I think I have relatively healthy eating habits. I am not vegetarian or vegan. I don’t do Paleo or Whole 30. I hate the very idea of “clean” eating. But I do eat a balanced diet with whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy and lots of fruits and vegetables. I bring my own lunch to work, rarely eat fast food, and would rather cobble together something from the pantry than get take-out.
On the other hand, I will have cake at office celebrations, enjoy my No Sugar Added Klondike Bar for dessert almost every day, and unwind with an IPA or glass of wine almost every evening. So, when I saw this article by Jonathon Ross on Greatist, I was torn. Do I believe in “everything in moderation” or not?
The Problem With Moderation
I agree that “everything in moderation” can be a trap for people who don’t realize how much even a little bit of something can add up. If you don’t know a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte has 300 calories and a pumpkin scone has 450 calories, you may not suspect that those small indulgences are interfering with your weight loss efforts or a possible reason why your jeans are getting snug.
I also believe that there are some things that are not good for you in any amount. Neon orange cheeze goo dispensed from a machine at a convenience store. Baked goods made with so many artificial ingredients their shelf life is longer than yours. The XXL Grilled Stuft Burriots from Taco Bell–don’t let that “grilled” adjective fool you. I’m not saying that you should never eat those types of foods, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are doing your health any favors when you do.
But do my daily Klondike Bar (which is loaded with artificial ingredients but really hits the spot) and daily glass of beer or wine make my diet unhealthy? According to Ross, if I “have a treat each day” I’m creating an “imbalance” that could “generate inflammation and a kind of hormonal static that can take weeks or months to clear.” (“Hormonal static”? What the heck does that even mean?)
The Problem With Deprivation
The problem with debunking the myth of the moderation mantra is that the alternative– deprivation (which is this week’s Wednesday Word)–won’t work either. As soon as I decide to stop eating chips for a while, they’re all I want. If I try to replace my Klondike Bars with frozen yogurt, I find my spoon scraping the bottom of the tub, searching for satisfaction that I can’t find.
Ross says that instead of trying to enjoy all things in moderation, “[w]e need copious amounts of healthy food and a small amount of food with little to no value.” Maybe that’s true if we want to have the most nutritious diet, but food plays other roles in my life–it can be pleasurable, social and fun.
Maybe I don’t follow a healthy diet. Maybe instead I follow a moderately healthy diet that is good enough to fuel my workouts, satisfy my taste buds, let me enjoy date night at our favorite pizza place, and keep me in my size 2/4/6 jeans (depending on the brand). Since I’m rarely sick and usually have enough energy to get me through the day, I think my moderately unhealthy diet is healthy enough for me.
Do you think we’ve taken “everything in moderation” too far?