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Are You an Abstainer or a Moderator?


Are You an Abstainer or a Moderator?

Complete as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes of:
185-lb. hang power cleans, 3 reps
6 strict ring dips
9 box jumps, 30-inch
27 double-unders

Are you an abstainer or a moderator?

Are you an abstainer or a moderator?

Are You an Abstainer or a Moderator?

Seven years ago I found CrossFit and shortly after CrossFit I found the Zone and Paleo Diets – and the combination changed my life for the better forever.  Over the years I’ve been criticized by friends and family as being “extreme” about my diet or “ridiculous” about my commitment to my workouts.  It’s not uncommon for friends outside of CrossFit to shake their head as they look at me eating and say, “You’re so strict all the time, can’t you just give yourself a break?”

Those comments always piss me off.  I don’t want to give myself a break – this is who I am.  I’ve experimented A TON over the years with various forms of moderation and the results speak for themselves – moderation does not work for me.

Cara sent this article to me a few days ago – Are You an Abstainer or a Moderator? – and it resonated with me because it helped me embrace the kind of person and athlete I am – I’m an abstainer.  

It’s written by Gretchen Rubin.  She’s the author of a few books and is a #1 New York Times and international bestseller of The Happiness Project—an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happier.

She writes:

“When dealing with temptation, I often see the advice, “Be moderate. Don’t have ice cream every night, but if you try to deny yourself altogether, you’ll fall off the wagon. Allow yourself to have the occasional treat, it will help you stick to your plan.”

I’ve come to believe that this is good advice for some people: the “moderators.” They do better when they avoid absolutes and strict rules.

For a long time, I kept trying this strategy of moderation–and failing. Then I read a line from Samuel Johnson, who said, when someone offered him wine: “Abstinence is as easy to me as temperance would be difficult.”

So many times after food challenges we hear from athletes that they did great on the challenge but that they find it hard to find moderation afterward.  They try to find balance but end up failing and feeling guilty for it.  Well, you just might be an abstainer!  On the flip side, I have many friends in CrossFit who are top-notch athletes and find moderation to be the key to their athletic success.

The point is that one is no better than the other BUT figuring out which one you are can help you approach your workouts and diet with the best approach for YOU so that you can be successful no and long into the future. 

So, are you an abstainer or a moderator?  Post to comments. 


4 Responses

  1. Bia

    Brilliant post! I’ve made several failed attempts at being a moderator. Being an abstainer works best for me. Sometimes I’m called “too strict.” They are right, “everything in moderation” does not work for me. The result of makeing some good food choices is shadowed by moderate choices. With the food challenge, I have found commitment to be the key to fulfillment.

  2. Jackie

    Nicole, thank you so much for posting. This resonates so well with me. I believe I am a true abstainer in many areas of my life but yet moderate in some, which I believe gives me a balance. Most of the time I am an all or nothing kind of gal. When I make a decision to do it, I do it whole-heartedly. I quit drinking many years ago and when ever people ask “why did i do that” I really never had an answer for that…. until now. I found something that wasn’t working with me and I just knew stopping would benefit me greatly. Sometimes people would want to put a story to it like “did you have a problem with it (which i questioned based on these statements) or for religious reasons etc”. I just did it because I wanted something better and it was not serving me. I did this again with smoking, doritos (I swear those chips have crack in them), soda, and caffeine, just to name a few. When I do try and add something back in my life, I already know the end result and what will happen when I eventually instill my abstainer mentality (all or nothing) on something that doesn’t work, it just doesn’t work again. So its a choice and a commitment to do the best thing for yourself. and finding other healthier ways to get the end result that I wanted. Who knows maybe that will change one day but it is more of having an awareness to what you need for your own body, mind and spirit!

  3. Christina

    Abstainer 🙂 seems to be easier for me. Good post, thanks for sharing. I liked Gretchen Rubin’s book as well

  4. Abstainer. For years I’ve tried moderation and always thought I HAD to figure it out. This post was an awesome take on that debate. It’s far easier for me to have none then to have a little be it booze, sugar, starch, cigarettes etc. it’s interesting though that some things are more socially acceptable to abstain from than others. It’s cool to not drink ever but to tell some one you don’t eat sugar you get all the looks and judgement of “you must not have any fun!” I like this post because it emphasises that no one way is correct. Thanks Nicole!