I have been reading a book about habits. The book is absolutely fantastic and I think anyone could benefit by reading it: “Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives” by Gretchen Rubin. It’s been a while since I have enjoyed and gotten so much out of a book. I’m kind of in a period of figuring things out in my life…what the next “step” is…and this book has been useful.
For one, it has helped me to understand perhaps why I have been unable to ‘stick’ to a diet plan in the past. Gretchen talks about how one’s sense of identity can make it easier or harder to change a habit. She says: “The fact is, changing a habit is much more challenging if that new habit means altering or losing an aspect of ourselves”.
Case in Point: In her book she mentions a woman who wants to reduce the amount of wine she drinks, but she has great trouble with this. The woman identifies herself as someone who loves good food and wine, and is fun. She wants to be able to enjoy herself. I see myself in a similar kind of way. I identify myself as somewhat of a “foodie” and so when faced with typical “diet”, I feel like my soul is dying. I don’t want to be that boring person that when invited out with friends says “sorry guys, you have your wine and pizza, I am just going to have a salad and water”. And I don’t want to be constantly worried about what I can or cannot eat because a diet says its so. That is totally against my own identity. It’s also a loss of freedom for me – a loss of choice that I actually find resentful!
Gretchen also talks about the fact that some people find it easier to “give up something altogether than to indulge moderately”. I personally have always thought that moderation was better – but I definitely see the merits of abstaining. There is no decision to be made and so less self-control is necessary. There are no questions around “how much can I have? Does this time “count”? If I had it yesterday, can I have it today?” Brilliant. I think for me, a mix of both will work well. And yes, you can be both a moderator AND an abstainer, depending upon the context.