In Defence of Moderation
Recently I have been seeing more and more articles, blogs and posts about how moderation doesn't work, with the reasons being anything from it leading to food addiction, to people not being able to stop when eating the forbidden foods in moderation (ie. eating a whole block of chocolate in one sitting). While I respect that everyone has their own opinions, especially relating to food, I think there is a lot of misunderstanding around moderation, and I hope this blog is able to clear that up a bit for you. Firstly, if you're happy cutting out the foods you enjoy eating in a bid to be that little bit healthier (or lose a few kgs), then that's fine and completely up to you, but it definitely isn't the only approach. Being healthy and living a healthy and happy life isn't black and white, it's not all or nothing, and it looks very different from person to person, and so too does moderation.
So, what is moderation?
According to (trusty) wikipedia "Moderation is the process of eliminating or lessening extremes."
What does this mean in terms of eating? I think moderation means getting rid of the extremes with eating, getting rid of the all-or-nothing approach, and changing the way we eat and view food. Instead of looking at food as "good" and "bad" or "forbidden" and "healthy", to looking at food as everyday food and sometimes food, and eating the food that makes us feel good, or that will satisfy us. This means eating food that gives us energy to do the things we want to do and the nutrition to perform our best, but also enjoying birthday cake at a party, champagne at a celebration, or pizza with friends, because enjoying food with friends and family also makes us feel good and feeds our soul, which is another very important part of being healthy.
As the World Health Organisation (WHO) defines it "Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
Being in a state of social well-being is healthy, feeling anxious or guilty about eating is not. The problem with black and white thinking in terms of diet is that it's very restrictive and cuts out the joy of eating. Restriction leads to obsession of this 'forbidden food', which can result in binging, and then guilt, and in an attempt to control eating, being restrictive once again. And the cycle goes on. This is a tortuous cycle that no one deserves to go through. It is riddled with horrible feelings of low self-worth, which isn't a healthy state of mind, and complicates attempts of re-gaining health because making healthful changes that will stick will be a lot more successful if they are coming from a place of self-acceptance and self-love.
But it doesn't have to be like this. If we eat mindfully, we can enjoy all of the food that we like to eat. If we don't like something, don't eat it, moderation doesn't mean we have to eat everything, it just means that we allow ourselves to enjoy the foods that we do like eating. If we allow ourselves to eat all foods, we will no longer obsess over "off-limit foods" (because they no longer exist) and they will no longer have control over us. If we want a piece of chocolate, we can have a piece of chocolate and we are able to stop when we're satisfied because we know that food will be there when we want it again, and we don't need to finish it in a hurry incase it's off-limits again soon, or to stop ourselves from eating it later. If the purpose of eating shifts towards eating food that makes us feel good, and we learn to listen to our body, we can trust that our body will mostly want to eat the foods that provides us with the most nourishment, but sometimes we will eat to nourish our soul, and that's important too. When we get rid of the food-related guilt and learn to listen to our bodies and enjoy eating foods with the primary goal of making us feel good, we will become less fixated on food and more able to enjoy eating. We will be able to join in on a range of different social occasions, and that is something that I think is a lot healthier than cutting out foods or food groups that we like eating, just because someone told us they are "unhealthy".
If you're wanting to ditch the extremes and find your moderation, it's important to see an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) or a Registered Nutritionist as they have the knowledge and skills to work with you to find a balance that's right for you.
*please note this does not apply to individuals with food allergies or intolerances, or those on a prescribed medical nutritional therapy.
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