Gretchen Rubin has a theory that we are all either abstainers or moderators. Abstainers find it easier to give something up entirely, and moderators can have a little bit of something and then stop.
When I first heard this theory, it made sense to me and I believed myself to be an abstainer. It’s true that the best way for me to not binge eat is to not have the foods that I tend to binge on in the house. But ultimately, this categorisation of myself wasn’t very helpful because it meant that if I did eat a piece of chocolate, I could justify eating the whole box because “I’m an abstainer so I actually can’t stop.” Then, feeling sick with sugar and shame, I would vow never to touch chocolate ever again. And I wouldn’t. Until the next time I ate far too much in one go.
Eventually, I decided to try just eating one piece of chocolate, or having a few spoonfuls of ice-cream without devouring the whole tub. And while it is difficult, I found that it is perfectly possible to put the food away and not finish it. After a while of doing this, it became easier to enjoy a small amount but know when to stop.
So, I much as I admire other things that Gretchen has to say, I’m calling bullshit on the abstainer-moderator theory because at it’s best it gives us an excuse not to try and change our behaviour, and at worst encourages the cycle of bingeing and purging. It reinforces the message that we are “just like this”, that there is no other way.