Written by Leigh Ettinger, MD, MS, Medical Advisor to Camp Shane

The Worst Word

In my opinion, the worst word in the English language is Moderation.  What worthwhile achievement has ever been accomplished by practicing moderation?  I don’t recall any Olympian saying they reached the height of their sport by training a moderate amount.  When an astronaut was put on the moon NASA did not do a moderate amount of planning and safety checks.  It is not advised to wear your seatbelt a moderate amount of time.  I would not tell an alcoholic to cut back on the drinking to a moderate amount.  So why does just about every popular dietary article I read have a passage about ‘everything in moderation’?

Moderation is vague and undefined and even negotiable.  The problem with the decision to practice moderation is that every food choice then becomes an internal dialog.  A person might think ‘I had a healthy lunch and dinner so now I can have that second dessert’ or ‘I was good all week so I can have a cheat day on the weekend.’  Grocery stores understand this internal debate and that is why the checkout counter has the candy bars.  ‘Decision fatigue’ is the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual at the end of a long session of decision making.  The grocery store knows that if a person is pleased with themselves for making healthy purchases throughout the store then they might allow themselves a treat at the end of the shopping trip.

But imagine making the extreme pledge to never buy a candy bar at the checkout counter ever again.  Now there is no internal debate.  You have decided.  No matter how many good decisions you have made leading up to the cash register there is no need to weigh the merits of buying that candy bar.  The decision has already been made.  It’s as if the candy bar shelf does not even exist.

So, if you want to be moderately obese practice moderation.  If you desire extreme health and wellness then I suggest making some extreme dietary choices.  Save yourself the trouble of debating every food choice decision.  Sticking with one decision forever is actually easier.  Feel sad that you will never enjoy a candy bar again?  Well, nothing, absolutely nothing, tastes as good as extremely good health.

Many of my patients say that they cannot give up this or that.  Life is not worth living without X.  Is that r really true?  A concoction of high fructose corn syrup perfectly crafted to trick the brain into thinking it’s being nourished.  Is this really what we need to give life meaning? I ask you to consider finding your joy from the healthier foods on your plate and your sense of purpose in places completely unrelated to eating.  Learn something new and share it with the world.  Have a new experience.  Perhaps find meaning in your faith.  Reach out and make someone else on this planet feel less lonely.  This act of reaching out to you on this blog has given me more satisfaction than any meal I have ever eaten.