I recently read Delia Ephron’s very amusing and thought-provoking book of essays, Sister Mother Husband Dog: (Etc.).
In her essay “Bakeries,” she describes visiting her favorite bakeries and eating her favorite pastries — granola cookies, pizza bread, pain au chocolat, chocolate chip cookies with walnuts, pistachio donuts — all around New York City.
As I was reading, I was thinking, “Zoikes, how can she be eating all these pastries all the time, without bad health effects?”
Then Ephron explains:
I am lucky to live in carb paradise and I am lucky to be afflicted with a syndrome (disorder?) that my husband calls Discardia — the tendency to throw things away after a few bites unless I fall in love or am really hungry. Thank God for Discardia, or I would be someone who had to be removed from my house with a crane.
When I read this, I thought, “She’s a classic Moderator!”
I’ve concluded that when dealing with temptation, people are either “Moderators” or “Abstainers.” (Take this quiz to find out what you are.)
Moderators do better when they indulge in moderation, and they get panicky if they’re told they can “never” have or do something. They find that a little indulgence satisfies them, and they often lose interest after a few bites. Thus — Discardia!
Abstainers, by contrast, find it tough to start something once they’ve started, but they aren’t troubled by things that are off-limits. They do better when they don’t have that first bite. I’m 100% Abstainer, and life became so much easier for me when I realized that. As my sister the sage, also an Abstainer, explained, “French fries are my Kryptonite. I gave them up, and now I’m free from French fries.”
A Moderator friend told me, “I keep a bar of fine chocolate in my desk, and every day I have one square.”
I said, “I could never do that, that chocolate bar would haunt me until it was gone.” (I’ve since learned that many, many Moderators keep a bar of chocolate squirreled away somewhere.)
There’s no right way or wrong way, only what works for a particular individual. While giving up something (like pastries) might sound hard, for me, it’s far easier than it would be to eat just three bites of a pistachio donut.
Delia Ephron’s “Discardia” is a great example of Moderator behavior — and a great example of how one person’s behavior may or may not suit someone else.
In my book Better Than Before, about how we can change our habits, I have a chapter on the Strategy of Abstaining. (To pre-order, click here–buy early and often.) Abstaining works very well for some people, and not at all for others. Abstaining wouldn’t work for Delia Ephron; Discardia wouldn’t work for me.
Because moderation is so often held up as an ideal and because it sounds so pleasant and less rigid, many people assume they’re Moderators. From what I’ve observed, many people are actually Abstainers. Could you eat three bites of a chocolate cookie with walnuts? I couldn’t. But I can walk right past that bakery. If you’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to act like a Moderator, give the Abstainer approach a chance. I know it sounds harder, but really, for Abstainers, it’s easier.
Moderators, do you have a habit like Discardia?
Abstainers, does this sound like something you would do?
In addition to the Abstainer/Moderator issue, some people will be very uneasy at the thought of deliberate food waste.
To read more about how to change your habits — your eating habits, or any other habits — check out my forthcoming book, Better Than Before. In it, I reveal the secret of how to change our habits–really! The book will hit the shelves in March, but you can pre-order now. And if you are inclined to buy the book, I’d really appreciate your pre-order. Pre-orders build buzz for a book among booksellers, the media, and publishers. They really matter.