Are You an Abstainer or a Moderator? Why You Need to Know Today

SHOES — Similar: dress — scarf  SHOES — Similar: dress — scarf

If you’ve read this post where I list 5 podcasts you need in your life, you know that I love Gretchen Rubin’s show Happier. For those of you don’t know, Gretchen is a happiness expert, and she’s most widely recognized for her #1 New York Times Best Seller, The Happiness Project. In the book, Gretchen details her research on what exactly makes people happy and she recounts her year “trying to sing in the morning, clean [her] closets, fight right, read Aristotle, and generally have more fun.” It’s an interesting read, and her podcast is great too, which provides quick and dirty tips on creating a happier, more fulfilled life. Her suggestions are also super easy to implement. They’re minute changes that you can make throughout the day that end up making all of the difference. I remember one of these suggestions was to set aside 15 minutes each day to tidy up and do any miscellaneous housework you’ve been putting off. Though I don’t do this every day, I definitely notice an improvement in my mood when I do.

There was another tip I heard on the show awhile back that particularly interested me. This involved finding out: are you an abstainer or a moderator? 


You’re probably wondering WTH I’m talking about, unless you’re a psychologist or other super smart person who totally knows this stuff already. In either of those cases, bear with me.

So what is an abstainer/moderator? An abstainer, as described on Gretchen’s site, is someone who has trouble stopping something once she’s started and isn’t tempted by things that that she’s decided are off limits.

Conversely, a moderator is someone who finds that the occasional indulgence heightens her pleasure — and strengthens her resolve. She’s also known to get panicky at the thought of “never” doing something again.

Interesting, right?


I haven’t really mentioned it (though my recent food diary series may have clued you in), but I’ve been trying to cut back in preparation for a two-week vacation I’m taking the day after Christmas. I’m headed to Orlando, Florida for a few days to enjoy the magic of Disney World (it’ll be Richard’s first time), and then I’m bopping over to our condo in Ft. Meyers for a bit. After that, I’m hopping on a plane to an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica for another five days.

Basically, there’s going to be lots of beach time, and I’m slowly chipping away at that bikini bod, one day at a time (though coincidentally, I prefer one-pieces as opposed to bikinis…).

In my effort to eat clean, even throughout the holiday season, this got me thinking…

Which category do I fall into?

Furthermore, what does it mean? 


After thinking long and hard about this question, I came to the conclusion that the answer isn’t black or white. Many of us have both abstainer and moderator tendencies, but lean a bit towards one direction overall.

So what about me? I’m an abstainer, with just a dash of moderator sprinkled in. I’ve found that I do my best, whether it’s eating clean or being productive at home, totally avoiding the things that get me off track. For example, I can’t have junk food in my pantry. This is because I know that, in a moment of weakness, instead of just having a few chips or just one cookie, I’ll eat the whole damn bag. This is also true for leisure activities. There’s no watching Netflix or browsing the Web until I’m #done with whatever it is that I needed to do that day. Again, this is because, if I start watching “just one episode”, that “just one episode” usually turns into 2 or 3…sometimes even 4!

With that being said, I do need little indulgences to keep my motivation up and my resolve strong. How else does one stay sane?

One thing that I find works for me is keeping little rationed treats around that I can have when my moderator side kicks in (…and I start feeling like trying to totally abstain from something will only result in my entire resolve completely crumbling) (a.k.a. I’ll end up eating a frozen stuffed crust pizza and Doritos as a midnight snack *whoops*). Recently, I’ve been keeping these as a post-dinner treat. For some reason, since they’re individually wrapped, I don’t have a problem sticking to just one piece. It’s satisfying, and yet I don’t feel guilty since the portion size is small and I know that that little indulgence made me happier + my willpower stronger.


Anyways, abstainer/moderator theory is obviously V interesting to me right now. It’s something that can be applied to every area of life — not just your diet — so recognizing which category you primarily fall into can be a game changer (especially for productivity as well!).

Let’s take a turn though and and talk about this outfit. Do you love the contrast, or what? I mean, you guys know that I’m obsessed with drama — so what’s a holiday look without a bold + classy AF red lip? I also love the black and red. I’m kind of over red and white ATM. It’s too predictable. Too sugary sweet. I’d rather be just a bit sultry, ya know?

And this dress? It’s perfection. I had no idea that philosophy (the skincare brand) had a clothing line, but it’s fabulous! The only bummer is that, since I bought it on clearance at T.J. Maxx, I can’t find the exact match online. However, I’m linking some similar options below.


So, are you an abstainer or a moderator? Think it makes a difference? Worth knowing? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

  • Abby Castro

    I’m definitely an abstainer! When I set my mind into doing something, nothing will stop me until I get it accomplished. On the other hand, nothing will convince me to engage in something that I had said I wouldn’t do.

    Abby of <a href="">Life in the Fash Lane</a>

  • Oyinkansola Ogunleye

    I like the sleeveless dress as it’s very easy to pair with different items.


  • Yulissa Rosario

    That is so interesting. Never heard of that. I think I’m in between.

  • Hannah Adkins

    I absolutely love your outfit! That scarf is SO pretty!

    • Holly Habeck

      Thank you!! xx