Day 258 (R, 110915) — Temptation: Abstain or Moderate?

Abstinence v. Moderation.  A post on the 4HB group lead me to some thoughts on a blog called The Happiness Project: Are you a Moderator or an Abstainer When Trying to Give Something Up?

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: “Abstinence is as easy to me as temperance would be difficult.” Ah ha! Like Dr. Johnson, I’m an “abstainer.”

What a great concept. I am definitely, 100% an abstainer.  I can “not have” just about anything — cookies, bread, chips, cake, sugary drinks, potatoes, chocolate, lunch — and it is relatively easy.  I pass it by and move on.  No problem.

As I have done various diet regimens through the years, I have always had the hardest time when I was supposed to wean myself off the program and turn to a “moderate” version which allowed me to have some forbidden fruits on occasion or in small portions.  It simply never worked for me.  Once I had one bit of carbs (or fat or sugar or whatever was the driving factor in my weight loss plan du jour), I would have ten.

I have learned through hard experience that moderation does not work for me but abstinence does.

That’s a big reason I’ve found 4HB such a great program: total avoidance plus a day when moderation is a bad word?  THAT I can live with.

More from the article on The Happiness Project:

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….

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.

All of this sounds like me.  I go all in.  What about you?

Are you an abstainer or a moderator?


Exercise.  Yesterday, I asked for advice on making sure I do my assisted pull-ups correctly.

I’m trying my best to focus on the muscles I am supposed to use and not to assist with my feet too much but it’s really hard to gauge if I am doing it even close to right.  The best (bio-) feedback I can discern is that it is still really tough to do the pull-ups. Does anyone have any tips for doing these successfully without a machine?

My guess is I’m not doing too bad because I sure as heck felt it a lot in my lats as I did my sets last night.


Plan for Week 37.

Day Fast? SCD? Run/Exer?
Sunday No Yes No
Monday Yes* Yes Yes
Tuesday Yes Yes No** No
Wednesday Yes Yes Yes
Thursday Yes Yes No
Friday Yes Yes Yes
Saturday No No Yes
Red = a negative deviation | Green = a positive deviation | Blue = a note


Yes, I appreciate the humor in stating it that way. 😉
* I accidentally had a bit to eat on Monday during my fast. How does one eat “accidentally” you ask?  Well, I had some Maxwell House (née General Foods International) Suisse Mocha Café (sugar-free, decaf) and did what I usually do when I examine a label nowadays: I checked the carbs and sugar content.  Carbs? 2. Sugar? 0.  What I didn’t do is look at the Total Calories.  It was only 30 calories but still, I am trying to keep this record accurate so there you have it.
** Chili’s Dry Rub suckered me. =/

16 responses to “Day 258 (R, 110915) — Temptation: Abstain or Moderate?

  1. I’m definitely an abstainer. While “moderating” my temptations via weekly cheat days, I was angsty all week for cheat day and struggled often with temptation.

    Since cutting out all cheat days (and even bean carbs) I no longer yearn for cheat day AND I don’t struggle with temptation during the week.


    • I’ve found a once a week balls-to-the-wall Free Day works well for me. I can combine my normal abstinent personality with my normal unable-to-moderate reaction to indulgence.

      When I was on Atkins, I pretty much stayed in Induction all the time because, like you, I found that no carbs ever was much easier than trying to find ways to do carbs “a little bit.”

      And, like you, I found that when I was eating very few carbs, my temptations were almost nil. I might sometimes get bored with my meal choices (I wasn’t very creative in those days), but I never felt some overwhelming urge to pig out on Twinkies and Pop Tarts.

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