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  • Writer's pictureintoitnutrition

Is Moderation the Key?


When I meet a new person in a social setting, I’m often a little reluctant to tell them what I do. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE to talk about food, nutrition, and intuitive eating. It’s just that I find that it’s not a simple explanation.

It usually goes something like this:

When I first say that I’m a dietitian, people tend to assume that I’m focused on “weight management” and “eating properly”. So, then I clarify that I actually focus on intuitive eating and give a quick rundown of what exactly that is, typically something like “it’s a weight-neutral approach to eating that focuses on a healthy relationship with food. So, basically, I help people unlearn how to diet so that they can eat all foods without guilt or shame.”. Then, 9 times out of 10, the person responds something along the lines of “Exactly! I love that; everything in moderation!”.

So, by now I’m already in too deep in what should’ve been a simple bit of small talk, but I can’t stop here either! Because yes, it is about moderation, but not in the way that most people think it is!

“Moderation” is a term that is often used in diet culture that, on the surface, means that no foods are off limits and that excessive amounts of anything should be avoided. However, in practice, it often means something more like, “you can eat anything as long as you don’t eat too much of the bad things”. In fact, when people preach the merits of moderation, they don’t typically mean “make sure you don’t eat too much protein” or “don’t go overboard on the broccoli”. Almost always it means something more like “sure, you can eat ice cream, but only a little bit!”.

This isn’t moderation at all, it’s pseudo dieting (anything that tells you what, when, or how much to eat).

On the other hand, I am absolutely on board with true moderation. Or, more accurately, I’m very on board with variety, which goes hand-in-hand with moderation; if you’re including lots of variety of different foods, it’s pretty difficult to eat an excess of any one type of food.

HOWEVER, there are two big, giant, flashing, neon points that need to be included in BOLD LETTERS:

1)      MODERATION APPLIES TO ALL FOODS. An excess of broccoli or an excess of chicken or an excess of ice cream? All three are no bueno.

2)      MODERATION IS USUALLY NOT ACHIEVED BY STRIVING FOR MODERATION. The more we try to limit (avoid excess) of any type of food, the more likely we are to overeat that food instead! Intuitive eaters typically DO eat in moderation (yay! After all, moderation IS good), but they get there by allowing all foods, by normalizing all foods, by making peace with all foods, by taking “bad” foods off of the pillar.

Moderation is wonderful, but it’s not something to pursue with rigid food rules and limits. Instead, remove limits from your eating and you’ll be relieved to see how that balance occurs naturally.

In the meantime, I’ll keep searching for a simpler way to explain what I do. Maybe I could print off a simple diagram so people can look it over at their leisure 😊.

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