As a dietitian and regular consumer of food -- there is a rarely a day that goes by that I do not practice, read, write or advise on nutrition in some way. Nutrition related social media posts and articles are as plentiful as the questions I receive from clients and acquaintances. Why? Because we are all looking for the answer, the quick fix, the magic pill, the key to longevity. Dieting has become disfavored (rightfully so), yet with that has come the ascent of another word: moderation.
I catch myself saying it -- often.
Then, I cringe.
Did I really just say that?
I hate the word moderation.
But, I despise the concept of dieting and deprivation so it seems the word moderation has become the poster child for the contrary. But what does moderation really mean? Does it mean you can have chocolate once a day or once a week? Does it mean you can eat one piece of bacon instead of your normal four? Does it mean you should eat one bowl of vegetables instead of two?
I hate the word moderation because it feels very intangible and pointless in relationship to lifestyle changes and dietary choices. Great, you have decided to ditch dieting but now you are unsuccessfully living in moderation. Ugh.
So, how do we make the idea of moderation more concrete considering it is so vague and subjective by definition. Defined as the avoidance of excess or extremes, especially in one's behavior or political opinions -- the concept can be quite elusive when put into practice.
I often ask myself if there is another word? A word or maybe a concept with more practicality? A concept that will actually yield clarity and results? Yet, synonyms for moderation which include patience, restraint, tolerance and judiciousness sound reasonable but still only describe the hypothetical gold standard -- a balanced, healthy relationship with food.
But herein lies the problem. We all know what we should do but, we all too often flounder in the how. Myself included.
So, how do we exist in that mystical place between overindulgence and deprivation?
1. Keep it simple. For many of us, our relationship with food is as complex as the most complicated of family dynamics. From inherited food philosophies to self-imposed standards, deafening media messages and the constant vilification of foods. We have muddled the basics -- how to eat and why we eat. If we let go of all the "shoulds" and "don'ts" and we simplify our relationship with food we realize that food is inherently nourishing. Food sustains us.
2. Take Control. Let go of your negative associations with eating, with certain foods, with weight and expectations. Stop depriving yourself. Stop trying to define moderation. Stop placing blame and instead choose to be mindful.
3. Listen. Become mindful of what your body needs instead of what your body wants. If you listen, your body will tell you if you are hungry, thirsty, satisfied or intolerant of a particular food. Refrain from eating when you are satisfied versus full. Avoid foods, not because they are "bad," but instead, because they not nourishing or do not agree with you. By listening to your body you can change your relationship with food.
4. Nourish. Nutrient-dense foods nourish our bodies and we, therefore, thrive. Choose to create a nourishing plate -- one that is rich in whole or minimally processed foods -- mostly plants.
5. Live. Enjoy a piece of cake on your birthday or some bacon with abandoned. I sure do. Why? Because with mindfulness comes understanding and better self-control. Slow down and taste your food. Savor each bite. Eat with revelry. Fall in love with food again -- and yourself in the process.