Reclaiming Mental Energy
One more cup of coffee?
Just a bite of the macaroni and cheese?
Just one glass of wine?
In all of these cases, one is just not enough for me. I marvel at people who can have just one bite. If a little is good, wouldn’t even more be better? I know that cheese does not agree with me. I feel gross and sluggish and gassy if I have any ice cream or a gooey grilled cheese. My weakness is pimiento cheese. I can stay away from ice cream, as the side effects are the worst for me. I don’t miss it, I don’t get cravings or salivate at seeing it. But a nice cheesy meal. Yum. My mind still wants it, especially if I start to think that just a little bit won’t be too bad.
My mother, on the other hand, seems to be able to walk the line of moderation. Just one cookie. Just a few chips. I’ve come to realize that for me, moderation is exhausting.
We think moderation is sensible, practical and the best approach. Why? What if moderation doesn’t suit everyone?
Enter Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before. She describes people as abstainers or moderators. People in each camp really can’t understand each other. One thinks abstaining is too strict, and will backfire. The other can’t imagine just having one square of chocolate each day.
I am clearly an abstainer. Abstinence sounds like such an old fashioned word, but I have to admit that my mind falls into this kind of all or nothing thinking. Rubin describes herself as an abstainer as well, finding it much easier to cut out a food or bad habit entirely rather than dabbling or following an 80/20 rule.
I have been continually searching for solutions to my weak immune system (I seem to catch every cold), low energy, and anxiety. I start a change only to give it up after some success because of some idea that moderation is somehow better. Rubin’s book helped me to realize that moderation is best only for some people. I am not one of them.
”Counterintuitively, for many people, abstaining is easier.” Rubin also notes that research shows that the less we indulge in something, the less we want it. Makes sense to me.
I’ve also realized that in Rubin’s taxonomy of people’s habit forming tendencies, I am an obliger. I am more likely to do something for others than for myself. Yep, I am a reforming people pleaser - still working on it. These two ideas make sense together as well. I would do best to abstain (from carbs, alcohol, sugar, commitments), but I have put priority on wanting other people to see me as a moderator, which is a generally more socially acceptable approach.
I’m embracing the knowledge of myself as an oblige and an abstainer. These are labels I take on for my own strength and happiness. It doesn’t make sense for me to struggle about when and if I will have a drink or a cupcake or a pimento cheese sandwich. Just abstain, keep them off limits, and embrace the freedom from decision-making. This is mental energy I can put towards my other goals.
Sounds easy, right? I’m sure in practice it won’t exactly be so clear. The idea hear is not to set up rules and then punish myself for breaking them. It is a mindset shift to help me know myself and tell a new story. In this story, I know what I need to say no to, in order to say yes to myself and to so many more possibilities.