Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bright Lines

I have often found Gretchen Rubin's blog to contain useful life advice---the kind of stuff that should be common sense, but unfortunately is not universally noticed and executed. One topic I've been considering lately is her categorization of abstainers vs. moderators, described here. I always considered myself a moderator, because the thought of never having french fries or chocolate or wine ever again was a horrific thought. What I didn't grasp, though, is that it doesn't have to french fries or chocolate or wine. These actually happen to be things I moderate pretty successfully and have no need to banish from my life. For things I really do want to rid my life of, abstaining may end up being the most effective strategy for me.

If I want to waste less time playing internet games or surfing time- and soul-sucking sites, I need to commit to never going there. Because once I'm there, its hard to limit to 5 minutes or 10 minutes or even 30 minutes sometimes. I don't download any games for myself on my phone. There are a few sites that I DO NOT check ever, even clicking over from another blog, because they have proven to be addictive. I recently re-started my rule to not use my phone while in bed (it is upstairs with me, because we don't have a land line, in case of emergencies). I check Facebook only on weekends.

For food related things, I prefer to concept of hard and fast or "bright line" rules (also discussed by Gretchen, here). I love food and food/drink are an important part of many experiences to me (travel, celebration, comfort). While some foods are definitely not as good for me as others, in the absence of any medical issues (which thankfully haven't come up), I do not see the need to NEVER eat any type of food that I like. When I find myself overindulging in something I prefer to eat less frequently, it helps to create rules around when I can and can't have that thing.

When I worked in the lab, there was ALWAYS some sort of home-made baked good in the kitchenette. There were several women who apparently stress-bake on a nightly basis and transferred it all onto their co-workers waistlines. As much as I wanted to avoid the unnecessary sugar and calories, it was hard when you are walking by and its 2 hours until lunch. So I did "no baked goods" months" pretty frequently to get back on track and then would allow myself one treat/week. It was easy to abstain for the month because I knew there would always be treats later. I don't have coffee or caffeinated tea after 10 am. I don't drink the night before a workout or run. We don't keep ice cream in the house, but can go to the ice cream shop and have it anytime (which works out to maybe once every few weeks during the summer). I only eat high-quality (expensive!) dark chocolate.

I've been doing the FODMAPS diet for IBS and I could (and will, later) write a whole post on it. Bottom line, I haven't found it terribly helpful in controlling my symptoms but I did notice that the gluten-free aspect of it has pretty much removed any temptation for spontaneous junk food & treats. I went to two social gatherings and couldn't eat a single thing there---which was fine, I had eaten at home---but typically I would eat at home and then help myself to a massive "snack". I walk right by the pastries set up for morning meetings, and leave the boxed sandwiches (which themselves are not bad, but the box always contains chips & cookies for good measure!) at the conference in favor of the salad I packed. No need to bargain with myself or justify or even feel deprived. "I can't have that" is a really useful thing to tell yourself and others. Of course, I don't intend to stay off gluten for the rest of my life. First, it isn't helping. And second, that would mean NEVER having mac n' cheese or pizza (two of my favorite foods) ever again (no I do not want to try the gluten-free varieties---it defeats MY purpose in this). What I AM planning to do, is eat gluten-free 95% of the time, with the option of having gluten-filled goodness for special occasions (pizza from our favorite place, which we get once a month or less, dinner out---again once a month or less, and while traveling---just to keep it easier). Bright-lines.

I'm trying to figure out how to use this strategy to limit my internet time---my last nemesis. I've tried setting daily time limits, I've tried restricting to certain times a day. Nothing has really stuck long term. Thoughts? (BTW, see Sarah's recent post for a similar topic).


  1. I know exactly what you mean about never saying never -- but I can happily say "never UNLESS I really specifically want it and am consciously choosing it." Not sure what that even means, but . . . seems to work right now.

    with respect to the internet use I like the idea of the "last nemesis." WE CAN DO IT :) !!

  2. About the GF stuff....I'd say I'm about 90% also. I rarely like substitutes. But Jovial pasta is FANTASTIC; kids can't even tell the difference.

  3. I think of myself as a moderator, too, but in reading this I can see how that makes the lines too fuzzy sometimes. I like the bright lines idea, but I wonder if it would get confusing having different rules for different things.

  4. The one time I remember a hard food line working for me was saying that I could only eat treats in the break room after lunch. If it was something I really really wanted, I could take a piece back to my office for after lunch, but, most of the time it was either 1.really good and gone before lunch or 2.not that good so it was left after lunch and I decided it wasn't that appetizing after all.

  5. My thoughts are the same as what I said on theshubox's post.

    copied: "I have to go cold turkey on things with strict rules. I have an addictive personality. My husband is great with moderation. Our kids seem to be following after us in terms of addictiveness, my son after DH and my daughter after me.

    "I like the quote, "Moderation in all things, including moderation." "

    And if you figure out the internet thing, I will totally follow your lead. Though I suspect that some of my extra internet time keeps me doing work rather than entertaining myself in ways that take more time. I'm not sure. One thing that keeps me away from the internet is having stuff to do that doesn't require breaks, either in terms of waiting for something to compile, or needing to think. I haven't really noticed myself being particularly more productive at home when I don't have the internet available, so maybe I am hitting some sort of work limit. I just don't know.

  6. Just go back to residency, then you won't be ABLE to be addicted to the internet anymore. (kidding) It's sort of true for me too though. The only thing that keeps me from getting sucked in is to be away from my desk and to literally not have time to open Firefox. Otherwise I get pulled down the internet rabbit hole as well. On the negative side to not getting sucked in, I find I actually miss my internet relationships sometimes. Especially when I'm on a new rotation and don't know anyone.