Tag Archives | food

Abstaining, Moderating, and Taking a Break

2013-01-18 13.31.33I’ve been talking about my dining habits lately, most notably my February participation in the Whole 30 and the major realization that I’m an abstainer, not a moderator. I wanted to take a moment to stress just how important it is to get clear on which of the two groups you belong to. The other day, I came across a comment on a friend’s Facebook page that was something along the lines of: “There is such a thing as being healthy while indulging in certain things (at least in moderation)….Balance is a beautiful thing.”

Those are obviously the words of a moderator.

And that theory works wonderfully for moderators. It does not, however, work for abstainers. And when the thing to abstain from or to moderate is something that isn’t particularly healthy for you (be it dairy if you’re intolerant, wheat if you’re allergic, or even something completely different such as drugs), it’s vital that you get clear on what works for you: moderation or abstention.

See how important it can be to figure out who you are? It’s a complex question, with many ways of answering it. And this helps me lead into my own adventures in dining. I initially planned to extend the Whole 30 (actually, more like a Whole 29 in my case because it was February plus March 1st) into March. But then I decided to take a day off, eat some junk that I was craving, and then launch into another Whole 30 (ish) for the month of March.

So that’s what I did on Saturday: I ate wheat, and sugar, and dairy. Actually, I based all three meals and snacks around these evil three, partly in an attempt to get in all the foods I had been craving toward the end of the month and partly to remind myself of exactly how these “foods” make me feel.

In one word: horrible. 

It was a fantastic reminder of exactly why I need to abstain from these foods. Some of it was enjoyable, some of it wasn’t. I had been missing wine with meals, but then remembered it wasn’t a big deal at all. And actually none of it was a big deal: not the French toast with maple syrup, not the sourdough bread with butter, not the artichoke and spinach dip with cheese. Yes, it was a wheat fest. No wonder I felt awful much of the day. I was also extremely thirsty, but of course the added water made me feel even worse.

So I’m back on my Whole 30 once again. I’ll be sure to post in the next few days as to whether there are any detox effects since I only ate junk for one day (fingers crossed). And I’ll also mention about whether it affects my cravings.

And onto the burning question: will I take another “break” at the end of March? At this point, I certainly hope not.

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Who am I? An abstainer or a moderator?

whole30I wrote the other day about about my decision to do the Whole 30 challenge. I gave up grains, legumes, sugar, dairy, potatoes, and alcohol during the month of February. I did a very effective countdown detox in January to prepare myself for the Whole 30 and to avoid the detox effects.

What was my motivation behind doing the Whole 30?

There were a couple of reasons. First, I’d done a paleo-style eating plan in the past, about 13 years ago, and it helped enormously with some chronic health issues that I’ve had for a long time. I felt fantastic, though it was hugely challenging for me at the time.

Second, and more important, I honestly believe that it’s the natural human diet. I’ve been vegetarian, and I’ve been vegan. (And OMG did I get up on my vegan high horse and look down on meat eaters!) I also know that I tend to get anemic if I don’t get enough beef (read: almost daily beef), so paleo eating just makes sense to me. Check out the documentary The Perfect Human Diet if you want to learn more. Both my husband and I were absolutely fascinated with that film.

The thing is, despite the fact that I don’t think they’re healthy at all, I find junk foods like wheat, dairy, and sugar to be really addictive. And so I tend to fall back into unhealthy eating habits: I might be able to avoid milk, but cheese…that’s another story. And maybe I manage to stop eating wheat for a while, but then I allow myself some rice with the Chinese takeaway. Or I have honey instead of sugar.

And the end result is that I eat foods that I know aren’t good for me. 

A few weeks ago, I read Gretchen Rubin’s post on abstaining vs. moderating. And it all made sense to me: I’m an abstainer. I find it so much easier to completely abstain from a food or from a food group rather than to try to enjoy it in moderation. This was a huge light bulb moment for me. Huge. Did I say huge? I finally understood how I function in this aspect.

The problem is, my husband is a moderator. Of sorts.

So he totally doesn’t get what he considers to be my “extreme” eating habits. He doesn’t understand how a little cheese in my eggs on Sunday mornings is a problem. It’s just one day a week, after all! The issue is, one day a week for me leads to all kinds of other exceptions. And then the whole “moderation” plan goes out the window.

Basically, there is no moderation for me. It’s all or nothing.

That’s just me. And so the Whole 30, plus my countdown detox beforehand, has been a fantastic way of breaking old food habits. We’re nearing the end of the month, and I plan to continue for several days into March. And then…I’ll probably add red wine back into my diet, because I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with a glass a day.

But dairy, sugar, grains, legumes, and potatoes? I plan to keep them out of my diet. Will I make exceptions? Knowing what I now know about myself, I really don’t think so. Because I know that I’m an abstainer, and that it’s easiest for me to avoid junk food by avoiding it altogether.

What about you? Are you an abstainer or a moderator? Share in the comments below.


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Stretch out of your routine and get green

Good planets are hard to find. If we destroy ours, we’ll be left without a home. So what’s your environmental wellness rating?

Are you aware of the limits of the planet’s natural resources? Are you taking steps in your life to decrease your use of these resources? Do you conserve energy? Recycle? Reuse things whenever possible? Do you take conscious steps to conserve energy and water?

We used to think it was enough to just reduce, reuse, and recycle. Now we know that additional steps must be taken to ensure our home on this planet. I’d like to help you find new ways of doing things to stretch out of your routine and increase your environmental wellness.

The more information we have, the easier it is for us to know how to act responsibly in our daily lives. Without sufficient information, we may not even know certain issues exist, let alone know how to take action. We’re a big fan of documentaries in our home, and I’d like to suggest you take a look at some of the following films.

If you think you don’t have time to add documentaries into your life, stop and think about how many hours of television you watch a week. How many movies do you watch at home each week? If you replace just two hours of television or one of those movies each week, you can learn a great deal about environmental issues all around our planet: things that affect our lives as inhabitants of planet Earth.

After you watch each film, take some time to think about how you can change your lifestyle and current habits to improve the environment. If you watch the documentary with friends or family, discuss the issue amongst yourselves to brainstorm ideas.

Check out this list of environmentally conscious documentaries and books:

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You are what you eat, so get agile!

Thanks to Julia for this path photo from San Francisco! Click on the photo to visit her blog (in Spanish).

I’ve mentioned life agility a few times now, starting with “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”, where I suggested adding more “first time” experiences to your life. Then I proposed that you “Spice up your exercise plan…or start a new one!” and asked you: when was the last time you spiced up your exercise program with something new? Lastly, I recommended an agility homework exercise to avoid repetition in everything you do throughout the week.

And now, I’m wondering how you’d feel about changing your eating habits for a week, just to try something new. No matter what your diet is like, you can always shake things up a little and embrace agile eating. Here are some ideas:

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