The myth of moderation

by | Oct 10, 2017 | Thoughts

girl eating macdonalds fries

How many times have you heard the expression ‘everything in moderation’? I come across this a lot…and though I get it in principle (after all, who wants to be denied a little of what they want, when they want it?), but the problem is one of moderating the moderation. So whilst, like all myths, there is a hint of truth in the statement…there is also a dose of fantasy in there that can trip you up. So what do I mean by this?

Poor choices add up

If I apply ‘everything in moderation’ to a persons diet, for example, (and I can include myself in this quite easily as from time to time I slip up too), what can often happen is the overall diet doesn’t look so crash hot on a day-to-day basis. In fact, I have lost count of the number of times either a client, friend, or fellow health practitioner has said to me “the diet is quite good” in a purely qualitative or subjective fashion. But when you drill down into the actual measurable details, the actual diet is made up of lots and lots of ‘not such great choices taken in moderation’, and the sum total of the diet has actually become…well, a bit nutritionally rubbish.

So what does this look like? Well, it could be little bits of refined goods such as the odd pack of snack crackers with cheese, a handful of chips, fries on the run between meetings, a few pieces of chocolate, maybe one or two glasses of wine or beer, a less than optimal takeaway lunch option here and there, a quick frozen pizza in the evening when lacking time, buttered toast for breakfast, the odd candy you’ve been offered at work, a slice of banana bread for morning tea to accompany the large chai latte (and is it made with syrup?). It’s really easy to only have little bits of these things quite regularly, before the bulk of your diet is actually made up of not-so-healthy, processed foods…and at the expense of the good stuff – the unrefined, unprocessed foods that provide more bang for your buck nutritionally.

Moderate really means rarely

Moment to moment our choices may not seem to be a big deal, but they all count towards your health and wellbeing. However, our minds can be tricky here, as those moment to moment choices may be made based on a narrow rather than a big picture view; all humans can be impulsive, and aren’t we all told to ‘live in the moment’ anyway?!

My point here is that when it comes to moderation, some boundaries really need to be put on the real-life application of the concept…moderation doesn’t mean many, many, many little bits of moderation – moderation really means ‘occasional’, perhaps only weekly, or less for some things – that bit is up to you to decide. So be honest with yourself – do you really have a healthy diet on the whole? Do you honestly load up on colourful fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains and pulses, good fats and oils, lean protein (animal or otherwise) sources every day, with literally only the occasional refined item (e.g. perhaps once a week when you eat lunch with your workmates, and/or dinner at a friends place?).

Permission to do a u-turn

If not, give yourself some time to write down what you actually want to achieve, and what you could do to turn this around. The aim is to tip the balance in favour of eating a genuinely healthy diet, the majority of the time. I find this is almost universally down to planning. Literally, make a plan. Start by thinking of what your mornings look like? Can you make a smoothy with raw protein powder, greens, some fruit? Could you make enough for two days if time is short and you prefer to lie in? (The purists will argue fresh is best – I say do what you can achieve to start to make it happen…at least in the beginning.) Can you pack up 5 pieces of fruit for a mid-morning snack to accompany 10-20 raw almonds each day (that’s a healthy snack taken care of you can just ‘grab and go’ in the mornings). Maybe this could be done on Sunday (so could making some lunch options to take for a couple of days if you’re really motivated!).

Start somewhere, and begin to create achievable eating habits that you can sustain and that will genuinely tip your intake of healthy foods into the majority. The bonus is that if you make a plan you can stick to, and when you are incorporating unrefined whole food options into your day, you are less likely to make the impulsive, not so healthy choices; and if you do, they will truly only be occasional – the preferable application of the ‘everything in moderation concept’.

Good luck!


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