Are you an abstainer or a moderator? (Not the kind with the hat)

One of my favorite bloggers (Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness project) has discussed several times the idea that there are abstainers (people who are more successful in dealing with bad habits by giving them up completely) and moderators (people who are more successful in dealing with bad habits by allowing occasional indulgences).

I’m most definitely a moderator - thinking I might never have something again is the best way for me to overeat, but if I know that I can have something if I really want it, I won’t eat much at all. (If you don’t believe me, ask my husband rjk about how much ice cream I get when I serve myself)

What’s your strategy with stopping bad habits? And how do you start good habits?


Depends. If the habit is real strong, I’m better off cutting it cold turkey; depending on what it was, I can later become a moderator.

Food’s a problem in that if I notice I’m eating way too much of something, it may respond to an actual physical need (there’s some nutrient that particular food has in large amounts and which I need): I have to start by figuring out whether I’m gobbling up the salty peanuts because of high anxiety or low BP.

Abstainer. Never gambled, never want to–but gambling addictions are a huge problem for my family.

However, I have never had a problem with alcohol intake. I partake moderately every couple weekends and don’t get blackout drunk.

When I quit smoking a couple years back, it would not have been possible for me to moderate. It was all or nothing.

Not sure which - I believe I am a combination.

I absentmindedly quit smoking [ran out of cigarettes and it was 3 months before I noticed I hadn’t bought any when I was out at a bar with friends and bummed one off a friend who thought I had quit on purpose]

I quit morphine in hospital when I noticed that the pain was tolerable but would be fine with motrin, so I decided that meant I didn’t actually need the morphine any longer. Being young and feckless, I didn’t know I was supposed to actually go into withdrawal.:smack:

I could sit and munch all day on junk food, but knowing that I am diabetic I drink lots of ice water and stick to my nutritionists plan of meals and snacks, and I make sure that the junk food in the house is healthy junk food [stuff like baked vegie chips. hummus, raw veggies and the like]

I opted to drink instead of use marijuana back in the late 70s early 80s because it had a similar effect on me and was legal. I am now moving back to weed but using it medically for pain control because the NSAIDS are both bad for my heart and eating at my stomach lining.

Definitely an abstainer. I quit smoking all at once 46 years ago (I had a heart attack that day, which made it easier). But it is with food that it comes out most clearly. My doctor advised to use the Sears diet that has snacks built-in and my doctor described his mid-morning snack. I don’t recall exactly what it was but I was struck by the fact that it included 1 (that’s one) almond! Well, I could not diet like that. What I finally discovered last October is that I could and have cut out all snacking between meals. All. Since my meals were and have remained fairly modest, this has resulted in the loss of over 20 pounds since then. My doctor doubted that I could have been consuming 500 calories a day in snacks. Little did he know.

I have no great love of nor craving for alcohol, so my extreme moderation there (occasionally, I will have one beer or one glass of wine) hardly counts.

As indicated depending upon the bad habit, one choice may be preferable over the other.

ONE almond? What would even be the point?

I would say I’m an abstainer, because all the bad habits I’ve had to give up have been all or nothing (smoking, bad sleeping habits most notably).

There are some food items I just don’t eat anymore because they’re either super bad for you or I get stomach problems, but I love the taste of them so much I will eat the whole thing until it’s gone. It’s actually easier for me to say “I won’t eat any of that” rather than “I’ll just have a little bit” because a little bit will turn into the whole plateful and I’ll be kicking myself for it later.

In general I’m a moderator, although I have given up smoking completely. My husband is an abstainer. This creates some logistical difficulties when we’re dieting.

Abstainer. All or nothing, especially with chocolate and other poor food choices.

I try* to practice mindful eating. When I do, a small amount of something I enjoy (say, two macadamia nuts or a 1/2" square piece of good chocolate) is enough to satisfy me, because I’m taking the time to concentrate on enjoying what I’m experiencing.

The first time I invoked this, I found that there was a lot of junk food that I was eating that I didn’t really like; or rather, that I didn’t like as much as I thought I liked, nor as much as they were costing me in calories.

*Note that I said try, it’s never 100%

I hadn’t really thought about it before, but from the OP’s descriptions I guess I’m a “moderator.” (“All things in moderation” makes sense to me.)

Abstainer. It is far, far easier for me to avoid doing something harmful (unhealthy, etc.) if I never give myself the opportunity to do it, than to try to do it but only just a little bit. Yeah right.
My dad has a saying, translated, “The appetite comes while you eat.” He’s always used it literally, as in, you don’t feel hungry (for food) at first but if you just have a bite or two, you’ll soon want to keep eating. But it totally applies to every other kind of vice.

Moderating vices depends a lot on the vice- gambling, alcohol- easily moderated. Nicotine kept me in a smoky haze for twenty-four years- I have to abstain.

Moderator. Sometimes I moderate by trading some vices for others, and then rotating them in and out.

I think that physiological addictions, and probably the stronger psychological addictions, need to be done cold-turkey. Physiological specifically because you have to go through withdrawal to get your body chemistry reset to something more normal. With psychological addictions, you’re going to have to be more aware of what purpose that addiction is serving, and if you don’t choose to go cold turkey, you’d have to at least avoid the substance when you wanted it the most. I base this on the paradigm that addictions occur when you do something that seems to make a certain condition better, but actually makes it worse.
I did quit caffeine (usually consumed in the form of Coca-Cola) several years back in a method that worked with my moderator personality. After a couple of attempts that showed me that withdrawal would cause severe headaches and a level of sleepiness that made it impossible to function, I chose as my quit date as the date that I was scheduled to have major surgery. I chose this date because I knew that for several weeks I would have both the ability to sleep whenever I got sleepy and access to good drugs. :stuck_out_tongue: To accomodate my moderator tendencies, I promised myself that I could have caffeine again as long as I a) waited one year and b) paid close attention to how the caffeine affected my body when I did have it again. I did both of these, and the resulting day after headache was enough to convince me that I didn’t want to get back into that particular habit. Also, you know what? After years of loving Coca-Cola, I found that it tasted really nasty to me.

I’m probably an abstainer, not because I have trouble stopping once I’ve started, but because if I need to give something up then I just give it up.

In January I gave up coffee because my sleep consultant wanted me to. Since then I’ve had two cups of coffee, both on days when I’d worked through the day, the night and the next day and still had to keep going, so it was basically medicine. A few years ago I realised that diet coke was actually making me more tired than alert, so I stopped drinking it. I’d had 6+ cans a day for about 20 years and just stopped.

I definitely know what you mean about there being two broad camps that most people fall into, though they might visit the other camp now and then. It’s the reason it doesn’t always work to say ‘you MUST give up ALL candy now!’ - but for some people, equally, that is the only way.

I am an abstainer. It is far easier for me to not start than to stop once I have started.

Probably an abstainer, but I’m not great at either.