You’ll often hear nutritionists, dietitians and health experts saying, ‘everything in moderation is good for the soul’. Sure, that’s a great idea. But there is one big problem I have with the approach of recommending ‘everything in moderation’.
What is moderation anyway?
The health experts love to advocate for moderation as opposed to restriction. And don’t get me wrong – I am completely opposed to the approach of restricting foods that you love!
But it begs the question – what is ‘moderation’?
- Does it mean one treat a month?
- A cheat meal once a week to give your metabolism a kickstart?
- Or is it a packet of chips every afternoon when you get home from work after a long stressful day?
All of these are forms of moderation because you’re including foods that are ‘soul food’ less than 100% of the time.
What level of moderation is right for you?
If you’re just looking to maintain your current health status and weight, a good ratio might be 80/20. This means 80% of the foods you eat are nourishing whole foods that are packed with nutrition. 20% are foods that you might consider ‘treats’, ‘cheat meals’ or just ‘soul food’.
If you’re aiming for weight loss (or my preferred term, weight release), you might need to go 90/10. This allows you to reach your goals but still have room for what you enjoy eating.
It also means that you don’t have to count calories or cut out your favourite foods! By focusing most of what you eat on these nutrient-dense foods, you’re more likely to feel satiated and eat the right amount of energy and nutrition for your body’s needs.
This could go even further. If you’re addressing a serious health concern such as autoimmune disease, thyroid disease or other chronic diseases, taking a 90/10 approach could still flare your symptoms and set you back.
In this case, moderation for you might look like 95% wholefood approach as prescribed by your health professional and 5% wholefood versions of treats. That is the level of moderation that is best for you because it gives you a little bit of wiggle room without sabotaging your health goals.
No matter what your level of moderation, I always recommend that your ‘soul food’ percentage is made up of foods you truly love. There’s no point in eating candy and chocolate if you don’t like them. Choose your enjoyment foods and relish every bite!
What happens when moderation turns into everyday-ation?
If you’re not careful, ‘moderation’ can turn into what I call ‘everyday-ation’. This is when you’re ‘treating yourself’ daily – to reward yourself, to ease your stress levels, or to stuff down the emotions you don’t want to face.
In this case, there are three ingredients to get you back on track with a balanced approach to your food:
1 – Focus on what you want
Our unconscious mind doesn’t process negatives, which is why I advocate against the restriction of your favourite foods. If you tell yourself you can’t have chocolate, all your mind will focus on is chocolate!
Instead, focus on what you do want. It might be:
- I want to enjoy a big healthy salad every single day
- I choose foods that nourish my body and make me feel good
- When I come home, I drink a big glass of water and take some time to unwind
2 – Take action
Most people who try to change everything at once will end up giving up within a week or so. So instead, choose one or two changes that you’re going to make, and keep them up for 21 days.
My favourite action to kick-off? Note down what feelings and emotions are present when you’re eating. Are you hungry? Thirsty? Or are you just bored? Perhaps you’re even overwhelmed and looking for some pleasure to feel better.
Keep a food diary and watch for patterns over 21 days. This will help to inform your next steps for habits!
3 – Face your stuff
Don’t avoid your emotions by stuffing your face! When you find yourself facing a craving for a specific food or a desire to eat food that you know is not good fuel for your body, check-in.
Ask yourself why you are craving that specific food. What emotion or experience are you wanting to escape? Boredom, stress, anger, shame, sadness and anxiety are common underlying reasons.
Once you’re clear on what you’re not facing, look for ways to deal with that emotion or feeling differently. This article will give you some ideas of how you could cope without using food.
If you still have questions or want to know more, Click here to book in a free 20-minute session with me!