My new thing is self-discipline. I am going to get better at it. I am nervous writing this, because I don't want to fail.

So this is the first thing I know: If you are really serious about doing something, it's painful to tell people, because fear of failure is so high. Once you decide that you really want something enough to shift your life to get it — at that point you want it so much that you will feel like your life is somehow incomplete if you don't get it. So it is scary just to talk about it.

This is how I'm feeling about sugar and bread. I think it only leads to bad things. I think it makes me crazy and I have googled a thousand different sites about addiction to sugar and bread, and I think it's true. Here's what I think:

1. Food acts like drugs, and some foods make us crave more and more and more like an addictive drug. Eating carbohydrates and sugar is totally unnatural to the human diet.

2. There is some sort of link between Asperger's and bread. I'm not sure what it is, but we tried taking my son off gluten when he was younger, because so many people say it makes a difference with autism. And while I couldn't really tell with him, I ate the same diet, and I could tell that I was more calm. Most people I know who have Asperger's also have an obsession with gluten. I'm not sure what this means except that I should stay away from it.

3. I definitely notice a difference when I stay off gluten. I have more energy and I lose weight effortlessly. I think this is because when I eat for emotional reasons I always choose wheat-based products.

4. When I take myself off bread, I start craving sugar. So I think I also have a problem with sugar. And, confession: I eat a lot of it. No soda or deserts, but tons of sugar in my coffee. All day long.

There is a lot that I want to change in my life:

More yoga
Less nervous eating
More weight lifting
Less yelling at kids
More leaving the house
Less acting like an agoraphobic
More blog posts
Less mindless email administrating

This is way too big a list, though. What I really want, if I boil it down, is to have more confidence in myself. Then I would believe I could have a good life and I'd do the things I think I need to do to have a good life.

Here's what happens, though. I say, “Oh. Forget it. I'll never stop eating sugar really.”And then I dump five spoonfuls into my coffee. You have to believe in yourself that you can create a good life in order to do the life you want.

Why is that so hard? I don't know. I mean, I have a pretty good track record for getting what I want. And still: Plagued by the bread crumbs left from last night's dinner.

So I am starting dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). Actually, I started it a while ago but I thought I would sound like a crackpot on the blog if I wrote about it. But it's so cool, that I have to tell you.

First, I'm going to tell you my version of DBT, and it's sort of cultish, to be honest, so if you want to get an official version, click here.

I know you didn't click, though; of course my version will be more interesting.

The idea is that you identify a behavior you want to change, and then, each time you don't do the change, you write down everything you were feeling while you were deciding to not do the change.

It looks something like this:

I am on a conference call.

I feel frustrated that things are not more clear cut with a right path for my company.
(You have to always use feeling words.)

I feel anxious that I can’t help think of a solution.

Then I overreact to feeling powerless and I worry that I’ll be a terrible parent and I’ll never fix it. And maybe I’m terrible at everything.
(DBT makes you more in touch with how you feel.)

I tell myself don't go into the kitchen because you will eat bread. I tell myself to just be with the feelings.

Then I go in the kitchen anyway. I tell myself I can eat just one piece.
I don’t. I eat ten.

I feel a strong love for Wonderbread.

Not now. Then.

Okay. So you do this a million times for DBT, and what you end up seeing is a pattern—just as you start having strong feelings, you do your vice so you avoid experiencing the feelings.

So the only way to know your feelings and understand who you really are is to not do the thing that separates you from the feelings. It's actually a lot more persuasive to me to tell myself I will never have self-knowledge if I eat the bread.

That’s why this is a particularly inspiring message for me:

via Oh She Glows

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  1. Paula Bostrom
    Paula Bostrom says:

    Hi Penelope. I just discovered your blog after reading the book “Beyond Blogging.” I am so excited to hear you talk about DBT! I encourage you to stick with it. I have been through the six month course three times and always learn something new. I was pretty much forced to take the course by my therapist who said it was the best known treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder which I was diagnosed with about five years ago. I thought, I’m not crazy like these other people (judgement, judgement, judgement). I found it saved my life (literally) more than once. I think it should be taught in schools. Again, thanks for bringing DBT into the spotlight. I hope you continue to talk about it.

  2. Roberta Warshaw
    Roberta Warshaw says:

    WOW! 5 spoonfuls of sugar in one cup of coffee? Yikes. That is a lot. I don’t eat a lot of sugar but I adore bread. I used to make my own. All the time. Every Sunday. I gained so much weight.

    I too have been trying to cut back. Before it was toast for breakfast, sandwich at lunch, toast after dinner. Now I have managed to cut it down to a sandwich at lunch.

    I find if I eat a hard boiled egg for breakfast, that fills me up instead of the toast. It is really hard to give these things up, I agree. I wish us both lots of luck.

    Why is it so difficult to do the things we know are good for us and so easy to do the things that are not?

  3. Missy
    Missy says:

    When I receive your blog posts through my email I can no longer click on the title and be directly linked to this site…. Just letting you know.

  4. Katelyn Sack
    Katelyn Sack says:

    Sugaring your coffee that much is less a sign of a sugar addiction and more a sign that you’re drinking crappy coffee.

    Try Trager Brothers: http://www.tbcroasters.com. They have a hilarious video on Facebook, too.

    This is not spam and I don’t work for TBC. It’s just the best coffee in the world, and this seems like it might help you break the sugar-in-coffee habit.

  5. Izzy
    Izzy says:

    Carbs carbs carbs. I tried a “cleanse” diet and it drove me mad. I craved bread and carbs like I never have. It was so hard to stick to and I could never stick with it long enough to allow it to work to get rid of the cravings. I have a tough time with emotional eating – sugar is my deadly sin. Chocolate when I’m stressed, doesn’t matter what the time of day is. I try to tell myself that at least it’s ‘good’ dark chocolate, like my arteries care, right? I’ll try to be ‘more in the moment’ and feel what I’m feeling more. Thanks Pen, have a great holiday season with your family.

  6. Steven Pofcher
    Steven Pofcher says:

    Hi Penolope –
    1) 5 spoonfuls of sugar in coffee?!?!? Way too much. In the past I put 2 spoonfuls of sugar in my coffee, then cut down to 1 and now I use none. Try this.

    2) Watch the movie “Supersize Me” to learn about how addicting and harmful sugar and carbohydrate overloading is. I watched it with my wife and kids last night and it was very enlightening. It is a good family movie and we kept stopping the movie and discussing various points. The kids want nothing to do with fast foods any more.

    3) DBT seems good. But, do you find that there may not always be a specific feeling at the time?

    4) Comment above said to keep your goals to yourself. I strongly disagree. If you let others know about your goals, you have more incentive to reach those goals.

    Keep it up.

  7. Jenn Sutherland
    Jenn Sutherland says:

    You can do this, Penelope! You know that minding the diet improves your life, and your kids as well. I have celiac disease, so I know well the struggle to live truly gluten free – and I did a couple of years 100% sugar-free as well, though I allow myself a little now, but it no longer gets out of control. For losing your love of sugar – try taking the natural supplement gymnema sylvestre – it will really decrease the cravings, and after a couple weeks of taking it, you probably won’t need to use it any more – sugar just won’t have the JOY anymore – and then it’s just you vs your brain to resist the ever-present sweets.

    And I know that cooking’s not really a passion for you, but it really does make the gluten-free, sugar-free life easier. Cooking the meals that make me feel good is a kind of meditation now – I think of it as yoga for my hands and brain. And if you need ideas for cooking, I blog my recipes at http://thewholekitchen.wordpress.com. And if you need help/support on making the transition – feel free to reach out, I love helping people cook the food that makes them truly well.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Thanks for the suggestions, Jenn. I actually do like cooking, I just don’t write about it.

      So, I like your idea of cooking healthy food feeling like yoga. I mean, the ingredients we eat on the farm are good. Very basic, our own meat, potatoes, etc. So it does feel good.

      But I need to figure out what to do with that torn feeling I get when, for example, I bake cookies and the farmer and the boys love eating them. Does it feel good? Does it feel bad? And do I torture myself when I have to face a plate of cookies all day in the kitchen?

      Penelope

      Penelope

      • Jenn Sutherland
        Jenn Sutherland says:

        Yes! Cooking whole, healthy foods is just as important as getting exercise. I can’t settle myself long enough to do yoga yet, but I can stand in a kitchen and chop and feel the tension leave me. So for now, that’s my yogic activity.

        As for cookies, bake them once in awhile, and make them gluten-free, so if you eat a few of them, you won’t get the brain-fog & mood swings from the gluten. Glutenfreegirl.com has tons of amazing cookie recipes, or if you don’t like to have 12 kinds of gluten-free flours hanging around, order Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking Mix from amazon by the case, and use it in place of wheat flour in recipes – it’s fantastic stuff. More expensive than wheat flour, but it is worth it to be good to your body and brain.

  8. Brad Gosse
    Brad Gosse says:

    Wow thanks for having the courage to post your personal struggle here. I think we all suffer with various food problems whether it’s the overanalyzing of everything we eat or food addiction itself.

    Some of the people I know who have the best diets, are consumed with the stress that comes with making food choices at every meal. Sometimes I wonder if there is a trade-off between the guilt and the calories.

    I wish you the best of luck on your journey. It sounds like a positive one. Outside of food, when it comes to e-mail I have pretty much declared bankruptcy.

    These days, a simple auto reply telling people you don’t check your e-mail and to try and reach you via twitter or some other mutations medium is not uncommon. You can always get a virtual assistant to handle your day-to-day e-mail if needed.

  9. Ali
    Ali says:

    When I was a compulsive eater and felt crazy, I finally figured out that the only answer to crazy was to just stop. It sounds too simple, but its true. I never engaged in any formal therapy because I was too much of a control freak, but, I did start zooming out on myself and observing my impulses as I would have done to a child who can’t control herself. I separated myself into a thinking being and an acting being and let the one side help analyze and counsel the other. Hard to explain. Good luck.

  10. chris Keller
    chris Keller says:

    Jenn mentioned “meditation” in her post–and you have mentioned it as a goal recently. I second the motion.
    It is a goal for me too, at this point–quieting my mind, cultivating an observing-but-not-judging stance, letting go of the drivenness. Accepting.

    In the halls of Alverno College, many years ago, was this serigraph:
    Be where you are.
    Is that far?
    It’s as far as you are.

    Chris Keller, MSN, RN

  11. Dave
    Dave says:

    My personal experience with refined flour and sugar mirrors yours, but I’m not totally in alignment with the Paleo diet as a solution for everyone (I’ve been doing Crossfit workouts for years now, and the Paleo diet is a big trend with Crossfitters).

    Why?

    First, a fair amount of time has passed since humans started with agriculture, and a fair number of generations have gone by as well. It makes sense then that some of us have evolved to adapt to this diet. And, it also makes sense that some of us have not evolved all the way. As well, some of us may have evolved such that these foods are bad for us.

    In short, the evidence I see indicates that the food which is best for us is somewhat specific to each of us (hey, we all have different talents and capabilities. For example, some folks have a huge ability to process oxygen and run forever at a high rate of speed; others can grow muscles like nobody’s business and lift massive weight; others are so flexible as to be a rubber band; etc.). And, we need to pay attention to the results of eating that food.

    So, if you get all bloating and gassy when you drink milk, you might have a problem digesting it. The point is to pay attention to what you eat and what happens over the next 24 hours or so.

    And that’s what is great about your story regarding sugar. You paid attention, watched what happened to you and your son, made a hypothesis, and experimented. Now, you just gotta imagine yourself drinking coffee without sugar and then do it! As with all programs to rid yourself of a drug it sure does seem to take a while to ween yourself off of it and get to 0 usage. Good luck!

  12. kate
    kate says:

    I actually went back to school at the age of 38 to study this very thing – first to finish a bachelor’s, then to get a master’s in public health. i know you’re not big on degrees, but it was very useful, very helpful. even though your use of DBT is very personal (what’s called the level of the individual) one of the things i discovered and then began to focus on were the levels outside of individual control – ie who and what’s around us. i wrote a paper called “Refined Carbohydrates as Environmental Toxins” based out of that research. http://datinggod.typepad.com/katherineturner/2007/03/refined_carbohy.html

    to crave the thing you’re allergic or sensitive to is called the allergy-addiction response. and what you’re craving is bread and sugar (refined carbohydrates) which the food supply is filled with. it’s a long and complicated issue – and it isn’t just at the level of personal which is a main reason you’re having so much trouble with it. hope the paper helps add to your wisdom around it all . . .

  13. Erika
    Erika says:

    I’ve been on a what’s-the-deal-with-eating quest recently and come to similar conclusions from different sources. I like what Dave says above about everyone’s food tolerances being different – makes sense.

    A couple of books about “Intuitive Eating” echo what you said about watching your patterns and sitting with your feelings when you walk into the kitchen. It’s really hard to do.

    Another intuitive eating book is really big on cognitive behavioral therapy, which seems to have some tactics in common with DBT. (Rules of Normal Eating, Koenig)

    It had this image which stuck with me. Every time you do something over and over, it’s like you’ve got a little marble at the top of a sand hill, and you push it one way. Naturally, the next time the marble is back on the top of the hill, when pushed, it will run along the same track in the sand, until the track gets deeper and deeper. Changing the track in the sand is really hard. Pushing the marble the other way, there’s much more resistance in the sand than that first, easy & deeper track. And when you go back to that old behavior, it’s so easy & familiar.

    I like to visualize that when I’m trying to change habits. 1) It’s hard and 2) I just try to remind myself that I’m creating a new track, and hopefully the old one will fade away.

  14. Christine Kiparissis
    Christine Kiparissis says:

    Not to belittle all of the suggestions that have been given, but I highly doubt the level of craving that Penelope is talking about is simple a matter of will power or finding the right supplement.

    There is research that out there that has examined the serotonergic system is adults with Asperger’s that has found a significant reduction in available serotonin. Low levels of serotonin, as well as other neurotransmitters, can create incredible cravings that no amount of self discipline can control.

    There are some pretty simple organic acid tests that can measure metabolic byproducts of neurotransmittors and give you a good idea if you have a problem with the big three (dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine).

  15. Tina Portis
    Tina Portis says:

    Cheering for you! My goal is to cut out red meat for the rest of my life. I gave up pork over 16 years ago and eventually I want to subscribe to a Vegetarian diet. Even with all the sugar and carbs, you still look great :)

  16. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Leo Babauta, whom I like very much as a real guy amongst the self-help charlatans, says to just change one habit at a time. Focus small. Figure out a strategy. Replace one habit, the one you don’t like, with another, one you do. Go Penelope.

  17. Ella
    Ella says:

    Hi Penelope,

    I grew up with a mother who always said (and sometimes still reminds me) that sugar is poison. Once, I met Dr. Bernstein and he told me that my mother was right and he said that sugar is the worst possible thing for you.

    But I think eliminating it completely is nuts, personally.

    I think once in a while you have to have something sweet. I know I can’t live without my poppy-seed cake

    Gwyneth Paltrow also wrote about sugar addiction here:
    http://goop.com/newsletter/103/en/

    Good luck!

    Ella

    http://www.bighugstudio.blogspot.com

    p.s. one of the best things that I ever added to my diet was Carlson’s Fish Oil, (in the orange flavour). Having it in the morning really fills you up, and it gives you nice skin, plus it’s great for anyone with depression.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Thank you for all the suggestions — Ella, and everyone, really. It’s incredible to me what a great resource the comments section here is. I am trying to figure out what to do to make the comments more accessible to people. Today’s comments, and the comments on the photography post are examples of relatively hidden treasure troves, I think.

      Penelope

  18. brandon
    brandon says:

    the writing has always been on the wall… the great spray paint & marker missionaries of the world are angels & don’t lie. believe them.

  19. Maria
    Maria says:

    Oh the food connection. Any anxiety and sensory overload I experience (and my daughter for that matter) I can usually attribute to sugar. Then I took the sugar away. Better, but not all better. AHA! It was gluten. We’re different people w/out that stuff. That having been said…..do I stay off sugar and gluten? Better than I used to, but as I type…pass the chocolate chip cookies, please. Whoever said “easier said than done” was brilliant. Then the shame spiral hits…and I think maybe I just don’t have self control? Hailing from the Mid-West, as you’ve touched on in previous posts, self control and not being lazy are huge guilt inducers. Guilt is not a motivator for me. I rebel. And eat more sugar. Sigh. Can you say cycle? Perhaps I should try DBT.

    • Jenn Sutherland
      Jenn Sutherland says:

      It’s so true, Maria. My husband and I joke that he married “Crazy Jenn,” and truly he did. Before my celiac diagnosis, I had wild mood swings, needed everything in my life to go exactly as planned and on-time, otherwise I was liable to melt-down. I feel blessed that “Crazy Jenn” is now a stranger who only visits on the extremely rare occasion when I get accidentally glutened when eating outside my home.

      • Maria
        Maria says:

        LOL~when I’m in a bad mood my husband says “What have you had to eat?” Which can really get irritating when I need to just feel an emotion, but often I feel emotions to the extreme when I”m on a sugar roll.

  20. Elizabeth B
    Elizabeth B says:

    I made a similar shift – it’s easier if you use substitutes rather than the cold turkey approach. I switched from sugar to stevia quite easily. It’s an acquired taste, but since it’s natural and unlike other natural sugar alternatives, doesn’t effect your blood sugar, it’s a great choice. You can cook with it too. And Both Arrowhead Mills and Bob’s Red Mill Organic make a great gluten-free baking mix.
    Hope this helps!!

  21. Erin A.
    Erin A. says:

    Wrong! I clicked on that link but I didn’t go there until I read your post. And in fact I still haven’t read it because I wanted to comment :)

    One thing I know about will power and wanting to change is that you can’t rely on just self discipline because you will fail. We aren’t good at self discipline but it sounds like you are working on creating new behaviors (or conversations on feelings) and that might be easier than just stopping old behaviors. Best of luck. I am in favor of more yoga and blog posts.

  22. MissMetroDC
    MissMetroDC says:

    When I make a big list of changes for myself, that nervousness starts to set in…about failure, meeting my expectations, meeting the expectations of others, about everything.

    But I’ve started asking myself the question, “What’s the worst that could happen if I try it for just 2 weeks?” If in two weeks I don’t notice a difference or the costs outweigh the benefits, I can quit. Just giving myself those two weeks allows me to see that the changes I want to make aren’t horrible rules imposed by some uncaring outside force – but a new game that I could really like if I give it a try.

  23. jim
    jim says:

    Hi Penelope. I’ve been through DBT too and it helped me more successfully navigate my inner swirl of feelings. It has helped me to better accept life as it is, rather than as I’d have it.

    Tell me more about how you’re practicing DBT. Are you learning it in a group setting or are you doing it on your own out of a book?

    One of the things DBT helped me with was tolerating the gray areas. What would happen if DBT doesn’t help you at all with the more/less list you wrote but makes you feel more at peace about that?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Of course I am not doing DBT the conventional way. That would be too much to ask, right? The closest DBT therapist to where I live (Southwestern Wisconsin) is in the north Suburbs of Chicago. Too far to drive. So I do it on the phone with her. There is no group.

      And, she is probably totally annoyed with me about this, but I haven’t bought the books. Yet. I will. I read a ton about DBT online, though.

      You know how the first step to solving a problem is to admit that you are not special? Well, I have not overcome that hurdle because I think that after being in therapy for 35 years (since I was five) I have a good foundation and I can just be coached through DBT verbally.

      I’m sure I’m delusional and I’m not doing totally DBT, but hopefully I’ll be a success story for it anyway :)

      Penelope

  24. Scott Pullins
    Scott Pullins says:

    First, love your writing. Just love it. But second, give truvia or some other stevia based product a try. Its a natural sweet herb that is actually sweeter than sugar but without the harmful effects. I use it in my coffee, on my cereal and I love it.

    I’m not pimping any particular brand and most can now be bought in the sugar aisle in any chain grocery store. We have Krogers here in Ohio.

    • Sarah
      Sarah says:

      Truvia or another good-tasking stevia preparation is a good idea for reducing the ill-effects of sugar without battling the cravings.

      If you think the sugar/carb cravings are related to serotonin levels, 5-HTP reduces sugar cravings probably because it’s a serotonin precursor (NB that it is therefore NOT safe to combine with many psychiatric meds). It might be worth looking into, if you’d rather not address serotonin levels healthily through exercise, sunshine, or unhealthily through sugar consumption!

  25. Dick
    Dick says:

    I think that telling others about what you are trying to accomplish will help to reinforce your commitment and allow others to support your efforts/struggle.

    Please keep your readers informed about how it is going for you and the results. Good luck!

  26. Harriet May
    Harriet May says:

    I am exactly the same. I crave bread, carbs, carbs, carbs. I especially love cake, so there’s the carbs + sugar. If we have pizza I spend the whole meal anxiously crossing my fingers that no one else eats their crusts, because ohmygosh if I don’t get more then I might die. I have a friend that is a nutritionist so I paid $65 to see her professionally so she could tell me all the same things I already know when really I know my issues with food are behavioral. So good luck. Oh my gosh do I know how hard it is! Perhaps I will scroll back up and click the link for the official version because it’s my birthday today, and maybe I will make it a present to myself that I should change, too.

  27. Sean
    Sean says:

    Meh.

    It’s never the first mistake that does you in. It’s the cascade that follows which does.

    I’d rather someone learn to have one cookie, or one slice of bread than to compulsively avoid them altogether. All avoidance leads to is vilifying foods (like sugar).

    If you like a food you should eat it. However, you should control it. It should not control you. Good luck.

  28. Patrick
    Patrick says:

    Great and candid post. A quote I picked up recently and keeps me going is:
    “Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.” (Goethe)

  29. thatgirlinnewyork
    thatgirlinnewyork says:

    to echo some fine responses above, there’s no question that gluten and sugar elimination is key to feeling so much better. what i don’t understand is that if you’ve identified the bread as detrimental to you and your son, why is it still in the house at all? eliminating gluten is not a fad–it’s proven to be extremely beneficial to a lot of people, and if you’re dedicated to taking good care of your family, you’ll ask all members of that family to adhere to the practice. it also makes making change easier when everyone understands why it’s necessary and goes along.

    going gluten free needs definition for a lot of people. it’s not just elimination of refined/white flour–it’s about shedding ALL wheat (bulgur, bran, einkorn, kamut spelt are wheat derivations), rye, oats (at least those produced in facilities that process other glutenous grains; there are gluten-free oats), and barley. in spite of what the prospect sounds like, there are many substitutes–americans live in the land of plenty, and if they choose, can find alternatives they love.

    having had autism spectrum (including aspergers) members in our family, this was one of the first steps recommended in getting a good baseline health state. i’ve also witnessed it change the behavior of children diagnosed ADHD. moreover, some medical professionals recommend curbing ALL grains for optimal health for this cohort (check out what doctors mercola and null say on the subject).

    americans are confused about what constitutes a good grain and what does not. it doesn’t help that food labeling is, basically, lying to them. “whole grain” cheerios? hardly. if they were truly “whole grain”, they’d be inedible. as per the excellent suggestion above, watch “supersize me” and “food inc.”, which both reveal the lies americans want to believe, because change is hard. it is, but what’s the alternative? making oneself a willing guinea pig for pharma? not exactly the path to health.

    bottom line, making this kind of change takes mindfulness, always being present to making good choices. some people think that making this change is far too much, and they look for some kind of 12-step program to “ease” out. when i decided to take control, i simply made the choice to do so. I dumped the offending flours and products from our pantry, and my husband joined me in making the change. doing it in one day is pretty powerful, and eventually, we watched our consumption of even the “acceptable” carbs/grains plummet. as others have put, eating wheat and sugar has a self-perpetuating quality.

    DBT seems to tap into that idea of mindfulness–knowing how one feels when engaging in a behavior they want to eliminate is just that. is it difficult? maybe. but there is an amazing feeling associated with triumphing over those changes that scare or intimidate us, right?

    i wish everyone who takes these courageous steps the strength it takes to persevere! peace.

  30. Charlotte Rains Dixon
    Charlotte Rains Dixon says:

    Oh, sugar. Most of the time I can banish it from my life without problem. I do this because I know I’m addicted. Consider the scene at a Christmas party last Saturday night, when the only food was dessert: I ate one cookie, decided to sample a piece of fudge, and then I was off. I could not stop. Interestingly, I wasn’t the only one doing this, there were quite a number of us going crazy for the sweets. And what I find, three days later, is that the sugar addiction is still activated, making me want more. Geesh. So maybe I’ll try the DBT. Though it sounds a bit complicated.

  31. Colleen Wainwright
    Colleen Wainwright says:

    I’m on one of the diets that’s proven successful for children with autism. (The Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which excludes di- and polysaccharides – complex chains of sugars – hence, no gluten, either.)

    I put myself on it to manage my Crohn’s disease, but of course, like all “medications” you want to chuck as soon as they make you feel better, I wandered off for years. It’s not an un-tasty diet, but it precludes a lot of delicious foods, virtually all convenience foods, and of course, my particular comfort foods (bread and potatoes).

    Getting *back* on was much harder than getting on, though. When I started, I had a huge incentive: stopping the bleeding/inflammation, keeping my intestines, getting off immunosuppressants. Once you’re feeling pretty good most of the time…well, you know the drill.

    Anyway, the reason I’m blathering on here is that finally, after several unsuccessful attempts to white-knuckle it, I got hypnotized. Bam. Done. As in, I walked away from the session with the cravings gone, listened to my recording for two weeks, and have not had a problem since. I watch people eat pasta, eat bread, eat French fries, and the experience is more of a wistful memory of “Oh, yeah, I used to really like that, didn’t I?” If I hadn’t gone through the experience myself, I wouldn’t believe it.

    When IBD patients go on SCD, usually the whole household goes that way, which helps to remove temptation. And the family knows it’s to keep Mom/Dad/Bucky/Jane out of the hospital, so they suck it up. If you have to live with “illegals” (our SCD term for them) in the house, I say use every weapon in your arsenal.

    Good luck to you. You’re awesome and inspiring!!

  32. Pete Michaud
    Pete Michaud says:

    Here’s something you might find interesting Penelope. My wife and I have spent a great deal of time figuring out the whole bread/gluten/sugar thing because she has an especially heinous version of what you’re talking about. We wrote a book about it, and then we started a company from the book. It’s something we know a lot about.

    What’s basically happening is that you crave carbs. There are lots of potential reasons, but the bottom line is that your brain doesn’t have the glucose it wants, so it says “GIVE ME CARBS NOW,” and you say “Sure, here’s 10 slices of wonderbread.” And you feel phenomenal because you’re delivered the mother load of carbs straight your little reptile brain.

    So when you say “No, wonderbread is bad for me” instead, your brain gets clever and insists that you replace all those delicious carbs with sugar. Sugar is crystalized carbs. It’s like wonderbread in powder form. It’s all about the carb craving.

    But here’s the kicker:

    Your will power is a finite resource. There’s a certain chemical your brain needs to maintain the willpower it needs to not snarf a loaf of wonderbread. When it gets low on that chemical, you absolutely can’t stop yourself from eating that bread and downing 4 cups of sugar a day.

    The chemical is glucose. It’s blood sugar. It’s the stuff your body was craving in the first place, that made you want all those carbs.

    So the issue you’re having is that your brain is craving the stuff you shouldn’t eat precisely at the moment when you have no will power to resist that stuff.

    So you have my permission not to beat yourself up about it.

    There is a physical reason you burn through your glucose too fast, and you should figure out what it is with your doctor. Your doctor probably won’t be interested in figuring it out though, my wife went through a dozen before one took the time to figure it out and helped her get well again.

    In the mean time there are some safe recommendations I can make regardless of what the underlying cause of the issue is. First, eat more protein. For example, when you crave bread, allow yourself to eat that bread, but only if it’s smothered in peanut butter, a good source of protein.

    When you eat meals make sure the ratio of carbs to protein is at least 2 to 1–2 servings of carbs for 1 serving of protein. More protein than that is fine, but more carbs is not fine.

    I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you have trouble sleeping also. You wake up around 2 or 3 in the morning sometimes, feeling agitated. You may have fairly frequent nightmares. That’s all blood sugar related. Right before bed, have a high protein snack.

    The thing about protein is that the energy you get from it burns more slowly. It’s like taking a slow release medication. Carbs burn up in a heartbeat and leave you craving more. Protein will burn over a longer course of time. That will stop the up-down-up-down yoyoing of your blood sugar and curb the carb cravings.

    I have way more information about this if you’re interested, so just let me know and we’ll talk.

    Good luck!

  33. Van
    Van says:

    Penelope, I’m going to try this right along with you. Starting…now…

    I enjoyed reading this post and related, but feel guilty for reading it at the office while procrastinating. I feel bored by a quick research project I have to complete. I hope to find a way to work full time on my own projects as my own boss one day. I feel overwhelmed by what will be necessary to do this.

    Learning already!

    I love the photo at the end of this post. Let’s all work to motivate each other into the new year.

    • Helen
      Helen says:

      Van, fellow procrastinator at work here! You will find much inspiration and motivation here to get you moving towards your goal. Take it a step at a time. If you feel overwhelmed, do not just picture the final goal. Try making a list of the steps you need to take to get there. It makes things alot more concrete and manageable. I will be realizing my own goal in 2011! Cannot wait. It’s just a matter of taking that first step!

  34. PJ
    PJ says:

    “The only real failure in life is the failure to try”

    The best thing you can do for yourself is to fail at something. You make mistakes and take away new lessons! So don’t be so hard on yourself and quit weighing the risks and rewards and just do it!

  35. Joe Campbell
    Joe Campbell says:

    For clarity carbohydrates are sugars, just “complex” long chained versions rather then their “simple” sugar brethren. This is why they pack such a punch to adding inches to the waist line (if your Endomorphic) or in your case being an “Ectomorph”, they will hype you up. This is why you felt claimer when you got off them. The biggest thing is to get out of the house, meaning off the property into a larger social setting as people who tend to work from home a lot tend to become agoraphobic (especially those with Asperger’s and yes I have Asperger’s which is one the reasons I read your blog). Thanks, Joe…

  36. Heather
    Heather says:

    Wow! Great post! Thank you so much. I can relate to a lot of what you are writing. I’m always working on self improvement and then I can’t keep it up. It sucks. This sounds like an interesting approach. I might try this.

  37. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Wow! You’re stuck in the same place as me – I have no confidence in myself and I *know* I’m gonna fail in the end, so what’s the point of bothering now? Also, there’s so many things that I want/need to change in order to be living a more fulfilling life. Top of that list is (like you) self-discipline. But it’s something I generally suck at. I think.
    I’m glad that you’re writing about it (and I get how scary it is: if you fail, EVERYONE knows) because you’re something of a research fiend. You do an insane amount of research whenever you get obsessed by anything, like the whole happiness vs. interestingness thing. ;) And I look forward to reading some of that.
    The DBT thing is interesting (and I did click through, so there! But yours was more interesting. :) ). I’m not sure it’s something I’d do, because it requires self-discipline to write it down… it’s a vicious cycle. Grrr!

  38. Sarah Miller
    Sarah Miller says:

    Penelope, DBT sounds similar to Byron Katie’s “Loving What Is.” It also sounds like a lot of work, but I understand why you’re doing it, and I hope it helps you become more self-aware.

    In the meantime — and I know this is probably falling on deaf ears — try to be gentle with yourself. You can still make great (or many) changes in your life without being so hard on *you* all the time.

  39. Sheryl
    Sheryl says:

    I also have a sensitivity to wheat and sugar. I feel way better when I don’t eat them. I also couldn’t stop eating them, until I cut out all sugar, including fruit, starchy foods, alcohol, etc., from my diet. This completely eliminated cravings for sugar and wheat, and the way I feel is worth the sacrifice. I did it for over a year. Now I indulge on occasion, knowing I’ll pay for it the next day, and that’s fine – I can deal with a day of a food hangover and mild cravings. It reminds me why I stay away from it most of the time.

  40. Joyce
    Joyce says:

    Hey Penelope,

    I’m really glad you’ve found the Paleo/Primal diet. I’ve been on it for about a year now and its done WONDERS for me! I second the recommendation for Mark’s Daily Apple, it’s a great site: http://www.marksdailyapple.com

    A word of encouragement: Your taste buds will adjust after a few weeks, if you can only stay away from the sugar for that long. Anymore I find most desserts to be disgustingly sweet; a ripe peach or orange is the perfect treat. I know that might seem pretty amazing, but it really does happen! Hope that gives you some incentive. :)

    I love your blog, by the way; it keeps me sane. :)

  41. Steve-Prospering With Aspergers
    Steve-Prospering With Aspergers says:

    Penelope, so glad that you talked about DBT here! I say that because I personally believe that DBT is just plain good sense for anyone. It is a perfect complement to Cognitive Behavior Therapy as well. I’m proud of you for writing about it. I use the strategies for myself and I recommend them to all my clients. Cheers!

  42. Jada
    Jada says:

    Penelope, thank you for being such an inspiration. I have just started blogging after reading your guide to starting a blog.

    I have been struggling with sugar cravings and disciplining myself for the past year now and have been trying different channels to keep myself in check and stay motivated and optimistic about this process although I am often impatient and find it so hard to keep at it while I don’t get results straight away. I need to train my patience amongst other things! It just seems appropriate that I came across your post this morning after setting myself some new goals last night! I’m going to try the DBT method too and hopefully it will also be another factor to help me reach some of my goals!

    Good luck with your goals too!

  43. Ann
    Ann says:

    The key to limiting your sugar and bread craving is to trick yourself. Don’t tell yourself “I can’t have any sugar or bread today”. Instead, tell yourself, “I won’t have any sugar or bread until after lunch”. Have a big lunch (no bread), then you won’t have the craving until around 3:00. Then, let you can let yourself have some. Instead of eatting all day, it will just be from 3:00 on.

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