"Everything in moderation" is a phrase we take to heart (though sometimes abandon around the holidays when indulging in excess is an annual tradition). As we get back on track to our regular lives and gear up for a healthy new year, we readopt the moderation notion as a key to mindful eating that still allows us our unhealthy indulgences.
It turns out that eating in moderation can actually lead to overeating. A series of studies led by Michelle vanDellen, assistant professor of behavioral and brain sciences at the University of Georgia, Athens, as well as separate research from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, found that individuals who eat a diet that includes junk food, even in moderation, are more likely to gain weight around the belly.
One reason for this is our inability to accurately assess portion size. Especially when dining out or ordering in, portion sizes are so skewed, it's impossible to gauge what eating in moderation really is. Another reason is that moderation isn't a concrete term—it's relative. If you're already overeating, cutting back when it comes to unhealthy food might not be cutting back enough. Much worse, the studies revealed that most of the participants didn't even know the correct definition, thinking it actually meant eating more than the usual amount.
The takeaway is that if you want to be healthy and maintain your weight or even shed a few pounds, it's best to ditch the practice of eating in moderation. Instead, consume less than standard servings (which are far beyond what our bodies need), and commit to healthy foods. Sure, it's okay to have dessert or a burger now and then, but junk food (including processed meats and sodas) should almost always be off-limits and definitely not part of a regular diet, even if you consume it less frequently than healthier alternatives.
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