Why I’m Not a Fan of ‘Moderation’…

chocolate chip cookies

Back when I studied nutrition at university, I’m embarrassed to say I believed the whole mantra that ‘moderation’ was the answer to a healthy diet.

Then I discovered the work of Darya Rose PhD.

I was immediately drawn to Darya’s scientific approach to all things nutrition.

And her evidence-based stance that diets do more harm than good.

I especially loved that she questioned the whole ‘moderation’ approach.

It was a real eye-opener for me…

Why?

As Darya writes…

“The problem with moderation is that it’s a fantasy, not a strategy.

Your brain has no idea how to picture what moderation means, so has trouble acting on it.

Behavioral research has repeatedly shown that the more specific an action is, the more likely you are to actually do it.

And it’s hard to get any less specific than “moderation.”

So what’s the alternative?

Get. Really. Specific.

And focus your energy on changing your habits.

Figure out exactly what you are going to change. Then decide on a new habit that will work for you.

For example if you’re trying to eat Low Carb and you normally love to have a big bowl of rice with your stir fry, choose an alternative.

For me I add more veggies to my stir fry to replace the bulk. Then I add a handful of nuts to make sure it’s going to have enough fat to satisfy.

There are always options.

It’s all about having a clear plan.

What do you think?

Is moderation working for you? Or are you ready to abandon the fantasy…

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Have fun in the kitchen!

With love,
Jules x

ps. And if you want the recipe for the Chocolate Chip Cookies pictured above it’s over here (and pre-dates my love of Low Carb eating!). Try using moderation with them ;)

Tags: , , ,

26 Comments

  • Thanks Jules. I found that helpful. I’m making my journey back to health losing 90 lbs this past year and it’s lifestyle “specifics” like you mentioned that have proven successful. Keep sharing the wealth, much appreciated!

  • Hi,

    I’m new to your site and really loving your recipes. However, I couldn’t disagree more with your take on moderation–as if that is somehow opposite “scientific. ” It comes down to semantics, doesn’t it? In my case, my brain can cope very well with measuring cups. I’d rather measure out a 1/4 cup of rice (this is me doing moderation) then to completely avoid rice for the rest of my life…and yeah, I mix that with 2 to 4 cups of veggies. This works for me, and actually keeps me from binges on the not-allowed food.

    • Thanks for commenting Kahlia!

      You’re right it does come down to semantics. If you said I’m just going to eat rice in moderation, it would be difficult for you to do that.

      However by deciding you’re going to eat 1/4 cup of rice and measuring it out, you’re being ultra specific which is excellent!

      And if you choose to think of this as eating in ‘moderation’ then moderation with this definition will work. And sounds like it is working!

    • Kahlia, I considered your comment and examined myself. I find myself in agreement with you and with Jules. Perhaps this is why I like individual measures for 1/4 cup, et al, because it is visually full. The opposite is using a 4-cup measure and putting in a 1/4 cup, and seeing how little it is by comparison. This goes for regular dishes (bowls, plates, cups, flatware) rather than using Large versions (particularly serving bowls). It is not lying, or fooling myself, in my opinion. It is a matter of reality combined with perspective. ;)

  • More than moderation, I think to do the correct replacement to get satisfied even more. When it is a case of wanting to lose weight, people always think that it comes cutting out food, when in reality is adding good foo, whole grains, fruits to your food habits. I would say that I like moderation, because excess is bad, and for me moderation is the gray zone where we should think about it. Nutrition and good habits never would be white or black, it is a matter of balance; and there is the gray and the moderation

    • I agree with your comment on the importance of adding the healthier choices to your food habits Maria!

      And you’re right it’s never a black or white scenario.

      My point was that by relying on telling yourself ‘I’m just going to eat in moderation’ it’s making it harder for yourself to find that balance. Being more specific is the key. Instead of I’m going to drink in ‘moderation’ I find it much easier and more effective to decide I’m going to have one glass of wine at lunch.

      :)

  • I do not see moderation as a fantasy. Rather, I see it as setting reasonable limits on what I eat. I have dealt with being a compulsive overeater for all of my adult life, and have spent way too much time dieting. I am thoroughly sick of diets, and over the years my ability to moderate what I eat has improved greatly. My goal has always been to eat normally, and for the most part I do that pretty well. I am aware of calories, watch my portions, eat healthy foods, and find ways to allow occasional treats. Even though I would like to weigh somewhat less than I do now, I have been able to keep my weight stable. For me, that is what moderation looks like. I think moderation is fine as long as one has a reasonably specific definition that they apply to themselves. It would look different for everyone.

  • Moderation implies “ being allowed a little bit of a normally forbidden food “
    Low carb implies “ Diet “ , restriction , guilt

    …….if only I knew what is right . And replacing carbohydrates with fat doesn’t sound appealing at all to me .

    • Hi S!

      Thanks for your comment. I find it interesting that you talk about ‘forbidden foods’. This is also known as food moralizing and Darya also talk about the harm this does on her blog https://www.summertomato.com/tag/food-moralizing

      If you think that eating low carb is going to imply diet, restriction and guilt then it isn’t going to be a good choice for you.

      For me low carb = stable blood sugar, no diabetes, healthy appetite (no cravings!) and delicious satisfying food. So for me it’s a no brainer.

      But we’re all different which is why it can be so confusing.

      The thing I’d really encourage you to do is to take responsibility for figuring out what is ‘right’ for you. Treat it as an experiment. Try different styles of eating and see how they make you feel.

      And when you find a way that feels right and doesn’t involve any restriction, guilt or dieting then you’ll know. :)

  • Jules,
    I recently signed up for your life membership. Am I receiving all your resources?
    Loved the article “How to Cook Without Garlic, Onions & Tomato.”
    That is my dilemma living in Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA. I control my
    own cooking well, but try to out when the majority of the local restaurants
    are Hispanic. Everything starts with chiles (grown locally), onions, garlic and
    “hot” spices. Your Irish husband can appreciate my dismay when I took a bite of
    lovely looking mashed potatoes–only to find there were full of chiles!
    Cheers,
    Looking forwrd to hearing back.
    Sincerely,

    • Hi Joyce!

      I’ve sent you an email re your membership – So sorry! There’s an error on my end that we’ll fix up.

      Yes I can imagine New Mexico would be very challenging for eating out without garlic, onion & tomato AND chilli.

      That mash must have been a big shock!

      Jx

  • Hello Jules! I agree that “moderation” is a fantasy. The human body has evolved to cope with scarcity and excesses. No primitive person had three measured meals a day!
    I think I am finally more able to eat reasonably by dismissing the idea of “moderation”. It’s never worked for me anyway but I always felt guilty about my “excesses”. Now I don’t. I am now doing intermittent fasting and that works extremely well for me both physically and socially. I can recommend books by Dr. Jason Fung.
    Thanks for your insights.

    • Jan!

      I’m a huge fan of fasting as well and love Jason Fungs books.

      And very glad to hear you aren’t feeling guilty about your ‘excesses’. Good for you!

      Jx

  • If moderation worked then I would not have a weight problem because I am an intelligent person and I know what a proper portion is. I can practice moderation with some foods, carrots and celery for example. I cannot control my portions of refined carbohydrates of any kind, especially any form of sugar. I believe that there are people who can practice moderation but for me it is the same as telling an alcohlic that one beer a day is fine. I need to eat no refined carbohydrates and practice intermittent fasting to maintain a normal weight. And don’t get me started on ‘six small meals per day’. . .

  • There is no such thing as moderation for me when it come to Darrell Lea raspberry bullets – I have to eat the lot. So I don’t buy the anymore.

    • Sounds like the best approach Jan :)
      I use personal rules like this for myself all the time. They’re so great because it takes the day-to-day decision making out of the equation. You’re making the decision in advance. It’s powerful stuff

  • I see “Intuitive Eating” as the only viable eating option. In our time of abundance, it seems that people have forgotten how to listen to their bodies hunger/satiation signals. Evelyn Tribole and Elise Resch have an awesome book outlining this.

  • I think you may have something here! But personally I am not a fan of chickpeas, but I am sure there are alternatives. Eating a healthy fulfilling meal & knowing it has gone through its natural transit (if you get my meaning) & has taken with it all the many toxins within, makes you feel a whole lot healthier.
    Rest assured you will sleep better!
    Thanks for the idea!

  • Loved your post on moderation. It’s not that it’s a bad term, it’s just not manageable unless you quantify. I am now on an inflammation-reducing ketogenic diet-for-life and add nuts to my stir-fry meals as well. But I always measure / weigh so I am not guessing the quantity added. I have a book called Carbs & Cals: A Visual Guide and it is invaluable. It is amazing how far off I used to be in calculating portion sizes. This book and keeping a digital scale on the worktop makes it easy to get it right!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *