Last time I told you how I got myself re-addicted to carbs. Well, guess what? I am still addicted. I find myself creating excuses to delay “being good”, and then I am reminded of how many other times I’ve done the same thing. We decide to “be good”, then we find excuses not to be. Tomorrow! Manana! On Monday. After the weekend. After ___. And some skinny “registered dietician”, with Brillo-Pad hair and an irritating voice, on Doctor Oz say that food is not addictive! Ha! This is the same behavior that smokers, alcoholics, heroin addicts, and any other addicted people go through regularly. It is a conflict between our unconscious brains, which are devoid of logic/reason, and our conscious, reasoning brains. We consciously don’t want to be addicted, but our unconscious brains incessantly nag us, “Oh, go AWWWNNN”, “Just this once”, “Just one bite”, “doesn’t that look yummy?”, “We can do this tomorrow”, “a little won’t hurt”, and so on. What is it about food that is addictive? Fats cause dopamine release and sugars/starches cause serotonin release. Both are part of the brains reward system because without it, we would not survive. Without motivation to get food, we would starve. But, some of us have too much of this reward going on and become addicted.
There are volumes of books published on breaking addictions. Some recommend substitutions– “just substitute celery for chocolate” are clearly written by someone who doesn’t understand addiction. That’s like telling a heroin addict, “just drink orange juice” when you are craving a fix. Eating celery to satisfy much of anything beyond jaw movement is ridiculous to most overweight people because they are not addicted to celery but to fats and carbohydrates. Why do I focus on carbohydrates and barely mention fat at all? Because it is the carbohydrate that is the “crack” to our addictions. The sugary, starchy, high-glycemic index carbohydrates like sugar, high fructose corn syrup, flour, corn starch, and other rapidly-absorbed carbohydrates found in snack foods are often designed to addict us. It may not be an insidious plot, but simply business– if a food manufacturer can do something to their products that results in more sales, it would be crazy not to. That’s why cigarette manufacturers add ammonia to their products because it makes them more addictive, which results in more sales. “Smokers like our brand better” will be the reasoning, just as “People prefer our brand of crackers/cookies/snacks over others” is the reason that food manufacturers’ focus groups find that people actually prefer the products that give them the “sugar rush”. Makers of breakfast cereals know this all too well.
So, how do we break the addiction that the world, it seems, wants to prevent us from doing so? I recommend cold turkey! Just stop! I say this because one goes through the withdrawal quickly and while at maximum motivation. About the time the willpower fades, so does the craving and voila– in less than 2 weeks, we’re no longer addicted. Does that mean that donuts, chocolate, cookies, and other snacks will not look appealing? No! They will always look appealing, but not like before. The “magic” attraction they held for us before will be gone and the effort and discomfort of avoiding them is minimal, if at all existent. You can walk by the snack counter and think, “That looks good, but I know what it does to me so I will avoid it”, and can do so easily. This is what the Weight Agency Method is all about. It is not a diet but an education that enables one to truly wrap their heads around the consequences of their food choices– it is not a “diet”. Weighing what we eat and recording it is part of the plan because it trains us to eyeball the correct amount of food despite restaurant servings being twice or more as much as we should be eating. A serving of meat is about the size of a deck of cards. A piece of cheese that size would have 400+ calories and be WAY more than we should eat. So, one thin slice or 1/4 of that deck of cards is much more reasonable. At the same time, an entire plate full of asparagus, broccoli, or other green vegetables is less calories than that little pinkie-sized piece of cheese. Once the addiction is broken, that plate full of veggies looks a LOT better than the finger of cheese and we are on our way to making wise, healthy food choices. You don’t have to weigh things forever, but just periodically to make sure you are not deluding yourself with ever-increasing servings.
People ask “what can I eat”? The short answer is “anything but sugar, flour, rice, corn, potatoes, yams, bananas, winter squash“. “But, some of those are healthy for us”. Yes they are! One needn’t avoid ALL of these except in the beginning two weeks. After that, small amounts of any of it are OK, as long as you don’t find yourself getting excessively hungry before meals. If I eat a burger with the traditional bun, for dinner, I will find myself hungry the next day at, maybe 3-4 PM instead of my usual dinner time of 6-7 PM. That increase in hunger will make me want to snack early or if I tough it out, I will likely eat more for dinner than I otherwise would, and the cycle repeats. Instead, if I minimize the refined carbs, I can feel hunger at 4 or 5PM but it will be only slightly greater at 7PM or 9PM. The rate at which my hunger increases is greatly reduced if I avoid these simple carbs. So, I choose the foods and amounts where I know I won’t be extra hungry the next day. When people realize that the foods they eat today affect their appetites tomorrow, they can be in control of their appetites and this lets them lose as much weight as they wish. So, my choice of eating pizza and beer for dinner was made consciously. I know my appetite will be increased today, so I know I have to “tough it out” for a day or two, which I am prepared to do. And, I also know from experience that a single indulgence like that will not affect my weight loss as long it isn’t two or more such indulgences in a week.
It is refreshing to finally be in control of my appetite and weight, which continues to drop. I have lost a total of 70 lbs or almost 60 since writing the book. I was unusually inactive for a couple of months, so the weight loss slowed, but is still continuing down thanks to my new eating habits. I have shown that I can indulge in “contraband” occasionally without derailing my effort, all because of understanding how our appetites and cravings for food work. And, I have a sense of satisfaction and pride of passing candy counters, bakeries, ice cream stores, and snack aisles without succumbing to the temptation. I am in control!