Everything in Moderation? Not Exactly!
We all hear this saying a lot, and perhaps others of us say it a lot. Either way, it’s a common expression most often used as relates to the indulgence (or over-indulgence) of food or drink. The so-called ‘occasional pig-out’ or ‘going off the wagon.’ Needless to say, I get asked my opinion on this quite a bit and, based on my experiences, few can . . . most cannot. I’ll break this down into three categories.
1. No weight problem
First, there is the person who practices a lifestyle of consistent healthy eating, for whom good eating habits have been ingrained and is a natural extension of who they are 99% of the time. For this person, yes . . . a bag of chips, a slice of mud pie, a trip to a fast food joint—or any other food or drink they normally don’t partake—moderation applies. This is the person who needs no prodding to revert back to their eating/fitness habits after a ‘moderation’ event because, frankly, they like they way they look and feel 100% of the time more than they like the taste of the indulgence they enjoyed for a short period of time.
2. A one-off or occasional weight problem
Next, there is the person who had good eating habits, who was slim and fit, but ‘shit happened.’
Life got in the way—pregnancy, the death of a spouse, the loss of one’s business or job, a long-term illness, onset of menopause, just to name a few—that resulted in an otherwise healthy individual at an optimum weight getting on a path of bad habits and weight gain. This is the person who, at some point after those stressers or triggers pass or dissipates, is chomping at the bit to get back to their old self, eager to fit into their smaller clothes, and is willing to do the work. For this person, after some (of all) weight loss, after starting to feel better, some ‘moderation’ is easily handled—but planned, not on the spur of the moment. And when they’re back at their formerly slimmer selves, ‘moderation’ events are things they can look forward to without fear or anxiety of going off the deep end.
3. Chronic weight problem: food addict
Finally, however, there’s the chronically overweight or obese person who has been in a continuous weight battle all their life. For this person, there is no such thing as moderation when they’re in the attempted weight loss mode. For this person, ‘everything in moderation’ is something they use either as an excuse AFTER they’ve cheated, AFTER they’ve given in to a loss of willpower and they feel like shit for having done so; or, as a rationale BEFORE they indulge in order to give themselves permission to indulge and to save themselves the trouble of coming up with an excuse after they indulge.
These are the individuals, most of whom I would analogize to someone attending the 12-step rooms of alcohol, drugs or gambling addictions. It is not OK for these in recovery (or, ever again) to moderately indulge in that which consumed them and to which they became addicted, oftentimes at the expense of great loss—of businesses, of jobs, of relationships, of family. They . . . just . . . can’t . . . do . . . it. They will no doubt every now and then get an urge to indulge ‘just once’ in those former bad habits or addictions (heck, I still get a rare urge for a cigarette, and I stopped smoking in 1980!). However, they learn in a structured manner, and with accountability to someone else, how to prevent triggers whenever possible as well as how to deal with them if/when they happen . . . and dealing means abstaining, fighting through the urge —whether by calling a sponsor, reaching out to a loved one, practicing an exercise learned from a mental health professional, etc. For these people, it always means abstaining. A recovering alcoholic cannot have “just one drink,” a drug addict cannot have “just one line of coke,” and a gambler can’t play “just one game of poker.”
Similarly, for those who are chronically overweight or obese, a ‘moderate’ indulgence is almost always a trigger. A person with a true addiction will almost never be able to consume their drug of choice in moderation. For this group of individuals, “everything in moderation” usually turns into eating “everything in the house.”