Abstinence, discipline’s little brother

Here in Belgium and Holland we currently have a reality show going on called “Temptation Island” where 4 couples have to pass the ultimate relation test. Nine days they are separated from their SO’s and have to resist ten hot singles of the opposite sex. Drama ensured since the couples are usually not the brightest minds, but it also opens perspectives. Besides entertainment the program also gives a different view on discipline. Giving in to the temptation can cost you your relationship but isolating yourself can take away the fun, and even challenge.

Whether you want to lose weight, stop procrastinating or resist 10 hot singles seducing you, it all can be brought down to two values: “the good lifestyle” and “the bad habit”. Is it black and white or does there exist a golden equilibrium? In the following sections I’ll try to summarize three interesting ways to approach a challenge.

Giving in

temptation island2

Hands down the most easy way of approaching a challenge. You smoke two packs a day, get blackout drunk whenever someone offers you a drink and eat McDonald’s every other day. Giving in is usually seen as the worst way to face a challenge, but for some people there is just no challenge. If you’re extremely smart and can afford to party all semester and catch up two weeks before exams, why wouldn’t you? If you can eat whatever you want without getting fat, why wouldn’t you? Or maybe you just value your sigarettes each day over spending five more years in the hospice.

Before chosing this option, make sure you know all options. Eating unhealthy doesn’t only make you fat, drinking doesn’t only give you hangovers and procrastinating doesn’t only give you bad grades. Generally speaking giving in is never the best option and will always backfire on the long term.


Total abstinence is usually seen as the most demanding option. Resisting every urge to smoke a sigarette, never eating a nice fat meal, it can be extremely hard. False. The first beer is always the easiest to decline, so abstinence is usually the easiest way to reach your goal. Blocking all temptations is the easiest way to resist them, and can lead to some fast results.  However, unless you want to go really far in your challenge, total abstinence isn’t required in order to complete it. If you want to lose 50 pounds by the end of the year, it’s not necessary to starve yourself from day one and lose 10 pounds every week. Of course you can reach your goal in two months instead of a year, but that makes you vulnerable for abstinence’s biggest drawback: the rebound.

temptation island

When completing your challenge, looking back at all the things you declined can make you bounce back. You probably built enough margin to afford eating some celebration McDonald’s now, but will you be able to say no to the second burger, or the third? It’s a huge risk because all you ever did the last few months is declining every single temptation. It’s really easy now to rebound into a lifestyle of giving in. This is why crash diets aren’t your best choice. Also, when the results of abstinence don’t come as quick or drastic as you hoped for, it becomes exponentially harder to hold on to it. Abstinence is all or nothing, if it goes well it’s easy and has great results, but if you snap at one point you’re probably all the way back where you started.


As with most choices, the best answer is found in between. Completing your challenge should put you in a position where you never have to face that challenge again. If you complete your challenge with a good balance between the “good” and the “bad”, you can live on like that without having to worry. Temptation Island for example isn’t about proving your SO that you can resist 9 days of seduction. The rest of your life you’ll come across single men or women, McDonald’s or alcohol. If you isolate yourself for a period of time to complete your challenge, you also put a stress on what comes after that. If you can’t go on the way you reached your goal,  it’s the wrong way to reach your goal.

Balance is where true discipline shows. Allowing yourself fun while still remaining in full control requires a strong personality. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work instantly. If you can’t afford to overstep your boundaries, start from the abstinence side and slowly allow yourself to move around until you find a level you’re comfortable with. When you’re already in the bad spot and you want to get out, try to break down step by step.


Whether you’re in Temptation Island, losing weight or trying to stop procrastinating your study work, there is always a balanced way to approach it. Try to approach the challenge in the way you want to live on after that. Losing weight doesn’t require you to live like a fitness guru or anorexic, but like a healthy person. Studying doesn’t require you to live in a cave, but live like a student. Starring in Temptation Island doesn’t require you to live like a monk, but like a regular person who can enjoy other people’s attention without crossing the line.


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