Moderation is My Enemy and I Will Wage War on It Wherever I Go With Whatever I Have

Nothing is okay in moderation.


Casus Belli

an act or an event that either provokes or is used to justify a war.

I have a problem with self-control. It's something I noticed as a kid and as an adult it's a much riskier characteristic to have. In response, I have declared an all-out war on moderation.

I first heard "everything is fine in moderation" from a family member when I was young. I ate that garbage up and ran with it up until my young adult life. I rationalized behaviors using the guise of well-being and balance that were inexcusable otherwise. And yet the moderating never made anything better. That scratching of the itch only made the desire worse. I lost any forward momentum I had built up, instead transferring any energy I had into the elastic system and producing reverse momentum, i.e., a greater propensity towards that unhealthy behavior. Mud had magically formed at my feet as I spun my wheels in an attempt to get back on the path I had been following before. Only after I stopped and collected myself and my surroundings did it dry up and allow me to continue on.

Moderation manifested itself in many ways:

All of these behaviors continued on and led to the habits seen after the last arrow. It took a combination of random epiphanies and review to figure out exactly where I went wrong.

Jus Ad Bellum

a set of criteria that are to be consulted before engaging in war in order to determine whether entering into war is permissible, that is, whether it will be a just war.


Give an inch and the mind persuades another mile out of that generosity. An attempt to offer some reprieve and relaxation is slyly taken advantage of, eliminating most progress made. I've told myself I will only eat one unhealthy food at this party. And then someone offers me a new dessert, and I feel inclined to accept because "hey, I already did it earlier, what's one more?". Rationalization of behavior—related to moderation or otherwise—is one of the slipperiest slopes out there and should be recognized and subsequently avoided.

The best way to avoid it? Don't commit the behavior to begin with. Establish an iron rule that prohibits the behavior under most circumstances. Exceptions may exist under very special, livelihood-threatening situations. In cases like these, attempt to limit the enjoyment had from the behavior as much as possible—less enjoyment associated with it will lead to less desire to relapse.


Satisfaction is fleeting, a short dopamine spike lasting mere seconds, leaving a void that is begging to be filled again with the same experience. But tolerance builds. And soon what satiated isn't enough. An inch was given and soon the measuring stick stretched: an inch was no longer an inch, nor was it enough.

Come to terms the fact that most unhealthy behaviors only deliver satisfaction on the scale of seconds, with post-climax satisfaction going back to baseline or even slightly below it.


Some behaviors are categorically harmful. Engaging in them does no good for anyone. These are personal and too numerous to list, but as Stewart said, you'll know it when you see it.

Bellum Romanum

All-out war without restraint as Romans practiced against groups they considered to be barbarians.


Moderation will not be tolerated. Unproductive behaviors will be shunted and productive ones practiced without hesitation or restraint.


Temporary gratification will be recognized for what it is: temporary. Enjoyment of abstinence will be noted.


Iron rules will be established across parts of life with heavy consequences to follow if broken.


Unreasonable rationalization of behaviors will not be an acceptable excuse for why something occurred or didn't.


These declarations are partially written in jest. Too often I see people make an extreme amount of commitments that cause a 180° in their lives: start waking up early, start eating healthy, start going to the gym, start reading, start being a better significant other, start being productive, start something. And it never works out. Ever. They fail within a week and go back to their same behavior, annoyed that they told so many people about it and yet failed so miserably.

So again, while these are meant to conform to the style of a war declaration, the intention is still there.


I lump behaviors into four categories: (un)enjoyable and (un)productive. A few examples of each:

I rarely engage in UU behaviors. I have a shaky TAP installed that causes me to stop for a minute to consider why I'm worried or stressed, what I can do about it in the present, and how I can prevent it from happening in the future. This has been enough to minimize and almost altogether eliminate UUs from my life. The mental list of mitigation techniques grows every time I find a new stressor.


This is another shaky TAP I have installed. Whenever presented with an unproductive option, I tell myself that it may be pleasurable in the moment, but the satisfaction will drop immediately after completion. This worked when I remember to practice it.


These are example iron rules that can be personalized as needed. Note that in order for it to work it cannot be violated (by definition) and most relate to some daily habit. This is not a coincidence.


There's nothing else to elaborate on.


Only negative behaviors have been discussed, and while that is the focus, a special note should be made on positive behaviors. 99% of positive behaviors should be unrestrained; partake whenever, however, with whomever. The exception that exists is for positive behaviors that are beneficial in the long-term, but harmful in the short-term.

A prime example is a hard training session. Mental resilience is practiced in the present and built up in the days following the session. Yet the actual session can be or is destructive to the point of physically detrimental. Depending on the purpose, this is either a side effect and meh or the training isn't right. Regardless, these must be done in moderation, otherwise regression occurs and the mind simply can't handle the beating it's being subjected to.


This clip often comes to mind when I think of moderation. And it prompts a valid question: is there value in intentional moderation to help practice discipline and self-restraint? And is that value greater than that of straight abstinence, or just a different type of value?

Absolutely, especially if one's self-control needs to be developed. If moderating a behavior is challenging, there's work to be done. Which leads me to answer an obvious follow-up question: why wage war on moderation when it can be used for self-development? On a personal level, the benefits the war provides are more valuable than the benefits moderation provides.

There is more to be discussed on this point, but in another post.

See Also