Moderation Always Errs Towards Excess



Read Time [3 minutes]

Let’s review some definitions of moderation. Here’s the traditional definition out of Webster’s Dictionary:

Moderation – noun 1. the quality of being moderate; restraint; avoidance of extremes or excesses; temperance.

Sounds pretty good right? People rarely think about themselves in terms of extremes or excesses, and it’s generally good policy to live your life outside of the extremes.

Here’s Dr. Chung’s definition of moderation when it comes to most of the things we think should be had in moderation:

Moderation – noun 1. A fundamentally useless term that is impossible to implement because there’s no standard for what represents moderate

Everyone talks about moderation. Your traditional doctor who tells you that the paleo diet is too extreme because you should have carbs in moderation. Your obese uncle that offers you a 2nd piece of cheesecake because you should have sweets “in moderation.”

But has anyone ever sat back and asked what does moderation even mean for human beings? Let’s use carbohydrates as an example. Lots of people are high on low carb diets, so what does it mean for a human to actually have a moderate amount of carbohydrates?

  • To the prehistoric caveman, moderate may have meant 40 grams of seeds and roots
  • To the low-carb weight lifter, a moderate amount of carbohydrates might be at 100 grams of sweet potatoes and protein bars.
  • To the average Earthling eating a Standard American Diet (SAD) a moderate amount of carbohydrates might be 200-300 grams of breads and cereals.
  • And to the sedentary 60 year old with obesity, a moderate amount of carbohydrates might be 400 grams from pizza and soda.

Moderation is hard because moderation depends on the individual. Moderation is useless as a recommendation because no one really knows what it means. But here’s the part that most important:

Moderation is a recipe for failure for people who are looking to create change in their lives.


 Why Moderation Can Be Bad Advice

People who advocate for moderation do so with your best interests in mind. Remember that when listening to people in your life, they are doing it from the lens of their own perspective.

In my experience, whenever you try to approach a change in diet through moderation, you will almost always lean towards excess. What do I mean by that?

It means that if you set a goal to eat a moderate amount of carbs, you will almost always eat more carbs than you intended to.

It’s not because we are weak. It’s because our default wiring is to seek out things that make us feel good. Without a focused effort to resist urges or stay disciplined, we are predisposed to do things that produce those wonderful brain chemicals that make us feel satisfied…for a moment.

The problem is that if someone is sick or they have a specific goal they want to achieve, they may not be able to afford the luxury getting that momentary feel good.

They have to be disciplined. They have to consciously resist that urge to feel good in the moment so that they can get the ultimate goal of having a happier and healthier overall existence.

Discipline Allows Room to Falter

Anyone that knows me knows that I’m no stranger to some deliciously bad food.

I’ve enjoyed more than my share of pizzas, cookies, and hamburgers.

Here’s the thing. I eat really well and I stay disciplined at least 4 days of the week.  My discipline allows me the wiggle room to enjoy these foods once or twice a week without any guilt or negative consequences.

And it is when you are healthy and tolerant of these bad foods where you want to embrace discipline, because for someday you may become too sick to have ANY wiggle room.

Patients with diabetes, gout, Celiac Disease, and other inflammatory disease….they can’t afford moderation anymore because their illnesses won’t allow it.

Having discipline now is important because you may not be able to afford moderation in the future.

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Why You Should Start Wasting Food

Waste Food

Read Time [5 minutes]

I know the title and graphic of today’s post might draw some controversy so I’ll just come out and say that I don’t advocate buying a lot of food with the intention of throwing it in the trash.

Whew. Now that that’s out of the way, let me start with a quick story.

Last week, my wife and I were getting ready for a trip to California to celebrate the wedding of my brother-in-law. While we were packing, we took a lot of the left over food that was likely to spoil while we were away and made a mish-mashed dinner out of it.

We heated up some left over chicken, cut up some tomatoes, avocados, and had some mango for dessert. About halfway through the meal, I was pretty full and ready to turn in. Even though we’ve had a similar discussion about wasted food in the past, my wife was dismayed at the half-plate of avocado and tomato that was still sitting on the table because it was going to go to waste.

To which I replied:


Our parents used to say that there are starving kids in Africa that would love to have the food you are going to put to waste. But here’s the truth. Eating that extra serving does nothing to serve people that are starving, and it harms you by putting that wasted food into your fat cells by overeating.

If we really want to solve this problem of wasted food, we have to solve the real problem that Americans have which is overconsumption.

Overconsumption Begets More Overconsumption

There’s a bug that’s been embedded into our brains that was programmed by our parents, who were programmed by our grandparents that lived through the Great Depression. The economy was wrecked and it was difficult to predict when, where, and how large your next meal was going to be.

So we learned things like:

  • Clean up your plate
  • Don’t let your food go to waste
  • Just have a little bit more, we are almost finished

So while we are children, we get trained at an early age to ignore our brain’s fullness signal and push our ability to take on more food.

There’s a major problem with that. Your brain and body are extremely adaptable. When you expose your body to a stress, your body will respond by creating a situation to handle that stress better next time. It’s the principle behind lifting weights. When you force your muscles to lift something heavy, you create tears that makes your body develop stronger muscle tissue to lift heavier weight.

When you train your body to overeat, the stress of overeating will force your body increase the amount of food it can handle before the brain gives the full signal next time. That’s how these competitive eaters train their bodies to take on such ludicrous amounts of food.

Joey Chestnut - Legendary Hot Dog eater

Joey Chestnut – Legendary Hot Dog eater

And I don’t care if that food was consumed. If we see food as an object of sustenance, then you can’t convince me that 67 of those 69 hot dogs didn’t go to waste in the name of voyeuristic gluttony.

The problem with wasting food in this way is that the waste of overeating creates sickness in the human body.

Sometimes getting command of our eating patterns means that we have to say no to the remaining food on our plate when we know we don’t need to eat it.

Dealing With Overconsumption

I don’t advocate just throwing away massive amounts of food. I think we should eat all of our food when we are eating, but we have to do a better job of making sure we have a lot less food on our plates.

We all know that overeating is a problem embedded in our culture. If we want to create change in our consumption patterns, we have to have a change in the programmed ideas that helped raise us. Here are some of my thoughts that helped change my mind on overeating.

  1. Eating 3 meals per day is a construct of ritual, not necessity. If you had a big lunch and are not hungry at dinner, you can sit and enjoy your family’s company while passing on the meal. There’s no textbook in human physiology that says that you must eat sometime between 6pm – 8pm in order to be alive and healthy.
  2. Sometimes it’s easier mentally to not eat, than to eat a light meal. I periodically fast from time to time, and honestly find it easier to not eat for an entire day, than to eat small bland meals that I don’t enjoy. Fasting also changes your mentality about food and hunger by giving you a sense of control over your eating habits.
  3. Learn to eat till you’re not hungry as opposed to eating until you’re full. This one thought when it finally hit me on a visceral level changed everything for me.
  4. The human body has natural defenses against starvation. You can live for weeks with minimal food because your body will manage your energy usage.

    However, your body has almost no defense against overeating.

We can get lost in the shuffle of low fat, fight fat, low carb diets, but none of it matters if we don’t change some of our deeply held beliefs about how we eat. What do you all think?