african american woman candy eating

Every so often, when I start talking about food and how it’s in the best interests of some people to accept that they can’t eat certain things, someone skips into the conversation with “That’s not true! Remember, everything in moderation!”

Respectfully, this is bullcrap.

When people talk about “moderation,” it’s often in response to being told that it might be time to give up their otherwise unhealthy and dangerous habit. The Moderation Mentality, as I like to call it, is a way to tell ourselves – as well as others – that this isn’t as bad or as unhealthy as we’re being to led to believe, and that you can offset the harmfulness of the behavior or habit by only engaging in it a few times instead of regularly.

The problem with this kind of thinking, especially when it comes to food, is that this kind of behavior adds up, often leading people down a spiral of shame and self-loathing, all because they lost control of themselves while trying to “moderate” their intake of unhealthy foods, instead of drawing boundaries.

If you’re only moderately consuming the Doritos once a week, but every week you’re “moderately” consuming Doritos, ice cream, pastries, cookies, Ruffles, and mini cupcakes on a regular rotation – especially when you’re not an endurance athlete - it becomes less about the Doritos and more about the extra empty carbs you’re consuming, the unhealthy forms of fat, the abundance of sugars, the lack of protein, and – yes – the amount of additives and preservatives that you’re putting on your body all over time.

Basically, your body doesn’t care that you’re only eating a quarter of the junk food – you’re still eating junk food regularly, and that regularity adds up. The carbs add up, the lack of protein adds up, the calories add up, the sugar adds up, the lack of fiber adds up… and what does it all add up to?

It adds up to roadblocks on your road to fitness and physical health. It adds up to extra body fat. Additional soreness post-workout. Extended weight loss plateaus. Added belly fat. Stopped-up bowels. And an untold number of negative side effects.

What’s more, many people over-consume these highly processed junk food products without even realizing it until after the bag is empty, because of the way the salts, sugars, and fats interact with the brain to reach what is referred to by many in the food industry as a “bliss point,” characterized by a “nirvana of the taste buds” that compels you to eat more and more… and, when the bag is gone, you speed out the door to get more. To the food industry, it’s the hallmark of a great product – being so delicious, you can’t put it down. To the fitness-focused individual, especially a beginner, it’s a hurdle the size of Mt. Everest.

While some people are less susceptible to the negative effects of this kind of junk food, others find the feeling so overwhelming, that it results in a feeling of hopelessness. They can’t stop eating their particular treat, they can’t understand why they can’t moderate their consumption like everyone else, and therefore decide it might be hopeless. All this, because they chose to stick to the idea of “moderation” instead of “creating boundaries.”

Creating boundaries is a healthy way to set about your fitness goals, because it acknowledges that certain foods challenge your sense of self-control, and it may be in your best interests to back away. Sweets, salty snacks, greasy sides… whatever challenges your “self-control”  the most, consider simply setting up a healthy boundary around how often you consume it and when – holidays? Special occasions? – and you’ll not only feel better about your ability to display better self-control, you’ll also feel more enthusiastic about your healthy living goals. Give it a shot, and – I promise – your body will thank you for it!

Erika Nicole Kendall is a trainer certified in women’s fitness, fitness nutrition and weight loss coaching who also chronicles her own 160-pound weight loss journey on the award winning blog, A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss. Hit her up on Twitter, or check her out on Facebook.