Moderation Madness

Everything in moderation is a phrase thrown around regularly when you read nutrition or healthy eating messages. Although it is great in theory, my questions are:

  • How do you define moderation?
  • Is moderation the same for everyone?

I believe the moderation mantra was created originally to define an occasional intake of higher calorie ‘fun’ foods that added richness (in taste and experience) to our lives without becoming a basis of our eating plan. This works when we eat mindfully or intuitively.

Although I believe in the concept, I also think that in today’s food environment (along with our culture of immediate gratification) moderation is a slippery slope to overeating, weight gain and ill health. In our fast paced, hurried lifestyle where we are often disconnected from our body and hunger cues, the moderation message gets distorted or lost all together.

To eat moderately you have to be connected enough with yourself to eat with some attunement (recognition and respect of your hunger and satiety cues). A stressful, chaotic lifestyle or ‘all or nothing’ mentality will make enjoying foods in moderation downright impossible.

Another issue is that the term moderation is non-specific. For example a moderate chocolate intake for me might be 1 small square per day for you it might be 1 large family size bar per day.  If I hear a client use the term ‘moderate intake’ during their goal setting process, I challenge them to take the next step and define what moderation actually means to them. If you’re interested, consider your own definition of moderation for something particular in your diet.

Moderation is defined as what is acceptable to you.

As you define moderation for yourself, consider what seems reasonable, what is in line with your goals, priorities and values? It is a term that is internally derived not something that is determined by others.


By Loreen Wales– Registered Dietitian