You know those statements that you know they’re simply wrong, but you’re aware they’re so easy to utter, yet to refute them you should invest at least twice as much time and energy? One of these is the absurdly reductive „Diet should be moderate and you should eat a bit of everything.“
I touched a little on this subject in one of my previous articles by advising:
„One should be moderate in everything, as well as in moderation.“
However, as I didn’t spend enough time on it, I’ll try to correct that mistake now.
The statement is true in itself. Moderation is one of the foundations of healthy diet, but many consider it to be enough to achieve that same healthy diet. And that’s false, of course. If it would be that simple, I wouldn’t be writing this article, nor would I be a nutritionist.
I like simplicity very much. I firmly believe that if you can’t explain something in a (relatively) simple way, you don’t understand it well enough. Nutrition science is complex, but diet shouldn’t be. However, simplifying should be done with caution and one not taken to extreme, otherwise the point could be lost.
The reduction of healthy diet to absurd levels isn’t all that strange if we look at it as a reaction to a bizarre level of often contradictory dietary misinterpretations and misinformation out there. To be honest, I’m not sure what’s worse: obsessing over questionable dietary habits or oversimplifying your diet.
The reason why the above mentioned statement isn’t easy to refute is that in order to do that, we must define what a healthy diet is. It’s unbeliveable how almost no one stops to ask that question before they attempt to boost the quality of their diet. So it might not be that odd to see that there is no actual definition. Or there wasn’t until I tried to explain it in this text. Let’s repeat it in short in the following two paragrafs.
The quantity of food, not in terms of volume, but energy – calorie value – is the only factor that determines your body weight. Eat more than you expend and you’ll gain weight. Eat less and you’ll lose weight. Easier said than done, said 99.8% of people ever attempting it. This fact doesn’t make the law of conservation of energy false, but it makes achieving optimal body weight difficult.
However, healthy diet isn’t just healthy body weight. Not even a healthy ratio of muscle and body fat. Not even fit looks.
To consider a diet healthy, besides energy needs (set with regard to your goals), we must also satisfy our nutrient requirements. They include essential macronutrients, more specifically proteins and fats, fiber, water, vitamins, minerals, phyto– and zoonutrients. On the other hand, healthy diet minimizes the intake of harmful elements. Third, often neglected aspect of a healthy diet is the psychosocial one. Diet should be a pleasure and a chance to socialize with people. Also, it has to be practical, not imposing unnecessary stress. In other words, you shouldn’t adjust your life to your diet but rather your diet to your life.
There is no perfect diet. Quality of a diet is a continuum
One should be aware that somewhere on that continuum we reach a point where any further attempts of optimization have a negative effect on total health. This happens when the search for a perfect diet turns into an obsession and starts compromising our mental and social health. And to be honest, these attempts are most likely pointless in and of themselves because their goals are prone to speculation, rather than being a substantiated practice for achieving a healthy diet.
Yes, you should be moderate with your food. But be moderate with interpreting this moderation. And remember, diet is more than just calories. Diet is more than just nutrients.