Diet Rules — Moderation Or Deprivation?

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.

Moderation Or Deprivation

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. 

Deb Runs

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? 

This entry was posted in Fitness and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to Diet Rules — Moderation Or Deprivation?

  1. Carla says:

    ahhh Ive thought lots about this since spying the article and I always return to WE HAVENT but we NEEEEED to live more intuitively and much more than that learn to be still, silent and honest with ourselves.
    Carla recently posted…6 ways Gilmore Girls reinforced my parenting.My Profile

  2. Great post! It does make one think. I am like you, I think I make good choices, take my lunch to work, rarely eat fast food, but I do love a glass of wine (anti-oxidants, right) and I enjoy eating out with the hubby. I still think I make the better choices but hey we are not perfect! I don’t miss work, I am rarely sick, I may be a little accident prone 🙂 but I feel great, so I must be doing something right!
    Mary Beth Jackson recently posted…Your Alter Ego?My Profile

  3. Anne says:

    I think you nailed it — what you are doing is working for you! I eat right most of the time but I am a CANDY FREAK. I’m not proud of it, but it’s there. If we didn’t have any “vices,” what fun would we be? And no, your Klondike + vino is no vice at all!
    Anne recently posted…Deprivation or Choices?My Profile

  4. This is something I definitely struggle with — a LOT. I don’t deprive myself, but I’m sure some people would think I do.

    I’m 5’1″, over 50, and I swear have the most lousy metabolism despite being active. I’ve been heavy a lot in my life, so yes, I am willing to deprive myself moderately to maintain my weight.

    That means that I try not to eat a treat every single day. I think what you’re describing with your klondike bar (and no, I personally wouldn’t eat that, but there was definitely a time I would have — can we say snackwell craze in the 80s?) is a habit. And as we know, habits are really hard to break.

    I do like my sweets. But I no I don’t need them after every meal, even a healthy sweet. It’s something I work hard on.

    I like to say I follow the Judy diet: it’s a little vegetarian, a little vegan, a little Paleo, a little mediterrean, a little whole 30 . . . well, you get the idea. I love trying stuff, and that includes “diets” (healthy diets, not cleanses), and I take a little away from everything and put it into my very own personal diet.

    But my struggle is still real. Probably always will be.
    Judy @ Chocolaterunsjudy recently posted…Are runners deprived? I don’t think so!My Profile

  5. I spent much of my young adulthood in the deprivation mode and it is not a happy or healthy place to be. I do believe in moderation but the points you make above are true as well. Maybe smart moderation?
    Deborah Brooks @ Confessions of a Mother Runner recently posted…The Husband Project-October UpdateMy Profile

  6. I’m all about moderation. For example, I love chocolate but I know better than to go overboard. So I keep Hershey’s nuggets in the freezer (they take longer to each when they are frozen) and eat 1-2 after dinner. It’s just enough to satisfy…
    Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home recently posted…Heavy Medal DeprivationMy Profile

  7. Great post and I this is something I battle with too. I mean its all great when you let go of all your favorite things for months and you reach your goals but eating a dairy free/paleo version of a cookie is great and all but its not the real thing so sometimes you just gotta go for it 🙂 sending love xo C
    Courtney Bentley recently posted…Ask CC: How do I get rid of the Fat on my Thighs?My Profile

  8. steena says:

    I struggle with this as well. I do my best to eat the best I can, but as you know, busy full-time working life doesn’t always allow for everything to be natural/home-made. I find myself using quick-foods, like the 90 second microwave whole grain rice. It’s better than a microwave dinner?
    For me personally the one cheat day a week always worked best. I should get back on that program, ha.
    steena recently posted…Taper DramaMy Profile

    • Coco says:

      I wouldn’t have even listed those rice cups as unhealthy – although I think one is two servings! The “cheat” day doesn’t work for me because then I’m tempted to eat ALL the food even if I don’t really want it, since otherwise I’d have to wait a whole week – or some other nonsense that gets in my head.
      Coco recently posted…Diet Rules — Moderation Or Deprivation?My Profile

  9. Chaitali says:

    I really like your thoughts on a moderately healthy diet 🙂 I think that it’s hard to live in our current society and eat the perfect diet. And not only is it difficult, it’s not even something I want to do. I don’t think it’s worth it. I enjoy sharing deserts with my husband and chatting with friends over drinks. But I try to eat healthy enough when I can. I think the other thing is that I do genuinely enjoy a lot of veggies and fruits, so it’s easier to have a healthy diet when those things taste good to you.
    Chaitali recently posted…Run Disney, take my moneyMy Profile

  10. Ma says:

    Moderation is my mantra! There are no superfoods and there are no supervillians (except for maybe what Michael Pollan describes as edible food-like substances) although some foods certainly have more nutritional value than others. I refuse to deprive myself! Thankfully, over the years I have developed a taste for healthy choices so that my cravings for junk foods are few and far between!

  11. Alison says:

    I think you are so right in that while we tell ourselves “everything in moderation”, it can easily start to add up if we’re not smart about what we’re eating. I struggle with intuitive eating, and would like to get better at it. Far too often, I find myself still eating despite being full just because I want to. So not healthy!
    Alison recently posted…Detroit Free Press MarathonMy Profile

  12. I agree with everything in moderation, but if you aren’t aware of the calories, fat, and carbs that make up that ‘snack’ then you are fooling yourself. We all can’t eat perfectly because there really wouldn’t be any joy left in life. 🙂
    Jenn – a traveling Wife recently posted…Five Minute No-Bake CheesecakeMy Profile

  13. HoHo Runs says:

    Food for thought (pun intended). I don’t even like the word diet. I have always believed in moderation. But, I do think we can convince ourselves something is good or healthy even when it’s not.
    HoHo Runs recently posted…Inspiring OthersMy Profile

  14. This is great, and really something to think about. I know I don’t eat the best, but I don’t eat the worst either. I plan to pick up my cooking game and stay away from as much takeout as possible. I think we all just do the best we can. It’s a tough balance, but I’m not going to feel guilty about cake!
    Janelle @ Run With No Regrets recently posted…Annapolis Half Marathon Training RecapMy Profile

  15. Liz says:

    Interesting POVs… I think that Greatist article does have a fair point.. many people take moderation to an extreme and use it as a crutch in a way. I’m all for NOT depriving yourself of anything, but also respect that if you want to reach a particular fitness goal or just maintain your health.. You have to fuel your body in the best way possible (which is different for each person) It’s a fine line.
    Liz recently posted…Peanut Butter Pumpkin Chocolate Chip BitesMy Profile

  16. Great read!!

    So true about depriving yourself from what you enjoy! I did whole 30 (2 rounds) and it was sooooo hard! Everything that I couldn’t have-I swear was taunting me each time!! on day 31, I had every indulgence and felt sick to my stomach!! Lesson learned…everything in moderation and deprivation does not work too well with me.

  17. Ali says:

    Great post! I also agree that the “everything in moderation” mindset can be a pitfall if you aren’t mindful of or knowledgeable about what you are eating. Treats can turn into more treats and pretty soon nothing fits right, even if you were trying to be moderate in your consumption.

    I guess I get grouchy about all of this stuff because this article most likely touches the nerves of people who are already doing (probably) just fine. Like you point out, you are healthy, your workouts are fueled appropriately and you actually enjoy your food. Ross fails to compel me with any solid evidence that his suggestion of eating “copious amount of healthy food” is any more appropriate than what you indicate your routine is or what I know of mine.
    Ali recently posted…Peanut Butter & Jelly Oats and a GiveawayMy Profile

  18. Farrah says:

    I’m definitely in the “everything in moderation” camp, but can completely see how it might not be the best idea for someone who doesnt realize how much a drink could be in terms of sugar, calories, [lack of] nutrition, etc. I follow a moderately healthy diet as well! I don’t like the idea of deprivation because I feel like it’d just lead to random cravings that I’d much rather not have to deal with!
    Farrah recently posted…To The Guy I Walked Away From #BehindTheBloggerMy Profile

  19. Marcia says:

    I think where the article falls short is that he looks for one sweeping solution to be good for all when in fact each of us is an experiment of one. We all have our own, unique, happy balance, whether that’s moderation, totally “clean” or something else. Sounds like you found what works for you so win!
    Marcia recently posted…Things to Do in the Running “Off Season”My Profile

  20. I definitely focus on eating in moderation, but then I know what a serving size really is and know what’s a moderate amount. Once of the things I work with my clients on is teaching them serving sizes. You’re right, the average person has no idea what makes up a serving size because we’ve become so supersized with our portions here…

    Thanks for linking up!
    Debbie @ Deb Runs recently posted…My Favorite Walked Into A Bar JokesMy Profile

  21. I am all about moderation and am trying to get back to moderately health, lately I have been a bit too wild.
    Abby @ BackAtSquareZero recently posted…How to Determine Your ValueMy Profile

  22. Meagan says:

    There are so many varying opinions on this and so much talk about anything diet-related, including everything in moderation. I think in the end, there’s no one-size-fits-all (ha-ha, since we’re talking about diets) approach. You have to figure out what works for you, and it often involves some kind of balance. It’s no so much about moderation, or deprivation, but just finding that balance that works for you. Sounds like you’ve done just that!
    Meagan recently posted…For The Love Of The TrailsMy Profile

  23. cheryl says:

    I eat what I want until I am full.

  24. Pingback: Renew Your Vows In The New Year - Got2Run4Me

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge