The concept of eating in moderation has become pretty controversial. Some nutrition coaches argue that it’s the only path to long-term success and others argue that moderation is a worthless term.
With all the back-and-forth, you might be wondering if everything in moderation can actually work for weight loss?
I’m here to tell you that it absolutely can if you’re willing to put in the work and take the long road. In this post, I’m going to explain what “everything in moderation” means, where it can go wrong, and how the concept can help you lose weight and keep it off…if you do it right.
What Does Everything in Moderation Mean?
A life coach I work with once told me that health resides in the gray areas. This is true of life, and with the diet.
Think about it this way: Have you ever thought of eating in black or white terms?
One end of the spectrum (let’s say, black) might include a very restrictive diet, with lots of foods that are “off limits.”
At the opposite end of the spectrum–the white end–is a diet with no limitations or boundaries.
You can probably appreciate how the white end might set you up for weight gain and possibly even some health problems. But the black end of the spectrum isn’t healthy either!
Overrestriction can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food, and over time, this can cause rebound weight gain, mental health problems, and a whole mess of issues.
Moderation is a gray area and a happy medium. It allows you the freedom to have pretty much any food you like at any time, within reason. But what does “within reason” mean?
Moderation is Not a Free-for-All
Critics of everything in moderation argue that it’s a free-for-all–that the approach is so unstructured that it sets dieters up for failure.
And they are right in that it’s less structured than, say, counting macros.
But it’s factually incorrect to claim that moderation is unstructured and unquantifiable. You can absolutely quantify moderation!
For example, you could:
- Keep track of your satisfaction levels at meals, aiming for no more than 8/10 fullness at least 85% of the time.
- Take the highly tempting foods you crave off their pedestals, introducing them into your diet in pre-determined portion sizes (example: buying single serving packs of chips).
- Schedule some nutritional relief (aka, “cheat foods”) a few times per week, and track your adherence to that game plan.
See, you can TOTALLY quantify moderation!
Is this Approach Right for You?
“Everything in moderation” can be a bit confronting if you’ve become accustomed to restrictive diets.
Many people find it scary at first to incorporate trigger foods into the diet and release their need for perfectionism.
But embracing moderation can increase your odds of long-term diet success, even if you have a few stumbles along the way.
Here are a few indicators that you might benefit from working on moderation in the diet:
- You have a long history of yo-yo dieting.
- Monday through Friday are no problem, but you go completely bananas on weekends.
- Holidays and special occasions are total shitshows.
- Food is always on your mind.
- You want a healthier relationship with food.
As you can see, moderation is beneficial for those who have a long history of restrictive dieting. But it can also be helpful if you’re brand new to it and don’t know where to start!
Investing a few weeks in establishing a healthier, more moderate mindset around food will lay a strong foundation for dieting success. You might achieve your goals just by practicing moderation and mindfulness, but even if you don’t, it’s a great first step that’ll make your future efforts seem easier.
Will Moderation Help You Lose Weight?
I’m not going to lie, there is no guarantee that moderation will help you lose weight, especially at first.
You might lose a little weight. You might gain a little bit of weight at first. It all depends on your body and how well you transition mentally toward this new eating style.
But in the long-term, moderation can help with diet adherence and therefore, weight loss.
One big issue that crops up a lot on weight loss diets is the idea of scarcity. You see a food you love, you think you shouldn’t have it or won’t be able to have it again for a while, and so you eat A LOT of it.
That’s not such a big deal if it only happens every now and again, as long as you find your diet to be generally satisfying.
But the more frequently it happens, the more likely you are to fall off the wagon altogether.
There’s a tendency to try to double down when this happens (you know, diet harder). But as I tell most of my new clients with a history of yo-yo dieting, this is the opposite of what you should do.
In fact, you should introduce some of these foods that throw you into a tailspin. You don’t have to eat them all the time, and you don’t have to eat them in large quantities. The goal is to increase your exposure to these foods so that you feel less of a sense of scarcity.
You might consume a teeny more bit calories each day, but that’s a small price to pay for insurance that you won’t go completely off the rails.
Ready to Try It?
So just to summarize, moderation is TOTALLY quantifiable. And, by taking away the sense of scarcity around food, it can lead to more sustainable weight loss.
If you’re ready to get started, I’d love to help! My next 6-week #moderation365 group program kicks off on Monday, September 9th.
This program is designed to help you implement some mindfulness and moderation practices so that you can fix your relationship with food and eat consistently well without feeling deprived.
The program will be run in a private Facebook group and will include weekly lessons and assignments, feedback, support, and accountability.