Why eating everything in moderation does not work

The popular notion – eat everything in moderation – does not work. It is not effective. It is not helpful. And in some cases, it might even be detrimental.

While I currently practice a form of eating “everything” in moderation, this advice lacks specificity and consideration for an individual’s true needs. Having altered my eating behaviors in 2009, I spent the first 2 years mindfully monitoring everything I ate, avoiding social and food triggers, and planning my snacks and meals. I ate following my template – religiously. Prone to nighttime eating, if I became ‘hungry’ at  night after all my meals and snack were consumed, I went to sleep.

Used to eating anything you want

If you are used to eating whatever you want, the advice of eating everything in moderation can offer you a justification to continue doing so. “But, I am just eating everything in moderation.” And your results will reflect the inadequacy of this advice.

Many individuals cannot stop at a little of something when it comes to food. If this is you, you ARE NOT alone. We have trigger foods. There are physiological and psychological explanations for these food addictions. These are associated with binge eating disorder, as well as common to many – disordered eating behaviors.

A real-life example

I immediately think about a former client who ate 6+ full-size Hershey’s bars each day, sometimes a full pizza for breakfast, and 2 Whoppers for lunch. He wanted to listen to the advice – everything in moderation – and reduced his Hershey’s bar intake to 2 bars each day, half a pizza for breakfast, and 1 Whopper for lunch. Do you think he saw results? (He did not – despite intense workouts 3 times a week.)

He followed the advice – everything in moderation

Comparatively speaking, he was eating in moderation! Is it effective for weight loss? The answer, more often than not – NO!

Abstinence

Recovery from food addiction requires abstinence. You need to eliminate trigger foods completely. For how long? At least 28 days, but the length of abstinence required depends on various individual factors – other psychological factors, length of addiction, strength of motivation to overcome, and more. NOTE: For those who may be addicted to food in general, more aggressive strategies are needed and professional advice should be sought.

I have talked about trigger foods. One of my trigger foods is Starburst Jelly Beans – one leads to the full bag. To be successful in weight loss and health – you must identify and abstain from your trigger foods.

Assessing the advice

If you are on your weight loss journey, ask yourself – how many people have offered this advice to eat everything in moderation. Now tell me – how has this worked for you? 

Have you lost weight, only to put it back on?

Have you not lost at all?

Or, has it worked?

The bottomline

Eating everything in moderation sounds glorious. It will work for a select few. If it has not and does not work for you – please know that you are not alone. If only it was so easy!

Better, is to have more specific advice to meal and snack creation. Please click the link for more specific and helpful guidance. The best plan is to invest in a personalized, customized plan. Each of us has a different experience with foods – past and present. Each of us has different dietary needs, wants, and restrictions. Not sure where to start?

I can help and point you in the right direction.

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3 thoughts on “Why eating everything in moderation does not work

  1. This post resonates with me. I definitely have trigger foods but sometimes those lead to other trigger foods and it all becomes a big mess. Abstaining sounds so difficult, though. If you cut the food cold turkey, would it lead to a binge later on?

    • The ideal program would address the psychological needs and cravings for the desired food – while abstaining. Trigger foods are different than foods that we may be addicted to – while they could also be one in the same. For example, the jellybeans are a trigger food for me, but they are not an addiction. Serious food addiction requires more intense treatment, incorporating both psychological and nutritional strategies.

      Ask yourself, what is difficult to give up? Why is it difficult to give up? What makes this food – or the comfort it provides so important? NOW, ask yourself, what is MORE important than the food.

      The diet-focused culture we live in has cultivated us to think about food non-stop. When the reality is, we need to think about food less. Instead of thinking about what you are going to eat next, or what you wish you could be eating, or what you feel you cannot eat – think about more positive aspects of life.Take the focus off of food.

      As for leading to a binge later – possibly. There will be binges. However, binges can be planned for and avoided. Binges tend to be the result of eliminating food groups or classes – your brain and body telling you that you are deficient in something.

      Lastly, food addiction follows the very same principles as tobacco, alcohol, or drug addiction. More often than not, cold turkey is the way to go. The first few weeks are the hardest…

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