Abstainers versus Moderators


I recently read this article by Gretchen Rubin on Moderators and Abstainers, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot in relationship to my health and goals, namely to give up candy. Basically, the gist of the article is that you naturally fall into one category or the other when trying to break a habit. Moderators thrive on being able to have just a little bit of something – a “cheat meal” during the week, a day off from tracking food, etc. Abstainers, on the other hand, find it easier to just cut something out of their lives altogether and not open the door for “just a little.”

I was thinking about candy, and why I’m doing so badly on my goal to stop eating it, and I think it has a lot to do with trying to be an Abstainer when really I am totally a Moderator. Basically what happens is that after lunch, I really want something sweet. I try to chew gum, but all afternoon I’m thinking about candy. Finally I can’t take it anymore, and my thought process goes like this: “Okay, that’s it. I am having some candy… (10 minutes later)… Well, I already ruined my “no candy” goal for today, might as well have just one more…. (10 minutes later)… And actually, I’m back on the wagon tomorrow, so I should have a few more pieces today, since I won’t have any tomorrow, or the next day, or the next… In fact, this is probably the last time I’ll have candy for a few more weeks, so I should probably eat a lot…” And then before I know it, my desk is littered with candy wrappers. *sigh*

I thought about other fitness and nutrition goals with which I have had more success. I recently gave up soda, which was HUGE for me. But I didn’t give it up completely. I still have a soda about once every week or two, I just don’t drink it daily or for fun. But if I’m out for lunch or dinner and I want something other than water, it’s not a big deal. I get a soda. I think if I had tried to give up soda completely, I would have absolutely failed. But for me, leaving the door open a little bit has been the key. I don’t have to face no soda ever for the rest of my life, just not having soda every time I go out to lunch, or every Saturday, or every afternoon.

So, obviously I’m a Moderator. I need to know that the foods and drinks I love are still going to be a part of my life. 🙂 In regards to candy, let’s start at the beginning. What I really want is a piece of candy after lunch. One piece of candy is usually fewer than 100 calories. Really not a big deal. So my new goal is to do only that – one piece of candy after lunch.

And so far, so good. Last night we had the kids go through their candy to keep some and donate the rest, and there was a giant bowl of candy in the middle of the table. My first inclination was to grab several pieces since it was about to get donated. But instead, I made a little baggie to take to school to eat for my daily after-lunch treat. Major victory. 🙂

Day Two and counting…

Anyone else a Moderator?

Linking up with Jill Conyers at JillConyers.com and Jessica Joy at TheFitSwitch.org for The Fit Dish!

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9 Responses to Abstainers versus Moderators

  1. I am kind of both! I believe in everything in moderation but for some things I just don’t crave them anymore and are not part of my diet. That is the beauty of a lifestyle! 😉


    • I agree Elsie. I find once I moderate a food a lot, I gradually don’t crave it anymore because my body gets used to not having it regularly. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how infrequently I really do want to drink soda now that I don’t drink it daily anymore.


  2. Coco says:

    Great insight – and so important to figure out. I probably am a moderator, but there are foods I don’t buy anymore because I’m not good at enjoying them in moderation. 😉


  3. Normally I’m a moderator. I lost 110 pounds and kept it off for nearly 8 years. I recently gained about 10 back and now I’m an abstainer. Or trying to be! I need to to get back on track!


  4. jillconyers says:

    I’m a recovering abstainer! Moderation isn’t easy but it’s smarter than all or nothing.


  5. araekeech says:

    I think I would fall more into the category of moderator, However,when it comes to foods with harmful chemicals in them I try to cut those out for good or find a healthy alternatives.


  6. jeszaflik says:

    I am totally a moderator. I have tried and tried to be an abstainer, but it totally stinks. I don’t believe in things being forbidden. Living with moderation is a lot more fun and a whole lot less guilt inducing. I don’t need the negative feelings that go with abstaining.


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