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:
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.