How To Cure Cravings By Using Radical Indulgence

Radical indulgence: the act of overdoing your whims and desires.

I’m often asked a variation the following question: “Do you ever crave meat or any other foods that you don’t eat?”

My answer is no. I have not craved meat even once since I stopped eating it. I believe it’s because of a complete mindset shift when I made the decision. It was a slow process, but when it happened I was all-in.

That said, I do crave other unhealthy foods. Sometimes I crave pizza. Sometimes I crave potato chips. Sometimes I crave Dr Pepper.

Like most cravings, these usually go away fairly quickly and I’ll just eat a banana or whatever else is handy.

But sometimes I’ll have a persistent craving.

And when that happens, although it’s not often, I practice what I call radical indulgence.

Warning! Radical indulgence is … well … radical.

I stopped drinking soda when I was 20 years old. That’s not to say that I never drink soda, but it’s very rare.

And yet, sometimes I get an irresistible craving for Dr Pepper (or its cheap Wal-Mart counterpart with the much more fun name of Dr Thunder). My friend Kenny can attest to this. Once or twice over the 5 years I have known him I have gone on a Dr Pepper/Dr Thunder binge.

One Week of Dr Thunder!

When I have an irresistible craving, instead of feeling stressed and letting the craving fester, I go all out. (Photo is proof.) I indulge the craving to the far extreme. Breakfast/lunch/dinner.

So why do I do this?

Have you ever heard a story about a teenager going out to drink, coming home drunk, and their Parents either forcing them to drink until puking or forcing them to stay awake until absolute exhaustion? It’s similar to that, although it’s more effective since you have complete control. (Nothing will work long term if you’re forced into it.)

When I go through a soda binge I get so sick of the drink that it’s a very long time before I care to drink it again. Although I’ve drank soda since that last binge in the photo, it’s very rare.

Usually the indulgence is not so radical and I’ve done this on a smaller scale as well. A few weeks ago a friend of mine was talking about eating potato chips with everything. Potato chips with bananas, potato chips with breakfast, potato chips with tea, and so on. I thought it was hilarious. And then I found myself craving potato chips. The craving didn’t go away, so I went out, bought a back of potato chips, and ate the whole damn thing.

If you’re the type of person who can’t indulge in cravings because they will turn into full-blown addictions then this technique obviously isn’t for you. What I mean is, indulging your heroin habit by overdosing isn’t a good idea. :)

But it’s perfectly OK to indulge in most persistent cravings for short periods of time. Some people who do diets (I don’t believe in dieting) advocate cheat days where you can eat whatever you want. Radical indulgence is similar except it might last just an hour (a bag of potato chips) or a whole week (17 bottles of soda) and it is practiced with much less regularity. There is no “radical indulgence” day every week. That would be far too often.

Once you begin eating healthier foods and leading a generally healthier lifestyle most of your bad cravings will go away.

When your cravings just won’t go away, practice radical indulgence and let me know how it goes.

{ 38 comments }

Kenny Eller

Haha, yes I can verify the Dr. Thunder binges. :-) So funny!

I follow a similiar route and indulge if I really like something. Remember the bean dip…hahah. After buying like 12 jars of it, I was trying to give that stuff away to anyone who came to the house! :-)

I think I have a bit of an addictive personality, so I mentally tell myself I’m addicted to nothing, that nothing controls me and can usually cut out anything if I feel I’m loosing control (chips ahoy cookies and milk right now…haha).

I do also agree that when you begin living a healthier lifestyle, unhealthy foods are less appealing overall. I haven’t craved fast food in such a long time. Besides the cookies, I’m eating fairly healthy these days. All the running, etc has me wanting good foods.

It think your point, “nothing will work long term if you’re forced into it,” is why there are so many yo-yo dieters. Totally depriving yourself forever isn’t the answer and usually never works, that’s why people fall of of diets. The key is to create a lifestyle.

Another good post that is dead on!

Karol

I remember the bean dip. :) You gave me a jar. Great stuff!

“I mentally tell myself I’m addicted to nothing” – I like that phrasing and I do something similar. But I call it lying to myself. :)

Thanks Kenny!

Marios

Karol, I think from time to time we all have craving for the things we gave up as you said soda, meat, etc.. Its very hard to give up things that we like even for a few days, but its a good exercise to see what kind of power you have, Can you stick to a plan and commit to it. This will help you in any kind of business, because I believe that focus and commitment is everything,

Great Post,

Marios

Karol

Thanks Marios.

Like I said I’ve never craved meat. I’ve never had a strong enough mindset shift for soda or potato chips so I still get cravings sometimes.

Jen

In college, I accidentally learned the power of radical indulgence in regard to ice cream. Some of the guys would make each other 64 ounce milkshakes for birthdays. They missed my birthday, so on someone else’s birthday, they made me a 64 ounce milkshake and told me I had one hour to drink it. I gave in to the peer pressure and finished all 64 ounces of that milkshake in 45 minutes. However, within 15 minutes, I was out in the front yard puking it all up. I didn’t eat ice cream for 3 years. I went from being someone who ate ice cream 3 or 4 times a week to eating ice cream maybe 3 times a year. And I don’t miss it.

So, I definitely think there is something to be said for binge eating to deal with cravings. I may have to apply it to my obsession with chips and guacamole.

Karol

Whoa! Yeah, a 64 ounce milkshake will do that. ;)

Thanks for sharing your story Jen!

Jen

My apologies if puke stories gross people out, but you know what surprised me most about that experience? That the ice cream was still cold when it came back up. So weird.

Karol

HAHA! whoa, that is interesting indeed :)

Amelia Jane

I totally recommended this approach to my Grandma this morning. She’s currently eating a loooot of chocolate and said to me ‘I suppose I’m being a bit naughty’. Hell no! In a week or so, I know she’ll get over it, so why not enjoy it now! Myself, I overdosed on BN chocolate cream biscuits when I was 12 and I still can’t look at a packet without thinking…No, gawd, no. I learnt then to over-indulge whatever cravings I had if I wanted to them to go away the fastest. Unfortunately, this has led to my having a particularly high tolerance for sugar, so my radical indulgences are, uh, spectactularly radical :S

Karol

hehe :) Thanks for sharing Amelia!

Brad Shepherd

I love your strategy, and completely agree. I try to eat really healthy, but there are lots of things I like eating that don’t make it on the healthy list. People ask me similar questions to what you’re talking about, wondering if they have to be perfect in their food choices or perfect if they decide to make a complete change in food philosophy (meat, dairy, etc). I’m with you. Hell no. If you’re eating healthy the vast majority of the time, and then allow yourself to endulge guilt-free every once in a while, life’s a fricken blast. Nothing like enjoying a sweetness buzz today and not regreting it tomorrow.

Karol

Hey Brad, yeah, it’s not so much guilt-free for me … it’s just that sometimes the stress of the craving (i.e. it’s persistent for more than a day or two) is more detrimental (mentally anyway) than indulging. That said, it’s very very rare. I can’t stress that enough. Radical indulgence can’t be a weekly thing like a “diet cheat day.”

Lach

Interesting. I’m curious about your general attitude to diet and nutrition: What’s the point of Radical Indulgence? Is it, like in the binge drinking example, do make the craving go away forever? Do you ordinarily try to resist your desire for these things before you decide to use Radical Indulgence? What do you find to be the biggest benefit of your diet choice?

Karol

Hey Lach,

Didn’t I answer these questions in the article? :)

What’s the point of Radical Indulgence? To cure the craving. It’s in the headline. ;)
Is it, like in the binge drinking example, do make the craving go away forever? Not necessarily. I haven’t craved soda for years since the last binge.
Do you ordinarily try to resist your desire for these things before you decide to use Radical Indulgence? Yes, it’s in the article. Radical indulgence is to be used very rarely, when the craving just won’t go away.
What do you find to be the biggest benefit of your diet choice? I feel kick ass all the time! :)

Cheers,
Karol

Lach

“Didn’t I answer these questions in the article?”.

Kind of, but then you went on to say that most of the time the craving isn’t that radical and so you just indulge on a smaller scale, which sounded to me pretty much like just eating what you want, whenever :) I wondered if you grapple with the cravings for a time before you decide to go the indulgence route. If the grappling was ever successful etc.

Karol

The smaller scale just means that I don’t always (usually never) need to eat something for a week for the craving to go away. Like the potato chips, the craving lasted over a day so I ate a bag and haven’t craved them since. Eating a bag of potato chips is radical to me. I guess for most people that’s an every day thing though.

Lach

“I feel kick ass all the time! :)”

Nice. Others have reported huge energy benefits of raw / vegan diets. I’m curious how many hours of sleep you need per night to maintain sustainable ass kicking? I find any less than 6 and I crash. Even then I need a recharge on the weekend.

Karol

I sleep between 7-8. But if I’m out until 4 or 5am and need to wake up early I can function on less. That’s not sustainable for more than a day or two, of course.

Also, nap-a-day. 20 minutes in the middle of the day.

Jason Dudley

I once radically indulged on MacDonalds with a friend by, between us, eating EVERY SINGLE ITEM on the menu (btw, I’m from Australia and I don’t think our MacDonald’s menus have as much to choose from, but it was still a mean feat). It took us about 2.5 hours and afterwards I literally felt drunk/high on all the sugar/fat to the point where I had difficulty driving my car home. At the time I thought to myself, I definitely won’t want to eat MacDonald’s for a long time, but oddly enough I craved a cheeseburger the next day. Perhaps it’s because fat/sugar is so damn addictive?

Karol

Hey Jason,

Interesting you bring up McD’s … my friend Kenny (mentioned in the article) can also attest to the last burger I ever ate, which was McDonald’s. We had an eating competition during the NBA playoffs and eating the burgers/doing pushups (it’s hard to explain, hehe) absolutely obliterated any desire to ever eat meat again. That desire was already very small, and that competition just put it over the edge.

That said … that is INSANE that you ate everything at McDonald’s! haha. I don’t know if the Oz menu is different than US, as I never looked at it when I was there. But I imagine it’s still a lofty menu anyway. :)

I think the reason it maybe didn’t work for you to cure a craving is because you weren’t trying to cure a craving … and you ate a variety, so there was nothing to get sick of. If all you ate was cheeseburgers you probably wouldn’t be able to look at another one for a very long time.

Karol

Walter

To be honest, this method is extremely effective. It is like cloying your urge to the point that you want to resist it. :-)

Karol

Yes, that’s exactly it! Thank you for being much more eloquent than I and stating it so beautifully. :)

Meg

Once a month or so I have a one-woman, one-bag potato chip binge, with my absolute favorite kettle chips. Sometimes with a beer, sometimes with a hard cider. Or maybe just a seltzer with lime. Just a fun day, y’know ;)

Karol

hehe :) I’m not sure that’s radical indulgence. Again, there’s no set schedule for this, but every week, or every month even, is too much. If you were to eat those kettle chips all day one day you’d probably never want them again. ;)

Milt

wondering if this would work with quitting smoking ?

Like the drunk teenager, I have heard of parents catching their kids smoking would make them chain smoke a full packet till they puke.

Karol

Hey Milt!

Yes, it was mentioned to me on twitter that Tony Robbins used this technique to cure a smoker.

Karol

Matt

This is something I’ve thought about before, mainly regarding drinking alcohol. I’ve noticed that if I ever drink enough to be really hungover the next day, I become driven not only to eliminate all alcohol from my diet for several weeks, but even more importantly, to take control of other aspects in my life, from diet to organization to exercise. I guess what I’m overindulging in when I drink is not just alcohol, but irresponsibility in general!

Speaking of Tony Robbins above, this is the technique that his mom used on him to prevent him from ever drinking. He wanted to be like his dad and drink beer, so his mom told him he could if he’d drink a whole six pack. He puked after two and never drank beer after that. (According to him.)

Karol

Now that you mention it, I remember the Tony Robbins 6-pack story as well. :)

Although I really don’t think this works for alcohol once you’ve already been drinking or nobody would be an alcoholic. I would not try this for anything that could kill you in one go.

Rosa

OMG! I though I was the only one who did this. Whenever I tell people how I cure cravings they think I am crazy. I have done this several times and it totally works.

Karol

That’s awesome Rosa!

Nyle

This is indeed a timely post. Last night (my birthday) I ate an entire Achatz German chocolate pie. They’re hand made by an Amish family using uber high quality, all natural ingredients. Suprisingly, I don’t feel sick today, I don’t regret doing it, and I would definitely do it again. Next time your in MI you have to try one. A whole one. In one sitting. The guantlet has been thrown down.

Karol

If it’s vegan I may just take that challenge.

Rosa

I do believe Achatz has vegan pies :) get ready Karol !

Karol

Oh no, are you challenging me as well Rosa?! :)

Rosa

I am!

Jonny Gibaud

I defiantly agree with this approach.

I once wrote article entitles “How I lose weight on a high fat diet” where I explained that for 2-3 days each months I tend to binge and eat nothing but a high fat and high sugar diet. This does me in for the month and I rarely indulge again and those over the month I am able to keep in shape.

Now you have me craving Dr P also, dammit I’m gonna have to go to the shop.

Karol

Interesting! I feel like 2-3 days is a helluva lot, but if it works it works! :)

Don’t let the Dr P craving get to you. ;)

Steve

I am also being strict on myself, and I’m really craving some DP now. Thanks for that :) I might go for the diet version to at least limit sugar intake.

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