What do we do about naysayers or people who combatively challenge your carnivore experiment?
Some people think that carnivore is just way too extreme and restrictive. But whether that’s true for you might depend on whether you’re an Abstainer or a Moderator.
The Abstainer/Moderator framework was developed by author Gretchen Rubin. As she puts it in her article Are You an “Abstainer” or a “Moderator”?:
You’re a moderator if you…
– find that occasional indulgence heightens your pleasure–and strengthens your resolve
– get panicky at the thought of “never” getting or doing something
You’re an abstainer if you…
– have trouble stopping something once you’ve started
– aren’t tempted by things that you’ve decided are off-limits
Our society has a strong Moderator bias. How many times have you heard the phrase, “Everything in moderation!”
If you cut out a food group, people will say:
You’re being too restrictive.
You need to loosen up.
It’s bad for your mental state.
A little won’t kill you.”
That’s great advice for Moderators. But it’s terrible advice for Abstainers.
We would never tell someone who has worked hard to get sober that “one drink won’t hurt you.” But why do we insist on doing the same with someone who is trying to overcome their sugar addiction (a similarly harmful drug?)
“I find it far easier to give something up altogether than to indulge moderately. When I admitted to myself that I was eating my favorite frozen yogurt treat very often―two and even three times a day―I gave it up cold turkey. That was far easier for me to do than to eat it twice a week. If I try to be moderate, I exhaust myself debating, ‘Today, tomorrow?’ ‘Does this time ‘count’?’ ‘Don’t I deserve this?’ etc. If I never do something, it requires no self-control for me; if I do something sometimes, it requires enormous self-control.”Gretchen Rubin
It’s been interesting to observe that many people who do carnivore and love it are Abstainers for whom a normal keto or low-carb approach does not work, since too many “treaty” foods are technically on-plan. I know that for myself, this was 100% the case.
If you’re an Abstainer who is experiencing a combative Moderator questioning your decisions, here’s some wording I have used and you are welcome to use, as well (of course, change to suit your situation!):
- “That’s way too restrictive and it’s unhealthy.” Actually, surprisingly, it might seem restrictive to you, but to me, it’s totally freeing. I’m not saying this approach is right for everyone, but for right now, it’s working really well for me. I may change my approach in the future based on how I feel, but for right now, I’m feeling the best I have in a long time!
- “You’re being a control freak. You have to do the hard work to learn how to moderate.” You’re right, some people are able to Moderate, and that approach works well for them. But for people who are Abstainers like me, we are just wired differently. In fact, for me, it doesn’t take any conscious control at all; it feels effortless. I feel so much relief not obsessing about food anymore. I can eat intuitively now and it’s changing my relationship with food for the better.
- (When offering you something you don’t want to eat) “Just have a bite!” That’s very kind of you, but my sugar dragon is sleeping and I’d rather not wake him up! It’s hard for me to stop once I get going. Thank you for understanding!
- “You’ll see in the long-term; this is going to be harmful for you.” You know, I’m kind of just viewing this as an experiment, and taking it month by month. So far, this seems really sustainable for me and I’m feeling great. If I get to a point where I start feeling restricted or not feeling great, I will absolutely re-evaluate and tweak from there.
Consider the below foods that some people find hard to moderate.
Which are easy for you to moderate (“Meh, I could take it or leave it”)?
Which are a slippery slope to consuming more than you want to (“If I have a little bit, I’ll eat it all”)?
- Potato chips
- French fries
- Wine or other alcohol
- Heavy cream
- Bread, crackers, pasta (including gluten free)
- Recreational drugs
A Note for the Moderators
Please resist the urge to moralize biology here. You have no idea the kind of damage you can to do the Abstainer by insisting that they are being too restrictive. It is as hard for the Abstainer to do “just a little” of a food as it would be for you to never have that food again.
It’s not a moral failing on the part of the Abstainer or “controlling behavior”; it is literally the way their brain is wired. What for you would be controlling or restrictive, for them, is freeing. Understand that there is bioindividuality in approaches. Both are valid, even if the Abstainer’s approach seems utterly incomprehensible to you.
If it’s helpful, consider that it’s like an alcoholic trying to remain sober. Be respectful and supportive of anyone’s efforts to get and stay healthy. Let’s all edify each other and understand that our diversity is a wonderful thing!
So true! Although it can be time consuming, structured healthy eating like Paleo or Whole30 has always worked better for the abstainer in me. If I eat one cookie, I will literally eat six cookies; I have to start out with NO cookies to be successful. I lost the 30 lbs from my first pregnancy only through abstaining and am working on the 30 lbs from the second pregnancy the same way now!
I’m so glad you figured out being an Abstainer works for you! Isn’t it one of those things that you don’t really know until you know? “Everything in moderation” is in the water supply, so I’m glad you found a system that helps you be successful! ? And YES, six cookies ? I can completely understand that!