by Kathie England

Better Than Before – Day 33

More on abstaining vs. moderating

Rubin discusses reasons that abstinence works for some people and moderation for others.

For her, the thought of total deprivation (abstinence) makes it easier because she feels it conserves her energy and willpower – there are no decisions to make and no struggle with self-control. It’s all-or-nothing for an abstainer. Her perspective is that by giving up something totally, an abstainer really gains. Moderation for her is a constant struggle and is exhausting.

Rubin shared a similar view from one of her blog readers about abstinence: “Much easier to say ‘no’ to something once and be done with the whole issue than to go back and forth endlessly. Abstinence takes zero mental effort.”

By contrast moderators find the deprivation of total abstinence makes their craving stronger. Moderate indulging keeps the cravings at-bay and under control. Moderators find that occasional indulgence heightens their pleasure AND strengthens their resolve. They tend to panic or become rebellious at the thought of “never” getting or doing something.

I think that one’s brain chemistry many explain the difference between abstainers and moderators. For abstainers, having something makes them want it MORE. For moderators, having something makes them want it LESS.

I think the most important point Rubin makes about abstinence vs. moderation is that there is NO universal answer for everyone. It’s what each person finds works best for their circumstance.

This idea reinforces the AEC Model – self-awareness and self-knowledge enable us to find the approach that works for us (and this may require ignoring the advice of others).

The context of the habit challenge is also important to consider – sometimes abstinence is the more effective strategy; sometimes moderation may be preferable. It’s truly the perspective of “different solutions for different people”

Ruin concludes this chapter with the thought that most successful habit changes require the coordination of multiple strategies, all aimed at a single behavior.

Over the weekend, I invite readers to observe themselves: are you abstaining or moderating?

I’m headed out of town this weekend so I’ll be taking my first blogging break since I started 33 days ago. My commitment is to resume on Monday. I’m taking Rubin’s advice to have a transition plan in place when breaking a habit.