How I quit vaping and discovered that nicotine addiction isn’t very hard to beat

Now I’ve done it.  A few days ago, I quit vaping.  December 24 was my last toke.  I ran out of juice and haven’t bought any more.

Most people start vaping in order to kick cigarettes, basically regarding it as a safer substitution.  I wasn’t a smoker.  I started since it seemed pretty safe, and I figured it might help me stay perky and focused.  Freud did mention that his cigar consumption did that much for him.  Since in modern times we’ve figured out how to do that without breathing the smoke of burning plants all the time, I figured, why not?  I could get whatever boost it provided without goddamn cancer or goddamn COPD.  I found some pretty good juice too – it was like vaping a candy cane!  I took it further than Bill Clinton would’ve done in his wildest dreams, because I inhaled.

Why did I quit now?  It has nothing to do with being a better Mormon; I’m still a terrible one.  Mainly it’s for health reasons.  Vaping might not be as safe as I’d assumed.  Surely it’s better than sucking down a pack or two of tobacco leaves, but still, I’ve heard some things.  Also, I’m not entirely comfortable with being hooked on anything.  Other than that, now I have one less product to buy, and I’m cheap that way.

Are you hooked on nicotine?

First, I’ll cover some good news.  There are those who say that nicotine is a worse addiction than cocaine.  Most fortunately, that’s baloney.  In the past, I’ve dated three coke heads, and two were in and out of jail because of that noxious chemical.  There’s just no comparison; nicotine is nothing compared to the devil’s dandruff – or worse – Satan’s boogers.  Moreover, quitting nicotine isn’t even as close to as bad as quitting caffeine.

There are two ways to kick the habit.  First, you can taper down.  The other method is going cold turkey.  Some might be surprised that cold turkey ain’t that bad!

Whenever I’ve flown somewhere on vacation, I’ve left my equipment behind at home.  A vaporizer is a battery operated electronic device with a heating element.  Obviously stuff like that is going to get extra scrutiny at an airport.  Since all that is just bad juju, I’ve never attempted to bring a vaporizer on board a plane.  So what is it like, being in another city without a vaporizer to suck on?  I’ll get two or three fairly mild cravings that day, and less the next.  Big deal!  I’ve seen people getting a little irrational from nic fits before, but experiencing it myself it was nothing like what I expected.  Sudden nicotine deprivation certainly didn’t drive me mad.

On the other hand, when I’m at my desk and can’t find my vaporizer, it drives me up the wall!  I’m used to having that candy cane to inhale when I’m sitting there.  So this is how I realized that habit and ritual actually have longer claws than the nicotine itself.  Substitutes like gum and patches will provide nicotine, but doesn’t address the ritual component to it.  I did think of switching to jelly beans, but that would’ve been extra calories that I don’t need.  I also thought of vaping somewhere not at the desk to break the association, but I didn’t follow through.

How I stopped freebasing that candy cane

Golem-Vape-Juice-Meme

One of the cool things about vaping is that there is a very large selection of juices out there.  You get different flavors, and different concentrations too.  I started out with 36mg, which is as powerful as it gets.  That’s what I’ve been sucking down for years.  Then lately I switched to 24mg.  Going down to two thirds of the previous concentration wasn’t such a big deal.  Then the case of asthma that I’d been battling for a very long time went away.  Well, how about that!

I searched my supplies and finished off all my old oils, so I wouldn’t have any “sunk cost” considerations.  I finished all the fruit blends and chocolate flavors and so forth.  Then I bought a new bottle, 18mg concentration.  The next steps down were 12mg, then 6, and finally 3.  Those bottles were 30mL.  Dialing down wasn’t too difficult of an adjustment, but some might prefer to taper it slower with 60mL bottles for each step.

Finally, there was nothing left, so I packed up all the paraphernalia.  After that was the tricky part!  There was little nicotine in the juice by then, but at least I was toking on something.  They do have 0mg oil, and I could’ve got some of that, but it is what it is.  So for the next couple days, I was at my desk, thinking that surely the candy cane had to be somewhere within reach…  Gollum wants it, where did the tricksy little hobbittses put My Precious?

At that point, I could’ve gotten some more vape oil and fed the monkey.  However, I didn’t.  I decided that I’d stick to my plans because I am not a bitch.  As of now, I’m over the curve and doing pretty well.  No more changing batteries for me, or oil leaking everywhere, or gummed up igniters.  Anyway, hopefully this inspires someone.

How I quit vaping and discovered that nicotine addiction isn’t very hard to beat

Caffeine withdrawal is a bitch with fleas

It’s been two weeks since I’ve sucked down my last energy drink.  No more soda for me either.  Whenever I see my girlfriend at home sipping a Monster, I think to myself, “We wants it my precioussss…”  My other girlfriend thinks I’m nuts to give it up.

No, this isn’t because I’m going on the straight and narrow.  I’m still the worst Mormon since Joseph Smith himself.  They can pry my beer out of my cold, dead fingers.  Actually, I’ve figured out enough wiggle room in the Word of Wisdom to allow for beer.  (Buy Space Vixen Trek Episode 13 if you want to find out.)  Still, I’ll hit the vodka too and make no apologies for it.

Why put myself through this misery then?  It’s because I don’t like to be hooked on anything.  Also, if I cut out the soda and energy drinks, it saves a few hundred bucks a year.  (I can buy more beer, right?)  I might start drinking caffeinated beverages again at a later time, but rarely enough that it won’t be habitual.  Best of all, my receptors will be normalized and it will be effective again, and caffeine won’t be something I must consume regularly to function normally.

So how’s it going so far?  I wasn’t as hooked as some people are, so I haven’t suffered headaches.  Still, I’ve been dragging ass.  I think I’m over the worst part of it.  Even so, it’s been difficult.  When the Viet Cong discovered one of their soldiers hooked on opium, they’d throw him in a hole in the ground for three weeks.  Maybe they had a point with that.

Caffeine withdrawal is a bitch with fleas

The nature of addiction: why do people get hooked on drugs or irrational behavior?

Addiction is a very old problem, with serious consequences for society, and for individuals too.  The compulsion caused by chemical slavery is so bad that crackheads will sell their bodies to get a little rock the color of toenail fungus.  They’re not all from bad neighborhoods; some came from nice families and made a dumb mistake.  Men will do that too; that Less Than Zero stuff is for real.  I’ve never smoked Satan’s boogers; I’d rather drop a cinderblock on my foot.  However, I had a dream about it once, and it was like confronting an evil spirit.

Modern science gives us a better idea of what’s going on, but treating it has been a frustrating pursuit.  There are drug therapies out there – good pills to get over bad pills, essentially.  Still, it’s been pretty well demonstrated that an opiate is an opiate.  Certain antidepressants might help recovering addicts, though they’re not perfect and can have undesired side effects of their own.  Ultimately, so far there’s no silver bullet, and perhaps there never will be.

The traditional focus has been on chemical addictions, which have been documented since the ancient Greeks, if not longer.  Then there are the behavioral addictions which have received much more attention in modern times.  Here’s what we do know at least.

Chemical addictions

hell

The way mood-altering drugs work is by changing the activity of neurotransmitters.  The big three are serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.  Some drugs bind to one or more of these receptors, imitating the natural chemicals already floating around in the synapses.  Others inhibit the reuptake of these neurotransmitters, which increases the amounts existing in these connections between the brain cells.  Some do both; for instance, cocaine is a dopamine agonist and also inhibits its reuptake.  (It’s all fun and games until you’re feeling invisible spiders crawling all over you.)  There are also cannabinoid receptors and opioid receptors, which God or evolution put there for unknown reasons.  Alcohol, benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax, etc.), and barbiturates operate on the GABA receptors.

So effectively this temporarily raises the wattage in these neural circuits.  These various neurotransmitters do different things, which is why getting drunk is a different high than getting stoned, etc.  If these drugs are taken regularly, then homeostasis kicks in, and the brain starts producing less of its own natural neurotransmitters.  That’s what gets people hooked.  This means that when addicts go cold turkey, they feel terrible until the homeostasis process starts increasing natural neurotransmitters to normal levels again.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen overnight.  For example, it takes two or three weeks of constant opioid use to get hooked.  After discontinuation, withdrawal symptoms will slowly subside at the same rate.  The Viet Cong therapy for heroin addicts was pretty effective, which involved tossing them into an oubliette for three weeks.  That’s a lot faster than a methadone taper-down program, and being put in a hole in the ground surely wouldn’t easily be forgotten.

So that’s how drug tolerance sets in, and eventually addiction.  It’s been said that the first time someone sniffs coke will be the best high he or she ever gets from it.  After that, cokeheads are simply trying to re-create the experience with increasing quantities.  It becomes a perceived need, like hunger and thirst, which the user never had before.

Another factor is downregulation.  Unnaturally elevated levels of neurotransmitters will make their receptors less sensitive.  When an addict isn’t high, the natural neurotransmitters are at a reduced level, and what little is there is has become less effective.  That’s why addicts deprived of their drug of choice will feel like chewing gum on the bottom of a shoe.  This is usually reversible with time, but not always.

Eventually, hardcore cocaine addicts (and abusers of other substances that affect dopamine) may develop anhedonia, the inability to experience pleasure.  At the extreme, they even can fry their dopamine system entirely and develop Parkinson’s.  All throughout, death by overdose is a real possibility.  (All these are more reasons why cocaine dealers and smugglers deserve to be taken out and shot.)  Finally, some drugs cause outright brain damage, like meth or inhalants.  MDMA (Ecstasy) burns out synapses, a process that begins pretty quickly.  That’s the reason they get “e-tarded”.  Why do you think they call it dope?

Behavioral addictions

Other than getting a chemical high, there are behavioral ways that people modulate their neurotransmitters to produce thrilling or otherwise pleasurable feelings.  This is why people ride roller coasters, chow down on food, and (of course) get laid.  What could be more natural than that?  I’ve tried skydiving once; it was a pretty rattling experience, but afterward I wondered why anyone would stick a needle in his arm when he could jump out of a plane instead.

Still, excess is a danger, a fact known to ancient Greek, Chinese, and Persian philosophers.  In The Republic, Plato pointed out that a life of excess produces higher highs and lower lows, but the lows predominate.  Meanwhile, in a life of moderation, the modest highs predominate over the modest lows.  Therefore, moderation is rational.

Immoderate food consumption can be a problem, which I’ve had to deal with myself.  Kleptomania and pyromania are behavioral addictions too; they get hooked on the rush of committing crimes.  Video games can be habit forming, leading to vast amount of wasted time and lost productivity.  However, occasionally deaths have resulted from self-neglect or neglect of children during all-day poopsocking sessions.  These behaviors might start out as being fun, but eventually become a drag, though it’s still difficult to quit.

Flashing, voyeurism, and other perversions can constitute behavioral addictions.  An unexpected effect of modern technology is that porn induced erectile dysfunction has become an epidemic among 20-somethings.  Typically, they’ll have to start watching more extreme content to get the same thrill.  So they might start out watching bikini models, then a year later they’re beating off to tentacle porn.  Rather oddly, there are many anecdotal reports of straight guys sometimes ending up watching gay stuff.  Some get curious enough to bang a dude and get grossed out by the experience, they aren’t actually gay, so they don’t really like giving blowjobs and all that.

Behavioral addictions can be pretty stupid and irrational, of course.  Still, that’s what happens when things like that get established in the limbic system’s pleasure / reward circuits.  MRI studies show parts of the brain lighting up during a porn session, the same ones that light up in cocaine addicts.  There’s no dumb dust involved, but someone doing an hours-long edging session to hardcore porn is tweaking his dopamine too.

Chemical addictions also have a behavioral component.  A junkie cooking heroin in a spoon will get a thrill in anticipation even before the needle goes in.  It’s much like Pavlov’s dog slobbering as soon as he heard the dinner bell.

Attempts to understand addiction

So in one way, addictions are essentially very bad habits.  The traditional explanation was moral weakness.  In more recent times, addiction started being seen as a psychological problem.  Others considered it a disease.  This results in reducing the stigma which (as the theory goes) will encourage people to seek help without feeling bad about it.

A schizophrenic can’t help being crazy, and (again, as the theory goes) neither can an addict.  Thus, it’s no more of a moral fault than catching the flu.  Other than that, “alcoholic” sounds at least a little better than “habitual drunk”.  When it was a new word, it put a fresh spin on things.  Still, we’ve stepped too far away from personal agency.  Furthermore, when people do bad things, they should feel bad about it, and others should call them out on it.  Ultimately, people have the capacity to choose between right and wrong.

Would anyone smoke crack right in front of a policeman?  Of course not; the crackhead will choose to wait for an opportunity to do so unobserved, since getting busted means going to jail for six months.  Therefore, addictive behavior is a choice, though it’s a lot harder to “just say no” after someone is hooked.  So addicts who want to quit have to become their own policeman.

The twelve step model

The famous 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are the following:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

AA and similar programs do work for many people.  If it gets them where they want to be, then they should run with it.

Still, I do have a few quibbles with some of it.  The thing about being totally powerless over alcohol, to the point that only an act of God will work, seems somewhat disempowering.  Further, all that might be pretty hard to swallow for an atheist.  Step 3, however, does very clearly indicate that a rational choice is involved in breaking free of this bad habit.  If a wino doesn’t want help, will God miracle him out of his bottle of Thunderbird?  Probably not.

So the power of reason is the essential part, and I’m sure Plato would’ve agreed.  The rational mind belongs in the driver’s seat.

The nature of addiction: why do people get hooked on drugs or irrational behavior?

April roundup

So the results of my diet and fitness efforts are that I’m down about 30 pounds from when I started back in late December.  I could be doing better, but I’m not complaining too much.  My waist has shrunk quite a bit and I’m into pants that I haven’t worn in ten years.  My muscle definition and vascularity are a bit sharper.  I’m wondering how this is going to affect how I’m treated once I’m where I want to be.  Hopefully the transition in process from off-season linebacker to gym rat will get me a better reception, though I’m afraid I might look a bit like a knucklehead.  Anyway, going from blue collar work to white collar work set me back, but I’ve now made significant strides to fix it.  I’ve taken a week off, might cheat just a bit more, then back into the routine.

Concerning the situation in Syria, there is plenty of commentary on the missile strike in response to the gas attack, but I’ll add some of my own.  Given the scanty evidence available now, it’s not entirely clear who was doing the gassing or if it really took place.  There are parties who would be willing to spread false rumors in order to make the regime look bad (well, worse anyway) or to get us involved.  In any case, the “shoot first and ask questions later” approach on our part seems to be a bit ill-advised.  I’d prefer that we don’t get sucked into this.  In general, Assad isn’t exactly a candidate for sainthood, but if he got deposed, none of the other parties that would be likely to fill a vacuum of power would be an improvement.

As for my writing projects, I’m still working on Space Vixen Trek Episode 4 and Episode 17.  Inspiration is coming along, slowly…  For the latter, I’ve been doing a bit more study on conspiracy stuff and kooky UFOlogy, and it’s coming together.

I’m up to my 42nd post on Return of Kings, with two more in the pipeline.  That’s where most of my political content is these days, though I do have some old classics here as well.  I’m a bit afraid of getting typecast as a political writer, though there are worse fates that could befall me.  One of them would involve being the sort of political writer that National Review would hire 🙂

Other than that, they’ve issued an article (not mine) called “How To Meet And Date Mormon Girls“.  The only thing missing from that is cultural notes about Jello and turns of phrase such as “Oh my golly!”  (I’m technically Mormon, but I’m a very bad one, and I do like beer…  Actually, I found some wiggle room for the Word of Wisdom to allow Mormons to drink beer; you’ll have to get a copy of The Final Falafel for the details!)  The article is pretty much on the mark as for most Mormon ladies being prim and proper, though with a subset who are anything but.  I had one as a girlfriend, rather briefly, who happens to be a preacher’s kid.  She’s quite fair and delightsome (bonus points if you get the reference), and sophisticated, and also quite wild in bed.  I miss her…

April roundup

What’s the big deal about fat chicks?

big is beautiful sometimes

There’s been a lot of negative talk in the Manosphere about fat chicks.  Some say that fat acceptance is a subversive manifestation of cultural Marxism.  If we posit that this is a factor, then it’s only half of the picture.

Remember that the cultural Marxist playbook is about keeping everyone dissatisfied and stirring up divisions in society.  Given that, it’s not too much of a stretch to see that another angle of attack would be to make guys dissatisfied with almost all women out there.  What I mean is promotion of the “heroin chic” as the epitome of feminine beauty.  I’m not convinced that cultural Marxism is behind all this, but this does lead into an important point.

Body mass and the Overton Window

The Overton Window molds public opinion; the short version is that certain positions are deemed “acceptable” and others outside are considered “extremist”.  This window shifts over time, and this can be deliberately engineered.  That’s something that propagandists in television and Hollywood have been using to great effect to nudge the public closer to accepting SJW agendas.  That, of course, has moved our culture light-years to the left.  (For example, who in 1986 – or even 1996 – would have predicted that the US military would start  paying for sex changes for soldiers in 2016?)  However, the Overton Window also is a good model for how society is led to consider what is hot and what is not.

Here’s what I’m talking about.  The average American body mass index has gone from 25 in 1960 to 28 in 2002, thus from the upper end of “normal” to the upper end of “chunky”.  As of 2014, the average man is 5’9″ and weighs 196 pounds; the average woman is 5’4″ and weighs 169 pounds.  This puts the average 2014 BMI for men at 28.9 and women at 29.0, almost in the officially fat range.

Meanwhile, the public’s tastes haven’t followed the trend.  Instead, the ideal feminine body type being promoted (later I’ll discuss who’s promoting it) has gone from the “normal” range to the “underweight” range (BMI 17-19; likely BMI 16 means dead).  That sounds like quite a recipe for dissatisfaction, doesn’t it?

I can hear it already – “to hell with American women”.  Actually, the rest of the world isn’t too far behind.  Trends are going up everywhere; like feminism, this isn’t just something we can run away from and expect it will never catch up to us.  Actually, the Middle East is right up there with us, and Pacific Islanders are leading the pack.

Aesthetic standards change over time

Standards of beauty vary from one culture to the other.  They change over time too.  That being said, there are some attributes that change according to the dictates of fashion, and others that are basically set in stone.  We’ll cover the former now, and the latter in the next section.  Female body weight is one of the changing standards.

Ice Age statuary includes a number of female figurines, all extremely chubby – no doubt this ideal represented abundance, very desired in times of great scarcity.  Greco-Roman statuary typically represented what we’d consider verging on full figured, though not too busty.  From Renaissance paintings, we see a number of quite voluptuous women.  Ideals in the 20th Century varied somewhat, but ended up going sharply downward, and today’s legacy is the “heroin chic”.

What caused weight to go up in post-Industrial Age times?  First, the public is working easier jobs, getting less exercise, and relying more on automobile transit.  Food became very cheap and plentiful by historic standards.  At the same time, it got increasingly less healthy, full of processed crap from agribusiness.  Eventually, the public (both women and men) started getting a lot bigger.  The jogging fad of the 1970s and the popularity of weightlifting not long after didn’t quite stop this trend.  In the 1990s, we started spending increasing amounts of time glued to our computers, with predictable results.  These days, interest in children’s sports has dropped dramatically.  Finally, there’s a lot of confusion about what diets are best.

Meanwhile, the fashion industry pushed for increasingly thinner models, and Hollywood followed along.  Consequentially, the ideal of feminine beauty versus what average women actually look like became increasingly distant.

What female shape is it natural to appreciate?

big is beautiful sometimes

What does a Barbie doll have in common with chubby Ice Age figurines like the Venus of Willendorf?  They have bust-waist-hip proportions in the ideal range.  The reason why this is ideal is because this is associated with fertility.  A woman with typically masculine proportions – flat chest and narrow hips – would have the appearance of being physically immature.  Also, a woman whose waist is larger than her bust and hips – similar to a guy with a beer gut – probably has metabolic syndrome, which generally includes PCOS.  So the reason why neither look particularly feminine to us is because it’s a matter of natural selection over hundreds of thousands of years.  So it’s natural to desire any woman with curves in all the right places, whether she has a classic slender hourglass figure or is quite voluptuous – it’s all good.

So instead of thinking of the ideal woman as someone who looks like she just got out of a POW camp, instead we should look to the movie superstars of the past:  Mae West, Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe, Mamie Van Doren, Sophia Lauren, Raquel Welch, and so forth.  None of them were exactly tubby, but they certainly had curves in all the right places.  This is certainly not the “heroin chic” ideal that Hollywood and the fashion industry today is lauding as the epitome of womanhood.  Once more, these represent ideals, and not all – or even most – of the public will fit the bill.

The point is that we should, as individuals, ignore the efforts by the media and the fashion industry to push the Overton Window to a body type that’s both extremely rare and a bit unhealthy.  It also wouldn’t hurt if we loosened up our requirements a bit, within reason.  This opens you up to a more target-rich environment.  Think about it – if 80% of women only give the time of day to 20% of men, does it make sense to weed out all but the skinniest third of the takers?

Who is setting the trends these days?

It’s no secret that the fashion industry is dominated by gay guys.  Hollywood certainly has an above-average proportion of gays too.  The fact is, the male aesthetic is linear and the female aesthetic is curvy.  The “friends of Dorothy” just don’t appreciate curves.  Gays like “twinks” quite a bit, so they’re projecting the female equivalent of what they like onto public tastes.  Thus heroin chic it is.

This isn’t the first time that fashion standards have gone a little crazy.  Chinese foot binding, African lip plates, and facial piercings over here – need I say more?  Worse, what you see is not always what you get.  Due to airbrushing and photo processing, women on magazine covers – and increasingly in the movies – aren’t really what the models and actresses actually look like anyway.  In fact, with Photoshop, you can even make a supermodel out of a slice of pizza.  So the question is this:  should we accept what the gay fashion designers say is the ideal feminine type, or go back to the curves we like?

Another factor is social pressure, best illustrated by an old joke:

Q:  How are fat chicks like mopeds?
A:  They’re fun to ride until your friends find out.

The Manosphere is a bit guilty of this too, with guys bragging about skinny “HB9s” and “HB10s”.  Really, who cares what your friends think, or especially someone online you’ve never met?

“But I have standards!”

Sure, everyone has standards.  If your love life is everything you want it to be, run with it.  If not, then making reasonable compromises is the most rational strategy.  This doesn’t mean that you have to regard a really big one in the same way you do a skinny one, or even date her if you don’t feel like it.  Remember, I said reasonable compromises!

I have standards too.  Beyond a certain point, things do get a little bit iffy.  Still, I’ll cut her some slack if she has enough good characteristics to compensate.  For instance, a pretty face and great hair go a long way with me.  I would have missed a good number of opportunities if I’d felt bound to arbitrary standards set by other people.  My first really skinny girlfriend was my third girlfriend.  (Unfortunately, she had some personality issues, and we’ll leave it at that.)  I’m not sorry that a woman who today would be average-sized took my virginity.

I have enough data points to describe some of the good characteristics of fat chicks.  They usually aren’t stuck up, and personality is important to me, no matter what she looks like.  (I know how to deflect a Bitch Shield, but I don’t bother to game someone who thinks she’s God’s gift to men; that attitude is a complete turn-off.)  Many are freaks in bed.  I’ve found that the skinny ones – with some exceptions – are a little more likely to be pillow princesses.  Finally, big gals almost always have one advantage:  huge tracts of land, all natural.  I love to bury my face in a big pair of sweater puppies!

Does this mean we should get on board with fat acceptance?

big is beautiful sometimes 2a

Although I encourage a reasonable amount of flexibility in personal standards, I consider it a bad thing for people just to let themselves go.  There comes a point where it starts getting unhealthy, and people should respect their bodies.  The fact is that waistlines have been expanding both for men and women.  (Not all that many guys have warrior physiques these days.)  It’s a complicated issue, and it’s not going to go away overnight.   Better information about diet, more exercise, and doing something about the crap that agribusiness puts in our food would go a long way.

I’m also skeptical that fat shaming works.  The usual result will not be to take heed, but rather to reject the message, or run home crying and break out the ice cream.  Some might consider that funny in a junior high sort of way, but it’s certainly not constructive.  Let’s remember that honey catches more flies than vinegar.  Many of us have improved our physiques; myself included.  If we can find an opportunity to subtly bring this up and provide some constructive information, that will give better results.

What’s the big deal about fat chicks?

Fitness and diet, part 4 (final)

Here are some excerpts from my book Righteous Seduction, which I’m posting in serial form.  I’m presenting this to you for free, because this information is valuable to the public.  Being fit and healthy is a good thing; being better-looking is a cool side effect.

Again, the disclaimer:  This book is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians.  You should regularly consult a physician in matters relating to your health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.

Pitfalls of diets

One thing to remember is persistence.  Rome wasn’t built in a day.  You didn’t pork out overnight, and you won’t get the body of a Greek statue overnight either.  Slow and steady wins the race here.  Not sticking to it is a big problem for a lot of people.  It goes about like this:

  1. Chubby Bubba plans a diet 1000 calories below daily maintenance
  2. At the end of the week, he weighs in and realizes he’s only lost two measly pounds
  3. He gets depressed because of the negligible progress after a week of sacrifice
  4. He says “hell with it” and eats a dozen Big Macs
  5. Now Bubba is right back where he started and decides he’d better get serious about it
  6. GOTO 1

If he had stuck to it for a year, he’d be a skinny Bubba, down 104 pounds!  Having moderate goals is a way to avoid this.  If a 1000 calorie per day deficit drives you up the wall, then pick something less ambitious if it will help you stick to it.

Here’s a negative feedback loop to avoid:

  1. You eat a donut and then feel guilty because you just ate junk food
  2. You eat another donut to shut up the guilt feelings – since you’ve already cheated your diet, one more won’t be so bad, will it?
  3. GOTO 1

So what happens if you cheat on your diet?  Don’t say “hell with it” and dive into more cheat food, thinking that it’s hopeless.  Instead, hit the gym!  If you’ve been dieting a while, you’ll be feeling a bit depleted, but this time you’ll have some extra energy for your workout to burn off.   Hit the weights hard.

Also, beware of the “tomorrow” diet.  Saint Augustine would pray, “Lord, give me chastity, just not yet.”  (I can imagine Jesus up in the clouds, groaning and doing a facepalm whenever He heard that one!)  Translated to dietary terms, this means “I’ll start my diet tomorrow.”  Nope, ain’t gonna work.  Pick a date and stick to it, because mañana won’t get there.  Better yet, start today.

One more peril is the yo-yo diet.  It goes like this:

  1. Lose 20 pounds over a few months
  2. Celebrate with a huge meal of all the goodies you couldn’t eat before
  3. Nom nom nom over a few months
  4. Oh shit, now you’re 10 pounds heavier than you started!
  5. GOTO 1

Here’s a factor that can make the yo-yo diet quite destructive.  When you’re dieting, your caloric requirements start lowering to compensate for your reduced intake.  The body is good at that; these metabolic adjustments helped us survive ancient famines.  Remember that if you cut the calories down too far, your body scavenges protein from your muscles to keep yourself running.  That lowers the number of calories you burn on a daily basis just by being alive (in scientific terms, the resting metabolic rate), as well as making you weaker.  Here’s how it can go.

  1. You notice that you’ve been putting on weight.
  2. You figure out that you’ve been eating 2800 calories a day on average.
  3. You look at a chart and determine that your normal caloric requirement is 2400 calories a day.
  4. You overreact and go on a dangerous crash diet of 800 calories a day.
  5. After being on that crash diet too long and not getting enough protein, you burn off muscle tissue and your daily caloric requirement becomes 2000 calories a day.
  6. After reaching your goal weight, you start eating 2400 calories a day
  7. You’re putting on weight again – surprise!
  8. GOTO 1

One reason people go on crazy crash diets is because they want to see results fast.  Still, the better thing to do is go with a modest caloric deficit, then transition to a maintenance level of calories, which will be lower than when you were porking out.

How to do it right

One tends to lose a little muscle on a regular diet.  Overdoing it makes it far worse, because you’re not getting enough protein.  (Hint:  Get enough protein, and don’t overdo things.)  High-protein crash diets do exist – the protein sparing modified fast – but they must be medically supervised.  Going way below one’s normal caloric intake for long periods of time also causes starvation responses to set in.  Even modest dieting eventually causes one’s metabolic rate to slow down.

There’s a way to avoid it, and best of all, and you might like this!  That is the cheat day.  Pick one day every other week where you eat normally.  By “normally”, I don’t mean go for a pile of Big Macs; I mean eat a regular amount of calories.  This allows for special occasions, and helps keep you from going too nuts with constant deprivation.  People tend to want what they can’t have, so the cheat day allows you to alleviate this urge in moderation.  Also, this helps prevent starvation responses from setting in and undoing all your hard work.

You might be curious – can you gain muscle and lose fat at the same time?  Actually, I’ve done it before, but practically speaking, that’s very difficult.  Although the drop in scale weight was aggravatingly low, I was able to fit into a pair of pants that would have required power tools to get me into before.  There’s another lesson – pay more attention to how your clothes are fitting, and how you’re looking overall, than what the scale says.  Again, gaining muscle while losing fat is pretty hard to do; also, dieting will tend to make you lose muscle, but this is less so if you do it right.  Bodybuilders have to do bulking and cutting phases to get ready for a contest.  You can adopt a similar strategy when you’re nearing your goal weight.  For now, hit the gym hard on those cheat days.  You’ll probably be a bit fatigued on the others.  Remember, a hard workout is also useful for “accidental” cheat days, so you can do something productive about it rather than pound on the carpet and weep because you goofed.

Some of you may be curious about the controversy between low fat versus low carb diets.  This is medically controversial, so that’s between you and your doctor, just as everything else here is, of course.  The rationale for low-fat diets is because fat has roughly twice the calories per weight as do carbs and protein.  Further, carbs and protein are inefficient energy sources, because half the energy is burnt up processing them.  On the other hand, fat is 98% efficient, thus a double whammy.  Yes, that cheesecake does go directly into your spare tire.  Note once again that you shouldn’t cut all fat out of your diet; you still need some of that, especially the Omega 3 variety; you’re probably not getting enough of that unless you take supplements, or eat only health food and grass-fed beef.  That being said, you’ll have to watch those calories; if you ate a bushel of cotton candy – zero fat content – it wouldn’t be good for you!

One benefit of a low-carb diet is that you experience less hunger once you get past the first two or three days of climbing the walls; exercise shortens that process.  You consume 40g of carbs or less in a day, and eventually the stores of liver glycogen run out.  (This, along with the water bound to it, results in a drop in scale weight of about 10 pounds, give or take.  That part isn’t permanent and will come back when you start eating normally.)  At this point, ketosis sets in.  Note that this is not the same as ketoacidosis, and there’s a lot of ignorance about that, confusing even to some in the medical community.  Ketoacidosis is a much deeper level, a dangerous condition typically happening to Type 1 diabetics.  As for benign dietary ketosis – the non-dangerous variety – your body converts fats to ketones as an alternate energy source since the carbs are gone.  This is an inefficient conversion, and – as I understand it – effectively you’re burning off each gram of fat as 7.5 calories rather than 9.1 calories.  One drawback is that you might feel hungry until you adjust, then maybe a bit fatigued later.  This is because the brain has to run on carbs, which must get processed out of protein.  (You are getting enough protein, aren’t you?  Living on pork rinds and sticks of butter won’t work!)  Again, you’ll still have to watch your calories, though this is likely to be easier.

Track your progress.  There will be times when the scale doesn’t move.  If you hit a plateau, that’s a time to take a good look at what you’re doing.  People often grossly underestimate how many calories they’re eating.  Try changing up something, like hitting the weights a little harder.  On the other hand, if you’re wiping yourself out at the gym on a regular basis, it’s possible that you’re overtraining.  Don’t give up, and eventually the scale should move in the right direction.  Take some “before” pictures with your shirt off, and on at least a weekly basis.  No sucking in your gut!  That should provide a good indication of your true progress.  Be sure you’re getting adequate vitamins and minerals too.

If you need some extra motivation, watch Supersize Me.  If that doesn’t get you to swear off junk food, nothing will.  Also, you can watch some of those Youtube videos about people who ate themselves to death.  Chances are you’re not quite that big, but it will put things in a different perspective.

Finally, beware of the “extinction burst”.  It’s a slightly complex subject, but generally this means that if you break a habit, your normal cravings may go into overdrive.  This is where those temptations and cravings come from.  Trust me, that burger doesn’t taste quite as good as you’re imagining it will.

Posts in this series

  1. Fitness and diet, part 1 – My journey, and why you should get the body you want
  2. Fitness and diet, part 2 – How to get started lifting weights
  3. Fitness and diet, part 3 – Nutrition 101
  4. Fitness and diet, part 4 (final) – How to avoid diet pitfalls

See also my first 50 posts and the main page

Fitness and diet, part 4 (final)

Fitness and diet, part 3

Here are some excerpts from my book Righteous Seduction, which I’m posting in serial form.  I’m presenting this to you for free, because this information is valuable to the public.  Being fit and healthy is a good thing; being better-looking is a cool side effect.  Stay tuned for more.

Diet:  your favorite four-lettered word

Other than exercise, another important element in losing the spare tire is nutrition.  Without getting that right, you’ll end up good enough in the gym to have a decent powerlifting score yet look more like an off-season linebacker than Charles Atlas.  (Take it from someone who knows…)  To show off your new musssscles, you have to get rid of the layer of blubber covering them.  If you have six-pack abdominals already, awesome; you can skip this chapter.  If not, read on.  I bet you’re still reading.

First, another disclaimer.  This book is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians.  You should regularly consult a physician in matters relating to your health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.

The fact is, about 2/3 of Americans are considered overweight, and 1/3 are to the point of being obese.  Much of the rest of the world is catching up, too.  This has been a growing trend over the decades.  In times past, the majority of Americans were farmers, and during the Industrial Revolution, many became factory workers.  These days, family farmers are steeply on the decline, losing out to corporate farming, and factory jobs largely have been exported overseas.  The effects have been pretty bad for the economy, as well as our waistlines.  Most work these days – for those of us fortunate to be employed – is in sedentary positions or low-intensity jobs:  retail, bean counting, tech support, etc.  Add to that the fact that many of us eat crap diets:  processed food, often with excessive portions.  A hundred years ago, all food was organic; these days, you can get that still, but it usually costs twice as much.  Most of us drive everywhere and don’t even have to walk to a bus stop or subway terminal.  We’re parked in front of our computers more than ever, or glued to the TV.

This is particularly alarming for young people.  Kids are glued to their video games and social media, and are less interested in sports than in times past.  Back when I was a little brat, we had video games of course, but you had to walk or bike to the arcade, you usually stood while playing, and eventually you ran out of quarters.  These days, some kids are getting type II diabetes, which used to happen only to adults.  Even teenagers now sometimes exhibit the early stages of arteriosclerosis, a disease of old age.  The only glimmer of good news is that having a great physique is one way you can stand out from the others.  If you look like Jabba the Hutt, then it’s about time to change this.

Nutritional basics


Begin by banishing junk food from your diet.  It’s evil, and not even evil in a good way.  Start reading labels, and avoid anything that says “partially hydrogenated” anything.  Whoever unleashed food additives like that onto the public should have been deep fried in oleomargarine or vegetable shortening.  Here’s what you do need in your diet:

  • Essential proteins
  • Essential fatty acids (particularly omega 3, of which we usually don’t get enough)
  • Essential vitamins and minerals

Notice that “carbohydrates” – sugars and starches – isn’t on the list.  There is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate, so cut down on them.  If you’re getting all the essential stuff, then you don’t need the empty calories.  Just read that dang nutrition label!  Simple carbs are sweet and will bounce your insulin and leave you hungry soon.  Complex carbs take longer to digest but are still just extra calories.  Fiber is carbs that don’t get digested, so there’s really nothing wrong with that.  In fact, it’s sort of a good thing, as it makes you feel more full, among other digestive benefits – and I’ll leave it at that.  Some diets banish carbohydrates nearly entirely (such as Atkins) or greatly reduce it (South Beach or the Paleo diet, for instance).  These are a bit controversial; more on that later, but do the research if you’re interested.  Other people have success reducing total calories by cutting down on fat intake.  There is no One True Way to diet; different things work for different people, so figure out what works for you.

Note that you do need fats in your diet, so don’t banish it entirely, but keep it modest.  You could probably get by okay – for a limited duration at least – with ten grams of fish oil or flax oil a day.  Quality counts here too.  Trans fat additives are horrible, and I’ll repeat:  avoid anything that says “partially hydrogenated” like the plague.  If in doubt about a product, go to the company’s Canadian website and look up the grams of trans fat; they have strict reporting requirements (0.2g, versus the American requirement of 0.5g) and less wiggle room to fool you.  Saturated fats are best kept to a minimum.

Now for a word about alcohol.  In my boring high school health class, the teacher explained that it’s empty calories.  He was right; I should have paid more attention.  (Speaking of empty calories, it’s a bit ironic that all but the heaviest beers actually have fewer calories by volume than sticky soda pop, which typically contains that lovely compound, high-fructose corn syrup.  Although fruit juice has vitamins, it’s also calorie-dense.)  I’d be the world’s biggest hypocrite if I told you to avoid beer, though.  The key is moderation.  Limit yourself to two a day at most.  If you guzzle a six pack of liquid bread every day, it will catch up with you sooner or later, causing more problems than just excess calories alone.  If you really must get wasted, limit that to once a week.  (Make sure you have a ride home too, especially if you don’t like going to jail or the hospital.  This shit’s real.)  Getting wasted on the weekend is still bad for you, but not as bad as pickling your liver every single day.

One pound of fat is about 3500 food calories, or kcal to be scientific about it.  So, if you eat six Big Macs with one medium side of fries (and a diet Coke to wash it down, of course), then you will gain about a pound.  It will take several hours around the jogging track to burn it off; the exact number depends on the running speed and your body mass.  Or, if you reduce your caloric intake by 500 calories a day after your binge, you’ll lose that pound in a week.  Reducing by 1000 calories a day means two pounds lost per week.  You don’t want to go any lower than that, or else starvation sets in, which will be counterproductive and bad for you in general.

Posts in this series

  1. Fitness and diet, part 1 – My journey, and why you should get the body you want
  2. Fitness and diet, part 2 – How to get started lifting weights
  3. Fitness and diet, part 3 – Nutrition 101
  4. Fitness and diet, part 4 (final) – How to avoid diet pitfalls

See also my first 50 posts and the main page

Fitness and diet, part 3