Here in the shrinking world, life is really quite busy at the moment. I mentioned last week that I’ve recently started a new work project, and that is taking care of my life between the hours of about 7:00 – 19:00 on weekdays. I’ve got a number of things going on at the moment in my personal life, including a couple of bands that I play in, a radio show that I write and present.
While the overall workload goes up and down from day to day, it’s fair to say that at the moment, I’m occupied a fair amount of the time. That’s quite important when shrinking, as it becomes really easy not to think about food if your mind is focussed on deadlines or other stuff that you just have to be done.
Weekends are hopefully a bit different, at least some of the time. While the bands, the radio show and other stuff gets in the way a little, it’s less intrusive than it tends to be during the week, and the consequence of that is that I end up with more thinking time. Time when my mind can wander towards food and just what I really ought to be eating at this very moment in time. Which is where the problems often start.
Let me introduce a key question that I have in my mind at the moment. Does cutting out processed, carb-loaded food switch off cravings for processed, carb-loaded food, or have I just been too busy to pay attention to them during the week?
A few weeks ago I was firmly in the ‘cutting them out kills the cravings’ camp, and at the moment, I’m a little less certain, and that’s down to two main things. First of all, during the last week, I’ve eaten scones for breakfast on a couple of occasions, and not noticed any craving difference from when I just ate berries and yoghurt. Secondly, last Saturday I had berries and yoghurt for breakfast and still had cravings straight afterwards. I think the answer to both of those things might be that there’s a time limit to the craving effect that crabs drive in me, and that it’s a cumulative effect the more carbs that I eat. Let me delve a little deeper into this and see if it makes sense.
Let me start with last Saturday’s berries and yoghurt breakfast. That’s a breakfast that’s relatively low in carbs, and also pretty low GI in the wider scheme of things. That means that it shouldn’t be delivering any major blood sugar spikes that I’m informed by the sciencey people are probably the actual cause of cravings. So why did I suffer cravings (for left over KFC if I remember correctly) having eaten that particular breakfast? Well I’d suggest that it could be the cumulative effect of the previous evening’s carb marathon that was still in my system the next morning, so that even the ‘right’ sort of breakfast wasn’t going to overpower the cumulative effect of the carbs. Just to reiterate, the day before, I’d eaten hot cross buns, crisps, a fair amount of KFC, biscuits and more.
That makes some sort of sense to me. So what about the lack of cravings during the week? How have I eaten scones for breakfast but not been subject to cravings during the day? I’m guessing here, but perhaps I hadn’t eaten enough carbs to cause me significant problems, and that the busy work schedule meant that by the time I sat and thought about anything, they’d worn off. Not the most scientific basis for a conclusion, but I’m just trying to make sense of it.
What I do now is that it’s Sunday, and that I’m surround by cravings once again. I’ve followed a similar pattern to last week, in that Monday to Thursday I’ve eaten pretty well, and from Friday it all changes. I had crisps and a cereal bar type thing with my lunch, a Chinese takeaway for my dinner and I snacked a bit afterwards. Less than last weekend, but still there. There are some subtle differences though and I think they’re important.
I posted last week about the Craving Cycle and that I saw things a little differently as a result of that understanding. That’s stayed with me this weekend. I had some hot cross buns for my breakfast this morning, and almost before I’d finished them, my cravings were suggesting that I ought to be having something else. I wasn’t satisfied by the breakfast in any way, it merely made me want to eat more, ably assisted by last night’s Doritos 😉 I know that in previous weeks, months and years, however hard I tried, I would give in to those cravings, because in the end, I wanted to get rid of the cravings. The fundamental difference now is that I understand (finally) that giving in to the cravings doesn’t get rid of them. Instead, it continues the cycle and causes the next cravings.
What is in my head right now is that if I don’t give in to the cravings, then they will go away. I have no idea how long it will take today, but I don’t think it will be for too long. There’s a certain calm that comes from understanding this a little better, and however unpleasant the cravings are (and for those of you who don’t have them, it really is an unpleasant experience) they’re not going to kill me. It feels like I just understand it all a little better, and it brings perspective to something that I’ve struggled with for my entire adult life.
I feel like I’m getting a better awareness of how to approach this too. There’s a cause and effect thing here and it’s one that I can use to help me overcome this. If I eat some of the stuff that I know triggers my cravings, then I’m going to get cravings. Knowing that, if I still want to eat that stuff, then that’s fine, but I’ll have to deal with the cravings that come with the territory. If I give in to the cravings, then the cycle will continue for a while until I break it, and it will all have been down to whatever I ate in the first place that started it. The next time I’m asking myself the question “do I really want to eat this?” then that experience should be part of the evidence for the prosecution.
Regular readers will know that it frustrates the hell out of me that I’ve not been able to beat this food thing. Having stopped smoking and drinking without so much as a furrowed brow, the fact that I’ve not been able to stop myself overeating on a regular basis has always troubled me. The truth is that I was able to stop smoking easily once I understood how the addiction cycle actually worked – essentially that the cause of the cravings for the next cigarette was the nicotine in the last one, and that it was nothing to do with me enjoying the cigarette. That led directly to me stopping drinking too, as I was pretty clear that I drank for exactly the same reasons. What I’ve been looking for is the same psychological switch that would let me understand the food problem in the same way. On many, many occasions I’ve thought that I’d found it in the past, only to discover that to be untrue. That makes me nervous about saying this, because I’ve been wrong so many times in the past, but the craving cycle would appear to me to be that switch. For the first time, I think I truly ‘get’ it.
Only time will tell of course, and my promise to you is that I’ll share whatever happens with you. May your shrinking week be interesting.
The Shrinking Man
PS – I lost a couple of pounds this week too – oddly that’s less important to me at the moment, but it’s still good news.
Current Weight – 17st 6lb
Starting Weight – 18st 4lb
Overall Weight Loss – 12lb
Current BMI – 34.0
Starting BMI – 35.7