Sometimes, Moderation Is Not the Best Choice

I think I have kind of an intense personality.

(Cue the laughter – everyone who knows me who probably thinks that’s the understatement of the year.)

In any case, I own the fact that I’m different sometimes.  I’m not like most people all the time.

Anyway, because of that, I think some common rule-of-thumb advice just doesn’t apply to me.

That probably reads as “Oh look, she thinks she’s a special snowflake, she thinks she’s different from everyone else.”  But you  know what?  Sometimes you are special.  Sometimes you are an exception.  And sometimes what works for everyone else doesn’t work for you, or what works for you doesn’t work for everyone else.  So really, the challenge becomes figuring out when you should disregard everyone else’s advice and when you should follow it.

So, here’s a recent thing I’ve been dealing with/working on.

One thing that we hear a lot in popular culture is all about the virtues of moderation.  About how we should practice moderation in all things, blah blah blah, especially in things we’ve been over indulging in like spending money and eating too much.  It sounds a lot like this:

“Be moderate. Don’t indulge all the time.  If you try to deny yourself altogether, you’ll fall off the wagon. Allow yourself to have the occasional slip-up, it will help you stick to your plan.”

That works really really well for a lot of people.  But it doesn’t work for everybody.  And I’ve come to accept that I don’t do moderation very well.  It just doesn’t jive with me.

I do better with absolutes.

Gretchen Rubin describes it perfectly:

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’?” “Don’t I deserve this?” etc. If I never do something, it requires no self-control for me; if I do something sometimes, it requires enormous self-control.

I think people accept moderation and reject more intense approaches sometimes because they can be uncomfortable.  They can be hard physically, mentally, emotionally.  But there are some benefits to going all out that I feel like people don’t talk about very much:

  1. More Momentum.  If you go all out in some endeavor, you build a lot of momentum really fast.  A good example is doing a 7-day strict diet before moving to a more sustainable diet.  You will lose a lot of weight that first week, and start off with a bang.
  2. Faster Results.  If you save 10% of your income toward retirement, it will take you roughly 66 years to have enough to retire.  If you save 50% of your income, it will only take around 17 years of saving before you never have to work again.  Not Ever.  (Or you can do what I attempted:  80% gives you a waiting period of 5.5 years.)
  3. Ripping off the bandaid.  Change is uncomfortable sometimes.  But maybe sometimes it’s better to just make one big change, and adapt to it, rather than flirt with a constantly moving boundary when it comes to moderation.  Go through your growing pains once, and then be done with it.
  4. How bad can it be, really?  Sometimes an extreme change looks scary on the outside, when really, it’s not very scary at all.

So what spurred this little post?

My eating has been out of control for about one year.  I gained about 23 pounds and despite numerous attempts and approaches to get back into control, I haven’t had any lasting success.

But for a few weeks now I’ve been following the guidance from Bright Line Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin & Free from Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson.   Dr. Thompson has a very addictive personality and this is a plan for other people trying to control food addictions.  It’s simple on the surface.

  1. No added sugars.  Ever.
  2. No flour, of any kind.  Not ever.
  3. No snacks outside of three meals per day.  Not ever.
  4. Portion control.

Other side notes are the heavy discouragement of alcohol, the use of a food diary, and regular meditation.

Extreme?  In comparison to the Standard American Diet, yeah, I’d say it’s quite the departure.


In this respect, for me, restriction has actually become tremendous freedom.

It’s stress free.  Instead of stressing about what to eat, when to eat, and wondering when and if I should indulge and to what degree, I just don’t.  I know all of the answers to those questions.  I eat what I planned to eat, at the times I’ve designated and I don’t indulge in other items.  Ever.

So now I have all this extra time and brain power.  It frees up my brain to worry about other things, like writing this down for you, rather than tossing over dumb thoughts like “Should I or shouldn’t I finish off that ice cream that is in the freezer right now?”

It’s super efficient.  I spend less at the grocery store because I buy exactly what I need, no more and no less, because I know what I plan to eat.

Because my meals are pre-planned, and adequate, I am able to resist temptation.  If I’m hungry, I know when I’ll get food again, and I know I won’t be hungry after that meal.  Therefore, I’m able to tell myself to withstand the hunger, and actually have success.

I’m always prepared.  And unexpectedly, I actually never get too hungry because I always get the right amount of food at the right time, because I already know how big my meals need to be, and what time they will be.  I have literally carried all three meals with me in a bag through a whole day before to make this happen.  It wasn’t even hard.  And it was worth it.

But most importantly, I have regained controlled of my eating.  I feel as if I’m back in control, and not my baser instincts.

And that feeling is one of the best feelings in the world.  I have missed it, and I am so deeply grateful to have it back.

And I am finally losing weight again.

And I felt so great lately, and so amazing, that I bit the bullet and finally got the courage to wear a regular bikini for the first time in public for the July 4th holiday, despite the previous 20 years of self-doubt about not having a nice enough body to pull that off.

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