One of the most difficult challenges to overcome in life is getting out from under the grip of an addiction, whether it be drug, alcohol or nicotine dependency, a food addiction or eating disorder, or compulsive activities such as gambling, shopping, pornography or Internet addiction. Taken to the extreme, addictions can become highly self-destructive, antisocial or criminal activities such as self-mutilation, kleptomania, or pyromania. At the other end of the scale are ordinary activities, such as exercise or work, which in normal degree are healthful but when excessive can become addictive. There are also minor compulsions which might best be considered bad habits rather than addictions, such as nail biting, hair pulling and the like. Broadly speaking, an addiction can be any habitual behavior which takes over one’s life, interferes with social relations and personal achievement, and threatens one’s autonomy. There are many ideas about what addiction is and how to treat it, but unfortunately success rates are low and relapse rates are high. However, there is a recent approach to snuffing out addiction based on the emerging sciences of neuroplasticity and behavior modification, which holds out the promise of lasting change. The approach is called cue exposure theory, and it goes against the conventional wisdom. I will discuss it after first reviewing the more conventional approaches. And I’m going to do something else unusual at the end of this particular blog post: I will apply this methodology to an “addiction” of my own and follow my progress in the Discussion Forum associated with this blog.
Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category
In any area of self-improvement, a common complaint is that we often reach a plateau and get stuck there, failing to make progress towards our goals. While this is a natural consequence of homeostasis–our organism’s inbuilt resistance to change–the experience of plateaus often leads to frustration and abandoning our resolutions. One person who understood this well and offered sage advice on how to handle the plateau was George Leonard, who recently passed away at age 86. As an author, fifth degree black belt aikido master, and a giant in the human potential movement of the 1960s and 70s, Leonard’s passing brought to mind his little gem of a book that I first read in 1991: Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment. It is a self-help classic that has grown in stature with time, but it is so much more than that. The ideas in this book made a strong impression on me the first time I read it, and it has never been far from my mind. I picked up the book again this week to take another look and realized how much wisdom it holds, and how pertinent it is to the topic of getting stronger, and persisting through plateaus. It is a very short book, but powerfully succinct, with profound lessons about the path to mastery in any field. Read More
A number of recent weight loss methods have been developed that explicitly recognize a close relationship between flavor and appetite. These methods include:
- Flavor-calorie dissociation as advocated by Seth Roberts in his Shangri-La Diet
- Sensory-specific satiety, as advocated in David Katz’s Flavor Point Diet
- Tastants, another approach to sensory-specific satiety, as advertised in Alan Hirsch’s Sensa Weight-Loss Program.
- Odor inhalers, a third approach based on sensory-specific satiety, as described in Alan Hirsch’s book Scentsational Weight Loss, and marketed by him as ”diet pens” offered by SlimScents
At first, some of these approaches appear to be mutually incompatible. The Shangri-La theory argues that strong or familiar flavors enhance appetite when they become associated with caloric foods. The other three approaches, by contrast, claim that intense flavors or aromas suppress appetite, based upon the principle of “sensory-specific satiety”, whereby an increase in the intensity of a single flavor or odor induces satiety. However, on closer examination, all of the above theories are consistent with one another, as I will try to show. Furthermore, they each provide some useful clues about how to achieve a long term weight loss and relief from hunger cravings by paying attention to the role of flavor and other food cues. Finally, as I will attempt to persuade you, only one of the above diets is truly a type of Deconditioning Diet that can lead to long term, permanent reduction in appetite, based on the principles of Hormetism.