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Abstainers vs. Moderators: Do They Exist?

Does the concept of abstainers vs. moderators really exist?

I’m in the mood for something a bit deeper today – care to join me?

coffee shop heart

Last week, I saw a really interesting post about abstainers vs. moderators on my friend Julie’s blog. In the post, she writes about a podcast she listened to by Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project) that talks about the idea that everyone is either an abstainer or a moderator. As the name implies, moderators are people who avoid absolutes and defined lines. In the case of food, that would be an everything in moderation approach – nothing is off limits. Abstainers, on the other hand, make things black and white. In the case of food, this would mean placing something off limits because once they start eating it they struggle to stop.

I found this concept fascinating and immediately emailed my Joyful Eating, Nourished Life Program co-authors, fellow intuitive eating dietitians Rachael and Alex. “Do you think there’s really such a thing as abstainers and moderators?” I asked them. “Or do you think it’s more a function of diet history?” Rachael replied immediately that great minds think alike – she was writing a post on the topic at that exact moment! What are the odds? (Here’s her post – it’s great!)

In my opinion (and I’d love to hear your thoughts, too), while I’m sure some people tend more towards absolutes in general than others, I think with regards to food this moderator vs. abstainer mindset mostly depends on whether you have done a lot of dieting in the past. 

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Here’s why: the vast majority of my AnneTheRD nutrition coaching clients come to me at first as abstainers. They have done a lot of diets and were always told certain foods were “bad” or should be avoided, and that if they ate them they should feel guilty. They talk a lot about how when they do eat something they deem to be a splurge or off limits they have a really hard time stopping and may even binge on it. As a result, they try even harder to avoid those foods because those foods make them feel out of control and like a failure, which makes the situation worse because they are giving the food more and more power over them. In my opinion, if something if off limits, you will want it way more. And when you do eventually have it (because you can’t avoid certain foods forever), you will most likely binge on it because there’s that feeling of “oh, screw it, I’ve already had this and ruined everything so I might as well just go to town on it now.” Or “I’ll never eat this again after tonight so I better have ALL of it.”

I have had a lot of success changing my abstainer clients into moderators simply by giving them permission to have the foods they love, but with one catch: they have to actually pay attention and enjoy the experience. (See also: A Guide to Mindful Eating.)

how to eat mindfully

Ironically, when my clients intentionally and mindfully eat a food that they had placed off limits for a long time (and binged on occasionally), they sometimes find they don’t even LIKE that food. They realize they just wanted it because they couldn’t have it, and then once they started eating it they felt out of control and just kept going without even tasting it or paying attention because they were so checked out.

I think moderators, with respect to food, are moderators because they are intuitive eaters. They don’t view food as the enemy and they are allowed to eat whatever they want, so food loses its power over them, and as a result, they are able to eat a little of something, enjoy it, and then stop when the pleasure from it decreases because they know they can have it again. There’s no need to feel like they are doing something shameful because they are simply listening to what their body is telling them – whether that’s to eat a kale salad or to enjoy a homemade cookie.

What do you think – are there truly moderators and abstainers or is the mentality more a function of diet history?

Would you consider yourself a moderator or abstainer? Have you changed over time? And if you consider yourself an abstainer, do you think it has anything to do with a history of dieting? Maybe not – but I’m curious!

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Comments

  1. 1

    I am definitely a moderator, I 100% agree with the intuitive eating philosophy and love that you are using that in teaching your clients.

  2. 3

    “They don’t view food as the enemy and they are allowed to eat whatever they want, so food loses its power over them, and as a result, they are able to eat a little of something, enjoy it, and then stop when the pleasure from it decreases because they know they can have it again.”

    ^
    I couldn’t agree more with this. I always try to encourage people to have a positive relationship with food. It takes a while, but is worth the effort to get to that place. I can even speak on a personal level that figuring out the balance and moderation in my life to enjoy favorite foods / treats took some practice but becoming a moderator has left me with the ability to have a healthy outlook on life and encourage the same as a role model for my patients.

    • 4

      I love that you are spreading this message to your clients, too, Rose. Keep it up — the more intuitive eating RDs the better! :)

  3. 5

    Very interesting! I too have workered with lots of abstainers and when I first started reading I thought of course there are both abstainers and moderators! However, after reading on I also agree that a lot of it has to do with their long term relationship with food. You are correct most of the abstainers have yo-yo’d so much in the past they have a terrible relationship with food. I like your approach of getting them to have a healthier approach and not feeling like they can never eat certain foods. I too prefer to use a similar approach in educating that it is okay to have certain foods, it just depends on the portion and frequency.
    Great post! Thanks for sharing.

  4. 6
    Catherine Cormier says:

    I’m definitely a moderator! No foods are are limit but when I have a food that I consider a “treat” I make sure to watch my portions and find I am satisfied with a little serving.

    Very interesting article that should spark a lot of comments!

  5. 7

    I am an abstainer in that I choose to completely pass on certain foods when I know I’l binge on them in that moment. Sometimes, when I start, I can’t stop! However no food is completely off limits for me.

  6. 8

    I heard that podcast at IIN a few weeks ago. It was amazing and I totally agree with this concept applying to people’s relationship with food.

  7. 11

    This is an interesting topic! I think I am different in different areas.
    I’ve been both with foods, but definitely a moderator now. I’ve found that certain indulgent foods, the ones I really love, aren’t something I want everyday anyways. However, I have hard time with eating just a “bite.” When I decide I want a piece of cake, I usually eat the whole piece. So I guess moderation is more a big picture thing for me.

    • 12

      I would still call that moderation — I don’t think being a moderator only means having tiny portions of favorite foods, but rather listening to how much you want that specific time. If you’ve decided you want cake, go ahead and enjoy the whole piece, so long as you are being mindful and slowly savoring it! Also — an abstainer would be more likely to have the whole cake (or a few pieces) vs. one piece.

  8. 13

    I think I’ve dabbled on both sides. I’ve tried to abstain completely from certain foods, but like you said, that only made me want it more. I think I might toe the line of each, typically; I give myself time limits. Currently, even, I decided I’ve been unnecessarily snacking too much lately, so I told myself that I’m going to go the rest oft he month without unnecessary snacking – I plan and eat 3 meals and 3 snacks a day as it is, bored-snacking is what I need to avoid. Once the month is over in this instance, or for whatever “limit” I give myself, I hope to be “rid of the habit” of feeling like I need it when I don’t. Sometimes its a certain snack that I find myself eating too often or too much of, or sometimes it’s a craving (donuts, pizza, whatever) that seems to rule my mind until I can have it. Not entirely sure if it’s a healthy rule to set for myself, but small-limits like that seem to help me break bad patterns.

    • 14

      That sounds to me like an intuitive eating approach, actually! Intuitive eating definitely works to break habits that involve eating for reasons other than hunger (or true pleasure) – aka when you are eating for boredom, stress, etc. So stopping and asking yourself whether you really want something before you eat it – and not allowing yourself to do bored-snacking, like you said, isn’t abstaining but rather working to become more intuitive! :)

  9. 15

    It’s taken over ten years, but I’ve defintely changed from an abstainer to a moderator. Now, I focus on finding pleasure with food–not just filling a void. For me, the shift signified a change from unhealthy to healthy.

    • 16

      Love the focus on finding pleasure with food! That makes such a difference and is important for intuitive eating. I always ask my clients to think about whether their craving is coming from a positive place (joy, fun experience, something that they really love to eat and it’s a “worth it” time), or a negative place (boredom, stress, anxiety, wanting to avoid another emotion). Good for you for making the change!

  10. 17

    I’m most definitely an abstainer. It’s much easier for me to just say no to a food than to have a few bites. However, I have to say that I take acception to the assumption that abstainers view food “as the enemy”. If anything, realizing that I’m an abstainer and not simply a “failure” at moderator has been very freeing.

    Have you actually read what Gretchen Rubin wrote about Abstainers vs Moderators? One thing that I really found interesting is how critical one group can be about the other. Her book, Better Than Before made a huge impact on me and gave me so much insight on how different habit forming approached work for different people.

    • 18

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Laura! Always open to hearing other perspectives. :) I haven’t read what she wrote about it, but I want to – I enjoyed her Happiness Project Book and have had Better than Before on my list for awhile now! I find anything on the topic of habit forming to be fascinating.

  11. 19
    Christina says:

    This is a very interesting topic and I couldn’t agree more with your idea of intuitive eating. Personally I have a past of eating disorder and really changed from being an abstainer to a moderator. Intuitive eating and trusting my body has been one of the most important steps towards a healthy and happy life. I think it is great that you teach that to your clients.

    • 20

      I’m so happy to hear that you have been able to recover from your eating disorder using an intuitive eating approach – that’s amazing! Keep it up!

  12. 21

    So I think I’m a bit of both. I think I am mostly a moderator as I do allow myself to indulge every once in awhile like if it’s a holiday, special occasion, or even date night. But with some foods I feel like it’s better not to even keep them in the house because I know if they are there I cannot stop eating them (i.e. potato chips and onion dip, cookies) so I’m a bit of an abstainer too.

    • 22

      I think it’s all about finding what works best for you personally! I also don’t keep a lot of junk food in the house, which sounds kind of like I’m abstaining, but I still consider myself a moderator because it’s not that I’m not allowed to have those things, but rather that I know I enjoy indulging a lot more if it’s outside of the house/as part of an “experience.” E.g. eating ice cream on the couch? Meh – not that enjoyable for me, but I’d probably do it if we had ice cream around all the time just because it would be there. Eating ice cream on a beautiful day with friends, though? Totally on board.

  13. 23

    I definitely think they both exist — in fact I’d be surprised if anyone believed otherwise. I follow the Paleo diet and so I’d be grouped with the abstainers. That said I do follow a 90/10 approach and allow certain deviation if I deem them worthwhile (a treat on my birthday or if I’m invited to a homemade meal with family/friends). I don’t beat myself up over it so would that make me a moderator in those instances? I know from experience that black and white rules are easier for me — there is no slippery slope of the “I’ll just have a little bit” mentality. I can simply say, “No thank you. I don’t eat ____.” and walk away. It is SO much easier for me to have clearly defined rules. I like your idea of mindful eating but I’m not sure it’s ever really worked for me (or I was doing it wrong!). There are just some foods that make me bloated and uncomfortable and I prefer to stay far away. …Or maybe that is the very definition of mindful eating!

    • 24

      I think there’s definitely a difference if you are avoiding foods because they make you feel physically uncomfortable/bloated – that sounds to me like you are being intuitive/mindful, because it’s all about eating what makes you personally feel your best! It also sounds like you have a great mentality in terms of treats regarding not feeling guilty when you do have them. :) I think the key is really feeling like you have the control rather than food does – and that you have permission to have what you want so long as your body feels good having it.

  14. 25

    Do you have any tips on becoming a more intuitive eater? Maybe a book recommendation?

  15. 27

    I think I’m a mix of the two – but the end goal would be moderator. Life is so much less stressful when you aren’t consumed with avoiding eating certain things! I’m currently abstaining from wheat products because it’s helping with some unexplained GI distress (was tested and am definitely not celiac, phew!) But when I think about adding wheat back in slowly as part of my process, I’m nervous that I’ll want #allthebread after not having any for so long. Really looking forward to the day I can eat what my body needs and enjoy food without over thinking it. Thanks for the thought provoking post!

    • 28

      Abstaining from something because it doesn’t make you feel so good physically is definitely in line with intuitive eating! Just try to remember when you start adding wheat back that you can have as much of it as you want so long as you feel physically good. Focus on that slow, mindful eating, and on listening to your body!

      • 29

        Thanks for the advice, I really appreciate your approach to intuitive eating. Guiding me to take it slow and just listen to my body sounds so doable – not scary or time consuming! That’s exactly the pep talk that I needed. : )

  16. 31

    I definitely think they exist! I think the “diet history” comes into play when people try to force themselves into the opposite category. I am definitely a moderator, and probably always have been. But in my (failed) attempts at losing weight in the past, I’ve tried to take an abstainer approach – the “all or nothing” that I now know doesn’t work for me at all – getting suckered into every sugar free, dairy free, wheat free set of guidelines out there. As I’ve finally embraced that I’m a moderator (and ignore the fad diets even though they still tempt me sometimes!!) I’ve had much more success at finding a happy weight. But I definitely have friends that fall into the other camp, and enjoy the black and white rules, and have had a lot of success that way. And for them it’s not a “diet”, it’s just the way they eat.

  17. 33
    Roadrunner says:

    A moderator, though with some abstainer thoughts (such as no white bread)!
    Wonderful post, thanks!

  18. 34

    My whole adult life I have been a proud and conscious “moderator”: I don’t say NO to food I enjoy, I just eat in small quantities. Unfortunately, I have been diagnosed H pylori bacteria a month ago which forced me to be an abstainer for medical reason. I can’t have diary products, coffee (born and raised in Italy so imagine how traumatic that is), no chocolate, no alcohol, no sugar, no meat. I have come to the conclusion that unless you have a medical reason, there is no need to abstain! no need! Especially, now I don’t get vegans.
    Food keeps us going and we should be able to enjoy it in moderation!

  19. 36

    Such an interesting concept! I am definitely an abstainer, which I knew, but what your post made me realize is that I do it because I am a control freak! In all things in life I believe there a rules to be followed, there is right and there is wrong – I can be pretty rigid, which I know is not a good thing. My question for you, or other dietitians out there, is how do you go about helping someone like me, where the issues that I have with food are also issues I have with life in general (i.e., being a planner, a black a white thinker, needing control over all things)? How do you get someone to be a moderator in life, and not just food?

    • 37

      I find that often if someone feels like they really need to control things very tightly in their life it’s because there’s something else in their life that feels very chaotic/out of control, and so they control other things as a sort of response/coping mechanism. It might be worth taking to a therapist to work through some of that, if you’re open to it (no shame in talking things out – I’ve done therapy in the past myself and I think it’s a good idea for anyone). Give it some thought – is there something in your life that you are avoiding/pushing down and using the control in other aspects to mask/cope with? Certainly some people are more black and white in general than others just by personality, but still worth considering!

  20. 38

    I think I am both at different times, oddly enough. I like the concept of mindful eating. Thinking about my cravings versus my desire for clean, healthy eating. Of course I indulge every once in a while. But for the most part, since I started my wellness journey I really consider what and when I eat.

  21. 39

    I call myself an abstainer, but I’d say it’s more of a learned habit to avoid some other habits that make me unhappy. I’m someone who naturally tends to question things and overanalyze. So it can set me on a tiring train of thought when I have to stop and say, do I actually want this treat? Is one bite satisfying, or do I want more? Would I feel happier after I had it?…. Etc. I would love if I didn’t do that, but many years of therapy later, and I still have that tendency so I don’t know that I’ll ever get rid of it! So I mostly just treat a lot of things as an abstainer because it helps me avoid the draining questions that go on and on in my head, by just saying “no thank you” and can move on. But this is a strategy I use in other areas of my life as well, to prevent myself from dwelling too long on making a decision. So I guess I’d say that for my personality, abstaining is just what works better for me, most of the time. There are some times when it’s like I’ve been thinking about ice cream all week so I’ll get my husband to go with me to the gelato shop on a date night, because that’s when I know I really want it. And I don’t have all of those overanalyzing thoughts. Or say I’m at someone’s home and they baked a cake, my policy is always to say yes when someone has gone out of their way to make me something. But again that is more of something I already decided so I wouldn’t have to think about it each time the occasion came up. To answer your question about having a dieting past, I don’t. I’ve always been interested in eating healthy (I’m studying to be an RD right now) so I’d say I’ve always been conscious of my food choices, and willing to try different styles of eating (vegetarian, paleo, etc) but never have been a dieter.

    • 40

      It’s all about doing what works best for us personally – and you have found that, which is awesome! It sounds like you have a good grasp now on whether something is a true craving/worth it experience (like you said, wanting something all week, or deciding it’s worth it because someone put some love and care into making something for you) vs. just having something because it’s there (and then questioning yourself a lot in the process).

  22. 41

    I’m a moderator, my husband is an abstainer. When I started my healthy-eating lifestyle (about 10 years ago), I was an abstainer because it just made it easier for me to adhere to my new diet. When I went into maintenance mode, I was able to moderate and all is well. My husband, though, has to completely cut off something or he will keep going back to it. That can be hard on a relationship when it comes to enjoying restaurants and events but…could be worse!

  23. 42

    I didn’t listen to the podcast, but did read this and Julie’s blog posts. Based on that, I don’t really think you can simply put people into these two categories. Maybe it’s more of a spectrum. I also completely agree with you Anne that eating behaviors along this spectrum are probably highly influenced by 1) dieting/body image history and 2) upbringing. I also think that a person can definitely change where they fall on the spectrum (in life and in eating).

    • 43

      I like the idea of a spectrum – I think that’s much more true. And I agree you can absolutely change where you fall on that spectrum!

  24. 44
    Ashley v says:

    When I first heard about this concept, I immediately declared myself an abstainer. After reading your post and some comments, I’m not 100% sure. I know that if I eat one bite of something it will lead to 12 bites, so I just tend to not even take the first bite. I don’t keep chocolate (my weakness!) in the house on a regular basis, because I will then eat it (12 bites of it) on a regular basis. However, it’s not because I think chocolate is “bad” but because I know eating entire bars of chocolate in one sitting is not the healthiest daily behavior. ;)

  25. 45

    This is a great post, and definitely something I’ve been thinking about since Julie’s post! Right now I would call myself an abstainer, because I’ve been going through cycles of too many indulgences (unhealthy dinners, not enough veggies, sweets whenever they’re in front of me) with no literally guilt until my clothes get too tight. Haha! So right now I’m cutting out gluten and dairy, basically because many of the meals I was reaching for were bread and cheese based… So as a nutritional reset, it’s good me to have to fill my plate with healthy foods without being tempted with those. My hope is that I will feel better without them and only have them on very rare occasion (my birthday, etc.) It’s almost easier for me to eat healthier when I’m “not allowed” to consider those unhealthy trigger foods. Definitely a good topic to think about!

  26. 46

    Cool topic! I think it’s interesting to consider people’s personalities and if they apply this principle to things other than food as well. From things from alcohol abuse to whether people will purchase only organic groceries or allow flexibility. I find the abstaining approach too rigid myself, as someone who likes to travel and explore, if I only ate meat from locally sourced or grass-fed cows or whatever the restriction you put on yourself as a consumer, I would miss out on a lot. That said, I am absolutely a strict abstainer when it comes to things like smoking so maybe I’m not all one approach all the time! :)

    • 47

      True — it definitely varies depending on certain aspects of life, although you sound like a moderator in general to me! :)

  27. 48
    RDDoreen says:

    I love this topic! I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, because I’ve been seeing more and more clients who call themselves abstainers but who really want to be moderators. They find they can be moderate in things like technology, exercise, alcohol or other activities, but can’t seem to be a moderator around food. So they think of themselves as an abstainer when their lifestyle in every other way shows them to be a moderator! I’m totally in agreement that it’s more about paying attention and practicing moderation on purpose (even when sometimes it means eating more than you intended to) over and over until it becomes intuitive.

    I would say that I myself used to think of myself as an abstainer, in that I wouldn’t have foods in the house, or if they were in the house I wouldn’t touch them because I thought I couldn’t stop. If my thoughts were “I’m not going to eat that” then I just wouldn’t eat it, even if it was available, like at a party. I’ve totally relaxed in my thoughts around food though, and now consider myself a moderator. It wasn’t an easy transition though, because foods like potato chips would be in the house because I didn’t want anything to be off-limits, and I’d have huge portions at a time. But over time I’ve practiced and practiced and now I can have like, three bites of whatever food and decide if I want to have more or if that was enough. It’s definitely a mind-set shift, and a skill to practice, which is why I think so many people “try” moderation and give up, thinking “I’m just an abstainer.” Then they have the label that they’ve given themselves to battle with too!

    I also think Jill Coleman talks very well about moderation, and has lots of great things to say on the topic!

    • 49

      Great comment and reflection on your transition to becoming a moderator! Glad to hear you’ve found a mindful approach that works for you! :) I haven’t heard of Jill Coleman – will check her out!

  28. 50

    Here is the issue: Moderators can’t understand what it’s like to be an abstainer. I will tell you I have a profoundly different relationship with food as an abstainer than my moderator husband. Certain foods have undeniably addictive properties, and it’s much easier for me to avoid them completely. And it’s not because of my diet history–it’s because of my genetics and personality type. You are a moderator and have never been obese, and for those reasons, I don’t think you can truly understand.

    • 51

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Lauren! I definitely think you are right that some people tend more towards being an abstainer or a moderator by nature, but I still think people can change over time, at least somewhat. I used to be more of an abstainer with food, actually, so although now I’m certainly a moderator, I do still understand the abstainer mentality.

  29. 52

    Whenever I listen to Gretchen Rubin talk about food I feel sad because I hear control issues that I think she should address to create a healthier relationship with mood and become able to moderate.

  30. 53

    I love this topic! Right up my alley! I actually listened to that SAME podcast and wondered if you had when I saw the title.

    I agree 100%. I used to be an abstainer with food, and it was that very concept of realizing and accepting that I could have any food anytime I want that also gave me the freedom to start enjoying foods more often, instead of treating food as the enemy. By acknowledging that I could have, say Thanksgiving dinner, really ANYTIME throughout the year, Thanksgiving dinner suddenly seemed less glamorizing. Don’t get me wrong, still AMAZING, but the idea also allowed me to realize that it was almost silly to treat those foods as if they “only happen once a year.” If they’re only happening once a year, it’s because I’m only making it once a year. And really, I can have it anytime I want!

    That said, I DO think it could be helpful for some to realize what their “trouble foods” are, maybe especially in the beginning of making a change. This might mean that they could spend a little more time working through a mindful eating exercise when having potato chips or cookies, or whatever. I tend to view it as someone with an addiction. You wouldn’t tell an alcoholic to walk in a bar, order a drink, and then practice moderation. The truth is, some people may have not worked up to that just yet. I think it’s a skill that definitely takes practice.

    • 54

      Yes, absolutely – great thoughts! I think it’s especially important to work on mindful eating exercises when eating “fear foods” – I always have clients put the food on a nice plate, sit down at a table, enjoy it without interruption and really try to be in the experience, seeing how the food tastes and feels when they are really checked in.

  31. 55

    I lost a lot of weight (over 80 pounds) about 10 years ago as a die-hard abstainer. I think I was recovering from a lifetime of disordered eating – bingeing, sneaking food, etc – and needed to be very strict with myself. I have maintained the weight loss over that time (except for gaining and losing some with a couple of pregnancies), and I am trying to work toward becoming a better “moderator.” I am much healthier now than I was right after I lost the weight because I exercise more and have really worked to eat a nutritionally sound diet (no more low-fat “diet” foods). At times I find myself drifting into disordered eating again (handful after handful of pretzels), and have to put a stop to it by abstaining from particular things for awhile. It’s definitely possible to change – for me being a moderator is more difficult but makes life more fun!

  32. 57

    Love this! I read Julie’s post also, and I remember thinking that for me there was no clear answer of moderator vs. abstainer. More than anything I consider myself a moderator, but I also don’t like buying things like ice cream and cookies because I don’t need them on a daily basis and don’t want to be tempted to eat too many of them. Does that make me an abstainer? I don’t think so…I think maybe that is all part of the moderation (because if I go out to dinner for my birthday and they bring me an ice cream sundae you better believe I’m going to eat it). Plus I have a bunch of girl scout cookies at home right now, and I’ve been eating one every couple of days which I think is the definition of moderator…or something. ;) I actually was surprised at all those people who commented saying they were abstainers…it made me feel like I had it backwards but now your post makes me think maybe I don’t!

    • 58

      It sounds like you’re a moderator to me! I also don’t keep ice cream and cookies in the house much — not because I can’t have them, but because I know I won’t enjoy them as much if I’m just mindlessly eating them at home. I’d rather have them as a treat when I’m out! :)

  33. 59

    Personally, I’ve seen a huge change in my eating habits in going from an abstainer to a moderator. I think alot has to do with being more conscious of eating enough protein and healthy fats, and being able to control my cravings and really indulging in them when I have them. But even as RDs, we are not perfect! I’m working with one of my clients now on transitioning to being a moderator, and rather than telling her she can’t have any Little Debbie Cakes (Those are her sweet of choice!), I’m suggesting that she can still have 1 each day but to look forward to it and eat slowly and see how she feels throughout. Remember to taste it. It’s a work in progress because she normally eats 1 box a day – I think it’s important to take small steps into account when trying to switch from one to the other!

    • 60

      Absolutely agree re: small steps! Glad to hear you’ve seen an improvement in your eating habits switching to a moderator approach — and love that you are spreading the love to your clients! Keep up the great work!

  34. 61

    I really like this post! I never thought about my relationship with food in this way before. I would have to say that I am an abstainer, but am working on being a moderator. I think it stems from my childhood eating habits. My mom was a diabetic, so sugar was off limits. As I have gotten older, I have developed a major sweet tooth. I used to treat donuts like they were awful! I would crave them all the time, but wouldn’t allow myself to have one. Then when I did, I would eat more than one and feel so guilty about it. I have changed my mindset about them, and now that I will allow myself to eat them, I don’t even crave them anymore. And, I really don’t enjoy them like I used to either. This is really something to think about!

  35. 62

    I think that when I finally stopped viewing foods as good or bad and just learned to eat intuitively while enjoying the “bad” foods with the “good” foods I got it! I now absolutely see myself as a moderator. Love this post and I read Julie’s as well. So fascinating and I think you really drove the “why” home with this post!

  36. 63

    I think the difficult part of being a moderator in the current environment is that foods that are highly processed, and filled with chemical additives are *I suspect* modified / engineered to make us crave more while feeling less full. I am a corporate professional and I believe that big food corporations (similar to big tobacco corporations) will do whatever it takes to maximize profit, at the consumers expense.

    For example, if I eat all natural ice cream in which the ingredients are listed sugar, milk etc. (often produced by a local shop), I find that it is very easy to feel pleasure and moderate when I feel full. However, when I go to the grocery store and by an ice cream pint that contains ingredients that I can’t pronounce, I tend to crave more. I suspect that it is nearly impossible to moderate when consuming processed food because the ingredients have an unnatural effect on our bodies (such as causing extreme insulin spikes). This is why I think that it is so important to cut out processed foods, even if the general approach to diet is still one of moderation.

    • 64

      I totally agree — that’s one of the reasons I always suggest indulging in the REAL version of something vs. a processed imitation! (Also, I edited out your last name per your request!)

  37. 65

    I think I’m an Abstainer with some Moderator. I know if I bake a cake, I’ll eat a cake. So…just don’t bake a cake. If I really want cake, it’seasier for me to go out, have a fancy cupcake somewhere and be done. It’s not in my house and calling to me at 2 in the morning, I totally become the ‘all or nothing’ type, if I’m faced with too much of a good thing.

    Mug cakes have become my saving grace as well.

  38. 66

    I’m a little late to the game here, but another aspect of this that I think is worth exploring is the effects of either a partner or roommate on one’s tendencies. For instance, my roommate for years after college was the definition of a perfect moderator. A few bites was all she needed of a treat to be satisfied, she was the slowest eater I have ever met and truly savored each bite. Nothing was off-limits to her. Living with her, I definitely adopted these habits.

    However, my boyfriend whom I recently moved in with is an abstainer. He’s a fitness nut and just doesn’t believe in keeping unhealthy food in the house. If we go out to eat or choose to buy a carton of ice cream, anything and any amount is fair game.

    I think I’ll need to do a little soul searching to see where I feel I fall on the spectrum without their influences!

    • 67

      Interesting idea! I definitely agree — those who surround us heavily influence our own habits. It’s why it makes me especially sad to hear women bashing their bodies or talking about diets with other friends — we are very influenced by what others close to us say!

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