Lately, I have been into listening to podcasts. I listen in the car, at work, while I’m cooking, while I’m cleaning, basically all the time. One podcast I have been glued to is the Balanced Bites podcast with Diane Sanfilippo and Liz Wolfe. I’m making my way through the 290 plus episodes and loving every minute of it. If you are looking for a great podcast about health and food, I would definitely check out the Balanced Bites podcast.
Anyway, during one of the episodes, Diane was interviewing Gretchen Rubin, an expert in happiness and habits and the author of The Happiness Project. The topic of this episode was habits around eating and the two types of people in this world; abstainers and moderators.
This topic peaked my interest and I listened intently. The concept that Gretchen came up with is that you are either an abstainer or a moderator. So what does that mean? What are you?
Whether you are an abstainer or a moderator depends on how you handle temptation.
Let me tell you a story about Temptation.
Temptation wants to be your friend. Temptation comes to your house and brings you her famous homemade vanilla ice cream and double chocolate chip brownies. Out of the kindness of her heart, Temptation also brings the Sander’s Hot Fudge. Isn’t that nice of her?
What Temptation doesn’t know, (or maybe she does), is that you are changing your eating habits. You are trying to eat healthier. There are two scenarios on how you handle Temptation and it all depends on what type of person you are.
Scenario 1: Abstainer
Even when you politely say “No thank you, I’m not hungry,” Temptation will guilt you into having a brownie with ice cream and hot fudge on top because she made it especially for you. And when your done, she will offer you a spoonful of hot fudge. At this moment, you think, “Ah what the hell, what’s one more spoonful?”
Temptation leaves the rest of the brownies, a half a gallon of vanilla ice cream, and you, with the Sander’s Hot Fudge and a spoon in your hand. She says goodnight and walks out the door. You look around and see all the goodies she has left. You should just throw it away, but that would be wasteful. Might as well finish everything off so you can get it out of your house and out of your life.
Temptation watches you stuff your face through your kitchen window; grinning because she has won you over.
Scenario 2: Moderator
Even when you politely say “No thank you, I’m not hungry,” Temptation will guilt you into having a brownie with ice cream and hot fudge on top because she made it especially for you. And when you’re done, she will offer you one more spoonful of hot fudge, to which you say “No thank you, that ice cream was so rich and creamy I don’t think I could have another bite.” This makes Temptation happy.
Temptation leaves the rest of the brownies, a half a gallon of vanilla ice cream, and you, with the Sander’s Hot Fudge and a spoon in your hand. She says goodnight and walks out the door. You look around and see all the goodies she has left. You put everything away and head to bed.
The brownies go stale because you forgot about them in the cupboard and every now and again, you savor a bite of Temptation’s home-made vanilla ice cream.
So, what are you?
Which scenario speaks to you? Figuring out whether you are an abstainer or moderator can be really insightful information. Knowing this can allow to you create and maintain reasonable expectations when it comes to changing eating habits.
I have come the conclusion that I am a moderator. I am able to have a small amount of something sinful or a treat and walk away. This is a very new for me. Up until my Whole30, I was definitely an abstainer. Since, I have been able to alter my eating habits and I now consider myself a moderator and I am very proud my ability to eat only one of the Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups from the two pack. It wasn’t easy getting to this point, but I sure am happy I did.
If you are an abstainer:
- You have an all or nothing mentality.
- You can’t stop once you start.
As an abstainer, you need rules. If you are trying to change your eating habits, you might want to consider setting rules for yourself. Think about what food is your kryptonite. If that food is setting you back from your goals, then you might want to avoid it all together. As much as that might suck in the beginning, avoiding that food will soon become second nature for you.
If you are a moderator:
- You can have a little bit of something and then move on.
- Completely restricting certain foods might make you want to rebel.
Moderators don’t need rules like abstainers. In fact, moderators will do worse with set rules and restrictions. As a moderator, you want to rebel when you can’t just have a little of something. If you are trying to change your eating habits, a diet with black and white, strict rules might not work for you for the long run. Instead of cutting something that is unhealthy out completely, set up a plan for moderating. Allow a special treat on a special occasion like a birthday, holiday, etc. Allow yourself to have one ice cream cone a week instead of everyday.
While one personality might sound better than another, they both get judgments from outsiders. Abstainers might receive criticism for not “living a little” or being too strict on themselves.
Moderators, on the other hand, might be criticized on the choices they make when it comes to food. If you are a moderator and you’re trying to achieve a certain body weight, outsiders might think poorly of you when you order dessert after dinner.
But just like everything else in this world, different strokes for different folks. Don’t let judgments steer you away from your goals.
Put your knowledge to action!
Once you figure out whether you are an abstainer or a moderator, embrace it! Use that knowledge to your advantage.
Be honest with yourself. If you are unhappy about your body, health, and wellness and you want to make a change, look at the things that hold you back and decide whether you need to abstain from them or moderate them. Either way, if you know your type, making positive changes might not be as hard as you think!
For more information about abstainers and moderators, check out Gretchen Rubin’s post.