by Dean Witherspoon   Dean's profile on LinkedIn  

During my internship at Kimberly-Clark my mentor used this saying to justify his once-weekly indulgence in the dessert treat baklava: “Everything’s OK in moderation... except for smoking.” It’s a phrase that could be a tagline for any wellness program — but in our super-sized, more-is-better culture, we’ve lost the meaning of moderation.

Nothing, it seems, is within reasonable limits anymore. From food to sports to politics to social media, the more extreme the more we like it. The more excessive, the more we’re pulled to it. The more odd, peculiar, even perverse, the more we’re fascinated by it.

Arriving at Excess
I blame it on the Whopper. Or maybe it was Facebook. At any rate, sometime in the last 4 decades it became normal to be excessive. The last 25 years of the 20th century were filled with near-hysteria about our high-fat diet and its contribution to heart disease. The first 15 of this century will go down as the carb-crazed phase, as carbohydrates are labeled the villain in the rush to pin blame for our obesity crisis.

Eating More and Exercising Less
According to the CDC daily calorie intake increased 14% for women (to 1785 a day from 1542) and men take in 7% more (at 2640 vs. 2450) than they did in the early ’70s. At even half that amount it’s amazing our obesity problem isn’t worse!

The bottom line is we’re eating too much, specifically too many simple carbs, mostly from convenience or snack foods. We’re also less active. While the CDC says the number of adults reporting moderate activity — brisk walking, golf, gardening — at least once a month has risen in the last 2 decades, it’s unlikely our overall activity is increasing.

Pat’s Rules for Moderation
I’ve long since lost touch with my mentor, but here’s how he defined moderation for various health activities:

  • Exercise. Do it every day. Your body was meant to move every day, so do it.
  • Meals. 3 squares a day, starting with a high-protein breakfast. Don’t eat after 8 PM (or within 3 hours of bedtime) if you want to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Sweets. Limit sweets to rare treats, no more than once a week.
  • Snacks. Wait until you’re hungry, then eat a vegetable.
  • Fast food. Avoid it.
  • Caffeine. Skip it. Drink water.
  • Smoking. Don’t do it.
  • Alcohol. Limit it to 2 drinks a week or not at all.
  • Stress. Take time to meditate, pray, or just be still for at least 15 minutes each day.
  • Sleep. 8 hours a night.

What to Do
You can’t reinforce the moderation message too much. Your goal is to get people thinking about what’s truly moderate behavior when it comes to health habits and your wellness program. Create your own Everything in Moderation list and share it at every opportunity. Keep it simple, like Pat’s list above. Include a link for more details including the science behind your rules.

Commit to the long haul — changing perceptions about what’s moderate will take time. Ironically, your moderate views will sound radical at first but in time your message will sink in… and those who take it to heart will live healthier for it.


# Scarlett 2015-12-11 19:00
Interesting rules for moderation....r esearch has proven caffeine has benefits as well as alcohol unless there are any contraindicatio ns specific to the individual. The reality is everyone eats fast food so it's better to encourage people to pick healthier choices off the menu. A snack should include protein, CHO and a little fat not just a low kcal veggie. Seems like extreme recommendations for an article about moderation.
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# Tammy 2015-12-10 14:20
Thank you for this reminder. I will be making my Everything in Moderation list and putting it up everywhere to remind me my goal through out my life style change and weight loss.
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# Susan Perry 2015-12-09 20:03
Thanks for this timely reminder. My basic no frills message is: eat three times a day, bring your own food, dc sodas and move every day! I provide the National Diabetes Prevention Program for employees and it's all about those basic lifestyle practices!
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