Friday, March 20, 2015

Are You an Abstainer or Moderator?

So I Kindled Gretchen Rubin's new book Better Than Before, which I recommend you read if you want to lose weight or cultivate healthier eating habits. It is loaded with great paradigms and strategies, like a cauliflower casserole loaded with bacon and melty cheese.

Do I have your attention now?

One of the concepts I love in Rubin's book is that some people can occasionally deviate from their healthy habits with no dire consequences while others must be 100% consistent.

Rubin labels these two groups of people as moderators and abstainers.

A moderator can eat one brownie once in a while.

If an abstainer eats that same brownie, she is likely to go back for seconds, thirds or ninths or resume eating brownies or other bakery treats every day.

One of the reasons why Medifast worked so well for me is that it forced me to be an abstainer while I was OP. Knowing that even one cupcake could throw me out of my mild state of ketosis and stall my weight loss was enough for me to say "No thank you."

Which is way different than a diet like Weight Watchers that permits you to eat anything you want as long as you don't exceed your max points.

The black and whiteness of abstaining from certain foods altogether worked way better for me since I didn't have to constantly summon my will power. I knew what I could eat and what I could not. I was not making a million micro decisions every day.

And my fat melted off like candle wax in less than four months.

What's interesting is I've noticed through my various Medifast Facebook groups that people who are abstainers like me do far better with the relatively rigid Medifast approach than those who frequently make exceptions and cheat on the 5&1 Plan. Medifast is like a child's coloring book with bold lines. If you insist on coloring outside those lines you'll end up with a picture that looks like this:

Instead of this:

Ironically, I am not a big rule follower, so the only way for me to be comfortable abstaining was to act like it was all my idea. Even though some bossy nutritiony people at Medifast created the diet rules, it was my decision to follow them. So I was only hurting myself if I rebelled since the diet police in Maryland would have no idea either way.

What's interesting is that most dietician types like to tell people it's okay to depart from one's healthy eating habits in moderation, but that doesn't work for everyone. If it did, we'd all look like this:

Except for the shiny skin part.

So if you're wondering if you're an abstainer or moderator, here's a quick diagnostic tool from Rubin's blog:
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

More from Diet Skeptic:

Why I'm Addicted to Chia Seeds

Why Fat Head Pizza Is the Holy Grail of Low Carb Pizzas 

The Shocking Truth About Imported Olive Oil

Making Cauliflower Rice in the Vitamix 

Why WebMD Doesn't Want You to Get Well

Follow Nancy's board Low Carb Recipes on Pinterest


  1. im an abstainer, but medifast is teaching me different roles...cant wait to get to maintance and have my behaviors undercontrol

  2. You will love maintenance, Connie. I still eat some MF foods but can add things like almond butter to them. Mostly I just eat regular whole foods as much as possible.