On Moderation



Last Friday afternoon I made these no-bake peppermint patties by Frankenstein-ing a few recipes from This Rawsome Vegan Life together and making a few moderations of my own. And they were awesome. I made about 12 cookies and managed to eat 10 (saving one for Jeremy and one for my sister) of them within the span of 12 hours.

I’m pretty good with being disciplined when I have firm boundaries. For example, if I’m doing a Whole30 and know that dark chocolate is off the table (and out of my mouth) for a full 30 days it’s not much of a problem. I know I’ll have cravings but I also know that I can’t give in to them. But after my month of clean eating is up, it becomes a daily battle to keep myself from eating an entire bar of the stuff – every. single. night. The question of “Do I have one more piece or no?” and the restraint (or indulgence) that follows almost becomes more struggle than the joy of eating some awesome chocolate is worth.

And on that note … since having Fox I only enjoy a glass of wine (or two max) once a week. But I’ve found that it’s not quite as enjoyable, tasty, or comforting as my daily “wind down” glass was pre-pregnancy. I suppose the daily ritual of getting cozy with a bottle of Malbec may have been what took the edge off even more so than the actual wine itself. Plus now when I imbibe, even just a little bit, I feel wrecked just hours later. Again, it just hardly seems worth it.

I’m beginning to think I suck at moderation. For as much as I’d like to think of myself an anything-goes free-spirit, I actually do much better within boundaries – even if they’re self-imposed. What about you? Are you good with moderation? Or do you prefer to have a clear line in the sand?

  1. Olivia

    Kathleen, I was just discussing this. I have ZERO moderation in daily life with food. Whole30? I can rock that. And I do lead a paleo lifestyle, but even with healthy food, I just cannot moderate! It’s ingrained in me, I guess. Oh well.

  2. Kery

    Yep, I hear you. I heard it described once (I forget where!?) that there are moderators and abstainers, and I definitely am in the latter group. It’s much easier for me to say that I am never going to have xyz again (or at least “never” for this foreseeable future) than it is for me to have some and then worry about whether I’m overdoing it or not. It’s helped me quit smoking (I know, I know it’s terrible), various junkfoods and sodas, etc. all cold-turkey.

    I think I recognize that this is me just being a full-immersion type of person. The type who will wait and watch an entire season in a single weekend (or day) instead of watching one. show. a. week. I am the type who, once a decision has been made, I’m in full-throttle (which is probably why it takes me awhile to decide upon something). I don’t want to dabble in something moderately. No, I want to make it my life’s (or year’s or week’s or day’s) mission. I want to go balls-to-the-wall with it and kick its butt, and Kathleen, I think you’re the same way – it’s not merely impulse, but drive.

  3. Alien Mind Girl

    I am interested to see people’s thoughts on this, because I have a similar experience and I’ve been thinking about it too.

    I have thought about why is it easy when I have the boundaries (like a 7-day challenge, or the 7-Day Body Blast – haven’t done the 30 yet). My theories so far are thusly:

    1) When I am on a 7-day, or on some stricter diet plan, I feel like I am out to prove something to myself. Almost as though it is a temporary game, and I need to know, just for myself, that I am mentally strong enough to do it. Can I do this? Yes I can! I find this is more important to me, by far, than losing weight or building muscle: The personal challenge of it. And the harder it is, the more I’ll buck up. I diet because I am trying to discipline myself and remind myself of healthy priorities, whether or not I lose weight – although I’m happy if I lose a little.

    2) More on the game notion, those plans break out your goals specifically, so I can check them off. “Yes, I did that!” (toot party horn) And I know they are good goals because some fancy professional person made them.

    3) Planning. I have to think about it ahead of time – what types of food and ingredients I’ll be having, what are out, how much time I need to prep meals and when I’ll do it and if I DON’T have the time, how do I find or make the time? No excuses are allowed, so I HAVE to make it work, even if it is harder. The 7-Day Body Blast was a huge logistical challenge, but I worked it out, and it was a ton of work, but I DID figure it out because I didn’t give myself the chance to say no.

    So now I have been wondering how to pull these concepts over into regular life, and sort of create manageable but less intense faux boundaries for myself. I have made less headway on this front. I have attempted to fully drag the ideas over into daily life (a la copy/paste), but it’s simply too much effort to lend itself to sustainable behavior and blend in with my lifestyle, so I have to come up with a workable alteration and I’ve not found it yet.

    But there is also the body chemistry bit… I have a wicked sugar addiction… since forever… and I recognize that this is totally chemistry at play, and I feel I can only succeed against biology so much. If the sugar is there, it goes in my mouth. I try to limit exposure, but it is ubiquitous, and I am only in control of how much goes in my house. Everywhere else it is yet another ongoing battle. (But when I did a 7-day no sugar challenge, I could do it … with the promise of ice cream and cookies on day 8!)

  4. Sarah

    I certainly have the same issues. I had to go gluten and dairy free for health reasons. After a few goodbye meals to some of my favorite foods I quit it cold turkey. It was actually easy for me to quit those even though I grew up being lovingly nicknamed by my family “bread & butter girl” because it was my favorite food. I knew I couldn’t have them anymore. Simple.

    Well, long story short, it turned out to be a huge blessing. I’ve been trying to continually clean up my diet with less sugar, less grains, etc. I feel better when I don’t eat them, but don’t necessarily feel terrible eating them. Unless I completely overdue it of course. It has been incredibly hard for me to cut back on some of those foods. I constantly battled the should I or shouldn’t I, and just one more piece of that dark chocolate bar. Although lately, I’ve been saying screw the battle if I’ve been doing pretty good diet wise and just go ahead and get the treat, enjoy it, and then it’s done. My mind is over it. Other times, the thought “Ooo, chocolate” comes across my mind and then I think do I really want or just think I do because the thought crossed my mind. (You know, the basic food mind games.) Half the time I just think “Eh, I could do without it this time.” It’s been working pretty well, but still a work in progress of course. Isn’t it always? 🙂

  5. Rebecca

    I was just talking about this with a co-worker. I am definitely an all-in kind of gal. I’ve tried to slowly transition, and it just isn’t working for me. I give in too much. I think, “just one cookie won’t hurt” which leads to two and three then I give up the entire day. So this weekend I am planning out and going all in on the Whole 30. I’ve done it before, and I know I can do it again. I just need to get the discipline and get it in my head that this is a challenge…it’s a game…it’s something I need to win at.

  6. I feel you! I’m happy and good with moderation 90% of the time but then I want to be the free spirit and indulge (over-indulge) the other 10% of the time. Like eating 1/2 a batch of cookies by myself or have that extra glass of wine ,,, and there’s always a price to pay later. Even as someone with a pretty healthy diet and approach to food there are always temptations and a need to have boundaries (but dealing with temptations does get easier over time). Agreeing with Sarah above … it’s always a work in progress!

  7. S

    Moderation is hard. But I think the “shoulds” that we impose on ourselves is harder still. I did a successful Whole30 off of your inspiration and it was a great experience, and yes, it was easier than making a choice about every treat. But I missed the social aspects, and I’m not interested in maintaining a paleo diet for the long haul. My strategy is to try to only keep healthy food in the house so I’m not regularly tempted, and to try and banish the “shoulds” from my life. When there are treats around, mindfully eating is really helpful. It tells me when I’m done with the chocolate. And I figure I healthfully enough all around that if I eat the whole bar then its just not a big deal. I work out most days. I don’t eat a SAD. Why impose the idea that I shouldn’t eat something instead of enjoying it, being present, and then eating some kale next meal? When structure is helpful, embrace it! But life is all about moderating ourselves constantly, unless we’re in a monastery. I firmly believe in a foundation of healthy practices and mental liberation from the shoulds that prop up around them.

  8. One of my favorite authors – Gretchen Rubin – has an interesting take on this that I have always liked: in the world there are moderators (people who can have just a little and be ok) and abstainers (people who need it to be all or nothing). In abstaining you can declare yourself free of something which may be more liberating than trying to moderate it all the time. More here, not sure if I’m doing the concept justice: http://www.gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2013/01/want-to-be-free-from-french-fries-or-why-abstaining-may-be-easier-than-you-think/

    In any case, I’m totally an abstainer. I can’t do anything in moderation.

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  10. Bobbi

    I’m also gluten and dairy free for health reasons, and I find myself going in cycles. I abstain almost completely and feel great–then think I can slide a bit and be more “moderate” in my approach. During this stage, I always think I’m moderating and being mindful yet “cutting myself some slack”–until the headaches and the joint pain and the tummy troubles come back and I realize that its not “cutting yourself some slack” if you do it every 3-4 meals. And then it’s back on the horse.

    Truly, I suck at moderation too.

  11. Vanessa

    I want to be better at moderation. I have always been aware of what some of my monster foods are (chips and salsa), but reading It Starts with Food (that I heard about from your blog) it kind of made me go “aha!” So I don’t keep those trigger foods in the house.

  12. Jessica

    Even though I consider myself non-traditional (maybe not free spirited), I function much better within boundaries as well. I think it also has a lot to do with how I feel I’m doing overall. I’m willing to have a cheat if it’s worth it if I haven’t for a while, but not if I have recently. It’s a mental balancing act, but I feel like I’ve gotten much better at evaluating the worth of the splurge than I have before. Hopefully that carries into postpartum 🙂

  13. I totally suck at moderation! I’m an all or nothing person as well and when I do the Whole30, I DO it! But in regular life… well it’s a slippery slope when it comes to pizza, baked goods, etc. My healthy eating always ebbs and flows!

  14. Megan

    I’m totally struggling with this right now and my drug of choice is chocolate. I eat healthy all day, most days and I work out 3x a week but when it comes to indulging in chocolate every afternoon/evening I can’t just NOT do it. I don’t know if it’s actually a bad thing or if its fine and I should just quit obsessing about it.

  15. Kayla

    I’ve never been preggo myself, but I have heard many nursing mothers say that alcohol is different to them, even unenjoyable, while nursing. Hormones may play a role there perhaps? Not sure…but our metabolism is def different while nursing as you’ve mentioned, so the way alcohol is processed could be affected. Also, sulfites etc may wreck you more unless you’re avoiding those with the wine you buy.

  16. Megan

    I’m more of an all-in person, too — I have to flip a switch. I’ve been paleo (but consumed some grass-fed dairy)for awhile, but have been dairy-free for the last 11 months of breastfeeding, and feel like it’s made me indulge in other places (like eating half a pan of sweet potato brownies…had to throw away the rest). I’m a little nervous about weaning and resuming dairy (I imagine I’ll eat about 10 pizzas and 5 pints of ice cream. Then lay on my side and moan.) I’m contemplating a game plan. Rolling into a Whole30?

    But — do you think your cravings are related to nursing? I, for one, am hungry like the wolf, no matter how much protein and healthy fat I get.

    • I’m most definitely hungry and insatiable pretty much all the time – I think it is due to breast feeding and working out again. And now I’m off to make some sweet potato brownies. 😉

  17. Jen

    Phew, definitely a loaded topic for me, especially when it comes to food! My opinions on this have changed so, so much over the years. I actually think (for me) that putting really strong guidelines on my eating, such as doing a Whole30, or giving up sugar, or giving up xyz, inevitably makes me crazy when I stop imposing those rules, which causes me to eat everything, so over the last year or two I’ve been trying to relax and let go of ANY and ALL food rules. I am much more sane and able to moderate more often (not even close to perfect…) when I have no rules in place.

    As far as moderation in other areas, I struggle mostly with food. Right now I’m still pregnant, so drinking is off the table, but I have wondered how I’ll feel about that after she’s on the outside. I kind of don’t even want to drink unless it’s a special occasion, as my life without wine/drinking is completely fine and lovely.

    Good luck 🙂

  18. Jensen

    I think knowing (and being real with yourself about) your habits is key here. For instance, if you put a bowl of tortilla chips in front of me, I will eat every single last one of them. And if I buy a chocolate bar, chances are I’m going to eat the whole thing in one sitting. So to help with moderation, I’m particular about when I let myself buy such things and bring them home — out of sight, out of mind.

  19. Jess

    In my house my partner is an abstainer and I am a moderator. The problem is that it’s hard to moderate if someone else isn’t. So I run into this issue where we don’t ban something because I know I’ll only allow myself something once a week or a fortnight, but if something is allowed Nick will have it regardless and then I will have some as well and so my plan of moderation fails. I think in the end abstinence is much easier to maintain because it’s really easy to move the line of what’s ok when you are trying to moderate. I also have found that if you are abstaining from something if you break the rules you break it for something really worthwhile.

  20. Carly R

    I’m on the Whole 30, round 2 right now. I did it last year about the same time and I’m with you…when I don’t have strict guidelines that I’m following, like the Whole 30, it makes saying no that much harder. This time around I am really and truly going to try my best to stick with it afterwards. Like you said, giving in to temptations in the long run don’t usually make you feel better and you don’t enjoy it because your body doesn’t and that fact comes out within an hour or so anyway, deeming it not worth it. There are definitely times when it is worth it and choosing those times is going to be the hard part when I’m done, but I feel that this time around it’s been easier as I feel differently, mentally, physically and my head is in a much better place.

    Once again, your blog pinpoints something that is happening in my life. God you’re great Kathleen,

    • Even the Whole30 creators say it’s not the Whole365. I think it’s a great way to reset and learn how to listen to your body. Through the whole30 I learned that I’m okay with dairy but grains definitely make me feel bloated. Stuff like that is so valuable to be aware of.

  21. i am REALLY horrible at moderation and know it, but still let myself fall prey to things like buying ice cream. i generally avoid baking for this, and am gluten free intentionally in a big part because it makes me aware of what i’m eating but the other day i bought GF cookie dough, a pack of 12 i think and yep.. gone in a few days. what my dad always has done my whole life is never have sweets or hardly any snack food in the house and just go out for ice cream, or buy a small dark chocolate bar at the store once a week or so and i know now it’s because he can’t limit himself w/ it, just like me. i somehow went over 9 months though w/out any sugar/honey/nectar etc. at one point. i blogged about some of my reasons here: http://cuddlycacti.blogspot.com/2012/04/simply-sweet-my-sugarless-journey.html

  22. Teresa

    Um, recipe please? I’d love to lose my self-control all over these.

  23. Emily

    I would love to see your Frankensteined recipe for these bad boys so I can also eat all 12 in one sitting….moderation be damned!

    • I wish I could remember what I did! I didn’t write it down. :/

  24. Kate

    I read this post at the perfect time. I just started a 30 Days of Fitness challenge with my business partner, Liam. We’re not in it to get buff and beautiful, but to get disciplined. Both of us are good at lean living and shutting down cravings (whether they be food or television) but if the door for something is open (i.e. I can just work out tomorrow…) we both know we’ll push it to the next day. As creative small business owners, we feel it’s so important for us to be disciplined mentally as well as physically, so we’re giving ourselves a very clear and unavoidable challenge.

    I don’t know about anyone else here, but working with clients, we hear “I don’t have time” as an excuse time and time again and “I can’t ___” even more. Whilst we’re doing this challenge to prove to ourselves that we can be super disciplined, we’re also doing it to show our clients that when you want to do something, you can (and will have to!) make time for it. That you have to just do it.

    From your Whole30s to your Instagram posts from the gym and basically all your blogs, you’re a pretty constant inspiration to us and it’s always refreshing to read about the struggles you have and how you confront them. So long story short: great post. And, as always, thanks for sharing.

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