My Symbiont Part 3 of 3

By Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am — Filed under:

If my digestive tract is a symbiont inside of me, how do I communicate with it? If there is a dumb animal inside of me that controls how much I eat, how do I tell it what I want? If there is a beast within me that makes me overeat, how do I retrain it?

Sid Loves The Summer Sun by LauraMoncur from FlickrIt all made me think back to my dog, Sid. We adopted Sid as an adult dog from a rescue shelter. He came knowing a few tricks, but he didn’t know the most important three: sit, come and stay. How did we teach him those tricks?

  • Positive Reinforcement: We gave him treats when he did things right. He usually did them right by accident, but when he did, we gave him a treat and LOTS of praise.
  • Negative Reinforcement: We scolded him when he did things wrong. We withheld the treat when he didn’t do the trick correctly.
  • Repetition: We spent HOURS and HOURS working with him. There were some days when we put his food in a bowl and doled it out a few kibbles at a time as treats to teach him what he needed to know.
  • Mimicry: I’ve heard that some dogs learn tricks from other dogs. We’ve never been able to do that with Sid because he’s an only dog, but I’ve seen that happen with others.

The problem is, my symbiont isn’t a dog. Most importantly, it’s a lot dumber than my dog. How do I retrain the beast within me?

Animals want a lot of things. You can reward them with food, but there are a lot of things that the beast inside of me may be appeased with:

  • Sex
  • Food
  • Praise
  • Play
  • Comfort
  • Safety
  • Community / Pack / Herd

Whenever I’m thinking about how to reward the beast within me, I look at this list.

I think it’s very important that I give the reward immediately after the healthy act. So, if I exercise, I eat some healthy food immediately afterward. If I choose a healthy dish, I immediately praise myself. If I refrain from eating dessert, I grab my Nintendo DS and play a fun game as a reward. If I have a perfect day, I spend some time with a good friend either on the phone or in person.

I realize that this is not a quick process. It took us MONTHS to train Sid how to sit, come and stay and he was only a two year old dog. My symbiont has had forty years of controlling my actions, so retraining it to do things that are healthy for me will take some time.

Thinking of my body as a joined species with my intellect as one and my digestive tract as the other has really helped me. There are times when I call Sid and he STILL doesn’t come. He’s just a dumb animal and needs a little more training. The same is true for my symbiont. I’m in the process of retraining the beast inside of me.


7 Responses to “My Symbiont Part 3 of 3”

  1. Renee Says:

    I appreciate this 3 parter Laura! I just want you to know that I read your posts just about everyday while I’m at work during my lunch break. For the past year after finding this site, your posts have been one of my motivators in coming to grips with “actually” changing my “eating” lifestyle cultupuling me down 56 lbs over the last year now!

    Thank you for your courage to write about things that so many of us confront!

  2. angela Says:

    I like the idea of playing the DS. That would be a good reward for me. Also my WII. I really need to get back on track, it’s amazing how fast this beast can fall backwards.

  3. Kristin Norris Says:

    you inspired me: http://geogiahealth.com/uncategorized/how-to-defeat-the-hydra/

  4. Laura Moncur Says:


    Great job! 56 pounds is a phenomenal achievement! Keep up the good work!


    I watched your video for how to Defeat the Hydra! Excellent!

  5. Nicky Says:

    Hi Laura! Your 2006 video made me sad – I felt so bad for you. I hope every day today is not as much of a struggle.

    I noticed that you actually use food as a reward for when you exercise…do you think that perhaps a non-food reward would help decrease your obsessional thoughts about food more effectively?

    I’m also very concerned about your statement, “If I have a perfect day, I spend some time with a good friend either on the phone or in person.” Two issues – first, the focus on having a “perfect day”. You should feel good even if you have a “pretty good day.” Perfectionism is the route to self-hatred. Second issue – you need to reward yourself with positive social interaction WHETHER OR NOT you had a good or “perfect” day. Positive social interaction may be even MORE important after a “horrible” day – it can help you take better care of yourself the next day!

    Good luck – and be good to yourself!

  6. wanda Says:

    I like the point system also,but i needa book can anyone tell me where i can get a book. i like day2 in the book.

  7. wanda Says:

    I need a old book can anyone tell me how to get one, i like to do the point sysytem day 2 is my favorite.

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