“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.


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.


Dunning-Kruger Effect: The Illusion of Superiority or How the Stupid are Too Stupid to Realize They’re Stupid

“One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.” – Bertrand Russell In researching some material on skill acquisition, I came … Continue reading

The Power of Books: They Reveal the World As It Is Not As You Wish It To Be

Good books challenge me, terrify me, force me to question everything, force me to see that I’m not special, that I’m mortal, that life often lacks clarity, certainty, and meaning. Why read Camus, Kafka, Dostoevsky, Hesse, Becker, Nabokov, Beckett, Orwell, Coetzee, … Continue reading

How to Argue Like a Man: Don’t Be a Whiny Bitch

Theodore Roosevelt photograph courtesy of Reddit: 19-year-old Theodore Roosevelt during his freshman year at Harvard, 1877 Side note: If the phrase “like a man” or “don’t be a whiny bitch” offends you, please read this article on Misogyny and Feminism. … Continue reading

5 Lessons Learned from Einstein’s Work and Personal Life

This month I read (and listened to the audiobook of) Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson. Here are some “lessons” I drew from it. Before reading this book, I knew very little of the man and process behind … Continue reading

First Impressions: Cauliflower Ears, Tom Waits, Bukowski, Camus, Military, and Atheism

Aposematism is the use of warning coloration (e.g. RED) by animals to signal that they are not to be messed with. A red frog is telling the world: if you eat me, you will probably die. So, when I meet … Continue reading

Eat 7 Fruits and Vegetables a Day: A Study Shows a Decrease in Cancer and Heart Disease Mortality Rate

I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables: apples, green beans, cauliflower, etc. I’m not some health nut. I just like to eat large portions of simple things. That includes fruits and veggies, but it also includes steak, chicken, oatmeal, … Continue reading

48 Laws of Power and 50 Shades of Grey

I’ve been thinking and reading about the topic of honesty lately. First, I read The Honest Truth About Dishonesty that describes that we are liars by nature and the kind of incentives/forces that are needed to keep us honest. Then, … Continue reading

How to Practice Taoism: 3 Steps to Happiness

“Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to know.” – Winnie the Pooh After some tough training … Continue reading