Stop Signs

Innovation | 28 September 2017
Keith Walkerby Keith Walker

The morning after. We’ve all been there, probably more often than we’d care to admit. The swift half after work that turned into the whole evening. You didn’t need to open that last bottle of wine with dinner did you? And what idiot suggested brandies afterwards? Ah, that would’ve been me. It’s not just alcohol. Did you really eat that last slice of cake? Actually it was two slices. Big ones. A thumping great full English fry up two mornings running. Come on, you know none of this is doing you any good. In moderation it’s fine but that’s the problem isn’t it? It seems like it’s never in moderation.

It’s not surprising that we find it so hard to resist over indulging. Our conscious, rational minds are fighting a powerful enemy within. One that evolved over millions of years to help us survive, that was once our ally but now can be our deadliest foe.

We’re hardwired to seek out and binge on some things. Foods high in carbohydrates, fats and sugar all tigger the release of endorphins, hormones that bind to receptors that excite the pleasure centre in our brains. These chemical signals are our reward for giving our bodies the ‘high value’ fuel they need and encouragement to find more. Our limbic systems are giving us positive feedback saying, ‘yes, I like that, give me more’. Rather than ‘enough’ all our bodies ever say is ‘more’. Is it any wonder that our will power struggles against our ancient biology?

Ten thousand years ago these types of food were hard to come by. Even a hundred years ago fatty meat and sugar were occasional luxuries for the vast majority of people. The trouble is that these once rare, precious treats are now, for most of us at least, all too common. The consequences of this are currently playing out in most developed societies.

The problem doesn’t end there. We’ve found other things that trigger our pleasure centres even more powerfully, things that subvert our reward system to no useful end. Alcohol and nicotine may be natural, they’re simple organic chemicals after all, but in evolutionary terms our bodies aren’t used to them. To our limbic systems they seem like a very good idea even though our rational minds know we should take it easy.

At any one time most of these temptations are self limiting. If we keep eating carbs eventually we get bloated, over doing fat or sugar we end up feeling sick and drinking too much booze makes us pass out. (The latter being the simplest, most effective form of self-limiting.) This certainly stops us in the short term even if it doesn’t prevent the extra pounds, hangovers and self-loathing. It gives us time to reflect and, if we’re lucky, learn. The exception to this is smoking. We can puff away with few short term consequences beyond a rough throat and a heavy chest the morning after.

Fortunately there is an almost natural short-term limit to smoking as well, albeit an externally imposed one. Nicotine has traditionally come in a pre-measured quantity: the cigarette. Unless we’re in extremis, chain smoking ourselves stupid, we’re usually content with one, putting the rest aside when we’ve stubbed out our allotted dose. Yes, we can and do pull the pack out again all too soon but, if we’re honest with ourselves, we know we’re over doing it. We can bring some will power to bear against our primitive desire.

There’s little doubt that vaping is much better for us than smoking tobacco. However, the current vaping kit does have some problems, one of which is that there’s no natural end to a vape session, nothing to say ‘you’ve had enough’. Without such a signal we’re in danger of walking around with our vapes puffing like a steam train all day long. We know that our unconscious isn’t going to intervene, in fact it’ll encourage us to keep on, so we need some help. What we need is a familiar stop sign.

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AYR has one. The glowdown indicators work like a cigarette burning down. You can see when your session is coming to an end and, with a little will power, put it back in its case to be recharged ready for next time. A natural break just like you’re used to.

In fact it’s even better than that. If you download the AYR app you can automatically track your usage. Rather than trying to remember how many packets this week you can see at a glance how much you’ve vaped neatly charted over time. Whether you’re committed to quitting, cutting down or just trying to keep things steady being able to see how much you’re vaping is great support and encouragement.

Short and long term, AYR helps you keep your vaping under control. Now if only someone would come up with something as clever to help us deal with the rest of our surfeits.

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