Search Results for: moderator

“Discardia,” or How One Moderator Manages to Indulge Moderately.

Over the weekend, I 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.

Abstainers and Moderators, I’d Love To Hear Your Answers to a Few Questions.

Last week, I posted Want to be free from French fries? Or, why abstaining may be easier than you think.

The comments were so fascinating that I want to post some follow-up questions to you Abstainers and Moderators out there. (If you need to catch up on the whole abstainer/moderator split, or figure out what category you’re in, read here.)

I’d love to hear your responses:

If you’re in a relationship with someone who’s in the other category, how do you manage it? Conflict around this issue seems to be a common source of tension within couples.

If you’re a moderator, do you have a general sense of what is “moderate,” or do you follow rules that you’ve set for yourself? Examples of rules might include “I’ll have one small square of excellent chocolate at lunch every day” or “I never eat dessert at home but do order dessert in a restaurant.”

If you’re an abstainer, do you abstain narrowly or broadly? E.g., do you abstain from the chocolate-chip-and-butterscotch cookies served every afternoon at work, or do you abstain from sugar? I’m a broad abstainer not a narrow abstainer, myself.

Moderators: Would you say that having a little bit of something makes you want it less? Abstainers, would you say that having a little bit makes you want it more? I definitely want things more when I have them; when I don’t have them I don’t want them.

For both categories: Do you find temptation to be a matter of availability–or not really? Do you have trouble managing temptation only when an item is right there in the cupboard, or would you just as readily go out and buy that tempting thing? I’m very swayed by availability. Follow up: do you consider a restaurant to be a place where something’s very available or not available? For me, the hurdle of making a purchase makes something far less available than when it’s freely available (this is true even though the added purchase is just added to the main meal, so no more difficult to pay; illogical I know). Probably part of my under-buyer mentality.

For both categories: Do you find yourself trying to convince other people to resist temptation the “right” way? For instance, might you say, “You should learn to eat moderately,” “You should go cold-turkey,” “You shouldn’t be so rigid with yourself,” “You shouldn’t keep that stuff in the house,” “You’ll just fall off the wagon and stuff yourself later, if you try to be so strict.”

Trying To Resist Holiday Temptations? 7 Tips for Abstainers and Moderators.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday:  7 tips for using the abstainer/moderator split to fight holiday temptations.

Ah, the holidays. Everywhere you go, you face cookies, candy, booze, and snacks and treats of every kind. While this creates a festive atmosphere, it can also lead to a lot of anxiety and/or guilt in those of us trying to resist temptation.

As you think about how to handle holiday temptations, your strategy may depend on whether you’re a moderator or an abstainer when trying to resist temptation.

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
(Of course, in the case of things like nicotine and alcohol, abstention is necessary.)

I’m an abstainer, without a doubt. Like Samuel Johnson, who declined an offer of wine by saying,“Abstinence is as easy to me as temperance would be difficult,” I find it much easier to give things up altogether than to indulge in moderation.

For me, no gingerbread cookies, no problem; one cookie, I spend the rest of the day thinking about when and why I should get more cookies. It’s so, so, so much easier for me to abstain than to try to be moderate. You wouldn’t believe what I’m abstaining from these days! A lot.

If you’re a moderator, however, that strategy wouldn’t work for you. You’d probably be better off thinking, “I can have two cookies,” and focusing on enjoying them. You can really revel in whatever it is that you’re permitting yourself, and by putting a limit on your consumption, you may find yourself enjoying it more.

So, to apply the moderator/abstainer model to yourself when facing holiday temptations, try this:

1. Decide if you’re a moderator or an abstainer.

2. Decide what temptation you’d like to resist, and to what degree.

3. Don’t indulge on the fly. If you want to indulge, plan ahead. This helps you feel in control and also to decide where you’ll get the most bang for your temptation buck.

4. As you approach your tempting situation, imagine yourself living up to your rule. Imagine yourself skipping the cookies; or imagine yourself taking just two cookies. Think about how pleased you’ll be that you stuck to your guidelines for yourself.

5. Anticipate situations that might make it hard to stick to your rule, and have a plan to deal with it. “If X happens, then I will do Y.”

6. For moderators: it’s one thing to indulge on the day of a holiday or at a single meal. It’s another thing to indulge during the holiday season. It’s a holiDAY.

7. Remember the argument of the growing heap, or as I like to call it, the “does one coin make a person rich?” question. Of course, one cookie is no big deal.  That’s absolutely true. But be very wary of that argument.

Either strategy can help us resist temptation; as with so many aspects of the pursuit of happiness, the secret is to know yourself.

Also: it can seem friendly to urge people to break their diets, to indulge in an extra glass of wine, or to treat themselves in some way. “I can’t believe you’re not going to try this dessert, I made it myself!” “Just one won’t hurt!” “This is a party,  live a little!” But the kind thing to do, in almost every situation, is to try to help people stick to their resolutions. Of course, bullying them if you think they’re over-indulging isn’t kind, either.

How about you? Do you recognize yourself as an abstainer or a moderator? Have you found any good strategies for coping with holiday temptation?

Back by Popular Demand: Are You an Abstainer or a Moderator?

Every Wednesday is Tip Day,  or Quiz Day.

This Wednesday: Quiz–Are you an abstainer or a moderator?

For the last week and a half, I’ve been traveling on my book tour for Happier at Home. I love getting the chance to talk to so many people about happiness.

When I gave my talks, the issue of abstainers and moderators came up several times, so I thought it might be helpful to post this quiz yet again. Recognizing this distinction has been one of the most important insights that I’ve had into my own nature–more helpful, say, than understanding that I’m an under-buyer, not an over-buyer.

When dealing with temptation, I often see the advice, “Be moderate. Don’t have ice cream 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 avoid absolutes and strict rules.

For a long time, I kept trying this strategy of moderation–and failing. Then I read a line from Samuel Johnson, who said, when someone offered him wine: “Abstinence is as easy to me as temperance would be difficult.”

Ah ha! Like Dr. Johnson, I’m an “abstainer.”

I find it far easier to give something up altogether than to indulge moderately. When I admitted to myself that I was eating my favorite frozen yogurt treat very often–two and even three times a day–I gave it up cold turkey. That was far easier for me to do than to eat it twice a week. If I try to be moderate, I exhaust myself debating, “Today, tomorrow?” “Does this time ‘count’?” “Don’t I deserve this?” etc. If I never do something, it requires no self-control for me; if I do something sometimes, it requires enormous self-control.

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.

In my experience, both moderators and abstainers try hard to convert the other team. A nutritionist once told me, “I tell my clients to follow the 80/20 rule. Be healthy 80% of the time, indulge within reason, 20% of the time.” She wouldn’t consider my point of view–that a 100% rule might be easier for someone like me to follow.

People can be surprisingly judgmental about which approach you take. As an abstainer, I often get disapproving comments like, “It’s not healthy to take such a severe approach” or “It would be better to learn how to manage yourself” or “You should be able to have a brownie.” On the other hand, I want to tell moderators, “You can’t keep cheating and expect to make progress” or “Why don’t you just go cold turkey?” But different approaches work for different people. (Exception: with an actual addiction, like alcohol or cigarettes, people generally accept that abstaining is the only solution.)

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

So…do you identify as an abstainer or a moderator? Do these categories ring true for you?

Quiz: Are You an “Abstainer” or a “Moderator”?

Every Wednesday is Tip Day,  or Quiz Day.

I’ve posted this quiz before, but because I think it’s such a very helpful thing to know about yourself, I’m posting it again. Recognizing this distinction has been one of the most important insights that I’ve had into my own nature–more helpful, say, than understanding that I’m an under-buyer, not an over-buyer.

A piece of advice I often see is, “Be moderate. Don’t have ice cream 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.

For a long time, I kept trying this strategy of moderation–and failing. Then I read a line from Samuel Johnson, who said, when someone offered him wine: “Abstinence is as easy to me as temperance would be difficult.”

Ah ha! Like Dr. Johnson, I’m an “abstainer.”

I find it far easier to give something up altogether than to indulge moderately. When I admitted to myself that I was eating my favorite frozen yogurt treat very often, two and even three times a day, I gave it up cold turkey. That was far easier for me to do than to eat it twice a week. If I try to be moderate, I exhaust myself debating, “Today, tomorrow?” “Does this time ‘count’?” etc. If I never do something, it requires no self-control for me; if I do something sometimes, it requires enormous self-control.

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 time justifying why they should go ahead and indulge.

However, in my experience, both moderators and abstainers try hard to convert the other team. A nutritionist once told me, “I tell my clients to follow the 80/20 rule. Be healthy 80% of the time, indulge within reason, 20% of the time.” She wouldn’t consider my point of view–that a 100% rule might be easier for someone like me to follow.

People can be surprisingly judgmental about which approach you take. As an abstainer, I often get disapproving comments like, “It’s not healthy to take such a severe approach” or “It would be better to learn how to manage yourself” or “Can’t you let yourself have a little fun?” On the other hand, I hear fellow abstainer-types saying to moderators, “You can’t keep cheating and expect to make progress” or “Why don’t you just go cold turkey?” But different approaches work for different people. (Exception: with an actual addiction, like alcohol or cigarettes, people generally accept that abstaining is the only solution.)

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

Now, sometimes instead of trying to give something up, we’re trying to push ourselves to embrace something. Go to the gym, eat vegetables, work on a disagreeable project.

Perhaps this is the flip side of being an abstainer, but I’ve found that if I’m trying to make myself do something, I do better if I do that thing every day. When people ask me advice about keeping a blog, one of my recommendations is, “Post every day, or six days a week.” Weirdly, it’s easier to write a blog every day than it is to write it three or four times a week. I don’t know how moderators feel about this. (Moderators–what do you think? Is it easier to go for a half-hour walk every day, or four times a week, for you?)

So…do you identify as an abstainer or a moderator? Do these categories ring true for you?