When I was studying nutrition in college, one of my professors always told us “everything in moderation.” I clung to this well known saying and used it to excuse my occasional (but really more like daily) consumption of sweets and treats. I have since come to believe that this is not the best advice.
What is Moderation?
Moderation: the avoidance of extremes or excesses
The first problem is that it's there are no "rules" to know what moderation means. Who decides what is extreme or excess? There was a recent study to delve into this concept more. Researchers found that not only was everyone's definition of moderation different, but the more people liked a certain food, the more they considered moderate. They almost always set their definition of what was moderate above the amount that they ate- therefore passing off their own behavior as being moderate.
I really like ice cream- so in my mind when I used to have a bowl of ice cream everyday- I was still under the threshold of eating it "in moderation."
You may have problems even if you can avoid excess.
Several years ago, Dr. Jamie told me this analogy, which has resonated with me. Think about this:
When you are born, you have a cup. Each person’s cup is unique, some very small and others, quite large (based on your genes). The cup represents how much junk (stress, toxins, sugar, etc) that your body can handle before showing external signs of break down. For those with smaller cups, you may notice symptoms beginning from a young age ranging in severity from headaches or digestive issues to more serious chronic disease. For those with larger cups, you may be able to go a long time in life before experiencing any negative side effects from your diet and lifestyle choices.
Although this analogy is simplistic, it illustrates why you may not remain healthy if you consume “everything in moderation” forever.
Once your cup overflows, “everything in moderation” is not good advice. At this point, your body is trying desperately to fix itself, while giving you warning signals that something is not right. If you ignore these signals, every little bit causes more damage to your body. When this happens, taking drastic measures for a time will allow your body to heal, remove the warning signs, and restore health.
I often hear people say, “But I’ve done that my whole life” in regards to eating a certain diet or some other lifestyle habit. This leads to the belief that the diet or lifestyle choice could not possibly be tied to whatever negative symptom they are experiencing. Unfortunately or fortunately, your body works hard to keep you healthy. You can abuse it for quite awhile, depending on the size of your cup, before the signs of damage begin to show. The poor choices we make "in moderation” lead to damaging consequences over time.
What advice would I give instead?
My advice would be to listen to your body. If you experience a negative health symptom, your body is trying to send you a message. Do not ignore these symptoms. Rather, dig deep and reach out to figure out the root cause of the symptom you’re experiencing. It just might be caused by the thing that you are "doing in moderation".
What kind of negative health symptoms could be caused by this "overflowing cup?"
The list is long, but here are a few: constipation, diarrhea, bloating, heart burn, joint pain, arthritis, acne, dry skin, allergies, poor blood sugar control, anxiety, depression, headaches, high cholesterol, asthma, fatigue, brain fog, and many more.
Many people have at least one of these symptoms and live with it thinking it is normal. They either think that there is nothing they can do, or that the only solution is to take medication. What most people don't realize is that diet and lifestyle changes could alleviate their symptoms altogether!
This week we have two challenges for you:
1. Think about what you are doing. Notice when you convince yourself that something is OK because it is "in moderation", when you know it's not a good thing. For many people (myself included), avoiding unhealthy foods altogether is easier then just eating a little.
2. Pay attention to your body. Are you ignoring symptoms? Do you assume your aches and pains or digestive symptoms are normal, or just something have to live with?
Do you have any questions or want to discuss this with us? Simply reply to this email, or head over to our facebook page and comment there!