Maintenance – Moderation in All Things….Myth Revealed

Since I have changed the way I eat, I have come to the painful realization that not everyone shares my zeal for whole foods.  I recently found out that I was described by a friend to someone as being extreme!  I was immediately heart-broken.  I had tears in my eyes when my husband finally walked through the door and I confronted him with the daunting question:  “Honey, am I EXTREME?” He paused only for a moment, and then smiled, “Well of course you are”, and then gave me a big kiss!

It’s easy to forget the “extremeties”  when I spend time with like-minded friends, and submerge myself in books that send the same message: WHOLE FOOD PLANT-BASED eating for LIFE!  I enjoy living in my little cloud believing that the whole world is on the same quest for health.  It makes it easier .  But without a moments notice, my cloud is burst and I come tumbling back to reality when I hear these 4 little words (in response to my attempts at vegetarianism):


I’ll be honest, a small pang of sadness sweeps over me and I am not sure how to respond.  I know exactly what this person is thinking, “I’m not ready to make a change in my life; I am happy with my food choices”.  Which is totally cool with me.  I have no expectations for anyone but myself (well, maybe my hubby and kids)! 

And still, the term ‘moderation in all things’ has a way of getting under my skin so quickly and without warning.  Why is that? Maybe I feel slightly attacked. Maybe it is a reminder that the person with whom I am talking does not share my enthusiasm for whole foods and basically wants the conversation to be over.  I think maybe  the term creates a serious disconnect inside of me.  I do believe “moderation” to be true for so many different aspects of life (how much we work, how much we play etc.) but not necessarily for nutrition.  So how do I distinguish between the two – moderation in some things?

I am reading a book right now called The PLEASURE TRAP by Lisle and Goldhamer and just finished a chapter called “The Myth of Moderation”.  You can imagine my excitement when I read that!!!  Sometimes it takes having someone else tell you what they believe in order to clarify what you know you believed all along (if that makes any sense) This book was my clarifier!

The idea of everything in moderation in terms of nutrition is a valid stance unless the products that we consume have a natural effect on our central nervous system.  If they do, then we can trust our bodies to set our limits.  How do you know when you have eaten enough bananas? When you feel satisfied.  How do you know when you’ve had enough water?  When you aren’t thirsty anymore.  These are the things that I consider are on a “level playing field”

But there are many products out there that are not even close to a level playing field.  Products that are created by the world’s greatest chemists.  Products designed to make me want more.  Products that completely interfere with my bodies natural systems.  Is there room for moderation with these?  Cigarettes for example artificially stimulate the dopamine activity in the pleasure centers of the brain.  How many cigarettes is a healthy and moderate amount? Similarly, how much cocaine is a healthy and moderate amount?

Now I know what you might be thinking.  Can the effects of cigarettes and cocaine really be compared to the effects of “food”? This is where I can smile because I have been taught the answer.  There were many times I wondered the same things.  But thanks to many  doctors, scientists, nutritionists and food experts who have spent their life’s work determining this very answer, I can say that It is a resounding YES!!!

There are in fact so many “foods” that DO NOT have a natural and healthy relationship to the body. The moderate amount for these is simply NONE.  Here is a quote from the book that I love.

“These statements seem extreme.  And in fact, any given minor transgression is likely to have only minor consequences.  A little bit of coffee is only a little bit toxic, and results in only a little bit of increased blood pressure and, thus is responsible for only a little bit of an increase in stroke probability. A little bit of refined flour is likely to be the cause of only a little bit of excess body fat, and is therefore only a little bit aesthetically displeasing (I think I live off this excuse), and is only associated with a little bit of an increase in all-cause mortality.  A little bit of alcohol only kills a little bit of the brain with each use, only slightly reducing cognitive capacities, and results in only a small increased risk of death from liver disease or hemorrhagic stroke.”

Can we live less than perfectly and still be healthy?  Of course.  If we only make small ‘transgressions’ here and there we may never experience serious consequences.  But this is not the same thing as saying “Moderation in all things”.  This is recognizing that every unhealthful decision we make impacts the body  in a destructive way (to some degree).  This is recognizing that in order to have your best health possible you would need to make the best choices possible.  Anything short is a step backward from your optimum health.

I am not saying we need to be perfect to get excellent results. But hopefully we all agree that optimal results are not achievable without optimal behavior. And in today’s world that behavior has the appearance of being extreme.  And you know what, I guess I am just fine with that!  (Please tell me there are others out there who are just as extreme as me…..)

Source: WFM 1-10

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