moderation is a skill

As I write this, I’m pretty upset with myself.

For the last 17 days, I’ve been telling everyone who would listen that I am doing a 30-day challenge of not drinking. I made a public spreadsheet, nearly two dozen of you have joined me in setting your own 30-day challenges, and I’ve been doing really well.

Last Saturday, someone handed me a mimosa when I asked for an orange juice. I let that slide – I asked for an orange juice! Off the hook. But, I still was a little upset about it.

It’s actually been pretty easy to give up the booze. “Actually, I’m not drinking. Can I have a soda water with lime?”

But this afternoon, my team accomplished a pretty big milestone we’ve been working towards for a couple of months. After work, we all headed to a bar to celebrate.

What’s one drink? I’m not going to get audited. (I’ve said this line several times to my friends who became vegetarians or vegans when they have a craving to taste meat).

So I had a beer. Not even a whole beer – I had a half of a beer.

Boy am I pissed at myself for those 8 ounces. No, I’m not going to get audited, but the only auditor who would care (me) knows what I did.

I’ve never been great at moderation. When I go at something, I go at it hard. I tell myself that it’s a matter of discipline and I need to have the mental strength to completely eliminate or add certain aspects to my life.

In college when I got back into lifting, I asked a rep at Vitamin Shoppe what types of supplements I should buy if I wanted to “lose fat and also gain muscle.”

“You can’t do both at once,” he said. “You need to first lose the fat weight with aerobic exercise, then start lifting to put on the muscle.”

Well he was wrong. I bought some Garcinia Max on Groupon to curb my appetite, crash dieted, worked out like crazy, and ate purely protein while maintaining sub-2000 calories per day. Fat lost, muscle gained!

But I was killing my body and exhausted all the time.

For a period of time running Tixers and working from my apartment, I drank every evening. I was in my home, I drank just enough to get a buzz – it helped take the edge off of the stress. But I was poisoning my body, gaining weight, and constantly feeling like garbage.

Then for a few weeks, I tried a ketogenic diet. I fasted completely for 2+ days to kick into ketosis quickly, and then ate only fats and proteins. (I actually think ketosis is safe and healthy if done correctly, but not many would recommend a straight 2+ day fast to kick into it).

At one point last year, I gamified all of the activities in my life in a gnarly spreadsheet that I used to track everything I was doing. This lasted for nearly two months, during which time I was completely focused on optimizing my time.

(I didn’t do so well)

For the last couple of weeks during this no drinking bend, I’ve been waking up consistently at 6am, reading, writing, working a full day at CrossChx, and then working until midnight on my own projects. I could keep going with examples of how I’ve gone to complete extremes to try and achieve something, but the point is this: I am a frequent failure at prolonged, sustainable focus.

But glory is in extremes! Burn the candle at both ends; sleep when I’m dead!

It’s just not sustainable. For every ‘binge’ I go on, the pendulum inevitably swings back in the other direction, often destroying the effort put in. A week of great morning workouts will be followed by a week of sleeping in, eating poorly, and gaining weight right back.

Taking things in moderation is a true skill. Real discipline is giving yourself the freedom to make responsible decisions and earning your own trust.

Today I’ll get back on track with my 30-day challenge and I’ll try and cut myself some slack. And after 30 days, I’ll challenge myself to sustain a policy of moderation.


Hey, can I have your email address? I will only send you more articles like this one.