Why The "Everything In Moderation" Rule Doesn't Work

Two squares of dark chocolate…every night. A glass of wine…every night. A coconut macaroon…every night. All perfectly acceptable, under the weight loss mantra “everything in moderation.”

But will this behavior actually give you a hot rockin’ body?

Unlikely.

Genetically, we are not moderate beings. We are feast and famine. We thrive on the polarity of extremes. We are pleasure seekers and moderation doesn’t induce much pleasure.

Moderation is eating less than you want, in the hope that it will assuage a more primal gluttonous urge. For most people, it doesn’t. Nor does it take away those social engagements that require us to be more fluid with our food choices. The end result? Small treats on a daily basis AND indulgent social eating.

Daily treat-eating also changes your brain chemistry. After just seven days, the dopamine receptor cells start to down-regulate. This means that more dopamine is required to elicit the same mild and pleasurable response. When two squares of dark chocolate were enough to soothe you, it goes up to four pieces, six pieces, then half a bar.

Even more insidious is that the daily treat-eating becomes a conditioned response. After dinner, you’ll feel compelled to have a treat, much like one of Pavlovian’s dogs.

You, however, are not a dog. You can consciously turn this response off. You do this, by stopping the everyday treat eating and trashing the “everything in moderation” rule.

Instead, plan two meals per week where you savor and enjoy your chosen pleasure-inducing food. When you’re tempted outside of these two meals, remind yourself how truly enjoyable these meals are.

And make them enjoyable. Pull out the silverware, use pretty plates, add a napkin, engage with friends or an amour du jour, make it blissful and quote Oscar Wilde, “everything in moderation, including moderation."

Dana James

Triple Board Certified Functional Nutritionist
Dana James, M.S., CNS, CDN, is a Columbia University–educated nutritional therapist and founder of Food Coach NYC. She holds her master's in clinical nutrition and is trained in nutrition biochemistry, functional medicine, and cognitive behavioral therapy. She believes that food should be viewed as nourishing, joyful, and fundamental to self-care. Her goal is to help women break their antagonist (and often obsessive) relationship with food and their bodies. She believes that true beauty stems from grace, dignity, and embracing our idiosyncrasies that make us unique and imperfect. Dana created the "How to Ditch Sugar" video series for mindbodygreen. Check out the program here: How to Ditch Sugar. Dana coaches one on one, runs workshops in NYC and LA, and holds tele-seminars on various topics that help women lead a more beautiful and balanced life. To connect more with Dana, check out her Instagram account and sign up for her biweekly Sunday-evening emails.
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