Tuesday 31 March 2015

Abstainer or Moderator? The One Square of Chocolate a Day Test

What I should have had instead of wine and chocolate!
So I went down the pub.  Had a glass of red wine.  So far, so not so bad.  Cos, see, the Viva Mayr regime doesn't exclude the odd glass of wine.  However, of course, I didn't stop at the one.  I had another.  And then I went home and, before I knew it, I was sitting watching Poldark with my paw in the bag of mini eggs I'd bought for James.  Okay, let's step back there - I had metered out a small bowl of them, saving the majority for James but, well, you know how it goes...
Or do you?
According to a book I read lately for research, we all tend to fall into one of two camps - we're moderators or abstainers.
Gretchen Rubin, author of Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives says, 'We're often told, ‘Be moderate. Don’t indulge every day, but don’t deny yourself altogether because, if you do, you’ll fall even further off the wagon.’

You know the deal - it's behind the whole 80:20 eating idea - if you eat healthily 80 percent of the time, it's fine to indulge for the other 20 percent.  Except...it just doesn't work for everyone.  It certainly doesn't work for me.  I'm an all or nothing person.  I've tried moderation - again and again - and I come up short every time.

I actually find it much easier to give up something altogether than to just dabble in it.  I'd rather fast than diet; I'd rather wreck myself with four hours exercise a day than do a sensible hour three times a week. Maybe that's part and parcel of having an addictive personality?
Anyhow, with Gretchen, I found a kindred spirit.  'I realized that one way to deprive myself without creating a feeling of deprivation is to deprive myself totally,' she says.   'Weirdly, when I deprive myself altogether, I feel as though I haven’t deprived myself at all.'  And I nodded in total agreement.

Remember back when I stopped drinking alcohol altogether?  I didn't miss it at all.  Easy-peasy, lemon squeezy.  Now I drink it occasionally, I find that I really can't just drink the one glass, I'll scarf the bottle (and then look winningly at a second).  So that makes me one of life's Abstainers apparently.   'When we Abstainers deprive ourselves totally, we conserve energy and will-power,' says Gretchen. 'Because there are no decisions to make and no self-control to muster.'

According to her research, we fall into either the Abstainer camp - those who do better when they follow all-or-nothing habits - or the Moderator camp - those who do better when they indulge - yup, moderately.

How to tell?  Could you put a large bar of chocolate in your fridge and eat one square every day?  Or have one glass of wine and pop the cork back in the bottle without the barest urge to neck the lot? (feel free to substitute your favourite temptation here).  This is the point at which the Moderators shrug and go, 'Duh!  Of course I could. Who couldn't?'  This is also the point at which the Abstainers snort with laughter and go, 'Duh! Don't be an effing numpty!'

Gretchen reckons that the less we indulge in something, the less we want it.  'When we believe that a craving will remain unsatisfied, it may diminish; cravings are more provoked by possibility than by denial,' she says, and then quotes William James:  ‘It is surprising how soon a desire will die of inanition if it be never fed.’

Etymology: L, inanis, empty

1 an exhausted condition resulting from lack of food and water or a defect in assimilation; starvation.
2 a state of lethargy characterized by a loss of vitality or vigor in all aspects of social, moral, and intellectual life.

And then she quotes Samael Johnson:  ‘I can’t drink a little, child; therefore I never touch it. Abstinence is as easy to me, as temperance would be difficult’.

Have I wrecked my Viva Mayr Cure?  Probably not, but I know myself well enough to realise that I've probably sewn the seeds for last week's good foundations slipping away.  For what?  For a glass of wine and a bag of sugar?  Pretty dumb, huh?

Anyway, the book is great - a real eye-opener.  If you are interested in what makes you tick, and why you find it nigh-on impossible to make healthy habits, or to ditch the unhealthy ones, I'd highly recommend it.  Click on the cover below to check it out.


LeeAnn at Mrs Black's said...

This looks like a book I need to read. I'm with you, I am unable to have a little bit of what I like. I want all of it! So, in order to be good I must abstain, which means keeping cupboards choccy free. I have less trouble with wine, I just let the hubby drink it.

Exmoorjane said...

Yup, LA, I have pretty much zero self-control. :)

Frances said...

Well Jane, I am looking forward to having my Lenten chocolate fast end very soon. And yet, I haven't really missed it. In fact doing without chocolate has been a bit too easy, so I also have been trying throughout Lent to do some good things, and to be helpful to others.

I think that desire is a good emotion. Maybe I am a moderator? Is my staying clear of chocolate abstaining or moderating?

I truly don't know. I do know that we cannot get real British chocolate over here any more. But that is another issue altogether.

Happy Easter! xo

Rachel Webb said...

Yep, one I need. I can leave a bottle unfinished and would rather have none than one!

Used to live in Porlock, now in Andalucia. Love Exmoor, explored in every day from 17- 20.