Abstinence does not mean deprivation

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A strong segment of dieting wisdom holds that people who want to lose weight shouldn’t rule out any dishes or substances, because people won’t stick with any plan that leaves them feeling deprived.

Though I concede that that’s not totally, completely wrong, I do feel great frustration with it.

If someone wants to make a change, something has to change, does it not? In this context, there are essentially only two tools — eat less, or eat different — and this anti-deprivation dogma removes one of them.

Not only does it cut your quiver in half, that constraint isn’t the worst of it. The approach assumes that our bodies receive all inputs the same way, whether apple or apple pie.

Some might deal with that by having more apple or less pie, but calories in and out is not the only consideration. My experience is that different foods affect my mood and fullness differently, both of which are graver issues than whether I feel deprived.

As a food addict, I know that several foods or food types are likely to trigger a craving. I have identified mine — and everyone’s list is at least a little different — to include refined sugar, refined grain, peanuts, popcorn, dried fruit, and sugarless gum. When I ingest one of them, my body says, “Let’s have more!”

Such craving has both emotional and physical aspects, but the latter is almost always dominant. I believe this because, when my system is clear of them, I can have the thought to eat one of them and have it go away. But when I’ve had some of it, say, yesterday, the thought is far more persistent, if not demanding, and it requires a lot more strength — not only willpower, but outside support — to say no.

The only way to know if your body might react like this is to abstain from the substance that’s troubling you. That’s abstain — not as in “cutting back,” but as in “going without.” This only makes sense — how can you know if your craving is worsened by a substance in your bloodstream if you merely change the ingestion rate? That’s like testing whether you’re allergic to cotton by not wearing your cotton shirts but continuing to wear your cotton pants.

When I started down the road that eventually brought me — kicking and screaming, at least figuratively — to abstaining from these things, I sure wasn’t hoping I’d get to cut them out. But once I tried life without them (not all at the same time), I found I actually liked the result of going without them. L-i-k-e-d i-t-!

It isn’t that I absolutely have no pleasant memories of ice cream, or heavily buttered cinnamon raisin toast, or whatever. But neither do I feel deprived. I just made a choice.


I agree, food addiction is real, and for those of us that deal with food addiction, complete Abstinence is the only way, or repeated breaking the craving cycle... not the best choice. Moderation does not fit into the life of those of us who are recovering or are maintaining recovery from gross obesity. Moderation is a game for those who have a few pounds to lose, not for those with larger numbers. For us, moderation is a suckers game.


Insulin resistance… hyperinsulinemia is the other big one to deal with. Some of us have both.


I abstain from sugars of all forms, grains, omega 6 oils and produce containing omega 6 oils- nuts,  most manufactured food products (except for those I have or could make), all artificial sweeteners. These items, I simple do not consider to be foods. There is a full range of vegetables and meats to eat. ( Paleo, Primal, Real food,) I can control the amounts of starchy vegetables and all fruits, these are not usually much temptation. I also need to control the size of meats closely, because I always want more. I must live hungry to maintain.  

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