I was recently reading an article on orthorexia. The author concluded the article by stating the solution to orthorexic behaviors was simply to not go to the other side and eat “too much”, but to just have everything “in moderation”. Moderation is defined as “the avoidance of excess or extremes”, so the author’s conclusion was logical, if not impractical for someone struggling with an eating disorder.
You see this term used all the time. All foods fit, but only in moderation. So does that mean 1 cookie is okay but 10 aren’t okay? Are 2 cookies okay? 3? Where do we draw the line on moderation?
Looking up “how to eat in moderation” online yields a ton of diet tips. You’ll find advice for following portion sizes, recommendations to eat “clean” most of the time and “cheat” on occasion, and other tips for how to attempt to make eating somewhat pleasurable, but also not gain weight.
Telling someone to eat in moderation comes from a good place and is not always meant to come off as a diet. After all, it makes perfect sense to not eat too little and not eat too much. The trouble, as it always is, is in finding balance.
So how do you eat in moderation? And how do you not turn this way of eating into yet another diet? Well, the answer can be different for everyone, and some people may need to forget about the concept of moderation at all. It may not be helpful to constantly be worried about trying to find a balance between not enough and too much. Instead, a practice of intuitive eating can help created the coveted balance.
Intuitive eating involves 10 principles which can help create balance. In particular, the following principles can help create balance and a sense of moderation:
1. Reject the Diet Mentality/ Challenge the Food Police/ Make Peace With Food
As mentioned, some people can turn eating in moderation into a diet. So go ahead and remind yourself that you don’t need to diet to be healthy or happy. Following a diet is not going to be the solution to all of your life’s problems. And eating in moderation is not going to be just another diet you do for a couple of days and then end up bingeing on all the forbidden foods. You have permission to eat all foods that you want and that work for your body. You may still have thoughts that you shouldn’t be eating certain foods, but allow yourself to challenge those thoughts and beliefs in a curious and non-judgmental way.
2. Honor Your Hunger/ Respect Your Fullness
Some days we’re hungrier than others due to our activity level, hormonal level, energy level, and what else we may have had to eat that day. On these days, we may find ourselves wanting more to eat. And that’s amazing that our body is able to tells us that it needs more on those days. Other days we are less hungry and as long as our energy intake balances out, it’s okay to eat less some days. When you’re back in touch with your hunger and fullness, it’s perfectly okay to stop eating when you feel full, even if there’s still food left on your plate. You’ll discover eating in moderation truly means eating enough for your body on that particular day and you’ll be able to regulate and define that for yourself.
That said, some days we eat beyond hunger for many reasons including emotional eating or the fact that more food was available to us. The goal is to eat according to your hunger and fullness levels, but that’s not always going to happen, and that’s perfectly okay.
3. Honor your Health
When you’re eating in moderation from an intuitive eating standpoint, you’ll be able to have days of varied eating. You won’t just eat cakes and cookies all day long, because you’ll know your body doesn’t thrive on just eating desserts. It also enjoys and craves fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein. Your meals will have balance and variety and the foods you eat will make you feel your best both physically and mentally because you’re honoring your health and making choices that allow you to feel good.
What does eating in moderation mean to you?