4

votes

Self-administered aversion therapy for food cravings?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created March 28, 2013 at 12:40 AM

I'm trying to find a way to stop my food cravings/binge cravings because even the W30 (day 16 so far) isn't cutting it. Aversion therapy really fits with my personality (always looking for a reason to punish myself) and I know it helps people quit smoking but Googling stuff like "aversion therapy overeating" and "aversion therapy food cravings" isn't getting me very far.

If you didn't know, aversion therapy is when you're trained to stop liking something by associating an unpleasant stimulus with it. So for example, to stop smoking, maybe the therapist would play a really terrible noise when you reach for a cigarette so you'd associate the cigarette with that noise instead of the pleasure of smoking it. Then it's easier to quit because it's not pleasant any more.

So far I have 2 real ideas:

  1. Use the rubber band method: keep a rubber band around my wrist and when I have cravings for SAD foods, snap myself. Problem: it's hard to do in company without raising awkward questions and I doubt it would be enough pain.
  2. Google pictures of SAD foods I crave and photoshop stuff onto them that I'm afraid of, like needles under the fingernails and stuff. Then force myself to look at the pictures every time I have a craving so I start associating the foods with the fear. Problem: don't always have a computer with me.

FWIW I have binge eating problems so I've done the 'eat until it makes you sick' thing and that doesn't work as aversion therapy for me. I start wanting the food again as soon as I feel better.

Has anyone tried something similar? Any advice?

61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10490)

on March 29, 2013
at 02:01 AM

Hit bottom? No, Maria, I give you more credit than that. You are no Bill Bailey. ;) Seriously, though, use him as an example of just how more irrational a person can be.

Fd7b128cf714044a86d8bd822c7a8992

(4292)

on March 28, 2013
at 11:58 PM

AxialGentleman, that's the most helpful comment of this thread! Thank you! I did enough Googling to know not to use ipecac; I'm going to look around and see what I can come up with. I'm sure I can find something...

72cf727474b8bf815fdc505e58cadfea

on March 28, 2013
at 10:28 PM

Research has found that people learn more quickly when the aversive stimulus is the type of thing that the food in question might normally evoke. In other words, you learn to avoid food that makes you feel sick. Maybe pair the food with a contaminant that will cause you nausea? I don't know of one off the top of my head, though. (warning: don't use ipecac. that stuff doesn't cause nausea, it causes uncontrollable full-body smooth muscle spasms. Your heart is a smooth muscle.)

26b0f1261d1a0d916825bd0deeb96a21

(5798)

on March 28, 2013
at 10:24 PM

Maybe bulked-up, yes! LOl

Fd7b128cf714044a86d8bd822c7a8992

(4292)

on March 28, 2013
at 10:09 PM

I hear you when you talk about giving up hope of eating these foods again, and not looking for an excuse to eat them. I think that's the point I'm trying to get to. I'm at that point with some foods (like soda...I just don't care for it and don't want it anymore; would be unmoved if it disappeared from the earth forever) but obviously not all. Thanks for your input and congratulations on your own progress!

Fd7b128cf714044a86d8bd822c7a8992

(4292)

on March 28, 2013
at 10:06 PM

*You may start to enjoy the aversions you are doing to yourself and that would not be good.* Gotta admit, I'm not worried about "further irrational thinking patterns" because I think I've already hit bottom there, but the idea that I might enjoy the aversions really gives me pause for thought. Thanks for bringing it up!

Fd7b128cf714044a86d8bd822c7a8992

(4292)

on March 28, 2013
at 07:47 PM

I used to work in a dining hall - one 6-hour shift manning a cotton candy machine was enough to make me gag at the thought of smelling it again. That's actually why I thought of doing it for SAD foods in general!

A003a0e704118f11b86a6e1fbbb13cd7

(284)

on March 28, 2013
at 05:13 PM

Keep going with the W30... you may still be stuck in the "Now give me a damn twinkie" portion of their timeline. http://whole9life.com/2012/06/the-whole30-timeline/

Fd7b128cf714044a86d8bd822c7a8992

(4292)

on March 28, 2013
at 03:58 PM

I'm actually underweight if anything, and trying to gain! I guess I could Photoshop myself fat maybe?

Fd7b128cf714044a86d8bd822c7a8992

(4292)

on March 28, 2013
at 03:57 PM

(correction: by "a mix of healthy and unhealthy" what I probably should have said is "a mix of junk food and real food" or something...what I meant was that it isn't all just candy and sugar)

Fd7b128cf714044a86d8bd822c7a8992

(4292)

on March 28, 2013
at 03:56 PM

I crave sugar (Oreos, Nutella, ice cream, cake, brownies, anything chocolate...), fresh crispy bread, lentil soup...a mix of healthy and unhealthy foods. I will also binge on nuts and fruit given the opportunity which is why I never eat them either. I have an A+ diet (my Paleo-friendly nutritionist had no complaints) so I doubt it's a deficiency. I don't restrict calories. I think in my case it's mostly mental. It's interesting that aversion therapy stopped working for you though; if you feel comfortable telling me more about it I'd love to know!

Fd7b128cf714044a86d8bd822c7a8992

(4292)

on March 28, 2013
at 03:53 PM

I wasn't messing around haha. My entire personality is totally based on self-hate; it's like this crazy mobius strip of negativity haha. I've just accepted that's the way I am and I'm trying to work with it instead of transform myself into someone else.

89fa2da4805b0b4e54b77a5a20a2e206

(2097)

on March 28, 2013
at 05:26 AM

not sure if you were just messing round when u say " fits with my personality (always looking for a reason to punish myself).- but maybe some therapy combined with cognitive therapy to get to the bottom of the issue as to 'why" you feel compelled to binge and consequently punish yourself for it and to regain a healthy relationship with foods. Also i would be sure im reaching nutrient recommendations by entering foods in a log like cronometer. Could be a particular deficiency is the underlying cause.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on March 28, 2013
at 01:52 AM

I had severe food and sugar cravings. I was led to believe "it was all in my head". No, it has nothing to do with your head. It is a biochemical reaction. Now I know I had SIBO and sugar/carb/food cravings is a symptom.

  • Fd7b128cf714044a86d8bd822c7a8992

    asked by

    (4292)
  • Views
    14.5K
  • Last Activity
    1523D AGO
Frontpage book

Get FREE instant access to our Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!

6 Answers

3
42cd0feeeda5fa2e2fe1c4fd8255073a

on March 28, 2013
at 01:08 AM

What kind of foods do you crave and at what point in time? There could be reasons behind these food cravings, such as amino acid or other nutrients difficiences, allergy-addictions (like gluten or dairy), hormonal imbalances, low-calorie dieting etc, that are screwing with your brain signals. I highly recommend reading "The Diet Cure" by Julia Ross and "Brain over Binge" by Kathryn Hansen. These 2 combined are powerful tools in understanding that sometimes our bodies' biochemistry is all twisted and some simple mind tweaking and diet changes can have a huge impact.

For me, I searched high and low for a reason why I had crazy food cravings (& no, I wasn't pregnant). Things like aversion therapy worked for a week before I just began ignoring them. The same goes for CBT and other traditional therapies. For me, it was a combination of learning to listen, accept, but then not act and simply let go of these thoughts and cravings, then choosing to fuel my body with nutrient dense foods and supplementing where necessary (often our bodies' real cravings are being masked by superficial cravings for addictive sweets and processed foods).

Fd7b128cf714044a86d8bd822c7a8992

(4292)

on March 28, 2013
at 03:57 PM

(correction: by "a mix of healthy and unhealthy" what I probably should have said is "a mix of junk food and real food" or something...what I meant was that it isn't all just candy and sugar)

Fd7b128cf714044a86d8bd822c7a8992

(4292)

on March 28, 2013
at 03:56 PM

I crave sugar (Oreos, Nutella, ice cream, cake, brownies, anything chocolate...), fresh crispy bread, lentil soup...a mix of healthy and unhealthy foods. I will also binge on nuts and fruit given the opportunity which is why I never eat them either. I have an A+ diet (my Paleo-friendly nutritionist had no complaints) so I doubt it's a deficiency. I don't restrict calories. I think in my case it's mostly mental. It's interesting that aversion therapy stopped working for you though; if you feel comfortable telling me more about it I'd love to know!

2
96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on March 28, 2013
at 06:16 AM

I have a 40 year history of binge eating. I managed to stay on whole foods for a full year but my cravings for wheat never disappeared so it was basically a feat of willpower. The root problem, I now believe, was that in my mind I never accepted my wheat sensitivity and had an unconscious goal to resume eating it at some point. Since I couldn't surrender my false hope, the cravings remained intense.

During the year just past, I have cycled onto and off of wheat at least 3 times and that became my aversion therapy. It absolutely makes me sick to eat wheat products. I have symptoms of chronic fatigue, mental fog, acid reflux and all-around unhappy gut. I have no hope now and that's a good thing. As a side note, I'm also lactose intolerant so I limit my dairy intake to small quantities of cream, butter and eggs.

One week after getting off wheat my waist measurement goes down several inches as the bloating disappears. By 2 weeks clear, I feel so good I can't stand myself and you won't hear many 66-year-old women say that. There's no reflux at all and my gums become happy and healthy. I wake up alert and don't slow down until evening.

After a month clear, I have noticeably lost weight again and I'm more and more active as I stay off the wheat. I also don't have cravings, because it's a clear choice between illness and health. Not to mention that the healthy food actually tastes a lot better than the junk when your emotions finally get out of the way.

I'm not recommending you follow my path, but I do recommend you stay in constant conversation with yourself about what is driving your cravings. Is wheat or some other food causing your cravings/binges? If your trigger is a non-paleo food, have you really and truly accepted that it has to be gone from your life before you can have a healthy relationship with food? Or is there some part of you looking for an excuse to indulge that craving?

As binge eaters, we have a tough road finding our way out of the binge habit. I will list just a few of my successful tricks:

  • I accept that I get pleasure from sipping coffee all morning. My taste buds won't tolerate it black so I use a little heavy cream and less than a tsp of spun honey. Some days I have one mug and some days two. I've found I don't need solid food until mid-day or later if I'm sipping coffee and I simply enjoy it. I don't seem to react to the honey and it doesn't seem to prevent weight loss.

  • I accept that I have a large appetite. Therefore, my meals have a lot of food volume and I take my time eating. I don't eat again until my meal is fully processed and digested and I am actively hungry, which in my case is usually the next day. I almost always eat just one meal per day.

  • A typical meal for me would be a whole grapefruit, a large crunchy salad (mostly low-carb greens and vegetables, with perhaps a few olives) plus meat, generally fatty beef with occasional pork or chicken or fish.

  • Two or 3 days per week I eat a "veggie bake" in 2 parts: a good-sized baked potato, either white or sweet, plus a mixed dish/foil pack of onion, celery, carrots and some green vegetable with plenty of butter. The potato gets flattened and the mixed veggie pack gets dumped on top. On those days, I don't normally eat any meat and frequently don't eat fruit either. This gives me better variety than eating the same meal every day.

  • Once every week or two, I never get hungry all day so I simply don't eat solid food that day. I never eat unless I'm overtly hungry.

  • I still find it unsettling to eat in a group setting. At a recent potluck, I didn't eat anything "illegal" but the excitement of the event left me feeling "binge fever" when I got home--I'm sure you know what I mean by that. I didn't try to fight it at all; I ate a dish of jello with cream and fruit and didn't waste any energy on guilt. The next day I just went back to my formula of fruit, salad and meat and I was just fine.

I wish you well in your internal conversation and ongoing experiments in finding what works for you.

Fd7b128cf714044a86d8bd822c7a8992

(4292)

on March 28, 2013
at 10:09 PM

I hear you when you talk about giving up hope of eating these foods again, and not looking for an excuse to eat them. I think that's the point I'm trying to get to. I'm at that point with some foods (like soda...I just don't care for it and don't want it anymore; would be unmoved if it disappeared from the earth forever) but obviously not all. Thanks for your input and congratulations on your own progress!

1
532cfd279d793e8fcc23b9f6d91dde5c

(1981)

on March 28, 2013
at 07:14 PM

I worked at a donut shop for a boss who screamed and nagged us all day long. Haven't eaten a donut since I was 16, nor wanted one. Involuntary aversion therapy?

Fd7b128cf714044a86d8bd822c7a8992

(4292)

on March 28, 2013
at 07:47 PM

I used to work in a dining hall - one 6-hour shift manning a cotton candy machine was enough to make me gag at the thought of smelling it again. That's actually why I thought of doing it for SAD foods in general!

1
61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10490)

on March 28, 2013
at 05:06 PM

I upvoted the question because I think it is very interesting and I'm glad you brought it up! However, I do NOT think this would be a good idea for you.

You said that you have binge eating problems and that you are the type of person that is always looking to punish yourself. This punishment/aversion therapy may just end up further perpetuating irrational thinking patterns and behaviors, or start a new set of them. You may start to enjoy the aversions you are doing to yourself and that would not be good. It sounds like you recognize that you have a problem, but not that it is a serious one.

I think that you should get some professional advice and help with these issues.

Fd7b128cf714044a86d8bd822c7a8992

(4292)

on March 28, 2013
at 10:06 PM

*You may start to enjoy the aversions you are doing to yourself and that would not be good.* Gotta admit, I'm not worried about "further irrational thinking patterns" because I think I've already hit bottom there, but the idea that I might enjoy the aversions really gives me pause for thought. Thanks for bringing it up!

61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10490)

on March 29, 2013
at 02:01 AM

Hit bottom? No, Maria, I give you more credit than that. You are no Bill Bailey. ;) Seriously, though, use him as an example of just how more irrational a person can be.

1
26b0f1261d1a0d916825bd0deeb96a21

(5798)

on March 28, 2013
at 01:17 AM

Are the food cravings bothering you because you are overfat or just because they are unhealthy? If it is because you are overfat, you can try taking a picture of yourself in a bikini and look at that when you have a craving, or look at a picture of your goal fit-body when you have a craving, or both. Sounds weird, but it helps me.

Fd7b128cf714044a86d8bd822c7a8992

(4292)

on March 28, 2013
at 03:58 PM

I'm actually underweight if anything, and trying to gain! I guess I could Photoshop myself fat maybe?

26b0f1261d1a0d916825bd0deeb96a21

(5798)

on March 28, 2013
at 10:24 PM

Maybe bulked-up, yes! LOl

0
7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6

(11214)

on March 28, 2013
at 05:44 PM

I was going to suggest you read up on the Shangri-la diet and learn about the flavor/calories association, but then I noticed you mentioned you are underweight.

I think the solution is to eat good paleo food. If the cravings don't go away, eat more. There is a very high likelihood that these cravings are merely your body's way of telling you you need more food- more nutrition. Have some liver.

Answer Question


Get FREE instant access to our
Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!