Everyday Systems: Podcast : Episode 40

No Solitary Snacking -- even on S days.

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Hi, this is Reinhard from everydaystems.com.

I think this is some kind of record now, how long it's been since my last podcast, so I thought I would go back in, sort of with one toe, testing the waters, and instead of describing some full fledged system or big issue, I'm gonna describe a simple, little mod, to the no-s diet. For those of you who don't know what a mod is, a mod is short for modificiation, a little tweak, a little adjustment. And we've had a lot of discussion of these over the years on the bulletin board, and in other podcasts.

And Although there's been a lot of discussion of mods and tweaks, generally speaking I've tried to dissuade people from doing them. Because I think a lot of times, people rush in to soon and vanilla No-s (vanilla, for non american English speakers, means plain unmodified no-s), with patience, is really what most people need.

But I myself now, the founder of no-s, and champion of vanilla, am now practicing a mod. And I'd like to tell you about it.

Now I've been doing no-s for almost 10 years now, since late 2001, and it's been vanilla no-s, and I've not had any yoyoing or weight issues, I'm 40 pounds down, and maintaining steadily, and I've been very happy doing it. So you might wonder, why a mod? Why a mod after a decade of something that's working really well?

And I think from a weight management perspective, I personally don't need this mod. I think I could perfectly happily go on another 10 years or 20 years or whatever practicing plain old vanilla no-s. 

But I think a lot of people can't, or seem to be having a hard time. And I wanted to test drive something I thought might help them. That's one motivation. I had another more selfish one that I'll tell you about in a bit, or at least one that emerged as I was going this.

A lot of people, I've noticed. Seem to have problems with S-days. You'd think that this would be the easiest part of the system, the most attractive part, right? your reward, it's the carrot that gets you to consent to the stick, but no, the stick people seem to have an easier time with. 

What seems to happen a lot is that people instead of seeing this as a reward and enjoying it, they go bananas. They can't handle the freedom on S-days. They lose control and just start stuffing themselves.

Now the standard advice I would give, which I still think is good advice, uh for most situations, for most people at least at least, many situations. is relax, focus on the N-days, the S-days will come. Your habits will start to transfer to the weekends. It's a mistake to mess with this important safety valve. It's a distraction that diverts your precious willpower and attention from where they're most needed, during the week. Focus on N-days, soldier on, and in time, the S-days will sort themselves out.

That's my standard advice. And I still think that is true, and good advice. And I encourage you to listen to or read the transcript of my previous podcast episode "S-days gone wild" for a more detailed presentation of this argument.

But there seems to be a problem, for a lot of people, with "just wait." A psychological problem. Because even if "just wait" will work for most people if they can make themselves do it, a lot of people can't. They get discouraged by their out of control eating and and they never make it over that hump. They can't hold out long enough to see their S-days just sort themselves out.

And what's interesting, I think, is that it's not so much the inevitable uptick on the scale after a particularly wild weekend that seems to discourage people. It's the feeling that their behavior is out of control. It's the behavior itself, more than than the results of that behavior, which pains them. Which is a little weird if you think about it -- but that's human nature. And as a proponent of moderation as a good in itself, I can actually very much related to this, that the opposite of moderation is an evil in itself.

So the mod I came up with to address this issue of out of control s-days is, in addition to vanilla no-s, you add this extra rule: no solitary snacking, even on S-days. I'll repeat that one more time: no solitary snacking, even on s-days. And what I like about this rule is that it targets just the problem, without sacrificing anything really good. It doesn't take away at all from your reward. It just cuts down on the automatic, compulsive, eating that isn't really a pleasure anyway. The kind of eating that makes people hate S-days. 

Let me explain the mechanics so you see how this works. you can still have as many meals with as many courses and as many desserts as you want on an s-day. What you can't do, is between meals, just walk into the pantry and start stuffing yourself, uh, eating out of the box. You can walk into the pantry, put something on a plate, sit down, and call it a meal. 

Now you might think that's a subtle distinction, but it's actually not. Because that little bit of extra formality, of intentionality, provides enough speed bump to either jolt you to your senses or limit the damage.

You're circumscribing your mealified snack with a plate. You're limiting it. Yes, you can get up and have another one. But there's an activation energy to that which will dissuade you work to your advantage and dissuade you. You'll also probably enjoy that mealified snack more, or at all, now that you have a little more formality around it.

The other kind of snacking that is permitted on s-days under this new tweak, which is not quite as important, but not insignificant, is social snacking. So the main sort of use case or scenario of this is, you know, you're at someone's house, they offer you a snack, and if you refuse, they'd be like, "wait I don't, I don't understand, you know, the no s diet, you're supposed to be able to snack today." So in order to avoid that awkwardness you can officially say yes in those situations.

You could also initiate the invitation for social snacking yourself, but again, there's sort of an activation energy to that, and frankly sort of an embarrassment, that maybe, will make those not so common. 

I've been practicing this system for I think about a month or two now, and I've been stunned at both how easy it's been to do, and how much I enjoy it. I haven't noticed any change in weight, personally, but I don't really want to, I'm happy where I am. But I got rid of a kind of eating that I don't like, that's a displeasure. Now for me this displeasure may have been one of the last pockets of resistance of a largely defeated enemy. But I think for others it might represent a significant force that threatens their whole no-s enterprise.

Even calorically, I think it might have a big impact for some people. But more importantly I think it's a morale issue. It's a relatively non-demanding way of feeling in control on s-days, of not feeling like your appetite is driving you -- which I think, as I mentioned before, is really more than any scale number blip that people might see [after an over the top weekend], what discourages them.

So what if you start this mod, you're convinced here by what I'm saying, and you screw up next weekend? I would not count it as a no-s failure. I would keep these distinct. You don't want to be able to fail on no-s on an s-day. You could make a separate sort of habit that you're tracking in habitcal, or equivalent. I don't do that. But I would keep the compliance distinct from vanilla no-s, again, for morale reasons. A significant, if not the main reason that you're doing this, is for morale, so you don't want that to backfire.

One more thing I should mention, Nicest of the damned on  the bulletin board has been practicing a couple of mods, kind of similar to what I've been describing, which I should mentioned, one, just because she thought of it first, to give her credit,  and also because the mechanics might appeal to you a little more. They address a very similar problem. One of the mods is, I think it's the sitting mod, or no standing mod, so the idea is, even when you're snacking, legitimately on S days, you have to sit. So you introduce that speed bump of process by sitting. And the other one is, no eating out of packages, NEP, which is sort of self-explanatory, and the same basic idea.

That's it. I'm curious to hear what you think. Please post to the bulletin board and let us know. And I promise -- tentatively promise -- not to let another year slip by before my next podcast episode.

Thanks for listening.

By Reinhard Engels

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