The Craving Cycle

word-lockThree updates in a single day?  I don’t know whether to apologise or start charging.

I’d like to propose something here that seems to me to be quite sensible.  I’ve just had a sandwich, and am craving crisps with it.  I don’t think that’s a ‘normal’ state of affairs, as I’ve eaten sandwiches every day this week and not craved crisps with any of them.  That suggests to me that as a result of some of the stuff I’ve eaten over the past two or there days, my body’s reaction is to crave more of that stuff.  In simple terms, I think I’m craving crisps because my body wants more of the processed crap that I’ve fed it in the last couple of days – KFC, cheesecake, crisps, biscuits, chocolate and so on.

Now my traditional response here is to eat the crisps as a way of dealing with the craving.  Is that stupid?  I think it probably is anyway, but up until now I’ve allowed the cravings to win.  What I hadn’t considered before was that by giving in, I’m feeding the cravings and making them stronger.  Why hadn’t I considered that before? Because I’m a bit of an idiot at times I guess 🙂

What I’m trying to say here is that traditionally if I was craving crisps, I’d eat the crisps because it got rid of the cravings.  Even with all the cumulative downsides that came from eating the crisps, at least eating them dealt with the cravings and brought me peace.  What I’m saying now is that perhaps eating the crisps doesn’t deal with the cravings at all – perhaps eating the crisps causes them.  Just as a cigarette sets up the craving for the next one, so eating the sort of the processed foods that my body is craving sets up the craving for more later on.


That may be obvious to many of you, but that’s just flicked a light-switch on for me.  That puts everything into a very different perspective and challenges my inbuilt response to cravings, which is usually to just give in so they go away.  But they never have done.  They’ve always been there.  But when I stop eating that stuff, they disappear.

I need to think on this for a while, but that’s a fascinating development for me, and I’m really pleased you were here to share it.

Enjoy your week.

The Shrinking Man

Current Weight – 17st 8lb
Starting Weight – 18st 4lb
Overall Weight Loss – 10lb
Current BMI – 34.3
Starting BMI – 35.7

Coke, Caffeine and Sleep Disruption

Coca-Cola-LogoI promised an update earlier on regarding the diet coke situation, and this is it.

Just to set the scene for those of you who are new to my ramblings, I have spent the majority of the last 25-30 years drinking mainly sweetened (sugar or artificial) soft drinks of some sort or other.  Diet coke has been the mainstay of my life for at least the last 15 years, and I’ve recently broken what I can safely say was a dependency – read here for more on that.

At first I abstained completely, then I dipped back in occasionally, and I’ve now been dipping in and out for long enough to be able to draw some firm conclusions from it.

  1. First of all, if I drink a small bottle or glass of coke while I’m out (diet or regular) then I can function perfectly normally.  I don’t feel desperate cravings to buy another one, and it doesn’t seem to affect me in any other way.
  2. Secondly, If I buy a large bottle of coke for home (diet or regular) then I’ll really struggle not to finish the bottle in one go.
  3. Thirdly, if I have more than a glass/small bottle of it, my sleep is really disrupted.  I can get off to sleep ok, but I will wake again after a couple of hours (oddly enough at around 2am every time) with an actual buzzing in my head.  I’ll struggle to get back to sleep at all, and what sleep I do get will be disturbed.
  4. Having had more than a glass or small bottle of it on one day, the next day I will feel cravings for more

I’ve noticed similar cravings from other fizzy drinks recently, but without the sleep disruption, which I presume is down to the caffeine (I don’t drink coffee so this would be my only caffeine intake).

So what does all that mean?  It probably means I shouldn’t be drinking any of this sweetened crap, but if I do, then I need to carefully control my intake of it.  More than a glass in a day and my ability to control the amount I drink after that is weakened considerably, and if it’s coke, then I’ll struggle to sleep.

That’s all for now – more as I think it.

The Shrinking Man

Current Weight – 17st 8lb
Starting Weight – 18st 4lb
Overall Weight Loss – 10lb
Current BMI – 34.3
Starting BMI – 35.7

What an odd week

The Shrinking Man - Weight loss for menHi all

Just a quick update today – it’s been a rather odd week.

When we last spoke, I was unsure how to proceed.  I knew I couldn’t continue eating what I wanted without losing control and piling the pounds back on again.  I also knew I was finding it difficult to give Atkins the dedication it requires to be successful.

I wasn’t clear how to proceed, so decided that I would remove a lot of the processed carb stuff from my diet, but not get too uptight about it all.  I’ve just started a new work contract, so have been ridiculously busy which has helped.  I’ve also had very busy evenings, which again has made it easier to distract myself.

What that’s meant is that I’ve had a simple bowl of fruit (mainly berries) and full fat greek yoghurt for breakfast on most days.  For lunch I’ve had a brown baguette with ham, egg mayonnaise and salad.  For dinner I’ve had whatever my wife and daughter have been having, but with less or no potato/pasta/rice at all.  For the majority of the week I’ve drunk water all day, with at most one glass of diet cherryade or orangeade in the evening.  I’ve not snacked all week.

The weekend has been different.  On Friday I had a couple of hot cross buns for breakfast, and added a pack of crisps to my lunch.  We then got a KFC as a treat of sorts in the evening, including a bottle of diet coke.  I hadn’t felt any different during the day on Friday, but once it got to KFC time, I certainly ate more than I needed to.  I still left some, but felt unpleasantly stuffed afterwards.  Following the KFC, I snacked a bit during the evening – I ate crisps, biscuits and a few other bits.  Nothing too much (not for a fat bloke anyway) but the old cravings were definitely back.

Saturday followed a similar pattern – I had my fruit and yoghurt for breakfast, but very quickly was into the leftover chicken.  Crisps and biscuits during the day and homemade pizza for tea, with cheesecake for pudding.  Again an evening of snacking, including a bit more cheesecake, some chocolate and some biscuits.

Since I left work on Friday, I’ve not touched a drop of water.  Everything I’ve drunk has been some sort of diet drink – some diet coke, but mainly orangeade and cherryade.

It’s Sunday morning now, and I’m finding writing this really interesting, as I hadn’t really taken on board just how much I’d snacked since Friday.  What’s most interesting perhaps is what led to the change in behaviour.  I guess it could have been down to a few things:

  1. I can’t do that sort of sensible moderation for more than a few days at a time
  2. As soon as I stopped being busy, I had too much time to think and my demons took over
  3. The food that I ate from Friday breakfast time started a cycle of craving that made it inevitable that I was going to carry on eating too much
  4. The artificially sweetened drink that I’ve been drinking since Friday evening has triggered cravings of some sort that made it inevitable that I was going to carry on eating too much

Now I’m sure that there are elements of all of those going on.  I’ve got a lot of ingrained habits to break, so it’s probably sensible to expect a few lapses.  Suddenly having time to sit and do nothing probably also played a part – it really has been a crazily busy week.  But my money is on the main driver being a combination of the latter two.  Once I started eating the wrong stuff, and drinking the wrong stuff, I found it pretty much impossible to stop eating and drinking more of the wrong stuff, and all the familiar cravings were back.

Does that mean I never eat stuff like KFC again?  It would probably be a good idea, but rightly or wrongly at the moment, I still see that stuff as a treat, and I like treats.  What I think it means is that I’m going to have to accept that when I do eat stuff like that, that it’s going to lead to some cravings that I’ll struggle to control.  If I accept that and still want to eat it, then that’s an informed decision that I’ll have to accept the consequences of.  The same for the drinks – the cherryade and stuff that I’ve loved since childhood can’t be all I drink – if they are, then I’ll always struggle with my weight.  I think the coke is different altogether, and I’ll write more on that in another update later.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is this.  I’ve spent the week feeling pretty much in control of what I’ve been eating and drinking.  Then at the weekend, I’ve changed things around and have lost control of what I’ve been eating and drinking.

And I’ve lost three pounds.  Which is rather funny when all is said and done.

Have a great week.

The Shrinking Man

Current Weight 17st 8lb
Starting Weight – 18st 4lb
Overall Weight Loss – 10lb
Current BMI – 34.3
Starting BMI – 35.7

And so it goes on

incredibleshrinkingman2Morning 🙂

It’s been an interesting week or so here at Shrinking Towers.  I’ve been very relaxed about what I’ve been eating over the last week or so, as I’m unsure of just what my next approach should be.  I’ve not necessarily eaten to excess that often, but I’ve not restricted my food choices in any way – I’ve eaten whatever the rest of the family have been eaten, and I’ve eaten whatever I wanted.  Can you guess where that ended up?  It ended up with me last night, sitting on the sofa eating multiple bags of crisps, chocolates left over from Christmas and midget gems.

Just in case there had been any doubt in my mind about it, that’s a useful reminder of what happens when I stop controlling what I’m eating.  I eat uncontrollably.

What is also clear to me is that this is not how it has to be.  For the last month or so where I’ve been eating a generally low-carb diet, I haven’t wanted to snack out at the end of the day.  I’ve occasionally had the urge to eat something in the evenings, but when I have, I’ve eaten something that fills me up, and you know what?  I’ve felt full and that’s been enough.

Actually, scrub that.  I really don’t think that full has anything to do with it.  I’m pretty much always full.  My desire to eat in those situations isn’t connected to hunger.  Does that make any sense?  My desire to eat, which is at times uncontrollable, has no connection whatsoever to being hungry.  There’s rather important stuff in there isn’t there?  First of all, if the desire to eat isn’t driven by hunger, then eating isn’t going to get rid of the desire to eat.  Secondly, it begs a different question – what exactly is driving this desire to eat?

I don’t believe I’m necessarily an emotional eater, though I’m not completely convinced of that.  I’m coming round to the point of view that what I’m eating is driving my desire to eat.  When I eat sugar-packed processed foods, I get uncontrollable urges to eat.  I’ve read a number of articles and books that support that as a possibility, most of which centre on insulin as the culprit, so there are certainly people who’d agree with my clumsy diagnosis.

My mission in life is to get in control of this.  It annoys me – it really does – and I’m determined that somehow I’m going to master this thing.  My instinct is to dive back into Atkins, embrace it fully and relax into a world of low-carb heaven.  I’m resisting that at the moment for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I’ve found it difficult to do the Atkins thing with enough commitment recently.  Secondly, it feels like I’m giving control to the late Dr. Atkins rather than getting control myself, which just doesn’t feel right.

Having said that, I want to eat a lower-carb diet, and cut back on the processed stuff that’s in my diet.  I’d like to think that will do a couple of things – first of all, it will stop the cravings and allow me to be in control of what I eat, and secondly, it might just help me to lose a little weight.

So – just random thoughts really, but very key to what’s going on with me right now – I’m not in control of what I’m eating, and I want to be.  And I will be.  Christ knows when of course 😉

Have a good week.

The Shrinking Man

New Year, Same Quest

The Shrinking Man - One man's Quest to make less of himselfHi.  It’s been a while.

It’s three and a half years since I started this blog, a couple of years since I stopped updating it regularly and five months since I updated it at all.  I’m about the same weight as I was when I started the blog, having lost more than 60 pounds and put it all back on again.  It would be best to describe me as being pretty much the same, but perhaps a little more jaded.

On the one hand, I’ve proved to myself that I really can lose weight when I set my mind to it.  On the other hand, I’ve proved to myself that I don’t know how to stop myself putting it all back on again pretty damn quickly.  Certainly much quicker than I lost it anyway.

Anyway, I’m tempted to write a little more at the moment, so I’ll give it a try and see whether it helps or not.  When things aren’t going well in the shrinking stakes, it can be quite a negative thing to write about it, so I’m not sure whether I’m in the right place to write right now (try saying that when you’re drunk).

Let me sum up recent events.  I’ve recently dipped back into the world of Atkins for a bit, but struggled to do it ‘properly’ and then got cross when I didn’t lose vast amounts each week.  I’ve dipped in and out of artificial sweeteners altogether, cut out coke, brought coke back in, cut back on coke and generally tried to be aware of what’s going on when I eat.

Here’s some stuff that I’ve noticed recently.  This will probably sound really obvious to all of you out there in thin world, but I’ve noticed that there are some foods that fill me up and some foods that make we want to eat more of them.  That seems to be pretty significant, particularly as the foods that make me want to eat more of them are foods that I eat a lot of.  All the snacks that I like – crisps, jelly sweets, midget gems (oh those midget gems) cocktail sausages, cakes, biscuits and stuff like that – they all fail to satisfy me, and make me want to eat more of them.

It’s not just snacking either – with things more closely related to proper food such as chicken, I think there’s some interesting stuff going on there too.  If I eat a chicken breast, I find it satisfies my appetite.  If I eat chicken that is coated, breaded, or generally covered in processed crap of some kind, then it doesn’t satisfy my appetite and makes me want to eat more.  That’s not quite true actually, I do end up full from eating breaded chicken, but not till I’ve eaten too much and am already feeling really stuffed.

Let me go a little further with this and see if it makes sense.  If I put a plate of chicken breasts in front of me, then I would eat until I’d had enough, and then I’d stop.  If I put a plate of breaded chicken breasts in front of me, I’d eat more, and there’s a good chance that I’d clear the plate, no matter how much was on there.  Chicken breasts = satisfied appetite, feeling physically comfortable and mentally in control.  Breaded chicken breasts = overeating, feeling physically stuffed and mentally out of control.  Factor in all the self-loathing that goes with that and you’re halfway to describing my life around food.

Let me add in another element to that.  Some foods make me want to just eat more.  Yesterday I had a traditionally unhealthy lunch of mushrooms, bacon and fried eggs.  I felt full and satisfied.  A short while later I had some wine gums that I just happened to find around the house.  First of all, I wasn’t hungry, and I knew I wasn’t hungry.  I really wasn’t enjoying them either – I really, really had to work hard to finish them all, which of course I did.  What I found particularly interesting was that a short while later I wanted to eat crisps.  I’ve hardly eaten any wine gums or crisps for a few months, which made it easy to notice that there was a link between the two.  If I hadn’t eaten the wine gums (which I didn’t really want and didn’t enjoy) then I wouldn’t have wanted the crisps (which I didn’t really want and didn’t enjoy).

There’s something significant in here I think.  My holy grail has always been moderation.  I’ve always sought this perfect mix of healthy eating and treats, but I’ve never been able to moderate the treats.  Never.  Not for any period of time anyway.  It might just be that what I’m looking for is never going to work – the very fact that I eat some of the stuff that I tell myself I want makes it almost impossible for me not to eat more of it.

I’m definitely coming at this off of the back of my brief stint with Atkins – the foods that I struggle with are pretty much all carbohydrate-rich processed crap, which ties in very strongly with the Atkins philosophy.  What’s been quite interesting for me has been delving a little further into the low-carb world and seeing that there’s a lot of people talking about similar approaches.

So what does that mean for The Shrinking Man?  Good question.  I’d say it means this – there are some types of foods that are likely to work against me when I’m seeking to lose weight.  Foods that not only make me want to eat more of that food, but also make me want to eat more of other foods.  None of the things that do this to me are what I’d class as healthy anyway.  Are they even foods?  Does something that doesn’t fill you up qualify as a food?  That’s a point for another day I think.

Does this mean I never eat those foods?  In an ideal world yes – I’m not sure that’s all that viable in the long-run (says the man who’s stopped drinking and smoking without so much as a second thought) but it would be great.  For now though, what I’m determined to do is to go into anything with my eyes open.  If I choose to eat those foods, then I’ll do so knowing what the likely impact of that will be, and being aware of it as it happens.  (I can see a link to cigarettes in this too.  If I don’t have those foods, I don’t crave them.  If I don’t smoke, I don’t crave cigarettes – more on this later too.)

Anyway, it feels quite good to be back right now.  That was an interesting piece to write.

More soon.

The Shrinking Man