A Dietitian’s Favorite Word

Have you guessed it?! It is, in my dietitians’ opinion, a cliche to say, but hugely meaningful, useful and true none the less.

“the avoidance of excess or extremes, especially in one’s behavior or political opinions.”

“neither too much nor too little.”

moderation, chips

Moderation.

Awe yes, everything in moderation. The trouble with this term is often the inconsistency of how we define it for direct application. I can not simply say, eat everything in moderation and you will be healthy, or even, eat potato chips in moderation and you will be healthy. Because what I believe the definition of moderate is may be very different than yours, and it may change depending on the context, or in the heat of the moment to justify current actions.

I say moderate alcohol intake is one to two drinks a day, you might say it is one to two a week. I might say moderate consumption of nuts is half a handful a day, while my grandpa might say eating any nuts will give you a heart burn and a heart attach. For me, I moderately eat donuts, say, once every 3 months or so, while my boyfriend moderately eats donuts every other day…

So why is Moderation my favorite word as a dietitian? My love of this word is beyond how we may define it for a specific food, beverage or activity, but for the philosophy it holds.

Along with “everything in moderation” you may have also heard “too much of anything can kill you”. Any habits, good or bad, if overdone can pose a risk to our health. The most obvious examples being smoking, heavy drinking of alcohol, eating fatty greasy, sugary and salty foods, being sedentary or not getting enough sleep. However, it can go the other way as well; too much vitamin C can actually harm the function of our immune systems; to many raw vegetables can lead to kidney stones; too much exercise (with poor recovery) can lead to muscle deterioration; eating too many carrots will turn your skin orange; etc.

What I am getting at here is even if we do not define how much is too much or how much is too little, but we recognize there exists an upper and lower limit to foods, supplements, beverages and daily habits of all kinds, we are less likely to cross these and suffer the consequences. The key is embracing this philosophy and living it everyday.

The moderation philosophy…

… when it comes to health habits, it wonderfully unrestrictive. You set your definitions and decide when and how to moderate on your own terms. This takes not just awareness, but also common sense, to know what definition to give moderation for YOU. If today moderate soda pop intake for you is 1 a day, then next week or next month you might decide it is 1 a week, and 1 a day is now over indulgence. You do not have to tell yourself you can never have chocolate cake again, but instead decide when it is appropriate to eat and how much is appropriate based off your own deductive reasoning.

There is nothings black and white about it. No exact number to give to the milligrams of vitamin D or the grams of omega-3 fatty acids or to the number of minutes on the treadmill that will bring best energy, highest quality of life, or superior health.

I will emphasis again that this takes constant awareness and common sense; no easy task! That is why I call it a philosophy, which is, according to Merriam-Webster Inc, thinking, thoughts, reasoning and attitudes towards a belief.

My challenge to you: Live moderately!