallly rooted situation I have noticed is sugar binging. Sometimes I will intentionally prepare for a binge by purchasing a bunch of crap beforehand. Other times, I try to just eat one sugary thing and before it's even half way down I'm looking for another and another.

     With dieting, I will do very well on a particular regimen for a week or so, but once I give in I go crazy and binge. Part of this is psychological because I feel that since I have already gone to the dark side, I might as well enjoy myself. The big problem is that I can't get back on the straight and narrow even when that is my intent. On a day following a binge or breakdown, I will experience strong physical cravings the following day. Sometimes I welcome these cravings with open mouth and at other times I try to resist futiley. I usually have to get to an alarming weight before I get a new "plan" that temporarily works.

     Currently, I'm on about a monthlong bad cycle following an extremely quick 10 pound weightloss obtained by a regin of exercise, randomly skipping meals, and eating healthy.
 
     So here I sit with my self awareness with no real plan on how to be consistent. I'm not even sure when I'm going to strat trying.

Offline Todd Becker

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Re: Sugardude's Diet Puzzle
« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2010, 08:27:09 PM »
Hi Sugardude,

Looking at your situation, it seems that you have made sugar and carbs into a forbidden fruit.  The longer you stay away from your forbidden fruit, the more alluring it becomes, until you return to the "dark side" and resistance is futile.  (Sounds a bit like a Star Wars movie, forgive me).   According to the principles of behaviorism, every time you give in and binge, you are just reinforcing this pattern and it becomes more likely to happen again.  Not a good way to go.

How about trying something a little different? Use the well-known principle of "putting on cue" or "stimulus control" -- which is described on the Psychology page of the blog, about halfway down the page where the picture of the conductor's baton appears. You might want to go back and read this section:

     http://gettingstronger.org/psychology/

This method has been used successfully to extinguish or limit undesireable behaviors. The idea is to allow yourself to have your sugary or carbohydrate-rich treat, but only under specific circumstances. Then you gradually reduce the frequency of the stimulus circumstances to zero or some tolerably low level.

You can do this in a few different ways (choose whichever works for you):
1.  Designate a certain very limited time period -- say a fixed one hour window on 3 or 4 days of the week ---  when you are allowed to have your carb treat, and be very strict about observing it, but really enjoy it then.  Be sure to stop when the hour is over, but enjoy it while it lasts!  Decide on the days and time window at the beginning of each week and hold to it for that week. (If you want to be really strict about it, set a clock alarm or watch beeper to go off at the designated start and stop times).  You can change the "schedule" once a week.  Consider yourself as two people -- the "trainer" and the "trainee".
2.  Designate a certain room or place where you can have the carb treat, and only have it there -- no exceptions. It's probably best if this room is not the kitchen or a room that you normally eat your treats in -- so you have to make a special effort to go there.  Allow yourself to have the carb treat only in that room, never outside of it.
3.  Decide that you will have your treat only in a social environment, with other people around.  Or only with certain people.  This is similar to the way that some alcoholics are able to get back into control of their bingeing -- they forgo drinking alone, and they allow their social inhibitions about appearing out of control to help limit them.
4. Find some other cue or signal that must be present for you to have your treat.  It could be, for example, that you have to be playing a certain piece of music on the stereo.  Or that you have to be wearing a certain hat or jacket.  Whatever.  And then you are in control of that cue.

All of these are examples of stimulus control, because the behavior (eating the carbs) can only occur when the stimulus (a pre-arranged time or place or circumstance) is present.  Be very regular and rigid about this for a while, at least a few weeks.  Condition yourself so that you only have the treat under these very specific conditions.  They can be frequent at first, but then begin to reduce the frequency of the "stimulus" gradually.  In other words, cut back on the frequency of times you "allow" yourself to have the treat.  Never allow yourself to respond to urges or whims -- eat only at "prearranged" times or in predesignated places.  Do this gradually, maybe cutting out one of the "allowed" days every week. You don't even have to totally eliminate the carb treats -- you could allow yourself one day a week or every other week indefinitely into the future, if that works for you.

From my research, this approach of gradually cutting back and allowing a bad habit to occur only within strict pre-arranged bounds, has worked for many people to quit smoking, drugs, and other bad habits. It has also been used in training dolphins, dogs, etc. to give up bad habits.  It sounds strange, but it is a proven method. The beauty of it this method is that it brings "uncontrollable" urges under control, and then gradually phases them out.  I don't know if it will work for your sugar bingeing, but it might.  

Let me know what you think,

Todd
« Last Edit: March 22, 2010, 01:05:42 PM by Todd Becker »

Offline SUGARDUDE

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Re: Sugardude's Diet Puzzle
« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2010, 09:56:32 PM »
:     The stimulus cue idea will not work for me as a practical matter because I am unable to stay within the parameters. Once I eat sugar, I'm off to the races for the day (or longer).

     The real problem I need to address is being able to get back on track. I've been off the wagon for awile now. There have been several days recently (including today) where  have passively tried to get back on track by eating my regular healthy breakfast and seeing where my mind and body take me. Today, by 9:30 am it took me to the 7-11 for a donut and candy run.

     Mind you. When I am successfully dieting, I don't get these cravings even though i had the exact same breakfast. But following a day, or period of days when I have binged, it is very difficult to follow a regimen.

(Why is it that when you get to a certain point on these posts the page begins to jump so you can't see what you are writing. This happens on SLD's site as well) 

Offline SUGARDUDE

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Re: Sugardude's Diet Puzzle
« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2010, 10:07:08 PM »
     So to continue, I need to figure out what it is I do when I successfully start a diet and incorporate that each time I fall off. The problem is I'm not sure what that is. It seems like I get to a point where my body is just ready for it again. I don't know whether it is mental or physical. When I am able to get back on track, strangely it seems effortless. It may be as simple as mentally committing and suffering few 1-3 days of touging out cravings until they gradually lessen. I'm not really sure if that is the answer or whether I'm even capable of toughing out such cravings.

     We're going to find out after Easter though.

     

Offline SUGARDUDE

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Re: Sugardude's Diet Puzzle
« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2010, 06:52:41 PM »
I'm still purposely getting fat for the contest. I had a setback last week with some  sort of stomach flu that caused me to lose 7 pounds in two days.

One of the things that I realize I have to get a handle on is the concept of not eating just because there is an "opportunity". This is very similar to a phenomenon I used to experience in my drug use days. What happens is that I will seek out sweets in situatins where I know I have some free time and no one is around to observe me. I'm free as a bird to do as i want. The thought automatically occurs to go eat something pleasurable because soon, the freedom will be gone.

Of course I do this even though I am neither hungry nor having a sugar craving.

Offline HungryGuy

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Re: Sugardude's Diet Puzzle
« Reply #6 on: April 02, 2010, 07:19:29 PM »
Sugardude, this is really an interesting thing you are saying, that just because there is an opportunity does not mean you "have to" do something.  Think about this for a minute. Are you just a machine that responds to your desires? We grow up in this culture thinking that because we desire something means we should do it. That's important to us as Americans because we value our freedom so much. We don't want anyone to tell us what to do, especially when it has to do with our desires. If it feels good, do it. Or at least, do it to prove to the world that no one can tell us what to do.

But turn this around.  What is in control of you - your mind or your desires?  I don't know whether you read my post on the Deconditioning Diet thread, but I was really surprised to find that I did not have to obey my desires. For a few days this was a struggle, but I eventually learned that I am stronger than my desires.  They are real and they are sometimes a minor annoyance and sometimes they much stronger than that -- screaming at me "eat", but they are not the same as "me".  I am greater than them.  Weirdly, there is kind of a perverse pride or satisfaction in battling your desires and winning, because it proves that you are "bigger" than your desires.  Think about it - where do your desires come from in the first place?  They just kind of show up out of the blue! So they are not the same as you, they are coming from somewhere else.  They are like a little screaming baby or a barking dog. Why should you give into these desires any more than you should give into the baby or dog?  The more you more you give in, the more they will come back asking for more.  I think it is a point of pride not to get dominated by desires, any more than you would give in to a baby or dog.

It might seem impossible that you can ignore your desires, but the more practice you get at this, the easier it is.  I'm not saying we should give up pleasure totally, but like the Stoics said, we should be in control and only allow pleasure to the degree that it is good for us.  What worked for me was to make this a "point of pride" and take pleasure in the fact that I could defeat unruly pleasures which seem to come from nowhere and try to screw up life.  I am going to win against them!
« Last Edit: April 02, 2010, 07:22:23 PM by HungryGuy »

Offline SUGARDUDE

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Re: Sugardude's Diet Puzzle
« Reply #7 on: April 03, 2010, 05:49:09 AM »
I totally agree Hungry Guy. The response is merely conditioned because it has been reinforced my whole life.

I had this situation come up recently and when I realized what was going on I chose to not follow that path. It's pretty easy when you know the situation because there really is no craving or hunger involved.

Of course when you have real hunger/craving and opportunity you're faced with a different challenge but I'm taking baby steps here.

Offline SUGARDUDE

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Re: Sugardude's Diet Puzzle
« Reply #8 on: April 04, 2010, 07:57:35 AM »
My biggest loser contest starts on April 13th so I still have some time to consider the strategies and tactics I will use to keep losing weight for the entire 12 week period of the contest.

I've already identified one strategy as it pertains to recognizing "opportunity".

The big issues I have are getting back on track after a major slip and preventing minor slip from turning into a major slip. 

As for the former, I think I'm just going to have to suffer and suck up the cravings for a couple days in order to re condition my brain.

As for the latter, I don't know.

Offline Todd Becker

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Re: Sugardude's Diet Puzzle
« Reply #9 on: April 05, 2010, 08:52:09 PM »
The stimulus cue idea will not work for me as a practical matter because I am unable to stay within the parameters. Once I eat sugar, I'm off to the races for the day (or longer)...Mind you. When I am successfully dieting, I don't get these cravings even though i had the exact same breakfast. But following a day, or period of days when I have binged, it is very difficult to follow a regimen.

My biggest loser contest starts on April 13th so I still have some time to consider the strategies and tactics I will use...The big issues I have are getting back on track after a major slip and preventing minor slip from turning into a major slip.  As for the former, I think I'm just going to have to suffer and suck up the cravings for a couple days in order to re condition my brain. As for the latter, I don't know.

Sugardude, I wish you luck as you approach your contest! I agree with you that it is important to have a strategy planned IN ADVANCE for how you will deal with temptation, sugar cravings, and preventing a "minor slip" from turning into a "major slip".  Just winging it and hoping that things will go different this time does not seem very promising, and is likely to lead to a repeat performance.  As they say, "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results the next time."

So what is your strategy going to be? I can't tell you what will work best for you, only you know that. There may be many possible strategies.  But after thinking about, it seems like there are only three main options that even have a chance of working:

1. Totally avoid temptation. This means removing all sugary foods from your sight, from your house, avoiding places that sell sweets, baked goods, or whatever.
2.  Confront temptation (sugar food cues) with zero eating response. Deliberately expose yourself to sugary foods multiple times every day, without consuming the sugary foods.  The more frequently you do this, with different foods, at different times and contexts, the more you desensitize yourself.
3.  Confront temptation (sugar food cues) with a very limited eating reponse.  Expose yourself to the cues and deliberately consume a small amount, but cut yourself off at a pre-defined limit, probably a very small amount -- like one cookie, small piece of cake, or candy per "mealtime" (where there are only one or two "mealtimes" per day, at least 4 hours apart). Again, using a variety of trigger foods at different times and places.

Before reading further, I'd be very interested in which of these 3 options you think would work best for yourself.  Or whether you can think of additional alternatives to the above that might work better than any of these three.

My personal opinion (as of today): I think that Option 1 probably requires the least effort, and may work in the short term, but has the greatest risk of long term failure, because it is hard to avoid the "forbidden fruit" indefinitely, especially under stress.  Option 2 is a bit harder, but could work if you do the exposure frequently enough, and reward your alternate behavior.  Option 3 is psychologically the hardest, but probaby has the greatest chance of success if you can do it for several days, because you are then really retraining your whole problem behavior, and are dealing with the risk of relapse up front.

My next post on the Getting Stronger blog will be a summary of some very interesting recent research on relapse prevention, in the area of smoking cessation and treatment of alcoholism.  Paradoxically, the greatest success appears to come from deliberate cue exposure, rather than cue avoidance or "self control".  Retraining our behavior is more effective than trying to exercise "discipline".

What do you think, Sugardude?  Or does anyone else here on the forum have a suggestion they would like to post?
« Last Edit: April 06, 2010, 05:03:18 AM by Todd Becker »

Offline SUGARDUDE

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Re: Sugardude's Diet Puzzle
« Reply #10 on: April 06, 2010, 09:25:31 AM »
Todd,

As a practical matter it's going to have to be option #2 only because there is no way to avoid being around sweets completelty. This is especially true when you work in an office where people often times bring in donuts and the like or you have twin 4 year olds living with you. I have no problem with confronting temptation. The problem occurs when I already have it set in my mind that I am going to give in to the temptation before the tempataion is actually present. I'm okay with this.

I know that at some point I'm going to have an overwhelming desire to eat something sugary. What I'm focusing on now is how to limit it and stay on course. I may actaully have to mentally "plan" my slips to stay on the straight and narrow.

Lately I've noticed one thing I do which needs to be stopped. I love to drink milk and sometimes very sweet fruit juices. When I am throwing caution to the wind I will be poring a second glass to drink before I'm done gulping down the first glass. I probably do the same thing with cookies and the like. It's totally mental and has nothing to do with blood sugar spikes or anything like that. So I think this is another "behavior"  I could work on.

Offline Jbird

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Re: Sugardude's Diet Puzzle
« Reply #11 on: April 06, 2010, 04:45:07 PM »
Sugardude, I've been reading your posts with interest and empathy, and I've been curious about a comparison you made between your behavior around sugar and your "drug use days." What helped you stop using drugs? I just wonder if whatever helped you in that situation would also help you in your current struggle. Also, how do you know your behavior with sugar is "totally mental" and unrelated to blood sugar spikes? Do you consider your drug use totally mental or was there an addictive aspect? If this is too personal, forgive me. I just know there's been a lot of debate about whether sugar is addictive in the way certain drugs are. A recent study that's been in the news talks about junk food being as addictive as cocaine, so maybe whatever is going on with you and sugar has a biochemical component. Todd, I'm intrigued by the three options you describe and look forward to your next post. I tend to take the first approach (totally avoiding temptation), but agree it's not always realistic. I've read about option 2 here but haven't tried it. Option 3 seems appealing because it could retrain me to be more "normal" instead of so "all or nothing" about my food choices. Sugardude, glad you're posting and wish you success!

Offline SUGARDUDE

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Re: Sugardude's Diet Puzzle
« Reply #12 on: April 07, 2010, 06:58:55 PM »
Jaye,

Thanks for posting in the thread. Drug addiction for me proved to be largely mental and not physical. It was fairly easy to stop once I got to the point that I realized I didn't want to live that lifestyle anymore.

Comparing the addiction to food/sugar is really no comparison because food is readily available, legal, and necessary whereas cocaine is none of these.

Breaking away from cocaine required that I remove myself from the "social" circle of drug users. That was pretty easy considering I was married to non drug user (she didn't know I was a user until after we were married). Have a support group is also really important. Eventually you just end up living a life that does not include drugs (or alcohol) and that is a good thing. I never had any physical withdrawl.

Looking back, my cocaine use was basically a strongly conditioned behavior. The high was intermittantly reinforcing which like a slot machine creates a strong response to get the reward. Crack is even worse because no matter how bad things get in your life as a result of using, the desire to get that initial high is so strong that all of the bad stuff that goes along with it is disrgarded. (okay the page jump thing is happening again)

Offline SUGARDUDE

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Re: Sugardude's Diet Puzzle
« Reply #13 on: April 07, 2010, 07:09:21 PM »
It was really ridiculous for me because I would love the first 30 seconds after taking a hit and then be immediately and miserably paranoid. Basically getting high towards the end was not fun yet I almost risked my marriage, career, and life to keep doing it.

6 years later I still have a secret yearning to someday be able to get high again, but I haven't found the right circumstances to do it (such circumstances are realistically non existent.....I've just got too much going on in my life right now).

As for sugar, I am focusing on the mental because there is so much there that is going on that I have never addressed before. No question there exists a physical "craving" independent of the physical one. I believe that I have found a remedy for the physical cravings with Glutamine. But Glutamine has no effect on the mental desire.

It's much more difficult to tackle than cocaine though. What would happen if they served cocaine at every kids birthday party i went to with my kids. Would I be able to resist? Okay, maybe eating the cake isn't so bad.

Offline Jbird

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Re: Sugardude's Diet Puzzle
« Reply #14 on: April 07, 2010, 07:36:00 PM »
Thanks, for explaining and I'm glad you didn't feel I was being intrusive. My experience with cigarettes was similar. I didn't have withdrawal symptoms and don't feel I was physically addicted, although I was smoking a lot at one point. It was the same for my Mom quitting, and she'd been a chain smoker for about 40 years. When each of us stopped, it was cold turkey with no withdrawal. Like you, I felt I didn't want to be that person who smokes and I started to do something incompatible with smoking (running). I also stopped hanging out in places where people smoked. So, today I was thinking of you when I was on my bike riding with a neighbor. I'd walked 4 miles earlier with a friend and was out for a 20-mile ride with her, and she asked me if that amount of exercise was my typical pattern. I don't really have a typical pattern and blurted out, "I'm an opportunistic exerciser." Meaning that given a chance to engage in some type of activity with another person, I'll likely go for it because it usually means doing more than I normally would of the given activity, or it gives me a reason to push myself to keep up or even race ahead. That made me think of how you said you were opportunistic about eating sugar. I can be that way, too, so I thought it was kind of cool that that word popped into my mind to describe a constructive opportunism as opposed to something self-destructive. Sounds like that may apply to your decision to start using the gym across the street from where you work. Constructive opportunism! I think that's going to be my new battle cry. Feel free to borrow it!  ;)