I have to admit – until recently, ‘everything in moderation’ seemed like pretty rational and common sense nutrition advice.
You can eat what you want, just not too much of it. You can ‘indulge’ in a cookie, just only have one or two. And if you have a bowl of pasta for lunch, just have salad for dinner. Moderation at it’s finest.
But as my food philosophy has evolved over the years I actually have a big issue with this phrase.
And here’s why:
It connotes the need to restrict
When we say ‘moderation’ the first thing that comes to my mind, and I imagine the minds of most people is small portions. You can have that cake, but just a sliver. Well, what if I want more than just a sliver? What if, in that moment, to be satisfied I want to eat a large piece of cake. If I was eating ‘in moderation’ this may cause me to feel like I was doing something wrong. Food and the act of eating should never EVER be associated with feelings of guilt or shame.
It focuses on portion sizes
You may notice that in many of the recipes on How To Eat, we don’t really list portion sizes. What I need to eat to feel satisfied and full may be different from what you need to eat to feel satisfied and full. And that is A-OK. In fact, I challenge you to sit down with a bag of popcorn or tub of ice cream and eat straight out of the container! GASP! By doing so, it really helps you tune into your body pay attention to when you start to feel full, rather than pouring out a pre-portioned amount and stopping simply because you feel you should. Or on the other hand, eating until you are completely stuffed because that is what is on your plate. Learning to listen to your body and decide when you are full is hard, but a really important skill in helping you become happy and comfortable with your food and eating.
It leads you to believe you need to ‘balance’ your food choices
Just because you are going out for dinner to the best burger place in town, does not mean you must adhere to a strict diet of fruits and vegetables for the remaining part of the day. Your body still needs food, from all of the food groups. Your body is excellent at processing food, all food, at any time of day. I think many of us interpret moderation as the need to balance our meals throughout the day – so dessert after dinner means no sweets for the rest of the day. Even if you really really want it. And if you are having pizza for lunch, well then no carbs for you for dinner. Why? Why do we feel we only deserve to enjoy our dinner out if we have almost fasted for the remainder of the day. I remember sitting down for dinner with a friend to a delicious and juicy burger and her feeling the need to justify it by telling me she can eat this burger because she had salad for lunch. Friends – you can always eat that burger. No matter what you may have had for lunch that day.
So it appears, ‘eating in moderation’ is kind of a diet in disguise. It almost covertly places rules on what you can and can’t eat and when you can and can’t eat it. So am I saying to eat cookies and cake all day long? Of course not. But it is important to remember that all of these things, are just food. Once you let go of the restrictions you place around food and let your body’s signals of hunger and fullness guide what and when you eat, I think you will find that you will nourish your body in the way it needs and will come to feel joy and pleasure from food, rather than stress and anxiety.
If you really listen to your body, eat what makes you feel full and satisfied, you will find the ‘moderation’ in your life.