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Are You an Abstainer or a Moderator?

In an earlier post, we discussed the importance of finding your why and changing your mindset for better health. But this is only the first step of the process.

Finding better health and living life to the fullest is a journey, one which is full of layers. Knowing why you want to live a better life and changing your mindset to one of growth is the base layer. The next step is to learn more about yourself and how you form habits make meaningful change. And for that, we need to explore the difference in habit tendencies.
Ever wonder why some people do fine quitting a bad habit cold turkey, while others who try that approach fail within a matter of days and go right back to what they were doing? This is the difference between an abstainer and a moderator.
As author Gretchen Rubin outlines in her book Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, there are major differences in how individuals form strong habits.
She caught onto these subtle differences among people that make a big impact on habit formation and dove into research on habits. The result was several books with thorough descriptions of habit patterns and instructions on how to set yourself up for success.
Her work emphasizes a multi-step process of identifying your unique habit patterns. This starts by observing and understanding yourself. Guiding our clients through this process is a pivotal component in helping them reach their goals.
The first step we take is to identify the difference between those who form habits through abstaining or moderating. Let’s take a look at the differences between these two types.

Are You an Abstainer?

An abstainer is someone who thrives on “all or nothing”. You can either have no chocolate or eat all the chocolate in the house. For an abstainer, the advice often given by medical providers of “everything in moderation” sets them up for failure. Giving an abstainer permission to indulge, even just a little bit, sets them up to overdo it.
Those who are abstainers thrive on systems of “all or nothing rules”. Examples include eliminating certain foods from the diet or performing an exercise at the same time every day. Abstainers thrive on quitting habits, like smoking, cold turkey rather than phasing out over time.

Are You a Moderator?

As the name implies, moderators thrive on the traditional wisdom of “everything in moderation”. Moderators are excellent at telling themselves they can have one bite of chocolate after a meal and stopping there. The thought of completely eliminating something from their lives makes them less likely to change. Moderators can keep occasional treats and phase out bad habits or behaviors. Most of the population would fall into this category.

Why This is Important to Identify Sooner Rather Than Later

Learning to identify your tendency is essential in setting and achieving goals. For an abstainer, structuring goals the way a moderator would is setting them up for failure. Habits are the key to lasting change if you set them up in a way that works for you.
By identifying your particular habit pattern, you set yourself up for success. Without this step, you force yourself to develop habits in a way that doesn't work for you. Which will only lead to more frustration and a sense of defeat. Identifying yourself as an abstainer or moderator is one of the first steps toward learning more about yourself. In our next few posts, we'll explore how to continue to learn more about your own habit tendencies so stay tuned!

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