Recently a listener asked, “Why is Ray not a fan of moderation?” So, in today’s post, I want to discuss why moderation sucks as a weight loss strategy and what you should use in its place.
What does Moderation Mean?
First off, moderation sucks because there is no certified definition of what it means. Sure, my moderation proponents would argue, there is a definition in the dictionary:
According to Dictionary.com, “moderation” means the “avoidance of extremes or excesses”.
Admittedly, on first glance this may seem like a reasonable approach to losing weight…simply don’t eat more than you can burn.
Look, I need to be deadly honest with you…if losing weight were as simple as living in moderation there would be a whole lot more people walking around with six-pack abs and you sure as hell wouldn’t be reading this post…
No, you’d be reading articles in magazines like “How Skimpy Can My Bikini Be Before It Becomes Inappropriate” or “President Trump’s 6-Point Plan For Dealing With The Yuuuge Epidemic Of Unemployed Personal Trainers and Weight Loss Gurus”
Bottom Line: Moderation Doesn’t Work (Period)
No. Delete that period. Not only does moderation not work, moderation kills. Why? because if I had a dollar for every patient I met who “just one more donut”ed themselves into obesity or “one more slice of pizza”ed themselves into an early heart attack, I’d be a very rich man.
Let me take this one more step and say that “moderation kills” because…
You, YES YOU, Cannot…Be…Trusted.
You cannot be trusted to actually “avoid extremes or excesses”. You’ll always tell yourself that you’ll run a little extra tonight, or eat a little less at the next meal, or “Tomorrow,” you’ll tell yourself, “I’ll live the PERFECT lifestyle! I’ll eat nothing but fruits and vegetables!”
Yay You! You’ve succeeded….in lying to yourself for the tenth time this week. If you remember anything from this post, remember this…
Now, I’m not telling you this to make you feel bad about yourself or guilty. If you know me, you know that I HATE guilt as a tool for losing weight. Guilt is no more effective than moderation as a weight loss strategy. I tell you this so that you know that the idea that moderation can work as a weight loss strategy is 100% percent dependent on two things:
First, it’s dependent on you being VERY trustworthy. Meaning that when you promise YOURSELF something, you will NOT break your word to yourself.
That means when you say, “I’m done with sugar!” it means you haven’t tasted the sweet delight of that white granular goodness since promising yourself…
It means when you say, “I’m going to work out 5 days a week!” You actually work out 5 days a week! Not 4, not 3, definitely not 1, you closet-sloth!
Now, at this very moment, you’re probably doing one of two things…
Either you’re screaming in your head, “I am trustworthy! I’m the most trustworthy person I know. Ask any of my friends or family!”
You’re thinking quietly in your head, “You got me there, Ray…Touche'”
If you’re in the “I’m the most trustworthy person I know” group, I need to throw a very important distinction at you…
I’m not speaking as to how trustworthy you are to your family and friends…the only person I’d need to ask to get to the truth is the person you see in the mirror. Would THEY agree with your statement that you’re the most trustworthy person they know? Do you keep your word to YOURSELF? With weight loss, fitness and health that is the only question you need to answer honestly.
Hmmm….are you NOW thinking, “You got me there, Ray, Touche’ “?
A duck walks into a bar, walks up to the bartender and asks, “Do you have any grapes?”
The bartender replies, “No, this is a bar, we only serve beer.”
The next day the duck walks into the same bar, up to the same bartender and asks, “Do you have any grapes?”
The bartender gets very angry, “NO! WE DON’T HAVE ANY GRAPES AND IF YOU ASK ME AGAIN, I’M GOING TO NAIL YOUR BEAK TO THE BAR!”
The duck leaves…
The next day, the duck walks into the bar and up to the same bartender, he asks, “Do you have any nails?”
The bartender replies, “No.”
The duck replies, “Do you have any grapes?”
Why am I telling it to you this funny joke?
Here’s why…because you have two minds not unlike the bartender and the duck…
The conscious mind is the “thinking brain”, which can be likened to the bartender…
It’s the part of you that gets angry and promises to nail your beak to the bar if you eat junk food or don’t exercise.
The subconscious mind is the duck; the calm, emotionless doer, the part of the brain that is persistent and action-oriented.
Now hold that analogy in your mind for a minute to have an “Ah Ha!” moment…
The biggest problem that many of us have when it comes to weight loss is, we can’t be trusted.
We decide to stop drinking soda one day, and then three days later, the waiter asks us, “What would you like to drink?” and we say, “I’ll have a soda.”
Our subconscious mind wants soda…
We tell the subconscious mind that you can’t have soda and if you ask for soda again, we’ll nail your beak to the bar…
So, the next day the subconscious mind asks the conscious mind if it has any nails, we say no, so the subconscious mind orders a soda.
That, my friend, is the dance of frustrating inconsistency.
It’s quite a predicament.
So how do we fix it?
Simple. We stop making commitments that we can’t keep..
We stop telling ourselves that we’re giving up sugar forever and instead stack the cards in our favor by deciding on a commitment that would be far easier to stay true to…
We may not be able to commit to giving up soda forever, at least at this stage in our personal evolution, but we may find it easy to drop our soda intake to once daily.
Once we successfully go from someone that drinks a six-pack of soda each day to drinking it once a day, then we can decide if we want to be that person that shuns soda altogether.
To be successful, we MUST become the type of person who CAN BE TRUSTED!
We need to catch ourselves next time we decide that we’re going to give up all junk food and eat nothing but fruits and vegetables until we can lay claim to a six-pack abs.
We can then reevaluate our goal and decide to get there one step at a time, one trusted micro-commitment at a time.
And you know what?
You won’t succeed at first. We’ve been untrustworthy for so long that we don’t know how to be trustworthy, not to ourselves. So, be ok sucking at being trustworthy for a while.
You’ll get better with time. Then, one day, magic will happen and you’ll think, “Holy cow! I kept my word to myself!”
Then watch out cause you’ll be unstoppable.
Ok, so…to review…right now, you’re untrustworthy. That’s ok. You’re not the only one, you have lots of untrustworthy friends in this world. Just make smaller promises, KEEP those tiny, little promises to yourself, and slowly become someone who IS trustworthy.
Now, back to moderation…
Now that I’ve had some time to think, I have to confess…I was wrong. It’s not that moderation has no definition, in fact, the definition of moderation I gave you previously was correct. The problem is that the definitions of “excess” and “extreme” has changed over the years.
20 years ago, a burger was 333 calories (that was the definition of moderation)…today a burger is 590 calories.
20 years ago, an order of fries use to be 210 calories, now its 610 calories.
20 years ago, a cup of coffee was 45 calories…now a cup of coffee is 350 calories.
20 years ago, a moderate-day’s calorie intake was approximately 1600 calories…now it’s not uncommon for the average lunch, yes, just lunch, to contain almost the same!
So, when you say to me, I’m going to eat in moderation, I hope to the good man on the thrown above that you’re the old fashioned type and you’re talking about the 20 year old definition.
There one more thing wrong with the idea of living in “moderation”…
Moderation Is A Calorie-Centric Idea
Whenever you hear someone say, “moderation is the key to success” they are almost always talking about the calories within the food. As you probably already know, calories are just one factor in a healthy and fit lifestyle. Calorie management works when you have a lot of weight to lose, but as you lose the “Easy Fat”, calories management becomes far less useful as a weight loss strategy.
Read the post, “What’s Your Weight Loss Stage?” for a detailed discussion on when calorie management works and when it doesn’t.
The point is, successful weight loss can start as a low-calorie diet, but it must evolve beyond calories into hormone management. In other words, moderation may get you out of sweatpants into skinny jeans, but it won’t get you confidently into a bathing suit…for that to occur…
Moderation Can’t Be Your Go-To Plan
Why? Because hormones don’t really respond to moderation. Hormones respond to disruption, to excess, to extremes. That’s why a high intensity interval training plan, metabolic resistance training (Such as the highly recommended Metabolic Prime program), intermittent fasting, and high-protein, low-carb programs works so well to promote fat loss especially after low-calorie stops working.
The Plan Forward – Commit Small, Bonus Big
So, let’s sum things up. Moderation may work in the beginning of a weight loss program when you’re attacking the “Easy Fat”, but, let’s be honest, pretty much any change works at this stage and it won’t work forever. Even in that situation, for moderation to work you must be true to your word. You must do what you promise yourself you will do.
Eventually, the body will demand more change, in fact the body will demand the opposite of moderation in order to change towards a fitter you. If you’re stuck in the moderation mindset then you’ll end up ignoring the very strategies and tactics that will get you results. Strategies such as intermittent fasting, high-protein/low-carb programs, high-intensity interval training, metabolic resistance training, etc.
So, use the right tool at the right time…that’s the plan. Use moderation in the beginning, if that’s what floats your boat, but be ready…moderation doesn’t work forever. It doesn’t even work for most of the weight loss journey, it only works in the very beginning. Below are some great resources when you’re ready to move away from moderation and embrace the power of controlled-extremes.