The phrase “everything in moderation” has been bothering me for some time. I get that it feels right. It promotes the idea of a balanced approach to nutrition in a nice, neat, simple saying. But does it help us or hurt us?
The term moderation is defined as: restraint; avoidance of extremes or excesses; temperance. Is this really how most people act out moderation with nutrition?
For many people, moderation looks like this:
- Day 1: A doughnut at the office
- Day 2: A coffee shop “coffee” (meaning a couple shots of espresso in a heated milkshake of ingredients)
- Day 3: Pizza night
- Day 4: A swing through a fast-food drive-thru for dinner
- Day 5: Cupcakes at the birthday party at the office
- Day 6: A few glasses of wine and who knows how many trips through the appetizer buffet at a wine and cheese party
- Day 7: Hot wings and a couple beers watching the game with friends
Fast food only once, “coffee” at the coffee-shop once once — everything “feels” moderate. But it really isn’t. We need to put all of those things into the same category: non-nutritive treats. When you’re eating a treat every single day, or even twice a day, that’s not moderation. That’s a habit. That’s a lifestyle.
It’s not just you. We ALL want simple, but the phrase “everything in moderation” is overly simplified for the complex physiology of nutrition. I don’t care for overly simplified statements because I think it can lead to some real psychological damage to those who are struggling. “If it’s so simple, why is it so elusive?”
Each day we walk through a world that presents us with dozens or even hundreds of temptations and visual triggers for junk foods. We can’t escape seeing it and the constant visual stimuli can weaken our resolve. If we only eat an unhealthy food once instead of the other 99 times we’ve come across it every day, it may “feel” like moderation, but your physiology works the way it works.
We need copious amounts of the good stuff; unprocessed, whole, mostly plant-based foods. We don’t need the foods that have little to no nutritional value, the foods that aren’t providing our bodies with what they need to thrive.
Let’s be clear, I’m not saying you can’t have those treats. I AM saying we need to recognize the treats for what they are, and treat them all equally as something rare and special.
Consuming junk food daily – which is not moderate, by definition – erodes health and counteracts many of the other healthy choices (like exercising) you may be making on a regular basis. Moderation, as commonly thought of, will only lead to moderately unhealthy people.
Check back next week, as I’ll tie together my last three blog posts with my tips to making the best nutritional choices.