Does "all things in moderation" work?
In short, no. Stay with me for a moment here.
Just because we eat or do or use something in smaller amounts, or less frequently, doesn't always make it okay. I'd like to think that when we know better, we do better and that ultimately, some things are simply meant for the "never-ever" category.
For example, if we know that tartrazine, found in many yellow coloured processed foods including Chef Boyardee, Mountain Dew, Kool Aid, Doritos, Corn Flakes and also some vitamins and even medications, can cause an aggravation of asthmatic symptoms, and behavioural problems like hyperactivity disorders, we probably should not consume this. Not even in moderation. This ingredient is a toxin. No matter how infrequently it is administered, it is still chemically toxic.
We love to rationalize our own behaviour as being okay in moderation. This means we don't need to change anything. And we really like that!
We go for manicures and get our hair dyed, and think it's okay because we're only doing it every few weeks, not everyday. Those chemicals being used are too toxic to go down the drain, but we think it's okay to paint on our nails, and then feed our children with these hands. It's well documented that these ingredients are potential carcinogens and that manicurists and hair stylists, as a demographic, have higher than normal rates of cancer. By seeking out these services, and not asking for non-toxic options, you become part of the problem. You become part of that health risk increase for yourself and the professional you work with.
Is moderation okay when better options are available?
A common approach to healthy living is to follow the 80/20 rule- where you can eat healthy and live well for 80% of the time and then do whatever you want for the rest of the time. I wonder how well this works- once you are informed on what that other 20% is made of.
You don't need to be perfect 100% of the time, day in and day out.
If you have read UnDiet, you know that is certainly not my stance. But what about not giving yourself an excuse to ignore everything you know? That is a disservice to yourself and you deserve the best!
Eating well 80% of the time doesn't balance out with getting that Big Mac at the drive through to reward yourself for eating organic salad all week.
It doesn't mean that if you ride your bike 80% of the time then you can leave your car idling for twenty minutes and call it even.
If we know better, why wouldn't we want to do better?
When we get it, when we truly make the connection, it's no longer about 80/20 and moderation. It becomes about making decisions that honour ourselves, our family, our community and our environment. It means taking the time to be informed about the choices we make. It means being clear on what the "never ever" things are and committing to that as best we can. Every choice truly counts.
Create A New Set Point
This is where your efforts and your action come in.
It's all about creating a new set point for yourself and your family. Travelling is a pretty good way to test it. If you are away from home would you go to a fast food restaurant? If your answer is yes, than that's your set-point. That's the level you give yourself permission to go to. As long as that is your set-point, you will always find reasons to go there. It's how you rationalize your "all things in moderation approach".
What if you decide to raise that set-point?
I don't eat gluten or dairy. I won't eat anything with MSG, Aspartame or other artificial colour or flavour. I won't buy any corn, soy or potato products that don't carry the GMO-free label, this also includes being mindful of restaurants that could be using oil derived from GMO crops. If there is an organic option, I choose it. I won't buy toxic cosmetic or home care products. No amount of lead, fragrance, or sodium lauryl sulfate is okay. I also won't go for toxic hair treatments (I bring my own shampoo!) or get a manicure with VOC-containing nail polish.
This, in essence, is my non-negotiable set-point.
These transitions did not come easily and they did not come quickly, but they are important. The most powerful tool we have for changing our own habits is getting informed. It's important to know.
I Don't Want To Know How Bad It Is
We hear this a lot, don't we? You learn something that could impact someone's health and they respond with "I don't want to know. Don't tell me".
The thing is, we need to know.
When stories continue to come out about things like processed meat causing cancer or, the harmful effects of glyphosate (a persistent chemical found in RoundUp) being found in tampons, or that baby-powder has been shown to increase risk of cervical cancer- the response has generally been, "well now everything causes cancer". The scary thing is that the standard american diet and the majority of home and beauty care products you will find at your local supermarket, pharmacy, or department store have been to in fact do just that. These products will often contain one or more known human carcinogens. Sure, in moderation the risk is low. But what is our set-point for that moderation? What is the cumulative impact?
We are more sick now than every before. The human body has seen greater assault from chemicals in the last 100 years than ever in our history. And until we raise our personal set-point, it's not going to get any better.
All things in moderation may be an approach that works for you in this moment, right now, but is it an approach that can work tomorrow? This month? This lifetime? Is it your best?
If you're going to eat crap, eat crap. Call it what it is.
And the above statement is an important one. I get that an "80/20" approach to a healthy lifestyle works for some people. What works for you, works for me. That being said, being 'good' 80% of the time does not make it okay to ignore what you know. The 80% 'good' doesn't offset the effects of the 20% 'bad'. If you're eating junk, that choice it totally yours but remember that less of it, still doesn't it make it the healthiest (in the greatest meaning of the word) option.
Remember social smoking? Social smoking is smoking in moderation. Guess what? It still involves inhaling cancer-causing-toxic-waste-chemical-stink-sticks.
Start today to do as we intend to continue
What if we plunge forth not with the allowance of all things in moderation, but instead to truly try our best, to do our best with the knowledge we have, and the resources available to us?
The simplest approach, the UnDiet approach, is really simple.
- Do your research.
- Read labels and ask questions.
- Make informed decisions.
- Set a standard that makes sense and is achievable by you.
- Know that every choice counts.
Establish your own "never-evers" commit to that and raise the bar.