Everyday Systems: Podcast : Episode 83

The No S Diet 2024

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Hi, this is Reinhard from Everyday Systems.

Today I’m going to do something new in this podcast but simultaneously the opposite of new: I’m going to re-present the first system I ever talked about, the No S Diet, from scratch, the entire system, as if I’d never spoken about it or written about it before, with the perspective of 20+ years of thinking about it, practicing it, and discussing it, blended in. My hope is this episode can serve as the draft of a chapter in an Everyday Systems compendium ebook, and hopefully be interesting and useful in its own right, as an up-to-date introduction to the No S Diet in 2024. I also hope that even long-time No-essers will find something valuable in it, maybe some insight they missed from one of those sprawling discussions, or that something they weren’t sure about will finally click after hearing it presented from a slightly different angle.

If it feels like this re-presentation technique is working, I’ll keep doing it for all the major Everyday Systems, every other episode. So the plan is: every other month, one system, family of systems or concept per chapter-episode, until I have a full draft of chapters for the book, or at least, critical mass

Without further wind-up, here is The No S Diet, 2024:

Why another No S Diet?

The No S Diet
No Snacks, No Sweets, No Seconds
Except (sometimes) on days that start with S

That is the No S Diet, the whole system: three rules and one exception, fourteen words.

It’s the world's shortest diet plan – so short it fits on the cover of a book.

Really, I wrote a whole book about it, and the plan was right there, on the cover, back in 2008.

In that book, I joked that maybe you would think there was no point in reading the rest of it, since I’d already given away the “secret formula” before you’d even cracked it open. You may be wondering something like that now, but to an even greater degree: if this guy already wrote one whole book about this supposedly ultra simple diet plan, why is he writing about it again, here, as a chapter in this compendium?

Not because I think it’s a bad or outdated book and that I think I could do it better now in a fraction of the space. Not at all. I re-read it for the first time in many years in preparation for writing this chapter, and was pleasantly surprised at how well it holds up. I’d been worried that I would find a lot to cringe at, but there really wasn’t much. I actually felt a little proud, re-reading it. I mean, it’s a diet book, but for a diet book, it’s really not bad. If you wind up being intrigued by this chapter, go read that book. It’s still worth it.

There’s a lot of serious, practical wisdom compressed into those 14 words that may not be immediately obvious. The book unpacks that for you in even greater detail than I can here. Then when you repeat the formula to yourself, you’re getting not just the bare instructions, but it’s like an incantation to bring back into your mind the memory of that larger case for the No S Diet. You’ll remember, not just “this is what I’m doing, these rules,” because really, the book doesn’t anything to that, but “this is why I’m doing it.” And that why will help you succeed.

So why this chapter then? What’s the point, if I made the case for No-S so well, or well enough, back then?

One, most obviously, I’m writing for people who have never read the book and may be coming to the No S Diet for the first time. Maybe they picked up this compendium because they were interested in some other system, and this is the first they’ve ever heard about No S. I want to give them the best, most concentrated, most up to date presentation of the No S Diet I can. They may not think they’re ready for a whole book on the subject – yet.

Two, I’m writing for long-time practitioners of the No S Diet who may have picked up this compendium precisely because it’s included, to show them how it fits in with the other Everyday Systems. I’ll be emphasizing the common principles and components it shares with those other systems. Maybe these readers will be turned on to another system because they now see how No-S-like ways of thinking can be applied to other problems in their lives.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, I’ve got some tips for the serial No-S diet failure, wannabe, aspirant—those of you who love the idea of No S but could never quite get it to work in practice; or were intrigued but could never quite muster the energy to start; or started and could never quite get it to click; or had some success with it but then slipped into bad habits again. For you I have a distillation of 16 years of community wisdom on the online support groups and some of my own “eureka” moments since the book was published.

Also, even when I’m just rearticulating what I’ve said before, I’m going to try to avoid extended self-quotation, and express it in different words, so that maybe something that didn’t quite take before because it was off by three millimeters will click for you this time.

That’s a lot to pack into one chapter, so I’d better get down to business!

The Big Picture: Three Bold Claims

First off, before I get into how the No-S diet rules work and why they are so great, what problem does the No S Diet aim to solve?

Not the problem of being overweight. That sounds like an odd statement for a diet program to contain, much less lead with, but I’m serious: the problem that the No S Diet seeks to address is not the problem that weight watchers has built into its name, rather it is the problem of excessive eating. It’s a behavioral problem, it’s about doing not being.

Now, that behavior may, and in most cases does, have something to do with why so many of us are overweight or obese, but it is also significantly different. It is a problem in itself, even apart from any weight issues. That’s my first bold claim: that the habit of overeating, not the state of being overweight, is the real problem.

You may not think that’s such a problem; you may think, “I actually wouldn’t mind continuing to overeat if I could somehow lose weight at the same time. I kind of like overeating.” But, step back and think about it for a minute: you don’t really. It’s a degrading, powerless feeling. It’s more a compulsion than a pleasure.

And furthermore, unless you solve the problem of overeating, you will never really solve the problem of being overweight. Your only chance of sustainably solving that second problem is by solving the first problem first.

As C.S. Lewis put it, “You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first…Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first & we lose both first and second things.”

The siren song that so many other diet programs sell you, that you can continue to overeat and still lose weight (usually in the form of magic foods that you can continue to gorge on with impunity), is a lie the No S Diet teaches you to resist. You are going to confront the problem of what used to be called gluttony head on, not dodge it with another form of gluttony.

My next bold claim is that this problem of overeating is primarily a psychological problem, specifically, a problem of self-deception. We are motivated to overeat for many reasons – emotional comfort, self-hatred, because food just tastes good. But those motivations have been around forever, even before we all started giving into them and getting fat in the 1980s. What changed? Superabundance, sure, calories became cheap and convenient, a tipping point was reached. But also, partly in response to this, and even more importantly, we stopped limiting our eating to meals.

Meals? That may sound like a fussy detail—who cares when you eat, right? But it’s really not. Or maybe you even think it’s factually wrong—what about supersizing and all that, which one would suppose might have drastically increased calories from meals? But numbers from the USDA paint a clear picture: Americans eat on average over 20% more calories than they did in 1980, and 90% of that increase has come from snacks (defined as between meal eating), for women, the proportion is over 100%—calories from meals have actually gone down. So, far from being a fussy detail, the decline of meal-based eating is almost the entire problem. In other words, in a direct sense, not stuff, not novel frankenfoods, but this new behavior of snacking is what caused and is fueling the obesity epidemic.

And if you think about it, it makes intuitive sense why. Before circa 1980, and from time immemorial, most eating was done at social meals. Snacking was frowned upon. If you overate, it was visible, you could see it. So could other people. You ate at certain times, in certain ways, with other people. With the spotlight of social, meal-based eating, there wasn’t much scope for deception, of others or of yourself, about how much you were eating and so it didn't take all that much willpower not to. If you overate, it was immediately obvious and embarrassing, to others and to yourself. There was an immediate disincentive to overeating. There were also plenty of positive incentives to eat moderately, pleasure in company and not wanting to take more than your fair share. The aesthetics, even of a very simple, home meal and not wanting to disturb that, to appreciate and honor the loving effort grandma had obviously put into setting the table and preparing this food. No matter how you look at it, “mealing” was a very effective speed bump.

But then technology made convenience food, especially snack food, cheap and ubiquitous, and social structures around meals broke down. Suddenly those primal desires around food could run rampant. Highly caloric food could be consumed quickly and conveniently and cheaply all the time, with no one else around to trouble us with their observation or sensibilities.

Today, you might have a dim sense that you are eating too much, but without the spotlight of discrete, social meals, it‘s hard to get a precise sense of it, and there is always at least plausible deniability. No one ever needs to see you being a glutton. Even you yourself dont need to see it, “grazing” all day long. Often you can’t point to one incident and say, “that was excessive, that’s where I went over the line.” There are no lines. It all blurs together. Alone and without any ceremony, there is no longer any friction to helping yourself to that third piece of frozen cheesecake from the fridge or grabbing another handful of chips on the couch. Eating barely registers, it isn’t an event anymore, snacking isn’t even the right word for it anymore, we're in a state of permasnacking, it’s like a steady I.V. drip of calories. It’s hard to resist excess when you can’t even see it.

Many diet plans seek to reintroduce that friction by having you log or count everything you put into your mouth. I call these substance accounting diets, calorie accounting diets being the most prevalent. This is unsustainable overkill, even with whizbang apps, such as keep appearing, to help with the math. They make sense on a biochemical level, and may work for a while, while the novelty lasts. But it’s not fun and impossible to habitualize and so impossible to sustain. There is a better way that requires no math at all, the way we use to do it: meals.

My third bold, really almost grandiose claim is that the mechanism by which No S seeks to repair your individual, personal eating habits is by standing in for those lost societal habits, by reproducing in the form of explicit, self-enforced rules those lost social, mostly externally imposed structures around meal based eating. It’s a whole social order in 14 words. The No S Diet rules aren’t exactly what the old social rules used to be, and of course the rules of each culture varied to some degree, but they are close enough to resonate deeply, and bring you similar benefits.

Because while technology and gigantic social conditions enabled this self deception around excessive eating, at the end of the day, we, as individuals, can’t roll back technology and social conditions. [Nor would we necessarily want to – there was a lot of good in that bathwater.] What we can do is introduce surrogate structures that make it hard to deceive ourselves again. That is exactly what the No S Diet does. It’s a shortcut to creating a food culture that has been lost, for you, yourself, now, in the midst of a larger food culture that has gone insane. It’s a way back to the moderate, meal-based eating that makes excess obvious again and served us well across cultures for generations, explicit rules for you the individual to approximate the lost implicit structures of a whole society. And while it doesn’t depend on what anyone around you is doing –it is unobtrusive to a remarkable degree for a diet–, maybe, by the example of our independent, individual habits, those social conventions will start to get repaired again.

These are big claims indeed! How does the No S Diet accomplish all this, specifically? Let’s take one rule at a time.

No Snacks

I’ve already made a case for why snacking is such a big problem – 90% of excess calories since 1980. But what is a snack, exactly?

For No S purposes, and in that USDA dataset I mentioned, a snack is when, not what: anything eaten between meals. ANYTHING. Your healthy carrot stick or whatever is just as verboten as a candy bar.

Why? Not because your healthy carrot stick is bad in itself. But because eating it as a snack messes with your sense of habit. Don’t kid yourself. If you snack on a carrot today, you’re going to snack on something less healthy tomorrow. The carrot is a pretext. It’s the excuse your subtle, sneaky appetite is trying to use to justify a candy bar tomorrow.

You don’t really want a carrot. Back in ye olden days, before candy bars, when the only thing to snack on might have been a carrot, no one did. It wouldn’t have occurred to anyone, because who really wants a carrot?

Snacking doesn’t just sound like sneaking, it is. It is the act of sneaking excess past your natural defenses. Nothing ever looks like a lot – but it imperceptibly adds up. If you snack, the only way you can know you are overeating is by resorting to unsustainable behaviors like counting calories.

So keep it simple. A snack is when. Always, anything. Makes the decision easy. So easy that it soon becomes an automatic habit. And that is the key to No-S: simple, conscious rules that eventually build automatic, almost unconscious habits. Let one little healthy snack in and all of a sudden the stream of permasnacking is flowing again, because why not do it again next time, and next time, and next time?

Look, I’m not saying don’t eat carrots, or don’t eat fruit. I’m just saying eat them as part of your meals instead of as snacks. They do double duty then: they no longer justify the behavior of snacking, and they also displace less healthy options on your single plate meals.

This brings us to our next question: what is a meal? I leave you to figure that out. However you define it, you get three of them (or, as I discuss at length in the book, some other number that you determine in advance, but best to stick with three) and they have to fit on one physical plate, you have to see everything you are eating for that meal all at once.

The more ceremony you can add around your meals, the more regularity, the more intention, the more sociability, the better you will be about sticking with them, and the more you will enjoy them. But don’t worry about that up front. Start simple. Start with the number three.

No Sweets

The No S rules are about getting the biggest bang for your restrictive buck. They’re about targeting the low hanging fruit, the relatively easy stuff that will make the most difference, not fussing over the corner cases. Accordingly, the no s rule is “no sweets” NOT no sugar. A sweet is defined as something whose principal source of calories is sugar, something that tastes sweet, dessert-level sweet. You don't have to go checking lists of ingredients and driving waiters crazy, your taste buds will let you know.

People love extremes. If too much sugar is bad, they think, then the answer must be no sugar. People love that. It’s so clean. It’s so righteous feeling. The problem is that rush of righteousness doesn’t last. And when it wears off, you just feel deprived, and want sugar again. You want it even more, because on top of missing its sweet goodness, you resent your righteous self for inflicting this deprivation on you. And then, eventually, you cave – and punish your righteous self by eating even more sugar. And then, when the brief thrill of that wears off, your righteous self can punish you right back again, ad infinitum, with you snowballing fatter and more miserable every go-round.

The No S attitude is: that’s ridiculous. Just focus on “good enough,” not perfection. You don’t have to cut out all sugar to make a huge difference, to make a sufficient difference. Just by cutting out the obvious stuff, just by cutting out the dessert-level-sweets, the stuff that actually tastes sweet, you’ve got an 80% solution, a sufficient solution, with 0% of the headache and no real deprivation.

So go ahead and put some sugar in your coffee or tea if you like, but skip the sugar soda. A can of coke is 10 teaspoons of sugar. No one in human history ever spooned that much sugar into their coffee. Likewise, go ahead and eat that yogurt (with a meal, of course), but save the ice cream for the weekend. And of course, eat fruit, but again, not as a snack, with a meal, displacing less healthy stuff on your single plate.

“Does it pass the dessert test?” This is the question you should be asking yourself when evaluating sweets. Is it an actual dessert, or sweet enough to qualify for dessert, like liquid dessert soft drinks? If not, it’s OK.

What about artificial sweeteners? Yes, granted, fake sugar obviously messes with your built-in sweet detector, and it’s probably better to avoid it to keep your taste buds properly sensitized and your habit of sweet avoidance strong, but if you don’t think you can manage without, if you think you’re going to crack under you sugar lust, it’s fine, it’s the lesser evil by far. The purity of perfection is not our goal. Our goal is “good enough.” And if for you that means fake sugar, so for it. You can still hold your head up high as a proud no-esser. And you can always revisit the issue when you are stronger in habit.

No Seconds

The last No-S rule cements a principle that they all share: you should organize your eating so that it’s possible to sense excess again. You shouldn’t have to count, you shouldn't have to read labels, you shouldn’t have to perform a biochemical analysis: you should be able to detect excess with your natural senses: with taste, and even more importantly, with your eyes. Excess should be visible.

Seeing excess is half the battle. If we force ourselves to confront our excess and not look away or make excuses, we’ve half won already.

By sticking all of your food for a meal on a single physical plate, you can get a good enough sense of how much you are eating just by looking at it – without having to resort to time consuming and unsustainable practices like counting calories or carbs or other invisible micronutrients. If it’s a lot, it’ll look like a lot. You can’t hide the a-lot-ness of it by sneaking back for individually modest looking seconds or thirds. It’s all right there at once, staring you in the face.

And since you aren’t snacking either, this is really it, during the week: three spotlights shining bright on all your daily food choices. It’s hard for excess to hide under the glare of those spotlights. If excess is there, you’ll see it – and if you relearn the ancient art of eating social meals (highly recommended), so will your neighbor. That gentle pressure on your eyeballs, from the sight of that excess, even if you alone are the only one seeing it, will be enough, over time, on average, to whittle these single plates to a decent size.

It will likely take some practice to get this eyeballing right. The mistake people make initially is to keep the plates too small, they try to be heroes up front– but then they break down between meals. What I advise, on the contrary, is to allow your plates to be generous, at least to start. It’s OK if that means a few more calories than you really need. Because that little bit of excess up front in the form of heavily loaded plates is an investment that buys you the ability to go without snacking until the next meal, to abide by the literal rules. And that, in turn, builds habit. And as your habit builds, as you get a better sense as to how much it actually takes to get you through to the next meal without excessive hunger, then you can gradually reduce how large you make your single plate meals.

One plate. It’s a very clear boundary. You know where you have to stop. And if you pile it high, well, at least you’re not kidding anyone: your excess is obvious.

And when that plate is empty, and you stop, the sight of that empty plate starts to become a powerful pavlovian signal to your appetite, a stop sign: one = done. It will visually fill you up, on top of the weight in your belly.

It’s not perfect. It’s not going to work every time: some individual plates, even after the initial visual calibration period, will be excessive. But over hundreds and thousands of single plate meals over years and decades, it’s good enough. And simple enough and humane enough and enjoyable enough to sustain for a lifetime.

One Exception

The three rules each make sense individually, but they also support each other. They prevent what I call Demogorgon Whackamole, when your appetite routes around your attempts to control it by branching out in new directions. Otherwise, if you only practiced no snacks, your appetite might try to compensate by eating more seconds, and vice versa. Practicing all three rules at once boxes it into a corner.

But a cornered animal can be a dangerous thing. And we’re not trying to extinguish appetite entirely. On the contrary, we want to tame and moderate it. We’re trying to give it a better habitat and lifestyle than it had before. Enter the No S diet exception: “except, sometimes on days that start with S.”

This means that on “Days that start with S,” on Saturdays, Sundays, and special days (holidays and the like) the rules are suspended. On these days, you can snack, eat sweets, eat seconds, all with a clear conscience.

For short, No-essers call these days “S-days.” By extension, special days, or non-weekend S days, become NWS days. Non-S-days, or normal days, are N-days.

On one level, the S-day exception is a controlled safety valve, a bone to throw to your appetite to keep it from getting too resentful, to keep the pressure from building up to a dangerous level. On another level, it’s an after-the-fact reward for your good behavior. On yet another level, it’s an incentive to look forward to and help you power through the week, to give you the willpower to resist whatever temptation is staring you in the face because you know you will be able to enjoy it come the weekend, really enjoy it, without guilt. Which brings me to the final benefit: the enjoyment itself, as important as any of the others. Enjoyment is OK, enjoyment is good, and when you enjoy legitimately, in moderation, without it being bound up in guilty self-destructive excess, you will enjoy that much more.

I don’t like to refer to S-days as “cheat days,” because that implies that you are doing something you aren’t supposed to, something sneaky. It’s as if you referred to legitimate days off from work and school as playing hooky or going AWOL. S days are just as legitimate as N days and they are just as important to the long term success of the No S Diet. You deserve them and you need them.

People worry that their S days will degenerate into binge days, free-for-alls when you just stuff yourself silly and undo all your hard work during the week. The best way to prevent this from happening is NOT to add extra rules or restrictions on S days, as you may be tempted to do, and certainly not to get rid of them entirely, but rather to double down on the enjoyment aspect: think, in advance, of something really nice every S-day that you are looking forward to and would like to reward yourself with. That way instead of eating random trash just because you can, you direct your appetite to something it will really enjoy, and wind up eating less in the process. The way to defeat appetite is to make it your friend.

As with your single plates, not every S day will be perfect, especially not in the beginning. It’s a learning process and a habit training process. You need to brace yourself that this is going to take time, and that you will likely meet some reversals.

There are two versions of the No S Diet exception: one with the word “sometimes” in the exception, and one without. For a while there was a good-humored mock religious schism on the bulletin board between the 14-word “sometimeseans” and the 13-word minimalists.

Logically, the “sometimes” isn’t necessary, and the book doesn’t include it on the cover: of course you shouldn’t always have snacks, have seconds and sweets on S days. But I’ve decided to include it again here. Why? Because the “sometimes” can be a helpful reminder that this isn’t a foolproof system. You can indeed be a fool and abide by the literal rules and make it not work by piling plates mile high and turning every S-day into a competitive eating contest. But you can’t do that without knowing you’re being a fool.

So the No S Diet may not be a fool proof system, but it’s a foolishness exposing system. And that's valuable because most of us won't knowingly be fools. As with excess, getting the foolishness out into the open is half the battle.

Another reason I decided to include it, maybe even the main reason if I’m being completely honest, is that the “sometimes,” that extra word, brings the formula for the No S Diet up to 14 words, which the superstitious among you may appreciate. I prefer not to think of myself as superstitious, but rather numerically stylish, and I find 14 a very stylish number. You’ll notice it appears in many Everyday Systems.

So that’s the No S Diet in a nutshell, the three rules and one exception, and the most critical things I think you need to know about them to start practicing it today. In such a short space I couldn’t possibly cover every question about every corner case you might have. Among many other topics I can’t get in to in detail about here is all the good side effects that No S has, how though it doesn’t directly address nutrition, it gently nudges you to make better nutritional choices by giving you limited opportunities to do each meal right, raising the stakes, and raising the visibility of those stakes, how the “when” of snacking helps with the junky what of snacking because now it’s not happening at all, and although you could pile cheese doodles and doritos on your dinner plate, there is no explicit prohibition against it would you really? The No S Diet book goes into this and many other issues in much greater detail. If I’ve at all intrigued you at all in this chapter, I strongly recommend you check it out.

But I did promised you two other things at the beginning of chapter that I’d like to touch on at least very briefly: how the No S Diet relates to the other everyday systems, and tips and techniques for recovering from No S setbacks, some of which aren’t even in the book.

Tips and Tricks

First, tips and tricks. What do you do if it’s not working? You love the idea, you buy the philosophy, but either you can’t get yourself to follow the rules or you do follow the rules but find you are still finding ways to work around them and overeat.

I’ll tell you what you shouldn’t so first: don’t immediately give up. The No S DIet takes time. It takes time because it’s all about building habits, lifelong habits, and that is a slow process. If you can get these behaviors in place, these habits, even if they don’t seem to be yielding immediate results, you are already in a much better place than you were before, because you have a solid foundation to build on. Don’t walk away from that foundation.

So before anything, build that foundation. Don’t worry about results. Just worry about behavior. Are you following the literal rules? Be honest with yourself. Track your behavior, on a physical calendar, or a notebook, or an online habit tracker, or a spreadsheet. Every N-day, did you abide by all the rules? Mark it green. Did you fail, even once? Mark it red. Was in an S-day, an exempt Weekend or holiday? Mark it yellow. At the end of the month, how many green days, red days, and yellow days do you see? That is the first thing you should focus on. Green months with some yellow, little or no red.

If you have trouble doing this, pay attention to what is tripping you up. Maybe even make a note of it in your calendar or habit tracker. Is it hunger between meals causing you to break down and snack? If so, make your meals bigger. You can always shrink them back down again once you have the habit of “no snacking” firmly in place. Are seconds proving impossible to resist? Same thing. Sweets? Think of nicer incentive/reward sweets for the weekends to motivate you to hold out. But pay attention before you jump to an intervention. You don’t want to be jumping around all over the place, playing another form of whackamole.

Be especially wary of the temptation to add extra rules, or even other diet plans. While the No S Diet is very unobtrusive and plays well with pretty much any other diet plan out there, and it’s easy enough to imagine additional one-off proscriptions (“no something else that starts with S…”), if you can’t even manage vanilla no-s, you’re not going to be able to handle something even more complex and restrictive. More “regulatory burden” is the opposite of what you need.

More attention, not more effort or more rules, is the best next step. Sometimes the act of paying attention itself, apart from what that attention discovers or solves, is enough to fix the problem. I’ve come up with a formal method of doing this that I’ve found personally very helpful to get me back on track after extended vacations or holidays have disrupted my normal routine. It’s a form of temporary, minimalistic food logging that paradoxically uses the fact that food logging is an inherently unpleasant activity as its main active ingredient. It even has a cutesy name: surgical flogging. It works like this: you write down everything you are eating for a limited period of time, until you feel you are back on track. You gain self-knowledge, introduce an immediate speed bump against excessive eating without adding any additional restrictions, because writing down what you are eating is work that you want to avoid, especially if what you’re writing down is a little embarrassing, while using the fact that this activity is expensive and not fun as an incentive to get yourself to place where you no longer have to do it. I don’t have space here to go into all the details, but please take a look at my episode on it, also to become a chapter in the book, to find out about the precise triggers to use to commence and suspend flogging to get the most out of it.

If at the end of all that it’s still not enough, then and only then consider additional rules or overlaying additional systems. My guess is you won’t need to. But you still can. You have that option in reserve. Even if you never have to use it, the knowledge that you could call in these reinforcements can help keep your morale up. Again, the book has specific recommendations on these, such as intelligent dietary defaults, smaller physical plates, capital and lowercase S days and more

No-S and other Everyday Systems

Finally, a few words on how the No S Diet fits in with the larger family of Everyday Systems. They all focus on habit engineering, building sustainable, almost unconscious habits rather than relying on non-stop conscious willpower and effort. They all make use of humor as a practical tool, “comic pragmatism,” to keep you from sinking into humorless catastrophizing and despair when things get hard. They all encourage you to work with pre-existing habits and social structures, like N-Days and S-Days, as a supporting scaffold for new habits, and focus on a sustainable minimum of compliance rather than heroic one-off efforts to build habits for the long haul. They take into account that you have only limited resources of time and energy and willpower and have to marshal them effectively without depleting or overextending yourself. They assume that you are an ordinary human being struggling to muddle through as best you can rather than some aspiring superhuman. They focus on “good enough,” 80% solutions rather than unattainable perfection.

For exercise there are Urban Ranger, Shovelglove and “14 minutes of ANYTHING,” for managing your relationship with alcohol and other substances there is Glass Ceiling and Low Smoking, for managing technology addiction there is Urban Ranger Weekend Luddite and Right Relationship with Robots. And this is just to list a few. Just as each No S rule is both independent and mutually reinforcing, each of these systems can be practiced on its own and as a complementary support to the other systems.

And maybe most importantly, you can take common components and design patterns from these system to build your own, personalized systems, targeted to your own unique situations and problems, leveraging your own idiosyncratic strengths and inclinations.

This chapter is much longer than I’d anticipated and still far from comprehensive. I hope it’s at least given you a useful sense of what the No S Diet is, how it can work for you even when it feels hard, and how No-S ways of thinking can help you with other problems as well.

Please let me know what you think. This was only a draft, and I am very open to reworking it for the final compendium. If I blathered on too much about some pet idea, or left something critically important out, it’s not too late for me to fix it. Please let me know!

In the meantime, thanks for listening.

By Reinhard Engels

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