The Real Meaning of Food Moderation

The dieting term “cheating” comes from the philosophy of the Clean Eating Approach. On this diet, it is typically encouraged that 80-90% of your food remains “healthy” (whatever that means). The 20-30% left over can be used to eat “bad” (whatever that means) foods. In this context moderation is your limit on how much “bad” food you eat. Heres the problem studies have shown that trying to”eat clean” isn’t sustainable long term. These diets are restrictive and very unpractical to modern living. I try not to use the word cheating in conversation with clients because the connotation implies you are dishonest and unfaithful to yourself. To make matters worse, this type of diet begins to create feelings of guilt and shame about eating certain foods which you had never experienced before.

What I tell my clients is if you aren’t tracking what you eat it’s impossible to know if the amount of food you are eating is causing the weight gain. That’s the cold hard truth. Anyone else who tells you otherwise is probably trying to sell you something.

Moderation is constant counterbalancing of your daily caloric numbers to ensure you don’t gain weight.

For me to be able to help someone who wants to lose weight, I would need to know everything they are eating for at least a month at a time. This type of journaling provides me a measurable, observable, quantifiable way to troubleshoot someone’s eating habits. From there I can help them tweak their caloric needs to help them lose weight while being able to enjoy the process.

So what does it mean to eat in moderation? Let me give you an example. If you plan on going out to dinner with the family and decide to have two beers, If you are a conscious eater, you would naturally tell yourself “I’m going to have to eat a light meal tomorrow to counterbalance those beers.” Or let’s say you want to eat a cup of Ben & Jerry’s Ice-cream for dessert. You might tell yourself that you are going to skip breakfast and fast until lunch the next day. Without knowing it, you are practicing the technique of moderation. Those who maintain a lean body fat percentage throughout the year do this quite naturally. For most of us, it takes a lot of practice to know if we are eating above our means.

Anyone else who tells you otherwise is probably trying to sell you something.

Moderation is constant counterbalancing of your daily caloric numbers to ensure you don’t gain weight eating less favorable foods. For those that are overweight, this can only be done by quantifying ones’ food intake on a daily basis. Otherwise, you are left to guessing which ultimately causes frustration due to the inconsistency and inaccuracy of not knowing how much one is eating.

Which raises another question. How many calories should you be eating? 

The answer to this and most fitness questions is it depends. Everyone’s caloric needs are different. Using online macro programs will help you set a baseline for weight loss. But easier than a fancy calculator is simple multiplication. Just multiply your body weight by 10. Weigh yourself on Monday. Measure and log EVERYTHING you eat all week long on the MyFitnessPal app. The following Monday I want you to weigh yourself again. What happened? If you gained weight a factor of 10 is too high, drop it to 9 and repeat the process measuring and tracking EVERYTHING. If you lose more than 2lbs your factor is too low raise it to 11 and see what happens. Did you still lose weight, maintain, or gain? A sustainable weight loss program reduces weight at .5-1bs/week.

Ultimately, maintaining a healthy body weight comes from being able to accurately know how much to eat, so you don’t gain weight.

Not many people can do that which is why tracking is so important.


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