“Everything in moderation!”

…you’ve heard it before! Now it’s time to drop that phrase, because it’s truly meaningless!


I’m pretty sure the concept of moderation is rooted in our attempt to negotiate a long-time diet culture of restrictiveness, starvation, counting calories and nutrients. Diets and marketing media have long been rooted in rules and guidelines: “eat this, not that”  to look and feel like the amazing person you visualize and that they depict for a happy life. The Paleo, Keto, and other restrictive diets don’t do us any favors in that regard. After all, you can only strive for perfection around a restrictive practice for so long, until your work falls off course.

With restrictive diets in the backdrop, moderation DOES make sense. It allows some degree of being human, it restores a sense of freedom, and it allows you to feel more in control around your food.


While moderation can provide benefit to your daily diet, there’s nothing about “moderation” that is specific, measurable, or objective. Throw into the mix that if you are exercising – maybe even training for a marathon or endurance event- your lens is completely skewed by the sense that you can eat anything you want because you just torched 1,000 calories.

  • How can you really know what “moderation” means?
  • How can you eat anything you want, without accidentally overdoing it, all in the name of “moderation.”
  • How can you indulge without sabotaging your workout and negating all the good efforts?

Still not on board with the idea of “just use balance OR everything in moderation?” Researchers found that the more a person liked a certain food, the more forgiving the individual was to apply “moderation.” Think about it, if you LOVE pizza, and you want to eat half of the pie, then just eating 3 pieces would be a moderate indulgence.

Your age and gender will also regulate servings for moderation. Three pieces of pizza might be a moderate serving for my husband or son, while that’s a lot for me if 2 is my regular serving.

Even the old adage, which I also previously subscribed to, is meaningless…”I use the 80/20 rule!” What does that really mean and how could you even calculate precise percentages of your daily eating pattern? Do these numbers refer to a percent of your waking and eating hours or your calories? Maybe it’s intended to be a percentage of your food servings?… I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a formula nor do I have the time to count calories, waking hours or servings and then calculate percentages, not to mention that caloric counting is not precise anyway.

What’s more, your point in a health journey plays a big part of “moderate servings.” Back to the pizza example, if you typically consume 4 pieces of pizza, then maybe 3 slices REALLY IS a moderate portion!

You get the picture…

“Moderation” is a term that is relative to many variables, including age, gender, and your point in a health journey,

“Moderation” is impossible to measure accurately.

“Moderation” changes over time, according to your progress or setbacks.

The term and advice to use “moderation” is useless!”


Please ditch your previous paradigm regarding moderation. Please also lose the concept that you worked out, so you can eat anything you want. Running to eat just doesn’t work! You truly cannot outrun a bad diet, and a bad diet is inflammatory, so it will make you run slower too!

It’s time to get real with helpful and realistic strategies to use balance in your eating, so you can actually enjoy healthy indulgences.


Here are 5 tips to guide you and still stay within the realm of “moderation.”

STEP ONE: BECOME A MINDFUL EATER BY LOOKING AT YOUR PATTERNS (consider quality, quantity, emotional triggers versus hunger, and what works for your goals).

Moderation and Mindful Eating go hand in hand. I would even argue that Mindful Eating is the primary foundational piece in practicing Moderation and in having daily indulgences, relative to food, social media use, or even work.

Consider this, it’s nearly impossible to scale back your consumption of indulgent foods, beverages, or actions – such as work, watching TV, playing on social media, or even stress, if you have no baseline for your current levels of consumption relative to normal use or consumption.

Take TV or gaming for example, your teenage son has no regard for a reasonable “serving,” whereas you are keenly aware that he spends 2- 3 hours in front of a screen relative to what’s reasonable in a day (30-60 minutes), and you also monitor the quality of his gaming. Neither 2-3 hours nor 30 minutes of gaming with violence is moderate for your 6 year old!

Being mindful requires you to consider the individual, the degree, and the quality of consumption relative to the individual. Taking these factors into consideration allows you to make certain judgements and decisions for healthy consumption…for your son and for you!

Your health is no different! When you become mindful of your actions and eating (degree, quality, and your personal traits), you are empowered to make decisions about how to indulge with moderation that specifically serves you. If you are accustomed to eating half of a Meat-Lover’s pizza, then a moderately sized 2-3 slices of Meat Lover’s pizza is a HUGE WIN! Recall, health is about progress, not perfection!


It’s easy to feel empowered that “everything in moderation” might mean a free ticket to eat whatever you desire. It allows the more calorically dense foods to be options once more, after being restricted in a traditional diet. After all, moderation is all about balance!…Nope! That’s not it!

Moderation does not unilaterally reintroduce foods, drinks, or actions that do not align with your personal health. As the saying goes, “what’s one man’s meat/food is another person’s poison.” Isn’t that true? If your personal goal is to lose weight and you know for certain that eating cake will trigger other cravings and instantly shows up on the scale, then even a moderately-sized piece of cake is not a good choice.

The same can be said for exercise. Moderate exercise for an ultra-marathoner might be 15 to 20 daily miles with some strength training, whereas moderation around exercise looks like a few miles of running for a novice to exercise. Imagine if the ultra-marathoner decided he needed to practice moderation by scaling back to 2-3 miles!

Moderation is not a free ticket to eat or do what you want in small quantities.

Quality of food and your personal background and bio-individuality construct moderation


As with anything, the more you practice, the better and more successful you become. It’s how a marathoner can run 26.2 miles. What started out as a challenging 2-3 miles becomes easy. Our bodies are keen to adapt and to become more efficient such that very soon, running 6-10 miles becomes the norm, and suddenly 20 is no issue. It always makes me giggle when runner friends and I will remark, “We only ran 10 miles today!!”..doesn’t that just say it all?

Moderation requires mindfulness to recognize your baseline with ongoing adjustments as you get closer to your goal, as your body adapts, as your emotional and physical needs fluctuate.

Back to our Meat Lover’s pizza, if you scaled back from half of the pizza a few times each week and reduced  to 2-3 slices once weekly, with persistence, your health journey will evolve such that an indulgence becomes 2 slices of weekly pepperoni-only pizza. And maybe at some point it becomes 2 slices of veggie pizza on a cauliflower crust.

It’s paramount to tune into your personal needs and how they are changing, physically and emotionally. When the 2 slices of veggie, cauliflower-crusted pizza are no longer satisfying it’s time to have a few pepperoni slices! Moderation is relative to your specifically changing needs.


Let’s be honest, substituting one healthy salad for a cheeseburger at lunch today will not turn the corner on your health; it does not make you healthy or drop the scale one pound. However, if you substituted with a healthy salad everyday for the entire year, you would see some great changes by December 31! Small changes build success. And it’s the same with unhealthy choices too.

If you switched out your unhealthy salad for the cheeseburger at lunch today, it will not derail your health. It will also not make you gain one pound on the scale. But, if you continued to choose a lunchtime cheeseburger instead of your healthier salad everyday for the next 365 days, you would most definitely see negative changes by year’s end.

It’s the 1% rule…Everyday you make a vote for the person you choose to be through your small, daily choices that compound over time, just as your savings in an interest-bearing account. Having the big perspective that one modest indulgence is a part of your big plan to mindfully listen to your cravings, to your emotional satisfaction, and to your desire not to aim for a boringly, healthy obsession.

Make deliberate, small indulgences, knowing it’s just a 1% deviation that is actually part of your big plan to stay on track!


If indulging with mindfulness has the overarching goal to listen to your body and to rely on its signals to tell you what it needs and wants, then it makes sense to ditch the guilt, especially since you now have the big picture that indulgences are just 1% of your daily actions.

Mindful indulgences and eating in moderation require that food not be deemed “good” or “bad,” otherwise it implies “good” and “bad” actions and behaviors. Consider how you might feel if your eating patterns came from a place of honor, love, and respect for your body and your life?

That’s how healthy indulgences happen, by enjoying the foods you eat and making physical and emotional pleasure a priority, without the “bad guilt” afterwards.

Indulgences can and should be part of your healthy plan. It’s why I eat a handful of chips or a small handful of vegan, dark chocolate chips each day. It helps me to honor my body and my heart…and ultimately it helps me to stay on track, knowing that I don’t have to be perfect in my diet!

I’d love to hear how you incorporate healthy indulgences into your day! Please drop me a note!