moderator or abstainer?

Ever since I’ve read Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before, I’ve become fascinated by peoples habits, specifically in regards to helping people with their nutrition goals.

I think one of the most important questions you can ask yourself when creating a nutrition plan is, are you a moderator or an abstainer? Gretchin Rubin describes each of these as…

You’re a moderator if you…
– find that occasional indulgence heightens your pleasure–and strengthens your resolve
– get panicky at the thought of “never” getting or doing something

You’re an abstainer if you…
– have trouble stopping something once you’ve started
– aren’t tempted by things that you’ve decided are off-limits

What I’ve seen from working with clients is that most people are abstainers when it comes to hyper-palatable foods, because they are designed to make you not want to stop eating them. Think chips, ice cream, etc. However, even with things like ice cream and cupcakes, some people (moderators) can have a couple bites and be done (I wish). Then, there are people like me (abstainers) that have a bite of a cake, and then the rest of the cake.

Knowing this was a complete game changer for me. After doing Whole30 and realizing that gluten made me feel like crap, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to eat gluten in moderate amounts because I’m an abstainer. If I told myself I could have gluten once a week, I probably wouldn’t follow through. For a moderator, that probably invokes some anxiety, however for me, it’s extremely freeing.

As Gretchen Rubin puts it, “There’s no right way or wrong way–it’s just a matter of knowing which strategy works better for you. If moderators try to abstain, they feel trapped and rebellious. If abstainers try to be moderate, they spend a lot of precious energy justifying why they should go ahead and indulge.”

I love not having to choose which day of the week I could have a little bit of gluten, which would probably end up in a lot of gluten, leading to feeling really crappy. I love not having to have self-control around cookies, cake, cupcakes, etc. Since I’ve already decided these are not an option, I can smell them bake in my office all day and not be tempted (for real, they make cookies daily at work).

Another way this can play into nutrition is with macros. Say you’re planning out your macros and you want to add in donuts, milk shakes, etc every once in a while. If you’re a moderator, no problem, you can probably have that treat and be done. However, if you’re an abstainer, having just a little bit might spin you out of control and leave you wishing you never had the first bite… so don’t! It seems harsh, but if you truly want to change your relationship with food, you’ll probably have to cut things out that you feel like you don’t have control over. Maybe not forever, but for the time being.

If you want to read more about abstainers and moderators, you can check out Gretchen Rubin’s website or check out her books Better Than Before and The Four Tendencies.

Are you a moderator or abstainer? Would love to hear if anyone has read these or if anyone can relate!

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