Wednesday, October 15, 2014

abstaining versus moderating revisited

I've talked about Gretchen Rubin's concepts of abstaining vs moderating before (here and here).  I have to admit that I always turned my nose up a little bit at the idea of abstaining, though. 
My bias towards moderation went something like this:

- Abstaining is too strict. I just don't want to say 'never' about anything.
- Abstaining is for people who have no self-control (otherwise clearly moderation would work!), so I don't need to do it.
- Abstaining sounds like no fun.
- Abstaining from anything would just backfire because eventually the temptation would be too great and I (or anyone) would want to eat/buy/do all of those forbidden things like crazy.
However, in the past couple of months I decided to simply TRY abstaining in two realms.

At the end of August, I "went paleo" and abstained from grains, almost all dairy, legumes, and processed foods.  One day, I just made it that my new policy that my default was just going to be . . . not eating these things.  In those past ~6 weeks, I have consciously chosen to abandon the paleo guidelines 4 times: for 3 delicious dinners out, and ummmm  . . .for one of these at the airport (yeah I know).

I still consider this to be an abstaining approach -- I guess my current status is paleo unless I really consciously want to make an exception -- and it seems to be working.  And I don't just mean better energy/fewer cravings/etc, but more that I am just happier about how I am eating, an area which has been a chronic source of low-level annoyance, for better or for worse.  So in this instance -- after years of moderation, I think I have become an abstainer.  At least a 97% one.

A friend and I made an email pact 3 weeks ago that we would stop wasting time on a time-sucking website that wasn't making either of us particularly happy.  And then -- both of us stopped!  Neither of us have gone to that site since we made the decision to quit.  It has been rather freeing and both of us are pretty thrilled with this.

Contrast this with about 9 zillion previous failed attempts at moderating in this realm: attempts to check email at specific times (fail), to only check facebook once/day (I do look at it less, but still fail), to keep blog reading to specific times (again, doing less of it, but still -- fail).  Yesterday I decided to just NOT use my phone for anything after work.  This worked about 99 times better than those other strategies, and I think it was because it was an abstaining one.  

SOOOOOO: what's my point?  I guess that I need to eat my words about being on team moderator.  I'm actually not a particularly good moderator in some ways if I really think about it.  I think I actually do better when I create ways to make habits more black/white.

Would love your ideas on how to make rules that really are about moderation (I can't QUIT email, for example) into abstaining ones.  Here are a few I came up with that might work:
- Abandoning/docking the phone after work like I did yesterday
- Just saying NO to FB on the phone (ever), email on the phone (unless necessary to look something up or send something for work)
- Allowing FB on only one day per week and only postwork (Facebook Fridays)?
etc . . .

Thoughts? Strategies? Your experiences?  I'm guessing Gretchen Rubin's new book may touch on some of this.  I'm hoping it's full of examples because I find I learn the most from those.


In other news:

1) Walking to the playground at 6pm in Hunter rain boots and a costume skirt?  I can't really think of a good reason why not . . 

2) He is EATING!  Avocado and cheerios here.  He also has his first cold -- pitiful.  Hopefully it will be over soon!