All Things in Moderation? When to Moderate When to Abstain

By Tamara Lechner

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Tamara Lechner

Wanting to change something about yourself is an admirable journey that often comes with its unique set of opportunities and challenges. People typically want to change behaviors or habits that aren’t serving them well or are leading to destructive patterns.

When someone gets to this junction, there are usually two options: moderation or abstinence. For some people, limiting behavior can result in a healthy lifestyle change they can enjoy for years to come, while for others, completely avoiding that behavior is necessary for health and well-being.

Knowing whether or not you need to moderate or abstain from a certain behavior depends on a variety of factors including self-knowledge, respecting your limitations, and understanding your goals.

Start from the Beginning

The first question to ask yourself is: What behavior are you wanting to change? Is it drinking too much soda? Eating too much cheese? Smoking cigarettes? Enjoying the occasional gluten-filled treat? Once you answer this question, then you need evaluate the consequences of the behavior.

Sure, a small amount of gluten won’t harm your gluten-free lifestyle … well, unless you have celiac disease. In that case, no amount of gluten is worth consuming. If certain foods (like wheat, dairy, artificial sweeteners, and refined sugar) are acutely inflammatory to you, even a “moderate” amount of these food items won’t benefit your health.

Other behaviors like smoking cigarettes are almost universally understood to have negative effects on you, and should be avoided. The occasional soda or piece of cheese won’t affect you quite as negatively, but when taken to an extreme, it can become detrimental to your health.

Choose to Abstain or to Moderate

Depending on your personality, you may find it easier to have none versus a little bit. The biggest challenge in using moderation as your habit-changing method is that it relies strongly on willpower. For many people, the resolve is strong in the morning, but wanes as fatigue, stress, and hunger creep in. The ability to moderate relies heavily on your self-knowledge.

For many, abstinence seems so daunting that they just don’t change at all. Knowing yourself allows you to decide if you have the ability to keep chocolate in your house without eating it or if having any around will ultimately lead to a binge. When in doubt, begin with abstaining. Then, once a new pattern has formed, you can experiment with having an occasional treat.

Set Your Boundaries

If you choose to moderate a certain behavior, then draw clear lines on what is and isn’t permissible. Don’t make general claims like, “I’m going to have fewer cookies.” Are you having one cookie a day or one cookie a week? No cookies at all is clear because you can see if you are successful or not. No cookies = success. One cookie = failure. “Fewer cookies” is far less clear. New habits need clear boundaries to form. If you don’t have a clear goal, you won’t know it …read more
Source: Deepak Chopra  

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