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Trying to Eat Better? Ask Yourself This Question

Are you a moderator or an abstainer?

In honor of many people’s New Year’s resolutions — “Eat more healthfully,” “Cut out sweets,” “Lose weight,” and the like — I’m re-posting this quiz, to help you determine whether you’re a moderator or an abstainer. When I figured out that I’m an “abstainer,” it helped me tremendously in terms of eating better.

Often, we know we’d have more long-term happiness if we gave up something that gives us a rush of satisfaction in the short-term. That morning doughnut, that late-night ice cream.

A piece of advice I often see is, “Be moderate. Don’t have dessert every night, but if you try to deny yourself altogether, you’ll fall off the wagon. Allow yourself to have the occasional treat, it will help you stick to your plan.”

I’ve come to believe that this is good advice for some people: the moderators. They do better when they try to make moderate changes, when they avoid absolutes and bright lines.

5 Comments to
Trying to Eat Better? Ask Yourself This Question

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  1. I am definitely an abstainer. This is the first time I’ve read something on this topic, but it fits! Moderation never worked for me, no matter how hard I tried and regardless of whether I have planned my menus for the day or for a week, I would always go overboard with the things I’ve tried to limit. The diets that work best for me have simple rules – dont eat chocolate, fast food or junk food, or sth else. Eliminating contact with temptation – it is somewhat hard at first, but once I get on track, I manage to keep it up for months, in some instances forever (the last time I’ve had fast food like hamburgers, fries, etc. was a decade ago and I dont have a need for it anymore).

  2. Oh my. This really resonated with me. I am a successful abstainer and a miserable failure as a moderator. I feel like the prevailing wisdom says abstinence is “impossible” and moderation “the key.” But I can’t moderate myself around high fat, high sugar foods. I fixate on them. Bargain my way into just one more bite over and over until I’ve eaten it all, gone through thousands of calories until I’ve gained pound after pound, size after size.

    I can’t totally abstain from food like other types of addicts can abstain from their addiction, but I can abstain from the types of foods I am addicted to. I’ll never binge on vegetables or lean meats. They don’t “do it for me”. They nourish me, but they don’t turn on that side of my brain that tells me to shovel it in until I could burst. But french fries, pizza, ice cream, and doughnuts if I have access to them? Hell yes.

    I liked this article because it makes me feel like I’m not a failure for not succeeding at moderation. And I’m not a freak for needing to ruthlessly cut certain foods from my life. But as to keeping a bag of cookies in my house for my family that are off limits to me? You are a stronger abstainer than I am!

  3. I’m definitely a moderator. I can’t imagine giving up something entirely, I like the idea of “treating” myself with a cookie or a glass of soda once in a while. The more I think that I can never have or do something again, the more I want it :)

  4. i enjoyed this article immensely. thanks for sharing. it is thought provoking. i eagerly read hoping i would nail down if i am a moderator or abstainer so i could FINALLY find some peace in my quest to lose weight.

    i know that i do not moderate much of anything very well so i thought,an abstainer i am. but as i read the description for moderator, it also resonated as true.

    i guess what i’m trying to communicate is i am an moderstainer or an abstainerator. i’m a combo platter.

    i live with a mood disorder, bipolar II. and much of my life is seen through well opposite polars of many spectrums, depending on the mood (and medication), high or low and sometimes in the middle.

    if i am running high, i want everything all the time. so i would definitely be an abstainer.

    but when i am balanced or low, i would be a moderator.


  5. I’m in between, I guess. Maybe more of an abstainer. I find it fairly easy to give up something entirely. On the other hand, if it crosses my way, I won’t turn it down. Life’s too short to punish yourself that way.

    All of the thoughts in both lists are things that have crossed my mind at some point, but none of them dominate my thinking. If circumstances make it easier to go cold turkey, I go cold turkey. If they make it easier to moderate, I’ll moderate.



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