Abstinence Education

For some people, building some flexibility into their diets, such as the classic “free day” or “diet break” can help. Other people are better served by strictness. Gretchen Rubin calls these differences in personalities “Moderators” vs. “Abstainers” in her book Better Than Before. Moderators do best when they can have a small treat every day. Abstainers will eat the treat and then eat the remaining week’s treats before running out to the store to get a box of cookies or some ice cream. Moderators can also smoke “socially”. Other people will smoke one cigarette and be back to a pack-a-day habit.

For me, I tend to be more of an abstainer. I feel best and do best when I’m on track, and eating cheat meals and having free days can be a real problem for me. Simplifying the decision-making process is part of it: it’s not a matter of “can I order the small blizzard or do I get the kiddie cup?” You just stay away from the ice cream altogether.

For moderators, this would be a complete failure. In the 100 days series the only fight that John and Chris have is over pizza: “I’m not going the rest of my life without eating pizza!” So they are strongly focused on what they can sustain for the rest of their lives. This kind of thinking is a little weird to me, because you could just as easily say “I’m not going the rest of my life without smoking crack!” Clearly, the correct amount of some things, at some times, is zero.

For me, my personal mental flaw is to want to slash the other tires when I blow a tire, rather than stopping, figuring out what happened, replacing the tire and moving on with my day. I say, “well, I ate a piece of chocolate, might as well eat the entire bar.” Then it’s easy to say, “well, I screwed up lunch, so I might as well start back up tomorrow.” What I have to remember is that you always have an option on how to respond to difficulty, not just the next day or next week, but the very moment that you find yourself in it. I think of this as “New Year’s Resolution” thinking: waiting for some milestone before you change your behavior. The milestone doesn’t have to be next year, next month, Monday, or tomorrow, it can be the next meal or even the next bite.

That being said, I don’t want to mess around with cheat meals or refeeds or any of the rest right now. If I have some I’m going to want it all. I know this because I’ve been lax in my eating and it’s hurting my energy levels, motivation, and strength in the gym.

Nothing works for everyone all the time. Further, who you are today is not who you were yesterday. Your cells recycle over the course of days, months, and years, and the changes accumulate. You get injured, you get older, you get fatter or leaner, you add muscle or it atrophies. All of this all changes your hormonal milieu and that changes what works for you. What works when you are 8% bodyfat with no muscle mass isn’t going to work for me at 25% bodyfat and 200+ lbs of lean body mass. It’s a different game, so as we go I’ll be trying to make adjustments to the number of calories, the macronutrient ratios, supplements, etc.

So the game plan going forward is this: at least until I get my bodyfat percentage under 15%, no special stuff. Do what I know works for me: cut the carbs way back, moderate protein, a solid amount of fat, lots of vegetables, lots of water, a bit of fruit or super dark  (85-90%) chocolate for dessert if I have spare carbs at the end of the day. That’s the starting point.

I’ll run this plan for two weeks, then make an adjustment for two weeks, seeing how the results stack up one against the other. If it didn’t work, no problem, I just go back to the “known good” solution. If the experiment does work, that now becomes the “known good” solution. I have a few things that I want to try in that framework and we’ll see how it goes. But it only makes sense to start with what has worked for me in the past. I’ll post an update every couple of weeks on how it’s going along with the relevant charts from the last few weeks.



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