Moderation. No doubt you’ve either said or heard this word at some point in context to health and eating.

My friend, Andy Bellatti, explains the word moderation beautifully: “the equivalent of 600 fingernails on a chalkboard, plus the never-ending drip of a leaky faucet”.

Ask 99 people why they use the word moderation and you’ll get 99 different answers. To one person, moderation is a one candy bar a month. To another, a soft drink a day is moderation. And yet another might say that a donut for breakfast every Sunday morning is OK because after all, they ate kale yesterday. This word has no benchmark. Moderation doesn’t have one definition. It is left for individual interpretation and it’s hurting our health.

Here four reasons why this word is overused and should be taken out of our eating vocabulary.

As a Justification

When people use the word moderation, it is generally always used in conjunction with processed food - like products (never kale chips or a blueberry hemp smoothie). Deep down inside, people know that they shouldn’t be eating or drinking those products. So, to make it seem okay, they justify it by using the "M" word. Because if they state “moderation” then it will somehow void the harmful ingredients and give them a pass. But that’s not the way it works. Using the word moderation doesn’t give you a pass on obesity, heart disease, high cholesterol, fatigue, cancer, headaches, colds, etc. It’s also not being honest with yourself. Start building healthy habits by eating real food (and yes, you can make cookies and cake with real food!) and doing away with the moderation label. Moderation is just one of the things that is hurting our health - $147 billion in obesity related healthcare costs alone! If moderation worked, our health crisis wouldn’t be where it’s at today.

As an Excuse

Moderation is also used when people feel guilty. Poor health choices and behaviors don't need excuses and “moderation.” They need reality. Own what you eat! If you had a cookie, there is no reason to include “moderation” with the description. Excuses happen when we don’t take personal responsibility for our actions. It’s OK to have a cookie (plant-based, not processed, raw honey or coconut sugar vs. white refined sugar or artificial sugars) and not feel guilty afterwards. But having a cookie or slice of pie or a bag of chips daily or weekly is not going to help you live healthy or accomplish your long term with your health goals. Yes, even if you run and workout. Healthy foods never need the word moderation beside them. (Tell me, when was the last time you saw the word moderation listed beside a quinoa salad, kale chips and avocado?) When you stop using the word moderation to describe what you just ate, and start eating real food and drinking water or kombucha, you will find freedom!

As a Defense

Poison is poison no matter the amount. One soft drink a day might not kill you overnight, but the health consequences add up over time (weak bones, bone loss, obesity, heart disease, some cancers - just to name a few). If you have to defend your unhealthy eating and drinking habits, it is probably wise to take a closer look at them. I get it- people feel they have to defend their eating choices- because they know they could do better. Instead of going on defense, accept help for learning to make the right food choices.

As a Marketing Ploy

This one is directed toward Big Food and nutrition professionals who don’t want to take a stand on the topic. Big Food loves to use the word moderation or "balance"  because it gives them sales. They want you to think - believe! - that a soft drink or a bag of chips “in moderation” is OK. Truth: that is never part of a healthy nutrition plan or lifestyle. It’s not black or white thinking, it’s the truth. A balanced diet does not have fast food or processed food-like products in it. A balanced diet is one where you getting nutrients from real food that your body needs on a daily basis to fight disease, illness and keep well.

In Closing

Some people think that if the word moderation (or “balance”) is not used, problems will arise. Again, my friend, Andy, points out this is overreacting. Why don’t we teach that eating for health - for clear skin, for energy, for good blood work, for good cholesterol (case in point- my HDL was 96 recently; anything above 60 is good) to prevent cancer and other diseases? If we change the way we think about what we put in our bodies and start realizing that what we put on our plate and in our glass can either give us life + health or death + disease, our nation’s health will change too. And as always, I'm here to help you.

Have your cake and eat it, just don't call it moderation.

Your turn!

Do you use the word moderation? Will you take the pledge to not using it? Will you help others ditch the word and teach them healthy eating principles? Say no to moderation. Say yes to eating for health!

In Part Two I will give you three ways to live a healthy life without using the word moderation.

photo credit: Collin Parker