One Distinction to Make Your Coaching Job Easier

As the title says, one distinction will make your job as a coach easier, reduce frustration, and it will also make your recommendations more successful.

This one distinction also lets you avoid inadvertently setting your clients up for failure.

Now admittedly, there are countless different categories people can be grouped into according to psychology, but there are a few that make your job as a coach dramatically easier and more efficient.

The distinction this article and infographic cover that will dramatically impact compliance and success is Abstainers vs. Moderators.

You and your clients can probably identify tendencies toward one of these camps depending on different environments and options.

Neither of these is good nor bad.

Neither is better than the other.

Being an abstainer or being a moderator both come with their respective strengths and challenges.

Understanding these distinctions can set your clients up for success.


As the infographic shows, abstainers get decision fatigue with “sometimes.”

It is literally easier for them to cut something out altogether than to moderate that behavior.

They are more like a light switch than a dimmer knob.

It is far better to shape their environment to omit certain foods or behaviors from an abstainer’s immediate access if the goal is to limit or reduce them.

And on the flip side of that same coin, it is a good idea to include easy access to the foods and behaviors they want to continue or introduce.

If, for example, the focus to is reduce the usual nightly pint of ice cream, abstainers are better served not having a freezer full of ice cream.

Even if in the best of the intentions they attempt to have just a few spoonfuls of delicious, delicious ice cream, abstainers find it hard to stop once they get started.

They stop when the pint is gone.

It would be better if their freezer was devoid of ice cream.

Abstainers benefit from the lack of access to the targeted behavior.

Now, there is still room for treats for abstainers. They don’t need to live like monks. Abstainers should have a planned indulgence when appropriate, but those planned indulgences should be structured to be done outside their immediate environment and viewed as an isolated, defined experience.

In short, abstainers are the proverbial light switch. It’s either on or off.

Now, we repeatedly preach the motto of “Consistency over intensity” so you might ask:

“Isn’t having an abstainer completely remove or eliminate a temptation fall on the intensity side of that motto?”

And while at first glance it might seem that way, the answer is no.

For an abstainer, they are far more able to be consistent with “none” than with “a little.”

Having a temptation within arm’s reach and trying to moderate their behavior is exhausting to an abstainer. So, what may initially seem like a contradiction, having an abstainer completely remove an unhealthy temptation from their immediate environment actually aligns with the motto of consistency over intensity.

It is important to remember to still be mindful of the root cause of the targeted unhealthier behavior when shaping your abstainer client’s environment to omit it.

On to moderators.


Moderators, as their name implies, do much better with, well, moderating their behavior.

Unlike abstainers, moderators can have just a few spoonfuls of ice cream without eating the whole pint or a square of chocolate without eating the whole bar.

Keeping minor indulgences in the rotation supports a moderator’s compliance.

While abstainers benefit from not having immediate access to the targeted behavior, moderators feel trapped by a lack of options.

Moderators may initially seem like an easier group to work with, but they often need some guidance on defining what a minor indulgence or “a little” is.

It is important to understand where your clients fall within these categories and under what context.

Okay, so how do you apply this information?

With a bit of targeted conversation, it’s not hard to discover what a person is in relation to a particular food or habit. Just ask them. “Can you have just a little bit of your favorite treat?”

Most clients can easily identify which camp they fall in and then you can shape your recommendations to support their natural tendencies.

Whether a moderator or an abstainer, shaping the environment appropriately will dramatically improve compliance and consistency with healthier behaviors.

To sum it up…The Summary:

  • Abstainers benefit from shaping their environment to omit their indulgences
  • Moderators feel trapped by a lack of access to their particular indulgences and see consistency increase with their inclusion.
  • Everyone embodies a bit of both but with tendencies toward one or the other depending on environments and options.
  • These distinctions are contextual so revisit the distinction between moderators and abstainers when tackling different behaviors.

One sentence takeaway:

While moderators can keep their indulgences in their immediate environment and remain consistent with their plan, abstainers benefit from a lack of access to their unhealthier temptations.