I’ve recently been turned on to the idea that you are an Abstainer or a Moderator. I learned about this in, Better Than Before, a book about habits by Gretchen Rubin. (I read this book twice. I highly recommend it).
An Abstainer is someone who can completely remove something from their life and not give it another thought. In other words, they are at peace with the loss. When you abstain, you safe energy and will-power because you don’t have to make a decision that requires these resources. If you never do something, you don’t have to count on self-control to help you not do it.
For example, an Abstainer can remove sugar from their diet and find that it’s actually easier to be around food because sugar is off limits. The elimination of sugar removes the mental energy that goes into thinking about if you will or will not indulge in the sweet stuff.
A Moderator is someone who will give themselves to the occasional “treat” and this strengthens their self-control. If they are not allowed to indulge, they may rebel. When they have something in moderation, they don’t crave it.
A Moderator will eat a small amount of sugar a day and feel satisfied with that. You won’t find yourself consuming more and more sugar as the day goes on. However, if you don’t allow yourself the sugar, you will be craving it to no end.
Up until recently, I equated being an Abstainer to being deprived. When I used to abstain from something it was because I wanted to lose weight or change myself in some way. But the more I tried to abstain, the more I would be angry, frustrated and thinking about the thing I was abstaining from.
Abstainers are generally more black and white, they don’t like being in the grey area. Moderators can tolerate a little bit of uncertainty.
Why should this matter for you? Because when you know if you are an Abstainer or Moderator, you can stop working against yourself. This means that you will release all that mental energy that goes into figuring out if you should have that second cookie, a piece of pizza, or a glass of wine.
I experienced abstaining with certain foods and alcohol when I decided to take the Whole30 challenge. Whole30 is a nutritional reset program, but it’s highly specific as to what you can and cannot eat to reap the benefits of the program. You can read more about my experience with it here.
The whole point of eating extremely clean for 30 days is to see how your body operates without dairy, sugar, gluten, legumes, and grains. All of these things are not allowed for 30 days. If you even have a teaspoon of creamer in your coffee within the 30 days, you will undo all the work you have done up to that point. Talk about abstaining!
I didn’t find it the least bit difficult to eat this way for 30 days. And my mind was much clearer because I didn’t have to think about what I wanted to eat versus what I should eat. I just knew that if a food had dairy, sugar, gluten, legumes, or grains in it, I wasn’t touching it. This is why I think I am more of an Abstainer.
If you are interested in figuring out if you are an Abstainer or a Moderator, Rubin recommends asking yourself, “Could you eat one square of chocolate every day?” If so, then you are a Moderator. If the desire to eat more is present, then you are an Abstainer.
As for me, I truly do believe that abstaining from sugar, flour, and alcohol has made my life a lot easier. There are certain thoughts that I don’t have to entertain anymore or act on, and that has been such a relief.
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