Everything in moderation!
For the past six years, I have heard that maxim more times than I can count from people who do not understand or like my dietary choices. I once politely refused a cookie from an angry woman. She insisted that it "just wasn't healthy" not to eat cookies and believed that I must eat "everything in moderation" in order to live a healthy life. It turned into an uncomfortable standoff and...
I didn't eat the cookie.
I didn't eat it because the idea that the way to be healthy is "everything in moderation" simply isn't true.
There are some things which are always harmful to us even in small quantities.
There are some people who are harmed by things that you aren't.
There are some substances which are not harmful in small quantities but are in "moderate" quantities.
And most significantly...
Moderation means different things to different people.
Moderation is a movable line. Let's take ice cream for example. What is a moderate consumption of ice cream?
Here are various definitions....
Me: One scoop every couple years.
My husband: When the mood strikes every couple months.
My friend: One small scoop three times a week.
My neighbor: A giant banana split once a week.
My family member: Whenever the heck I feel like it. YOLO
My kids: "I will eat ice cream at every possible opportunity whether or not I actually want it and even if I am so full that I might vomit upon consuming!"
"Moderation" sounds scientific and authoritative until we look more closely and discover that the term is often a convenient way to justify our excesses and judge the eating habits of others. We know that it is a movable line but continue to wield it as an iron sword of truth.
True moderation is the application of virtue to all areas of our life. But American cultural moderation is pretty much just do whatever you want to do and call it moderate. We have replaced the word "virtue" with moderation and our collective health (mind, body, and soul) has suffered as a result.
"Sweetheart, you need to have a cookie! Everything in moderation!"
Except dirt. And paint chips. And glue. That goes without saying really. But when it comes to food, one person's "moderate" is another's kryptonite. And It's time we call out the lie and speak the truth:
It's okay to say no to things that aren't necessary. Why are we so afraid to lose our little luxuries?
As someone with autoimmune disease, moderation takes on an entirely different meaning for me. Instead of meaning that I can indulge in anything I want as long as it's in small quantities, it means that I can enjoy reasonable quantities of almost any food I like... as long as it's on my approved list. That list is quite a bit smaller than I'd prefer...
- I can't drink alcohol because it adds stress to my vital organs.
- I can't eat gluten because I hate feeling like I'm dying and I like my small intestine.
- I don't eat sugar because it is an inflammatory food and I'm battling inflammatory disease.
- I don't drink coffee because caffeine is also a huge inflammatory.
- I don't eat food with additives, colorants, or artificial flavors because... see all of the above.
Technically, I could choose to consume those foods and pay the consequences. I know many people who do that in the name of moderation. Or because they feel their quality of life would suffer without their annual Shamrock shake. It's their choice, of course. But I do not choose sickness over health... not for all the moderate enjoyment this world has to offer. My weaknesses lie in many other areas (many many), but it is relatively easy for me to say no to things which prevent me from enjoying life and serving my family.
There are many other things I don't do (and no one should do) in moderation (like eat paint chips). That list is long, self-evident, and destroys the moderation in "everything" myth instantly.
Then there are donuts and coffee and that fuzzy middle ground.
I admit that it's easier for me because those two comfort foods would make me miserable and mess with my body's ability to to heal and to survive. Sickness is HARD for me. Debilitatingly hard. When I put food to my mouth, I am consciously choosing to live.
On the other hand, I know diabetics who eat donuts and people on anti-depressants who drink caffeine. I understand that our struggles and physical limits vary and I cannot speak to their choices.
If you eat garbage food multiple times a week and have migraines, IBS, thyroid issues, fatigue, anxiety, depression, weight gain, and a host of other common plagues, you might want to consider doing something beautiful for yourself and throw "everything in moderation" out the window. You may just be surprised by a miracle; not the least of which might be that you can say no to that extra ice cream splurge and live to tell about it.
When we discard the moderation myth as a way of life, we learn a beautiful secret about ourselves:
We are capable of self-control.
Our needs are simpler than we previously thought.
We spend less on the unnecessary.
We can be free from our cravings.
We can do heroic things even when no one is watching.
If we are Christians, we also learn a beautiful secret about our faith...
In any given moment, we might be asked to give up everything for Love. Every time we decline that caramel latte and offer it as a sacrifice of praise, we become a bit more fit for the bigger battles... and more free to be molded for loving service and eternity.
Thanks be to God!