Hungry Runner? Subscribe to get your Hunger Scale for Runners


Are you an abstainer or a moderator?

Good morning BLT readers! I don’t usually post on Thursdays but I’m popping in today to share some “out loud” thoughts in Amanda’s TOL forum. Head on over to her page to check out her amazing recipes and skillful sense of humor!

Are you an Abstainer or Moderator?

Abstainer or Moderator-

I’ve talked before about Gretchen Rubin’s Happier podcast that I enjoy listening to. I’ve noticed that she likes to categorize people into groups, based on habits (or lack thereof), tendencies and unconscious choices we make like a bagillion times a day. While I don’t think of myself as falling neatly into categories, I was open to learning about her distinction between being a moderator and an abstainer, especially in relating it to food.


I was thinking about this after Thanksgiving, when I happily overindulged in so many delicious forms of food. Not all whole-foods, or organic, or fresh, or “natural,” or fiber-heavy, or nutrient-rich. Sorry, nutrition degree. But just simple food that can still be nourishing to your mind, body and needs at the right time.


Gretchen describes herself as a 100% abstainer. She has more willpower and self-control than probably 98% of our population {I really have no idea how she does this}. She uses the example that rather than allow herself to indulge moderately in something like, cake, she would rather give it up completely, so in that way, there is no self-control involved. Whereas if she were to have it occasionally, like a moderator would (me), that requires more self-control. I get this, but it’s just not me. The only “food” I pretty much eat every day is peanut butter. Otherwise, if I don’t eat it every day, I will surely enjoy those precious times when I do.

ice cream cake

Other traits to describe an abstainer would be consistency (wanting to finish what you’ve started), the ability to stick to a routine, and having an “all in” mentality. You have “stricter” rules for yourself that you can abide by. There is nothing wrong with this and I applaud your commitment! However, my thoughts…


A moderator, on the other hand, can moderate intake, indulgences, shopping habits, etc. I definitely do not work well when I am “confined,” be it mentally, physically, emotionally, life-ly, etc. Even in my workouts, I need flexibility and I cannot follow strict plans in case I “want to do something else that day.” Real world problems, ya’ll. Some people are great at going to that 6 am boot camp class every day, or that hot yoga class after work….just not me. 


I would say I’m a little bit of both a moderator and abstainer, but I lean more towards the moderator side. I don’t like strict rules – I thrive with flexibility. The thought of never eating or doing something ever again scares me. Ever? Like forever ever?

make day count

Ask anyone who sees me (eats with); I’m often the one who has to TRY everything. I may not even be hungry for it, but since you brought it, or cooked it, or it somehow found its way to plop down in front of me, I will honor it and give it a taste. Even if I’m already so full. I am also not someone who can avoid reaching for the “occasional” sweet treat. My taste buds much prefer sweet to savory. 

crepes, , abstainer moderator

Oh well. I’ll just make sure to load up on some healthy, protein-rich and fiber-rich things too. That’s a deal I make with myself. This is why I have so much trouble eating at the same restaurant twice or following the same recipe twice – there are just too many good options to choose from!

I just found this comparison interesting, since I had never paid much attention to it before. I’m actually surprised at how varied my habits can be in different life sectors. I can be SO type A for certain things (grad school, jobs, cleaning, blogging) and keep my own word and commitment to make sure it gets done. But for others, I’m so much more laid back. Aren’t habits and preferences interesting!?

While I don’t need to eat ice cream, drink a glass of wine, or eat sushi every night, if I ever tried to deny myself from ever having these things, I would have huge problems in my life (my wallet disagrees). While a true moderator would be able to self-regulate after having a bite or two, or even just one piece of dark chocolate, chances are I’m probably going to finish the bowl of ice cream, or the chocolate bar, or the sushi dish. Once I start, I’m pretty much all in, so in that sense, I have a little abstainer in me too.

pizza wine


Note: I also enjoy fruits and vegetables in moderation. 🙂

whole foods, abstainer moderator

If you want a good conversation starter at a party, I think you should just bring up being an abstainer or moderator. You’ll get some very interesting answers, I’m sure. 

Your turn:  Are you an abstainer or moderator and why?

Join The Conversation

More For You!

Share Your Thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Abstainer here. For health reasons… But honestly, if I didn’t have all my health complications, I still believe I would be an abstainer. I have MORE willpower than Gretchen 😉 But seriously, I do… When I “splurge” it’s typically me just eating a bit more salmon than normal, LOL!

  2. Oh man, I think I’m a little of both! I’m Type A when it comes to following a schedule and that sort of thing, but when it comes to food I’m definitely more flexible. I have the mentality of allowing myself to indulge here and there (a glass of wine, some chocolate, etc.) because I know myself well enough to know if I cut something out completely I’ll go nuts and then OVER-indulge!

  3. Interesting!! This definitely has me thinking. I think I’d have to say I’m an abstainer, but I’m mostly taking that from the fact I know I have an addictive personality. Starting one thing usually leads to all or nothing thinking. That being said, I am also someone who wants to do EVERYTHING so then tend to do/have little bits of everything here and there. I think I’m striving to become more of a moderator. I think with that could bring a more balanced mentality and less black or white thinking?

  4. I’d definitely say that I’m a previous abstainer turned moderator. Not that being an abstainer is bad, but for me personally, completely depriving myself of something fueled too many negative thoughts about myself and perfectionism. Some people are probably able to find a better balance than I did though! Now I’m SUCH a moderator – give me a bite of everything please.

  5. I’m a moderator, for sure! I feel like I’ve grown much more into a moderator life than an abstainer over time. I used to ban foods from my diet completely when I had problems with orthorexia, and I’m glad I’m no longer at that point in my life. I don’t like being boxed in with rules either!

  6. I’m an abstainer definitely. If it is out of sight completely, it is out of mind completely. I can’t just have one bite or one bottle of something. I have an all or nothing mentality and I don’t like that. I wish I was a moderator!

  7. I kind of think it is easier to be an abstainer. If you never touch it, you don’t have to practice self control. I used to be an abstainer, but now I’m a moderator. I think it takes work to eat intuitively, but it is more enjoyable overall.

  8. With your “sweet” tooth, how do you stay so thin and in shape? I feel I have to abstain from sweets and sugars in order to try to stay thin…