“Everything in Moderation” Does Not Work as a Diet

I’ve been told by people who care for my well-being that I suck at moderation, especially with things I’m passionate about, and that this very fact will be my downfall. This is true. I do suck at moderation, but I believe I’m not alone in this. We are many. And I don’t believe it has to be anyone’s downfall. In fact, if handled properly, this “flaw” can lead to a beautiful way of life, with the help of self-analysis and self-awareness.

The goal of any diet should be lifelong happiness.

moderationThe path to that goal is in learning the strengths and weaknesses of your own brain. Everyone is different, so above all: know yourself. For me, there are some things (lets call them Apples) I can do in moderation and be really happy. There are other things (let’s call them Pizza) that I can’t do in moderation, and I’m never truly happy with them except in the brief moment of indulgence. If I moderate on the Pizza, I’m not happy long-term. If I indulge in the Pizza, I’m not happy long-term. So the path to a happy diet, for me, is saying yes to Apples and no to Pizza. Here’s why…

In a world of excess, moderation requires willpower. And willpower is something that most of us only have when we’re motivated by a goal. (Example: you have to fit into a wedding dress or you want to make a specific weight class for a grappling tournament.) But goals come and go. A good diet is one that doesn’t rely on goals. A good diet is a lifestyle that makes you happy, that is as natural as breathing.

So my process with food is simple. It’s the scientific method applied to myself. I put food into three categories:

  1. Yes.
  2. No.
  3. Yes, but rarely.

I evaluate food not on some abstract Platonic ideal of a diet, but on personal experience. For each food I have in front of me, I ask two questions (the first being the most important):

  1. Have I shown in the past that I’m able to eat this food in moderation?
  2. Is this food healthy?

I believe that people don’t change. You are what you are. Accept it! Don’t live in denial about what foods you can control yourself with and what you can’t. You might see that your past as something you have grown out of, but sadly, the past is one of the most brutally honest indicators of who you really are.

Sure, I might show restraint now, when I’m motivated. But what about a week from now, a month from now? So, based on these questions I put food in the three categories:

  1. Yes: Healthy food I can eat in moderation.
  2. No: ANY food I can’t eat in moderation.
  3. Yes, but rarely: Unhealthy food I can in moderation.

It’s simple. My diet is made of things I have proven I can eat in moderation (while being happy about it). That might seem at first glance like a diet that is denying me the many pleasures of life. That might be true to an outside observer, but to me, as I live day-to-day, I’m really happy with the food I eat. My brain adjusts to the diet and derives a lot of pleasure from it. No restraint required.

Food-Rewards1

The only pressure there is on me to eat otherwise is peer pressure: the pressure of society to eat the food I don’t have a desire to eat. To me, that’s like coming up to a man happily involved in a monogamous relationship and saying: “Come on! Live a little! There are so many beautiful women out there. Are you really happy with the same girl, day after day?” My answer to that is yes. If I wasn’t happy, I wouldn’t be doing it. I am a man in control of my decisions, my actions, my present and my future.

“Moderation in everything” is an ideal, not a practical likely-to-work strategy for the long-term. It is the gateway drug to excess. It is a myth peddled by dopamine dealers of society who profit by dragging you into overstimulation. Capitalism excels at getting you addicted to more, more, more.

We live in a society where excess, over-indulgence, greed is accepted, often encouraged. In the midst of such social norms, the concept of moderation is nothing more than veiled flirtations: a Siren song luring unsuspecting sailors to their death.

My diet is “select few things in moderation”, because I believe MOST things cannot be handled in moderation, so I cut them out, completely. It’s not restraint. It’s common sense. I am who I am. I know myself. I acknowledge it. I accept it.

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