Abstemiousness Principle

“Abstemiousness in diet and control of the passions, will preserve the intellect and give mental and moral vigor, enabling men to bring all their propensities under the control of the higher powers, and to discern between right and wrong, the sacred and the common.”—Ellen G. White, Testimonies, Vol. 3, p. 491

What is Abstemiousness?

Abstemiousness is an old word that simply means temperance. It’s synonyms include self-discipline, moderation and restraint. Abstemiousness is one of the eight SDA health principles and is especially relevant to diet.


Why is it Important?

Self-control or discipline, is a predictor of how “successful” you will be in life. I put successful in quotes because there are many different forms of success with the most common ones being money, career and status. While self-control can definitely help you reach those forms of success, it also helps you to achieve whatever you put your mind to. It is critical to achieving any short term or long term goals. It’s been shown that children with higher self-control grow up to be wealthier and healthier than their counterparts. While still in school, self-control is a stronger indicator (even over IQ) of how well a student will do academically.

Self-control is a huge part of life in whatever field you end up in and it’s important for your overall well-being and health. Furthermore, developing self control allows the body to be servant to the mind rather than the mind be servant to the body.

Abstemiousness and Diet

In diet, abstemiousness/temperance is important in avoiding foods and drinks that are harmful to you and your body. Many are of the view that we should consume everything, however, in moderation. Here is an important consideration; One of the first principles of detoxing is to avoid what is harmful to the body that you are trying to detox from. Some examples of things that Adventists avoid include animal products, fast food, alcohol, drugs, tobacco and caffeine. The idea here is that it’s important to only eat foods that benefit our bodies so that our bodies can function optimally.

Of course, there are members whether through ignorance or other habits, who do struggle in following an abstemious diet. Fortunately, the great thing about temperance or self-control is that by practicing it, it becomes easier to make smarter decisions which will lead to better health and in turn, a better overall lifestyle. Most lifestyle diseases do not develop over night. Gradually, our lifestyle practices over the years add up. This is a key reason why following an abstemious diet should not be over looked or taken for granted. The temptation to eat and drink as we please is mostly because oftentimes we do not immediately experience the negative results. However, prolonged wrong habits will eventually result in disease.

Abstemiousness and Frugality

The principle of abstemiousness/temperance and frugality go hand in hand. As it relates to diet, in an effort to avoid poor and harmful food choices, you will quickly realize that your spending will also change drastically. You will become more frugal as you stop buying many food items and meals that no longer serve your health objectives. Examples of such foods may include meats, cheese and eggs, which have become quite costly. As your drinking habits change, you will also spend less on intoxicating drinks. You will reach for healthier yet more cost effective drinks such as water. Being abstemious in your food and drink consumption choices will also help to to be more vigilant as it relates to your consumer spending in general. As you avoid the temptation of compulsive buying, this will eventually lead to a general abstemious life.

A short note on alcohol

It adds no nutritional value to the body and is considered a homeostatic threat. Because it is water soluble, it diffuses into the majority of tissues, particularly the liver. It is not enough to be temperate while drinking alcohol. It is better to avoid it completely.

Trying to Lose Weight or Eat Healthier?

Learning to practice self-discipline in small areas of your life can help you achieve your goals and improve your lifestyle. The best way to “learn” better self-discipline is to focus on only one thing at a time. Very few people do well trying to change everything at once. When they become overwhelmed and fail, they feel as if they don’t have any self-control or will power, when in reality, they just aren’t utilizing it effectively. For instance if your goal is to cut out all fast food and stop biting your nails then you should just focus on cutting out fast food first. When you have been successful for 30 days straight, then you can start working on not biting your nails. By doing it this way, you will see a positive cycle start to form.

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