Is "Everything in Moderation" the Right Approach to Health?

Everything in moderation feature image of cheese and bread

I’ve been thinking a lot about whether or not “everything in moderation” is solid wellness advice, or a big ole cop-out.

Conventional wisdom tells us we should strive for “everything in moderation.” But if moderation is what we’re after, does that leave our lives, well … moderate?

My mom was in town over the weekend, aka: “LET’S GO TO EVERY GOOD RESTAURANT EVER!” – Me and my brother.

And man, did we eat. There were chips and guac, and tacos, and ice cream, and cheese, and fried chicken, and muffins. Not to mention margaritas, and wine, and coffee, and beer.

Everything in moderation.

We walked all over Brooklyn, burning some of it off, but I’m going to level with you guys: I felt like crap. It’s not like we were snacking on Doritos and Sour Patch Kids all weekend long, and we weren’t necessarily overeating. But I certainly strayed from my usual habits, albeit moderately.

As a society, we love moderation. It allows us to reach for just about anything, so long as we limit the intake.

But here’s the thing, I am an “abstainer.”

According to Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, that means I’m an all-or-nothing kinda gal. I find it far easier to give something up entirely than to indulge moderately. Put a bottle of wine and a cheese plate in front of me and watch as I transform from a classy young woman to a monstrous lady-child, limbs flailing for a piece of Brie like it’s the last piece of cheese on Earth.

Would I like to be able to have just a bite of cheese and be cool with it? Um, does the Pope wear a funny hat?

It’s just not going to happen.

There’s a lot of controversy around this concept of moderation, and outside of what I can gather from my own habits, I’m still a little undecided.

Here’s what I know for sure: when I stopped eating processed food altogether, including dairy and gluten, with one “cheat day” a week (more on that here), I felt amazing. That’s evidence enough to make the case for abstaining on a regular basis.

On the other hand, I love good wine and cheese, and part of living a rad life is enjoying things that we love (and not feeling guilty about it). I’m also not a fan of restriction.

So what’s an abstainer to do?

I suppose there is no correct solution, but if we’re not feeling our best and we want to (as opposed to remaining in a constant state of “moderate”), then we probably need to make some changes. Maybe the key really is a cheat day? Or cutting out things that make us feel crappy while choosing to indulge occasionally, if we’re cool with the consequential hangover/bloating/indigestion/etc.

Regardless of the approach, it does help to understand your nature before making any decisions or changing your habits. Here’s the lowdown, according to Gretch:

You’re a moderator if you…
– find that occasional indulgence heightens your pleasure and strengthens your resolve
– get panicky at the thought of “never” getting or doing something

You’re an abstainer if you…
– have trouble stopping something once you’ve started
– aren’t tempted by things that you’ve decided are off-limits

Which one resonates with you? I’d love to hear: does “everything in moderation” make sense for you?


Author Bridget

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