Abstainer or Moderator?

From Gretchen Rubin:

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.”

Ah ha! Like Dr. Johnson, I’m an “abstainer.”

I find it far easier to give something up altogether than to indulge moderately. When I admitted to myself that I was eating my favorite frozen yogurt treat very often, two and even three times a day, I gave it up cold turkey. That was far easier for me to do than to eat it twice a week. If I try to be moderate, I exhaust myself debating, “Today, tomorrow?” “Does this time ‘count’?” etc. If I never do something, it requires no self-control for me; if I do something sometimes, it requires enormous self-control….

Here’s her quiz:

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



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  • A helpful way of looking at things. I think I may be an abstainer, but confess I’ve not really thought in quite these terms before.

  • Pat Pope

    Abstainer, here. If I do indulge, I tend to fall off the wagon.

  • DRT

    Wow, I always thought of my self as being an indulger, is that an option?

  • Bill

    Interesting. I am an abstainer. Good post.

  • gingoro

    While this dichotomy may and probably often is true for food there are many other possible areas of life where I try to abstain, am tempted by and occasionally fall into sin or otherwise partake of. For some of the year I can eat dairy and chocolate but at other times when my allergies are inflamed by something like ragweed then say ice cream results in very unpleasant symptoms. During most of the allergy season I can abstain but I am still tempted to eat ice cream and very very occasionally I give in to that urge.
    Dave W