The Newest Diet Demon: Moderation

5 Dec

So this is happening. All of the sudden, the concept of eating in moderation is under attack.

Um…am I the only person who finds this to be twilight zone level insane?

There’s been a recent outcry across the Interwebs regarding eating in moderation (???!!!), mostly by fairly high-profile health advocate types. (I realize this means that my opinion probably won’t be held in as high regard as I’m a business professional who just happens to be passionate about health and fitness, and admittedly am the furthest thing from a dietitian or health guru). But seriously guys, a lot of things in life just boil down to good old-fashioned common sense, so I’m going to attempt to tap into mine and take the liberty of sharing my assessment of all of this:

It’s a huge load of BS.

diet demon

The authors of said articles bemoan moderation and claim that some things are not meant to be eaten, period. They go on to state that “eating in moderation” is really a fancy term for the justification of eating whatever one wants.

First of all, when it comes down to it, I believe one should be able to justify eating what one wants. Lifestyle is a personal choice. Not everyone is into wheatgrass and turmeric pancakes, but it’s not really our place to judge that, is it? For those of us who do choose a healthy lifestyle, I don’t understand why eating less-healthy foods in moderation needs to be justified to begin with.

Second, let’s start by clarifying something: “Moderation” is not a synonym for “regularly,” “frequently,” or “all day long.”  Moderation is the the mindset that allows us to actually enjoy a healthy relationship with food. It’s what keeps us from feeling guilty, going on crazy diets, and/or from binging.

It’s kinda like this: It’s fairly common knowledge that an In-N-Out burger is basically amazing- most of us know this from having had one at some point. So despite eating healthy most of the time, it’s understandable that every once in a while you just might find yourself in the drive through line. The difference between someone with a good grasp on moderation and someone who tells themselves “absolutely not, never ever” is as follows:  The person who truly has a moderate mindset is much more likely to just eat the meal, enjoy it, not think about it or feel badly afterward (*mentally, at least. I can’t make any promises about how you’ll feel physically), and move on to the next meal at the next mealtime, which will probably be something healthy if we’re talking about a person who lives a generally health conscious lifestyle.

When the Never Ever mindset finds herself eating something forbidden, the likeliness of not stopping after that burger and fries is much higher because the act of “cheating” often triggers binges. Ms. (or Mr.) Never Ever is undoubtedly left consumed by feelings of overwhelming guilt and self loathing for not being strong enough to resist.

I used to be the Never Ever and guys, it’s mind rape. But I can speak firsthand to the power of moderation because changing my mindset from “I can’t ever have this” (read: usually meaning, beginning Monday, so eat up now)  to “I can have this once and a while if I want it” was enough to undo years of disordered eating. Moderation turned my greatest enemy into my strongest ally – yep, I’m talking about food.

In theory, we’d all be healthier if we had the mental prowess to never eat In N Out (<- if you’re insane and I+O doesn’t do it for you, insert preferred less-than-healthy food of choice), but all it takes is a look at the number of women and men who suffer from disordered eating to realize that most of us aren’t capable of that kind of self control 100% of the time.

So to all of you out there writing blogs and yapping about why moderation is the scourge of wellness, I firmly believe you’re doing harm to many of your readers…and that sucks considering that you have the platform to empower. Congrats on possessing the discipline to never insert a single ketchup-dipped french fry in your mouth. Seriously, I find that incredibly impressive. But know that you are not in the majority and that in my opinion, you’re hurting your clients and readers by promoting extremes. They want answers and the answer you’re giving is crap.

Sure, “moderate” might leaves room for interpretation (another argument of the author), but it also offers the potential to develop a much healthier relationship with food. If you’re lucky enough to have that relationship, you’ll quickly realize what “moderation” is to you and will naturally begin to adjust. In the meantime, those of you with the willpower who can eat only the healthiest of food 100% of the time without any mental anguish, party on-that’s amazing. For everyone else out there, just have a damn burger and enjoy it…once in a while.

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8 Responses to “The Newest Diet Demon: Moderation”

  1. Anne December 5, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

    I agree with this 100%. But I will say that too many people take the idea of “moderation” and twist it into something very bad. “I can have ice-cream once a day” is truly some people’s idea of moderation. I think instead things needs to be defined more. It needs to be defined for the people who really don’t know any better, the people who lack “food common sense”. Remember there are people out there starting at square one. Obviously condemning “moderation” is NOT the answer… The answer is making that word something more specific.

    • Meg Motamedinia December 5, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

      Hi Anne! I completely agree. Moderation is absolutely something that can be left open for personal interpretation, and for someone who genuinely needs to lose weight for health purposes, it’s probably very helpful to have specifics on what it will take to get there- because tackling it from what one might think sounds healthy and not seeing results could result in the same frustrating cycle (that was quite the run on sentence, wasn’t it?). I guess the point I’m trying to make is that extremes, at least in this context, are silly and not something I support as I think they have the potential to be hugely damaging. I think there are better ways to go about addressing that issue than attacking moderation. XO + Thanks again for reading! Meg

    • Tara December 6, 2013 at 10:33 pm #

      If ice cream once a day fits into your energy needs then you can have it that often without any harmful effect to your health. That is moderation. So only the individual can define what moderation is to them. You or I or any other health blogger can’t do that for them.

      • Meg December 6, 2013 at 11:05 pm #

        Totally. I hope you realize that I completely agree- I wanted to emphasize the fact that once you have a healthy outlook on food it becomes easier to determine your own definition of moderate. Every individual has varying needs so it’s pretty silly to make broad statements such as “moderation is used as justification.” If that were the case…I’d have a lot of justification to do.

      • Tara December 7, 2013 at 2:40 am #

        Meg–

        I didn’t mean that YOU were trying to define moderation for others. I am in complete agreement with your post! Moderation is the best.
        🙂

  2. davehpt December 5, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

    Great post. I think readers need to keep in mind when they read something decrying moderation, suggesting that everyone should maintain 100% adherence to a perfect diet of only the most healthy, nutritious choices of foods… there are only three likely sources for such information. One is people trying to sell you their diet plan, using scare tactics about how nasty whatever you’re eating now is – usually a load of made up nonsense. Two is people who have their own disordered ideas about food, which they’re either trying to normalise if it is something they struggle with, or they happen to find it very easy to maintain such high dietary standards but lack the empathy to realise it is not helpful (and more likely damaging) advice to most people. Also three, something I’ve noticed a few times recently is trainers and coaches who regularly indulge in sweets, candy, icecream etc without a second thought, but expect better of the rest of the world. So both hypocritical and lacking in empathy there.
    Readers need to keep that in mind, next time you read something that makes you think “I’m not doing well enough, I should have more self discipline and willpower and never slip up on my diet” – the person who wrote it is probably talking through their arse and doesn’t hold their self to the same standards, OR they’ve already screwed up their own head with those ideas and misery loves company.
    The truth is you CAN maintain a great figure and good health with your choice of foods in moderation. And it’s better for your brain as well.

  3. marthamckinnon December 5, 2013 at 10:47 pm #

    What a great post! Moderation is the way. It worked for my grandmother, who lived to be 93 and it’s working for me. I’m so over all this dietary extremism. Have you heard of orthorexia? It’s a new word to describe an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. And it’s on the rise!

  4. Steve December 5, 2013 at 11:31 pm #

    Good post, and I agree with you. This whole “anti-moderation” is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. It’s been on my mind in a general way lately, and your post made me put into words some of my thoughts on the topic. (I found this blog via a tweet from Go_Kaleo.)

    http://nogimmicksnutrition.blogspot.com/2013/12/moderation.html

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