Sunday, August 26, 2012

Controlling Cravings: The Deconditioning Diet

I recently came across the excellent blog Getting Stronger of Todd Becker. It specializes in Hormesis. Hormesis is the beneficial effect arising due to the body's reaction to small stresses (small in time or intensity).

Hormesis is a very important concept. This is mainly how exercise or vegetables/fruits benefit us. Without hormesis their would be no benefit of exercise as it is a stress to the body. Also vegetables/fruits contain natural toxins, which stresses our body. Hormesis is the principle behind green teas and other herbs benefit.

I found an interesting idea for reducing cravings, based on hormesis, which I realized that I also tend to do. I will go into bakeries and sweet shops just to have a look and then not buy anything. It seems that this creates a craving in the body, and if the craving is not satisfied, the craving diminishes over time.

Todd calls the diet he prescribes as the Deconditioning Diet. The most interesting thing about the diet is that he does not recommend or restrict any foods. Of course this diet will work even better on a paleo based diet. Todd defines 3 stages.

The first phase is called General Insulin Reduction phase. Here you want to go on a lower carb diet, to keep your insulin levels stable. It is required that you restrict all food intake to 3 meals at fixed times, ie no snacking. The 3 fixed time meals may take some time and Todd provides some general ideas to reach that point. Last but the most important part is to start a craving log. Basically when you don't eat in between and you eat only 3 times, you will feel the need to eat in between. At this time you would want to note, which food you would like to eat most.

The second phase is called Cue extinction and Counter Conditioning. In this phase the goal is to always eat when you are not hungry. This might seem counter intuitive. But the point is that whenever you feel hungry, if you delay food you will stop feeling hungry after some time. At this point if you eat, you will train your brain to limit the hunger pangs, as they will not provide it food.

The most important part is to devise a counter conditioning plan. Basically you want to find activities that you can do which will take your mind off food, immediately after exposing yourself to the foods that you crave. These activities should last for at least 15 minutes. The longer the better. Next you will want to see some food that you crave and avoid eating for as long as possible. Also when you do eat, you eat something that does not contain foods that you crave. The best way is to walk around in a bakery or sweet shop, and exit without buying anything. Go home and then eat the normal food. Make sure there is enough gap between the shop excursion and the meal.

You don't need to do the above all the time, a few times a week will help a lot. You could do this everyday while returning from the office if you have a handy shop on the way. If you are a cook prepare the food, but don't eat it. That would be real tough though :-).

The final phase is the weight loss phase, aka Meal Skipping.

This is a very abbreviated summary. The actual article is very detailed.

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