Let’s talk about “moderation”

After my “cheat meal” post last week a longtime Arena family member (you know who you are) was telling me about how his general guiding principle when it comes to health is “moderation.”

I know this about him because we’ve discussed it in the past, and, although I don’t know exactly what “moderation” means to him (except that it involves tequila), I know it’s working for him because he’s very healthy and happy. He’s pleased with where he is, he looks great, he feels great.

In general, I agree that “moderation” is a great guiding principle.

My only concern is that it doesn’t mean anything in particular. And when it comes to health and wellness, quotation marks are a slippery slope.

Sure, it sounds good to be “eating clean” and “cutting down” on booze, and I think it’s great that someone is “watching what they eat” and “training like a beast.” But what, exactly, does it all mean?

To me, “moderation” only means something when you remove the quotation marks and put some framework around it. When you define it, it becomes something.

Vague principles mostly lead to vague results. Creating a framework can lead to more substantive changes.

So, here are my ideas:

First, if you’re follower of the “moderation” principle and you are pleased with where you are as far as your health is concerned, you’re good to go. If you’re happy, you’re winning. Your plan is working so keep doing what you’re doing.

However, if you’re not pleased with where you are, take a look at whether your goal matches your guiding principle.

If your goal is to be healthy but your idea of “moderation” is three bourbons a night, your “moderation” is a myth. By no objective health standard does three nightly bourbons fall within the definition of healthy, so you’re fooling yourself.

If your goal is to maintain or reduce body fat and you’re “eating clean” but finding that your body fat is on the rise, you’re not really “eating clean.”

Define your quotation marks and you have an outcome that can be measured and modified if it’s not producing the desired result.

“Training more” becomes exercising 30 minutes more per week than previously.

“Eating clean” becomes eating processed food only once per day (this is something we recommend in the 28 Day KICK START).

“Cutting down on booze” becomes having only one drink per night or not drinking at all except for the weekends.”Eating less meat” becomes making sure at least one meal per day is meat-free.

“Paying attention to what I eat” becomes eating at least one serving of fruit or veggies with every meal.

You get the picture. If you take these defined approaches and they don’t pay off, change them. Everything is trial and error. Stick with it long enough, tinker with it over time, and you’ll construct the ideal formula.

I’m not a puritan. I believe in cutting loose sometimes as long as it fits within my general principle.

To me, sugar is the devil. Not only do I believe it to be one of the, if not THE, biggest contributors to obesity, overweight and Type 2 diabetes out there, it’s a tough thing for me to avoid eating. So I don’t. I limit refined sugar to two days a week (I eat fruit whenever the hell I want, I’m not afraid of naturally occurring sugars).

For me, that’s “moderation.” And it works. It enables me to indulge but not overindulge.

Just be careful of quotation marks. In my years of working with people in the health and wellness field I’ve seen vaguely defined concepts lead to poor results much more often than to success. But I’ve seen clearly defined principles create clear results.

Don’t try to change your world overnight. Things take time. It may take a minute to define your “moderation.” But it will be worth it.

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Jonathan Aluzas is co-owner of Arena Fitness, a fitness center that offers group training in Encino as well as personal training in Northridge.