Living in a culture where more is celebrated and less is frowned upon–learning to live in moderation– is exceedingly difficult. In particular, when it comes to nutrition, moderation in terms of the foods we consume can be a daunting task.
If portion size is not one of your strong suits, don’t fret. I guarantee you are not alone. Most people have eyes too big for their stomachs, and their waist-line suffers. Personally, I still struggle with what I want and what I need, in terms of nutrition, and I’ve been at it for about 7 years now.
It’s a process! It won’t happen overnight. Like any skill or habit, you have to practice it to get better. If you don’t try, you will never succeed. Below are three practices I have implemented over the years to help me learn to live in moderation.
#1 Full does not equal satisfied
Differentiating between full and satisfied is going to be your most useful tool. But HOW do you distinguish between the two? When you are FULL, there is a physical sensation. Your stomach is distended, and you might want to lay down and take a nap. Over-eating occasionally is not a big deal. Life happens and we should enjoy it, but if we are always over-eating, we will eventually expand our waist line.
However, when you are SATISFIED, there is a mental sensation of satisfaction and/or pleasure. Eating to satisfaction does not mean eating until you are full. Normally these two sensations are separated by only a few bites, so learning to distinguish between the two can be difficult at first. BUT over time, with practice, you will learn what the difference is and what ‘satisfied’ means to you.
Learning to live in moderation begins with being able to moderate your intake.
#2 Appreciate food for its nutritional content
Poptarts, doughnuts, cookies galore!! The buzzwords of the fitness industry. There is nothing wrong with enjoying these delicacies, but they come at a nutritional consequence. Which brings us to the second practice: Appreciating food for its nutritional content.
The first practice focuses on how much you eat rather than what you eat. The second practice requires a little more nutritional intuition to reach that satisfaction point. For example, if you had a plate of poptarts and a plate of grilled vegetables, how much of each would you need to reach satisfaction? In the case of the poptarts, you would probably have to eat the entire plate. Poptarts (and other similar foods) are calorically rich and nutritionally poor, meaning they have a lot of calories for very little nutritional value. However, in the case of the veggies, you would likely only need to consume a fraction of the plate to feel satisfied. Veggies are opposite of poptarts in that they are calorically poor and nutritionally rich. In both cases, you reach satisfaction, but the calories you consumed were drastically different.
Okay, so what does this have to do with appreciating food’s nutritional content? Let’s go back to the poparts for a second. In order to be satisfied, you had to eat the entire plate of poptarts, but, calorically speaking, that is not wisest of decisions. In order to live in moderation, you have to be aware of the nutritional value of the foods you eat. Yes, you can enjoy treats, like poptarts and doughnuts, but you HAVE to realize that these foods are not filling and the likelihood of you being hungry in an hour is pretty high. If you choose to eat foods that will not leave you satisfied, you need to be aware of their nutritional content and ensure yourself that you do not NEED more food (even though you may want more).
Learning to live in moderation means appreciating the nutritional content of the food you eat and not reaching for more if your treats leave you unsatisfied.
This final practice speaks for itself, but is probably the hardest to master. In order to live in moderation, you have to be patient with yourself. You will fail, but as long as you don’t quit, you will get there.