The Myth of Moderation

There may be no other phrase I dislike more than, “everything in moderation.” This usually gets bandied about right as the speaker is about to indulge in some sort of not-so-good -for-you food. I’ve got nothing against indulging from time to time, but when we utter that phrase we are perpetuating the myth that we are actually practicing moderation, when in reality we are using it as an excuse for our actions. As if that somehow makes it okay.

The phrase is right up there with, “I know this is bad for me…” right before the offender proceeds with their action. If you know, don’t do it. Acknowledging it doesn’t change the action, or make it any less egregious. Acknowledging it, and changing the action, now that’s far more impressive. It’s time to quit giving yourself an out and making excuses for your actions. You need to take ownership.

Moderation, in and of itself, is a great concept. You don’t max out your lifts in the gym everyday. You don’t sprint as fast and for as long as you can every time you go for a run. You don’t drink until you black out every time you partake in the spirits. You don’t live purely off the dessert menu. You don’t gamble your entire live’s savings every trip you take to the casino

In reality moderation is part of our daily lives. Sure, every once in awhile we obsess over something, and it gets the majority of our attention. This is normal. Think of when you first started a new workout program, or began dating someone knew. Likely in those first few days or weeks that activity or person garnered a good chunk of your attention. The newness of these experiences can be intoxicating, but in time we drift back toward a moderate level of interaction. Sort of a natural equilibrium if you will. Of course addiction is real, but that’s not the focus of this article.

Aside from using the term as an excuse, the other part of the problem with moderation is that everyone’s definition of the term is quite different. To me, something I partake in moderately is something I do “every so often,” like once every few weeks or once a month. To contrast that, by definition someone who drinks moderately still has a drink a day. I guess because they are not having multiple drinks in a single day this is considered moderate. The truth of the matter is they are ingesting a poison, yes alcohol is a poison, every single day. Thankfully our bodies have mechanisms to clear this small amount of poison before any acute damage is done, but if you step back and look at the suggestion that this consumption is widely considered okay shouldn’t you begin to wonder a bit. What other poisons are we told are okay to ingest?

Turns out most of the chemical laden processed foods we consume fall into that category if we take “everything in moderation” to heart.  Refined grains, added sugars, industrial seed oils. All junk that we know isn’t doing our health any good is apparently okay to consume every once in awhile, or whenever we conveniently need an excuse to do so.

Let’s take whole grains as an example, which we are told are “heart healthy.” Do you know why they are designated as such? Well, in head to head studies with refined grains consumption of the whole grains led to improved biomarkers of health that are correlated to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. This seems like a great result until you take a look at what happens when the whole grains are eliminated or reduced from the amounts used in the studies. Big shocker here, the biomarkers improve even further. So consuming these on a daily (moderate) basis is better than downing white bread, but its far from the best thing you can do for your heart.

I am not saying that we should never indulge, but we need to take a hard look our definition of moderate. I had some bread over the Christmas holiday. And some cookies. And cheese. And a whole host of other stuff I don’t usually include in my diet. I didn’t feel guilty because I was with family, enjoying myself in the moment and not worrying about long term consequences.

I haven’t had any of that junk since.  Well, maybe a little bit of cheese here and there, but definitely no sugars or grains. I feel better, dropped several pounds on the scale, and can see the benefits of refraining from those things in my overall picture of health. That’s no to say I’ll never eat any of that junk again. I will. What’s different for me, as opposed to most people, is my definition of moderate.

To me, moderate equals average. I don’t like average. I don’t want to be average. I can be better than that and so can you. The average person in this country is overweight and on the fast track to developing type II diabetes. Moderation, as practiced by most of society, will lead to moderate health, at best.

Who wants that?

Not me for sure. Screw moderate. Screw average.

What’s wrong with wanting optimal?

Optimal health sounds like a phenomenal place to be. I’m not there, but I strive to be. Getting there involves kicking the excuses to the curb and dispelling the myth of moderation. The myth is that we can rationalize our actions under this blanket excuse without compromising our health. Instead it’s time to redefine moderation, take ownership of our actions, and ultimately reclaim an optimal state of living. Believe me, getting there will be far more rewarding than living an average life, in average health.

Why Health Requires Constant Vigilance
Kettlebell Press, Row, Swing Ladder

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