I Believe in Abstinence (But Not How You Think)

Sorry, folks! This isn’t a sex post. 🙂

One of my favorite books is The Happiness Project, and I’m sure many of you have read it too.

Author Gretchen Rubin says that when it comes to life’s indulgences, people tend to be either moderators or abstainers. Here are the definitions from her blog:

You’re a moderator if you

  • find that an 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

And here’s a quick video about how being an abstainer guides her life.

I completely relate to this idea, and I’m convinced that I’m an abstainer at heart. I get better results when I avoid unhealthy indulgences rather than giving myself some leeway.

Ruffles potato chips and chocolate soy ice cream are my weaknesses…evil food villains, you might say. I’m helpless when I buy a bag of chips or a bucket of chocolaty goodness. I’ll eat the entire bag/container in a single night. Maybe I’d have better luck if I’d ask myself this question, but it’s best not to invite these characters into my house at all.

It’s easier for me to abstain from these treats than to try (unsuccessfully) to moderate myself.

If you’re a regular reader, you might be wondering why I haven’t mentioned Twizzlers.

I won’t include Twizzlers in this discussion because I don’t consider them “food” per se. They are a gift from God.

Being an abstainer or moderator isn’t limited to just what you eat. It applies to any kind of questionable indulgence like watching too much TV, compulsively shopping online, or picking at your pimples. Of course, I never do those things….

A part of me wishes I could be a moderator. It feels more balanced and less anal. But I guess there’s some value in knowing yourself, and I know myself well enough to abstain.

How do you manage not-so-good indulgences in your life?

Are you an abstainer or a moderator?

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  1. Amyshaughnessy on May 4, 2012 at 11:01 am

    Hmm, I’d say I am an abstainer. I have trouble ‘stopping’ the constant eating of ice cream. (A terrible habit I picked up when I was pregnant.) As for twizzlers…. don’t even get me started! I got addicted to them over 10 years ago and I was eating 2 bags (the large bags, mind you) a week. I finally had to cut myself off because I gained weight from it.



    • Sage on May 4, 2012 at 11:36 am

      Hi Amy! Thanks for commenting. I’m terrible at moderating myself, so it’s just better if I abstain from bad indulgences. Twizzlers are SO good, but I try not to bring them into the house anymore. An anti-Twizzler diet might be a good idea for me. 🙂

  2. Tinfoil Tiaras on April 30, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    And you’re also an abstainer because of your vegan lifestyle- you’ve made a conscious decision to avoid meat products which is so admirable! I tend to get very panicky and over indulge in certain things so I’m both!

  3. Molly on April 30, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    I think I’m both! I get panicky at the thought of “never” getting or doing something and also have trouble stopping something once you’ve started….. so what does that mean?!

    I smiled at what you said about Twizzlers. lol The nibs? I have absolutely no control if a bag of those is in front of me.

    • Sage on April 30, 2012 at 5:46 pm

      You CAN be both. It also depends on the situation. It might take some trial and error to find out which approach works best for you in which situations.

      I’m pretty sure I’m an abstainer in most things, but I keep trying to moderate some indulgences…with poor results.

      Oh, Twizzlers are so magical. I actually like them a little stale too. Maybe I’m too stressed out, and I need something chewy to chomp on? I try to keep them out of my house.

  4. xvavaveganx on April 30, 2012 at 10:21 am

    Haaaaaaahahaha Twizzlers are a gift from God! OMG I love it 🙂

    Like you, I find myself to be more successful when I abstain from my treats so I try not to even let them in the house. I’ve found that I can effectively moderate coffee though! Since I quit I have decided to allow myself one small decaf soy latte twice a month and I’ve been doing well with it. In other cases, not so much 😉 Maybe one day I’ll be able to moderate. For now, I’m just doing what works for me!

    I’m a total reality tv junkie too! That is definitely something I could moderate more succesfully!

    • Sage on April 30, 2012 at 12:02 pm

      I’m able to limit myself to a single serving of coffee about once a week. I don’t have a coffee maker at home, so that makes it easier.

      I feel like everyone thinks they watch too much TV. I should make that another post. Sometimes I track how many hours of TV I watch per week, and I’m horrified by how much time I waste.

      • Shybiker on May 1, 2012 at 6:25 am

        TV-watching would be an excellent subject for a post of its own.

        In the past, people watched even more TV when there was no Internet. It replaced radio as the narcotic of the masses. Growing up, I and everyone I knew watched 5+ hours a day. Geez…

  5. Megan Gann on April 30, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    I’m usually a pretty good moderator. However I’m such a good moderator I frequently stop doing things because I stop wanting them. I’m hard to ‘get addicted’ to things.

    Caffeine is probably my worst indulgence, followed by computer time. Caffeine free drinks are easily obtained, even caffeine free coke. However, it’s frequently not on sale when regular coke is. Easy enough to buy something else. You don’t want it if you have other alternatives.

    Computer time? Well, I let myself read only so much, comment the places I do read, and at night – turn my computer OFF. I do something non-electronic because my room heats up over the course of the day and electronics pump out lots of heat. So if I want to be cool at night, I have to moderate my time.

    Right now I’m abstaining from shopping – which is very hard. However, I know I’ve got a reward coming at the end of it so that sweetens the pot a bit. Even if I didn’t have that goal planned, then it stops becoming habit after so long and I just do other things.

    My favorite phrase in time like this? “I don’t need it.”

    • Sage on April 30, 2012 at 5:42 pm

      Abstaining from mindless shopping is really hard. I love your phrase, “I don’t need it.” I think that should become my new motto.

      I’m at my computer all day long. I have to work, but I don’t have to read gossip sites or Memebase during my down time. I like your idea of shutting down the computer at a certain time and doing something non-electronic.

      Thanks for commenting. I get the best advice from my readers!

    • Shybiker on May 1, 2012 at 6:27 am

      I agree it’s healthy to turn electronics off for part of the day. And if your room gets overheated from your hobby, that’s a sign of excess!

  6. Cara on April 30, 2012 at 7:42 am

    I really need to be an abstainer from ice cream and reality tv re-runs…when the weather gets warmer I want at least a spoonful (usually ends up being a small bowl) after dinner every night. Maybe a May challenge for myself!

    • Sage on April 30, 2012 at 7:58 am

      I completely forgot about reality TV! I go on binges of “Say Yes to the Dress” and “Supernanny”. Ugh, that’s something I could stand to cut back on.

      I envy people who can have a small serving of ice cream and be done with it. I keep scooping more and more. It’s like an addiction! 🙁