I can eat literally huge quantities of chocolate, cakes (especially cheesecake) and other high sugar foods.
I am always talking about Mrs M's legendary sweet tooth, but herein lies a difference - my friend combines Mrs M's insatiable desire for sweetness with the same devastating capacity for volume I demonstrated in my shameful and thankfully rare alcohol fuelled cake/chocolate binge not so long ago.
I am a Mere AmateurHis first problem is that he needs no alcohol to precipitate a sugar-fest; second, the frequency. My binge was very much a one-off, giving we weeks to allow my organs to relieve themselves of whatever they had been forced to retain/absorb as a result; whereas my friend manages binges of comparable magnitude on a regular basis. Here is a sample menu, which I gather took place within a couple of weeks:
- Over 2 nights an 800g box of Thornton's continental chocolate
- On another day, an entire strawberry cheesecake
- On another, 3 Cadbury's chocolate puddings with 3 Cadbury's flakes
- One evening, an entire tub of Ben and Jerry's Phish Food, a whole case of profiteroles and a ½ a litre of cream
My friend enlisted my advice in kicking the 'habit' mainly because he was having awful headaches which he had been able to link to the sugar intake. He was also concerned about the history of heart disease in his family - we had, in the past, discussed the role of sugar in the condition.
Breaking the CycleThis has given me an opportunity to ponder the the dynamics of breaking the cycle and getting back onto the straight and narrow, particularly in the wake of my own lapses at Christmas and the one mentioned above.
I am not a person who finds giving things up hard. I have up smoking after 5 years without blinking. When I went Paleo, I cut out my favourite food, porridge, without question and without return.
Yet at Christmas, my third dessert-guzzling session seemed to tip me into new territory. My normally solid resolve had begun to weaken, and I was unable to resist a fourth, and then a fifth. I hated myself, but I had to do it.
Downward MomentumI had acquired downward momentum. Put simply, the more crap I ate, the less I had to lose. I had already put on a few pounds and put a dent into my normally good health. With each successive binge the marginal loss of having a further binge was reduced. The further down you go, the harder it is to arrest the downward progress because the less different it makes to you where you are.
So what stopped me? A growing sense of self-loathing and recognition that the mountain to be climbed to return to former health and body composition was growing. The scale of that mountain was well illustrated by my post-Christmas body composition chart. It was no big deal compared to the kind of achievements many have made - but for me, who has always been lean, it meant a lot.
Creating Something to LoseThe points is, I had been intending to stop after binge number 3, but didn't. I needed something to lose.
Creating something to lose is the biggest challenge around ending a week of lapses or even years of a habit. The first day is the hardest day. If you eat a cake or take a drink or smoke a cigarette, what have you lost? Nothing.
If you manage to go for a day without something, then what have you got to lose by having some the following day - a little, but not much. You have only gone a day without, so by having some now you would not exactly be interrupting up a glorious run.
Upward MomentumFor me, it's all about that first week - you have to create something you are proud of or pleased with; something which, if broken, would represent a loss. You need to create upward momentum.
During those first few days, recite the reasons you shouldn't lapse. They are different for everyone. For me, the most powerful one is this:
You will hate yourself; you will be pissed off, big time.
I posted about Tough Love - Reasons not to Quit a while ago. It was a tongue-in-cheek analysis, but nevertheless had many elements of truth. Maybe some of your reasons are amongst those.
Maybe for you there are physiological dimensions to your momentum - with sugar I have found the cravings diminish with time. For many days after my most recent binge, I could still feel the tug. Maybe it's entirely psychological - but either way, you might regard these changes as something you have made, acquired, built. By lapsing, you would be throwing that away.
So - whether you are recovering from a brief lapse or trying to break years of habit, figure out what matters most to you, conquer that first week by reciting those things to yourself, then ride the momentum from there on: now you have something to lose.
P.S. Things are not going so smoothly for my friend, who emailed me today to confess to having broken a few weeks of momentum with:
- 2 slices of chocolate birthday cake
- a dairy milk chocolate bar
- a Cadbury's crème egg
- a bowl of apple crumble
Sugar Rampage Demonstrates How Alcohol Kills Self Control
When does Intermittent Fasting Become an Eating Disorder?
Tough Love - Reasons not to Quit You Don't Normally Hear