blog title graphic with a white flower on a beige background that says, 5 reasons why eating in moderation is so complicated

You’ve probably heard that eating in moderation is easy, and if you do, you can eat anything you want!

For someone who doesn’t stress or emotionally eat, it’s an easy thing to say. But, if you’re trapped in the cycle of stress eating or emotional eating, dieting and back to emotional eating again, eating in moderation requires a few new skills.

Eating in moderation is an excellent foundation for getting various foods.

Feeling good about what you eat, getting enough energy and just plain freedom from the dieting too.

To get to the place where you can listen and get what you need, clear your path of distractions is essential.

Here are five things that hold you back from eating in moderation and what you can do about it.

1. Focusing too much on the details.

When you spend time focusing on the nutrition facts, the healthiest way to eat, the best plan for you, or any other details, you can lose sight of the big picture. I’m not saying the details aren’t important or that gaining knowledge isn’t helpful, it’s when it takes up more time than is needs to take up. You’ll know it’s too much when it seems to take on more importance than your experience of nurturing yourself.

Focusing on the details too much also silences your ability to listen to the feedback your mind and body give you about what you need. When you aren’t listening to your body, it can lead to overeating. When disconnected from yourself, it’s tough to hear the subtle cues about what you need.

Eat in Moderation Solution:

Focus on covering the basics nutritionally while you loosen up the food rules. Slowly changing over time is usually more sustainable than one big overhaul.

If you have health issues that require you to pay attention to carbs, fat, or sodium in your meals, take good care of your health and pay attention. You can identify where and when you shift from awareness and self-care to worry and obsession.

The change might be about how you think, like shifting from food rules to long-term health and well-being guidelines.

Shift your mindset to think about rules as guidelines for nurturing your body. As you shift into this way of thinking, you will naturally have less stress about food. In the beginning, like any new habit, it might feel strange.

Sometimes, people feel like they will be out of control and overeat, not knowing when to stop. Eating in moderation is next to impossible if you experience this fear. But taking it step by step will help you transition out of worry and into the driver’s seat.

The guidelines for good nutrition are there to support your decision-making from the inside out. Take in the info thoughtfully and consider how to apply it to your lifestyle and nutritional needs while considering any medical requirements.

If you can relieve yourself of the stress about the food rules, you may be able to eat more moderately and consciously.

2. You’re stuck in the diet mentality.

The diet mentality is when you follow a diet plan that promises to solve your weight, body image, or food problems in a distinct, often quick and nearly painless way. Eating in moderation isn’t on the menu. The underlying premise is that you’ll be happy if you only follow a particular set of food rules.

What lures most people in is the certainty and simplicity:

  • There are foods on the “Okay to eat list” and others on the “don’t touch” list.
  • Restrict yourself to a certain number of calories daily, which will be your result.
  • Strict boundaries – eat at this time, this amount of this food.

These plans are so popular because it’s enticing to get directions that direct you to take specific action – no thinking required.

The common belief is that your body will not cooperate with you. So, you find yourself trying to manipulate the food in some way. This type of relationship is usually based on the belief that you cannot trust your body to give you good information on what you need.

But you can develop a trusting relationship with yourself and make food decisions that meet your nutritional needs. You can also meet your needs for enjoyment and pleasure so you feel satisfied with a meal.

Eat in Moderation Solution:

This situation calls for a mindset shift from viewing your body as separate from yourself as if it’s a thing that you can easily shape and form at your will.

The mindset that gets you out of the diet mentality is to develop a relationship with your body, treating it with kindness, compassion and respect.

It isn’t easy to overeat when you are kind and respectful to yourself. As you leave the diet mentality and eat in a way that respects your hunger and fullness, your awareness increases and your body naturally communicates with you. Moderate eating is possible because you listen when your body tells you it’s had enough. Kindness and respect give you the ability to stop eating peacefully.

3. Doing more than one thing while eating.

If you’re like most people, you probably eat while multitasking at least a few times a week.

You have a big deadline and need to grab lunch quickly while sitting in front of the computer.

It’s easy to get to the bottom of the bag before you realize you’ve eaten all the chips while watching your favorite show.

When you’re distracted, paying attention to what you’re eating takes second place.

It’s hard to know when you’ve had enough food to satisfy your physical hunger and the need for satisfaction when you’re distracted. The feeling that the meal is complete and you’ve had enough isn’t vital when doing something else. The warning to stop only comes when you can’t ignore the uncomfortable fullness.

Eat in Moderation Solution:

Doing one thing at a time can save you time. If you turn on the TV or switch to your favorite app or email while eating, it’s easy to get drawn into whatever you’re watching. The minutes pass by, just a bit more and before you know it, an extra 15, 30, 45, or 60 minutes have passed, and you’re still unconsciously eating.

Doing one thing can also help you to eat more slowly, identify fullness and satiety sooner and possibly eat less.

Doing one thing helps you perceive the cue that you’re full sooner than feeling uncomfortably full because you’re paying attention to yourself.

4. Viewing what you eat as a moral issue.

You will get stuck when you put food in the category of good vs. evil and assign a moral value to it.

Foods have different nutritional values, of course.

I like to use the analogy of a serving of broccoli vs. a candy bar. Yes, they are very different from a nutritional perspective, but morally? You’re not a “bad” person if you eat candy, nor are you a good person if you eat broccoli.

Your body will have different responses and you may feel differently eating one vs. the other, but you have not gained or lost your “I’m a good person” status.

It’s just food and both have a legitimate role in nurturing yourself.

Eating in Moderation Solution:

Think about food from this perspective:

  • What do I want to eat (taste perspective)?
  • What type of nutrition do I need given my activities in the next 4 hours (fuel perspective)?
  • Which foods will meet my need to feel good (satiety)?

When you ask yourself these questions, you are helping your body, mind, and self-esteem. You can make decisions based on the fullness of what’s important to you.

5. Not permitting yourself to enjoy the food you eat.

Follows from #4 above. Food is fuel and it’s a lot more, too.

Food is one of the great pleasures in life. When you acknowledge that it’s okay to enjoy eating, you are closer to freedom from overeating and diet mentality-related guilt about eating what you like.

When you do this, you honor your need for fuel and pleasure and are no longer left wanting more.

You can eat what you need, feel satisfied and eat in moderation.

Eat in Moderation Solution:

Normal eating is many things.

  • Eating when you’re hungry.
  • Eating what you love.
  • Eating for energy.
  • Eating when you can because you know what the next few hours will bring and must prepare.

Eating is also for pure pleasure.

The only way to eat the foods you love without guilt and the risk of chronic overeating is to make them part of your life.

  • Here are some questions to help you decide if this is for you:
  • What would happen if you allowed yourself to experience food with pleasure?
  • Would you eat less?
  • Would you feel less guilt and thereby less need to compensate for them?
  • Would your daily nutrition meet all of your needs?

In sum, my challenge to you is this – allowing yourself to practice eating in moderation. Changing your relationship with food isn’t as easy as the ease a new diet plan promises. I hope the eating in moderation solutions give you some ideas about how to do things differently. Changing any habit that no longer serves you leads to more health and well-being.