Abstaining from Specific Foods While Dieting Flexibly

As I was on the plane Thanksgiving morning traveling to Idaho to be with family, I was listening to a podcast by Ali Brown.  She had guest speaker Gretchen Rubin, author of the Happiness Project, who spoke about moderators and abstainers.  Gretchen used the example of the moderator being able to eat one Thin Mint Girl Scout cookie vs. the abstainer who will eat at least seven as a bare minimum.  Hmmm- sounds familiar.

Moderation is the name of the game in flexible dieting, but so many people have the seven plus Thin Mint problem. 

Personally, I like to work WITH people’s tendencies, not fight them.  Go with the grain, not against it in coaching.  Is there a time someone should abstain? Is this against everything I believe in as a flexible dieter?

When I began my flexible dieting adventure, I was an all or nothing type of dieter.  I would either be on show prep or very much off of show prep.  One of my goals was to be a moderator.  With practice, I have made great strides in having one treat and stopping there.  I have also failed miserably.  One thing I would suggest is to begin a food journal where you also make a note of how you are feeling at the time.  Are you tired? Stressed? Bored? Happy? Sad? Using this strategy, I have found my “trigger points” for my binge eating episodes (proud to say they are decreasing by the month but not extinct).  When I am extremely stressed and anxious, I can quickly fall into a binge.  I use comfort foods to console myself.  During extremely stressful times (traveling, work deadlines, lack of sleep, unhappy parents or students at my school), I prefer to adopt the abstainer mindset.  Since I know the floodgates quickly collapse at this time, I don’t push my limits.

This weekend I was relaxed, well rested, and off from work, so I was a moderator.  I enjoyed a piece of my MIL fabulous homemade candy, and a portion of my favorite sweet potato casserole (the unhealthy kind) without worrying if one piece of candy would turn into the entire bowl or one scoop of casserole would turn into 4.  Last Thanksgiving, it would have been better for me to abstain from too much sugar since I just came off the Iowa Pro show, did not do well, and was a stressed out mess.  I tried to be a moderator last year, and that was an epic fail.  If I had taken my mood at the time into consideration and abstained until I felt more emotionally stable, rested, and calm, I would not have overindulged.  When I overindulge it sends this chain of events into motion- I feel like a failure- then become even more discouraged- and ultimately end in a worse mental state than if I would have avoided the reckless behavior.  Not fun.

My advice is similar to the advice I always give- do what works for you.  You don’t HAVE to stop at one cookie all the time.  You can have zero if you think it is only going to spiral you out of control.  I recommend finding what your triggers are so you can be aware of them.  If you can never be around low-quality foods without a binge fest, I would seek professional help to get your relationship with food in the right place.  No one is perfect, best to know yourself, and what works for you.

Want to know if you are a moderator or abstainer? You can take the quiz on Gretchen Rubin’s website (gretchenrubin.com) and see.  Regardless of what the quiz says for me, I know I am a mix, and knowing that is half the battle in continuing to formulate my healthy relationship with food.

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