My husband and I were enjoying an outdoor dinner gala at a Palm Springs business retreat one late August night. Drinks and appetizers were being served, and a fellow with whom my husband happened to strike a conversation was grabbing a bit of everything – from cheese-crusted raviolis to fried shrimp poppers to chocolate mousse tarts to glasses of wine and chardonnay.
As he gleefully partook of the abundance of food around him, he exclaimed, “Hey, it’s all good as long as you’re eating everything in moderation!” We joined him in laughter—my husband whole-heartedly, I with a bit of insincerity, but it certainly wasn’t the time or place for a health lecture, much less judgment on my part.
A couple of hours later my husband and I made our way out to the pool where the DJ was bumpin,’ everyone was dancing, and that once gleeful man who ate everything in moderation was sitting to the side with one hand gently patting his too-full stomach. My husband innocently and playfully asked, “Hey, man, you ain’t gonna show us your moves?!” The chair-ridden man groaned. ”Naw, dude… can’t do it,” as he motioned to his painfully distended belly. Poor guy. He looked so uncomfortable and “stuck.”
So guess what I’m going to say? Don’t you dare believe this lie anymore! Virtually everyone says this, but for years I have disagreed with the premise of this statement. “Everything in moderation” is a cop-out for lack of restraint, poor discipline, and an excuse for unhealthful indulgences. We absolutely cannot eat everything in moderation. There are some things that we should and must stay completely away from, like trans fats found in fried donuts, most pie crusts, and anything with partially hydrogenated oils. These things are toxic to our bodies, deplete us of key nutrients, create inflammation, alter the integrity and constitution of our cell membranes, disrupt brain functioning, and provide no nutritional sustenance for our bodies whatsoever. We have no business eating dead, toxic foods like this!
If we have allergies or any hidden food sensitivities, we must also eliminate those foods that are triggering our immune systems to fire up and attack (inflammation) every time we eat those foods, which are usually dairy, eggs, wheat (gluten), and certain nuts. Then there are things that we should seldom eat and only minimally (not moderately), like refined sugars and highly processed foods—all the ice cream, white breads, pastas, cookies, crackers, french fries, chips, and comfort foods most Americans love.
What else NOT in moderation? Cheeses and buttery creams and pizzas and turkey sandwiches and…You get the picture. Now, what about brightly colored fruits, fresh green vegetables, nutrient-dense seeds, nuts and nut butters, omega-3-rich fatty fish, and clean water? Certainly these things must not be eaten in moderation but in heavy abundance!
So let’s stop fooling ourselves with the phrase “everything in moderation.” If you live by these words, you just might die by these words. It’s a deceptively dangerous belief. As Paul the apostle says, “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive.” (1 Corinthians 10:23, NIV). I believe this applies to all our choices and activities, including eating and drinking. Cut out the junk, prune the mediocre, and eat only those foods that are nutrient-dense, fiber-rich, and that will not just SUSTAIN your life, but OPTIMIZE and PROLONG it. Now those are words to live by.
Peace & Wellness,
Jamie Chan-Ortega, Ph.D., L.Ac.