Everything in Moderation?

Okay, let’s be honest. How many of you have at times used ‘everything in moderation’ to rationalize a small feast of a favorite but maybe unhealthy food? Thanks for being honest.

‘Everything in moderation’

That phrase started out as a pretty good idea. It was first seen back in 700 BC in the poem Work and Days by the Greek poet Hesiod. The actual phrase is “moderation in all things is the best policy.” 

However, everything in moderation as we see it today is a phrase used to encourage dietary diversity. It was based on the premise that, if you eat a variety of foods, you would stand a better chance of getting enough nutrients. It was also meant as a way to help limit or moderate portions of less healthy foods. It seemed to make sense.

But it didn’t work

The problem of course was that it was open to interpretation. Many people began to turn it around and define it to mean they could eat unhealthy foods as long as 'I don’t eat it all the time.'   

Dietary diversity, or, everything in moderation, ended up being a way for us to make it okay to eat a variety of unhealthy foods on a fairly regular basis.  And the moderation part of it came to mean 'as long as I don’t have a huge portion of it, it’s okay!'

We rationalized it to mean any food in moderation and to justify our food choices. We also want to see the word moderation as meaning something less than what we would call an indulgence or overeating. But as we look at our obesity and health statistics in America, the way it’s actually being applied may end up meaning about the same thing.    

Portions get bigger depending on the food

What psychologists also found was that portion sizes tended to increase depending on how much we liked a food. The definition of moderation in terms of portion became a bit larger with foods we really liked. Sometimes a lot larger. Our brains remodulated the moderation, so to speak.

Seems like we humans use a little mental trickery for both what we eat and how much.

Then there was a study done in 2015 of 7000 people that put dietary diversity to the test. In the study, they showed that there was in fact a greater chance of weight gain with more food diversity and variety as opposed to simply focusing on fewer healthy foods. So less diversity actually meant better results. It’s definitely something to think about if you’re interested in weight loss.

It’s time to make some choices

‘Everything in moderation’ was never intended to be a catch all phrase that meant carte blanche at the buffet table. The fact is, if you are going to have the health you want or the weight you want, you will have to make the choices that support it.   

But that’s true with any success, isn’t it? If you want a new career, you will need training that requires extra work.  We may not always like it, but it’s the price we’re willing to pay for success, for the bigger goal.

Or if you want that nice shiny new car, you will probably have to put some money away that normally might have been spent elsewhere in favor of your future new car. Again, for the greater goal, you make a few sacrifices, you make choices.

It’s the same with your health or weight loss. If you love grilled cheese sandwiches and french fries, or any other high calorie or low nutrient foods, and your goal is to lose 10 pounds, those foods have to be off the menu.

Truthfully, we are all driven to want high calorie foods. Myself included. Cravings are a part of the deal. It’s simply a part of our survival mechanism and our need for energy in the form of calories. Sure, we’re going to eat foods that maybe aren’t all that healthy for us now and then. It happens. But when it becomes the norm, we may be headed down a health road we may not like. 

If we want a long and productive life and prefer not to become a health statistic, and don’t want to become obese, or to suffer from a degenerative disease such as diabetes or heart disease, we all have to make choices.

The good news is that healthy choices become habits after a while. And that makes it much easier to make the healthier choice the next time.    

So, everything in moderation? Just make sure how you define that age old phrase aligns with your intentions and your goals.