Beware the fourth day
June 18, 2008 5:56 AM   Subscribe

Help me get past day three of my diet.

I've recently begun dieting (the No-S diet, for those interested). This is not the first diet I've been on, unfortunately. I've noticed over time the same thing happens again and again. I'm as good as gold for the first three days of a diet, but by the fourth day, I'm so overcome with cravings that I'm ready to eat the four walls and floorohmygodimhungry OM NOM NOM

My rational self comes to a bit later, and I'm mortified with myself for having "lost it" so early on in the diet. It's really rather frustrating.

Now, the logical part of my brain knows that the cravings on the fourth day are just my body getting down to the nitty gritty of burning stored energy reserves. Rational Me knows that it's all just a game of wills, and that soldiering through it is the only way. But when that fourth day hits, no willpower in the world seems sufficient to stave off the overwhelming cravings. And it's not like I'm starving myself; I estimate I'm consuming somewhere in the vincinity of 1500 to 1700 calories a day.

There are loads of Mefites out there who've dieted and lost weight, and I'm willing to bet at least some of you have had to deal with this. What tips or suggestions can you provide to help me get past the fourth day?
posted by LN to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
On day five, pretend like day four never happened and keep on trucking. Don't let one [slice of cheesecake, bag of Oreos, plate of ribs] keep you from reaching your goal.
posted by donajo at 6:06 AM on June 18, 2008 [3 favorites]

It's okay to be hungry.

That sounds stupid and obvious, but instead of fighting the craving, go have a hot cup of tea and ignore it until your next meal.

This is my most successful strategy. I was talking with a pal a couple of days ago who'd reached her weight loss goal, and I asked her, what her secret(s) were, and this is what she said: less processed food; smaller portions; not eating after 8 (because she was particularly bad with midnight feasts).

How long did it take you to get used to the smaller portions, I asked. For two months, she said, I could think about nothing but food.

Now, see, I've lost about 40 pounds, and I've got about the same to go, and when I've had a long successful run, it's when I've accepted, losing weight means being hungry some of the time. It means letting your stomach get empty enough to grow, which was a daily thing for me as a kid, but as an adult, it's almost like - oh no, omg, wtf, I can't bear this. Which is ridiculous, because it's really nothing special. It's not like running out of oxygen, and I've done that a couple of times and that's scary. And it's not like breaking a leg or having a baby, and I've done that a couple of times too, and it hurts.

So I'm saying, put it in perspective, and meh, don't think so much about it. Have a nice cup of shut the fuck up something hot and low in calories, and forget about it.

I'm putting the kettle on right now.
posted by b33j at 6:08 AM on June 18, 2008 [8 favorites]

I use the same technique for dieting as I did for giving up smoking. I call it the Upper Brain Against The World Role-Playing Technique and it can be summed up thusly: "Fuck you, body!"

I am as weak willed and pathetic as anybody else with a reptilian brainstem is. I love smoking, drinking and wellying down the KFC. The only thing I've got going for me is an obstinate streak a mile wide.

I take that obstinate streak, I assign it the role of my upper brain and I essentially pretend that my upper brain is at war with the rest of my body.

When my primitive reptillian brain starts whining that it wants a cigarette, sends a message that it needs a fried chicken or ten pints of ale, I consciously and deliberately think to myself "Fuck you, body!" and do something else.

If it gets really bad, I try to start enjoying the discomfort - feeling the burn, going through the pain barrier - which is even more "Fuck you" than doing something else.

So, yes, actually writing this down, I realise that you could actually rename this technique the "Passive Aggressive, Constantly Angry Bizarro World Technique"
posted by Jofus at 6:09 AM on June 18, 2008 [16 favorites]

For No S, I think another really good strategy (in addition to the idea that being hungry sometimes is ok) is to make sure your meals are substantial enough--even if they are heavier at first. That will get you past the in-between-meals hunger and establish the habit of No S. After that, you can work on trimming the meals or makng them more healthy.

For No S, habit is THE key.
posted by Pax at 6:20 AM on June 18, 2008

donajo's advice is pretty key--too often I think folks tend to think of a slip as a slide. The one is not necessarily the other, and if you just get back to it after a slip you can make a lot of progress.

The other thing to consider is planning the fourth day as a Special day, providing yourself with a little treat (a chocolate pudding or something) that you allow yourself. I'm kind of an all or nothing guy, myself, so if I do something like this I find it most useful to buy a single treat, or something that comes in reasonable serving sizes, because I can put the hurt on a bag of cookies without any trouble.
posted by OmieWise at 6:25 AM on June 18, 2008

Plenty of water, too. For me at least, burning fat seems to require more water.
posted by gjc at 6:26 AM on June 18, 2008

I realized recently that when I get hungry I get kind of panicked, as if something terrible will happen if I don't eat SOON. But when I was in college and skinny as a stick, that same feeling of hunger made me feel powerful. The greatest sense of power I got was the ability to fall asleep hungry. Yes, this sounds like symptoms of an eating disorder, but I never had one. I was just a typical girl looking to stay sexy. And it worked, and I can assure you that succumbing to the feeling of panic doesn't work (as far as weight control goes).

So, now I try to remember that seeing hunger as power, rather than as crisis, caused no damage to me when I was in my 20s, and it's no different now. It's a big mind game, but one with great benefits, because it extends to other parts of life ... working when I'm tired, doing hard thinking instead of copping out, being nice when I want to be a bitch. Remember, you are powerful for resisting urges (and courageous for going forth when you are scared, not for failing to be scared).

And definitely, even if you do binge on day four, day five is another day.
posted by Capri at 6:55 AM on June 18, 2008 [5 favorites]

seconding drinking a water, a glass when you're hungry
posted by ecks at 7:00 AM on June 18, 2008

Seconding Pax's suggestion - I just started No S two weeks ago, so I feel your pain. But the big thing is getting the habit first, then the portion control later. Eat big at first if you have to (no seconds, mind, just a large portion), then when you don't feel the urge to snack (or even don't feel it as much), start cutting down the portions.

Also, water, tea, or coffee. Oftentimes when you think you're hungry, you're actually thirsty. The two are nearly indistinguishable at times.
posted by Imperfect at 7:20 AM on June 18, 2008

first off, I had never heard of the No-S diet, and now that I look at it, I think it could be the worst diet ever because:

1) eating more frequently is one of the best ways to speed up your metabolism

2) being hungry because you didn't eat enough will cause you to load up at dinner

3) doesn't have any sort of carb/fat/protein consideration (though this is supposed to be one of the "strengths")

4) Does not account for any sort of portion control

You can't be expected to have 100% willpower 100% of the time. No one does that. The reason people lose weight is that they don't treat losing weight as a diet- they treat it as a lifestyle change. If you keep "dieting" you'll lose weight, and then put it back on when you stop the diet.

To specifically answer your question, I think if you're hungry all the time you're doing it wrong. It is possible to diet and not be hungry. You just have to change your relationship with food. If you want to feel less hungry, focus on having more protein and more fat in the morning, which will make you feel fuller (and your body also works harder). Make lunch your biggest meal of the day, and have a light dinner.

If you "must" snack, don't eat chips. Buy healthy, portable snacks- such as almonds- and keep them by your desk. Costco has amazing pre-cut fruit that you can also get to munch on.

Also, exercise. If you can find some way to burn 200-300 calories, well that's a whole extra chicken breast you can eat. That's just like walking for an hour. As a bonus, you'll experience the cardiovascular benefits that are so good for you.
posted by unexpected at 7:23 AM on June 18, 2008 [7 favorites]

Oooh. Also, I've just found this on the BBC news site, which might be relevant.
posted by Jofus at 7:44 AM on June 18, 2008

From No S diet: "The reason snackers eat so much more food is simple: it's impossible for them to keep track of how much they're eating without resorting to unsustainable behaviors like counting calories."

I don't count daily calories, which I agree is an overcomplication, but limiting snacks to 200-300 calories is easy and (IMV) reducing meal size and adding snacking is an important part of a sustainable weight-loss regime.

30 (1 oz) almonds -- 200 kcal -- is the perfect bridge to get between lunch and dinner.

The authout is also wrong about grazing, the human metabolic system's development goes a lot further back than modern history, or recorded history for that matter.
posted by tachikaze at 7:57 AM on June 18, 2008

The other thing to consider is planning the fourth day as a Special day, providing yourself with a little treat (a chocolate pudding or something) that you allow yourself.

This is built into the diet--weekends are reserved for treats, so your advice conforms to the plan, just a day or two later.

1) eating more frequently is one of the best ways to speed up your metabolism

This may be true in theory, but I think the fact for most people is that snacking really serves to add extra calories, which outweighs the benefit of a stoked metabolism.

4) Does not account for any sort of portion control

Actually, it does include portion control: No seconds. It's not the detailed calorie counting, weighing type of portion control, but it is portion control. And it's mentally easier and less oppressive, which is huge when it comes to feeling oppressed by a "diet."

The reason people lose weight is that they don't treat losing weight as a diet- they treat it as a lifestyle change. If you keep "dieting" you'll lose weight, and then put it back on when you stop the diet.

This is actually a fundamental idea of No S. it is a lifestyle change--it has you change the way you approach meals. It doesn't feel like a diet because there is no measuring, counting calories, or depriving yourself of certain foods (except delaying sweets until the weekend). The habit of not eating between meals and not taking seconds is meant to be a lifetime habit--once you establish that, it's so much easier to address the healthfulness of the meals. You don't stop No S after you lose the weight.

Also, exercise is certainly important, but it really is less significant calorie-wise than controling intake. No S does encourage exercise.
posted by Pax at 8:03 AM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

This is built into the diet--weekends are reserved for treats, so your advice conforms to the plan, just a day or two later.

Yes, I know. Notice how I capitalized the S in Special in order to highlight it. If LN can't make it past the fourth day, it doesn't really matter that weekend days start with S.
posted by OmieWise at 8:07 AM on June 18, 2008

Nthing the advice so far - almonds/other nuts, water, and especially Jofus' suggestion.
Exercise really helps me - I make sure I get enough protein and some strength exercises really help me feel "Muahaha! I am in charge here!"

I also give myself non-food rewards, especially ways to keep busy. I go shop for some fun costume jewelry, play a computer game that focuses me so much I forget about food, or go watch raunchily humored videos on YouTube.

Good luck - you can do this!
posted by pointystick at 8:11 AM on June 18, 2008

After having lost around 50 pounds I've struggled a bit with maintenance and I'm back up about 20 and on the path to lose that extra baggage. I totally understand what you're going through. Here's what I'm doing to help:

1. This may sound ridiculous and might not work in your situation, but I'm getting my wife to pay me $5 for every pound I lose. I'm going to collect all the money and buy a new iPhone. I guess what I'm trying to say is you need to find a motivation that is stronger than just "I want to lose weight." because rarely does that argument win over "FOOD! HUNGRY! NOWNOMNOMNOM!!!". Now when I get hungry I remember how much I've lost, how much money I've earned, and how cool it will be to get a gadget I've been wanting for a long time (yes I'm a geek so YMMV there).

2. I have a picture of myself after I lost a lot of weight. I keep it on the refrigerator but I'm starting to think it better to keep it in my wallet and pull it out when I need some more motivation. Maybe also a picture at your largest to compare. From day to day looking in the mirror I see zero difference because, well, it's just me. But when I see photos, it tells a completely different story.

3. I make myself busy the moment I start feeling hungry. I agree with others that hunger is a normal thing when losing weight, but to fight the feeling that I have to give in to it I usually grab a bottle of water or diet soda and go find something to really occupy my brain for the next few hours so I'm not even thinking about food or hunger. I've noticed at work I think less about food then at home and I think it all has to do with how busy I am. Once I finally unwind suddenly I'm like "Oh hey, there's all this food around me. I should probably eat all of it." Fighting boredom will help fight the hunger.

4. Lastly, I have to nth every above about not getting discouraged about a down day. You have to really wake up the next morning and say "Yeah, that sucked, so let's work harder today." Pull out every motivating thing you've built up until this point and move on. Compare how you felt after binging to how you feel after losing a few pounds and getting more energy. Constantly remind yourself of the goal, the finish line, and the positive aspects of losing weight. Brush off the bad days and keep going.
posted by genial at 8:20 AM on June 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

I think unexpected has the best answer so far.

"(...) some perspective from Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. (...)

The book preaches three daily meals, says Blatner. But the book allows no snacks except on weekends and holidays. "We do know that snacking controls hunger," she says. People who lose weight successfully eat about four to five times a day, she says."

I've lost 12 kg (26 pounds) the last two months on a low carb diet, combined with regular exercise. No sugar, bread, potatoes, rice, beer, fruit juice etc. A low carb diet, with 4-6 smaller meals a day, keeps the blood sugar level stable (= no sudden cravings).

Good luck!
posted by iviken at 8:21 AM on June 18, 2008

Snack, but snack on fruit/veggies. 200 calories of donuts is one donut. 200 calories of apples is like 4 apples. Have you ever tried to eat four apples?
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:43 AM on June 18, 2008

I'm currently in the process of losing weight myself. I follow a modified version of the No S diet: I allow myself snacks, but only things like fresh fruits and veggies, or nuts. I also give myself one "indulgence" meal a week, so I don't feel like I have to completely give up everything I love. Between the new "diet" and walking four days a week, I've lost 7-8 pounds in a little over a month, and it hasn't seemed to cramp my style at all.
posted by at 8:46 AM on June 18, 2008

genial hit one of the most important ideas in weight loss. It's not just enough to say, "I want to lose weight." You need to have an idea of why this is so. Simply thinking "... because I want to look better... or live longer" is too abstract. You need to sit down and figure out why it is that you're doing this. Do you want to be able to run up the stairs at your building without being out of breath? Do you want to play with your kids without feeling tired? Do you want to be an inspiration to someone in your life? Remember those moments when you felt energized and knew you could do this? What was going through your mind at the time? Pick a specific goal and keep that in your mind. Paste in on the fridge and on the doors. Make sure you see it and remember it. It will become your mantra. When you want to eat, remind yourself of your reason(s) for your efforts. You're not alone, and you're not weak. If others can do this, then you certainly can.
Good luck!
posted by mcarthey at 9:13 AM on June 18, 2008

Notice how I capitalized the S in Special in order to highlight it.

My bad, read too quickly.
posted by Pax at 10:00 AM on June 18, 2008

For now, just be aware that day 4 is part of your body's regular thing. Distraction is good, more water is good. Making it an official "Special" day might not be a bad idea. And yes, definitely, be prepared to forgive yourself on day 5, pick up, and keep on going.

I did No-S briefly a long time ago, and while I didn't lose any weight, it was a useful experiment, mostly in portion sizes. (I've since lost 55 pounds using the Hacker's Diet as a general guideline...calorie counting, experimenting with timing & food combos, NO forbidden foods, and daily weighing. Have been maintaining for almost 6 months now.)

Good luck!
posted by epersonae at 10:03 AM on June 18, 2008

Write down all the reasons you hate being fat. Everytime you get tempted to cheat, look at the list and say "thank god I'm hungry".
posted by xammerboy at 10:31 AM on June 18, 2008

This may sound silly, but I find, at least in the case of quitting smoking, that pretending it's the first day real helps.

This means not reminding yourself as often of how many days you've succeeded. Of course, those reminders tend to work as motivators too, but it sometimes makes it more difficult for me.
posted by sunshinesky at 1:14 PM on June 18, 2008

I did the No S. Still do - I don't think it's a diet, it's just a thing you do.

Yes, it was tough for the first three weeks (though "tough" is relative as hell of course - go tell your average ethiopian kid "OMG I couldn't have a snack it was THE WORST EVER") because habits are hard to form, but water and (non-sugared) tea helped a lot.

I've been doing it for two and a half years. I think it's ace. I eat whatever I want (though I eat healthy because I like it), as much as I want (no seconds!) and nothing in between. I don't even see the use for snacking anymore. Not even on S-days - though they were very, very important in the first month ("YES IT'S SATURDAY I CAN EAT!!!").

Has it helped? Well I haven't lost any weight (I've built a lot of muscle since then), but I've slimmed down three sizes. So yes, very much. I now look back at those first three weeks and couldn't be happier that I didn't fold. And I look back with a certain disbelief that I could have been so dependent on snacking. Very strange.
posted by Skyanth at 1:50 AM on June 19, 2008

« Older Is Your Excellency aware of the 2 for 1 special on...   |   romancing romania Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.