The truth about moderation

It’s 3.28pm. In front of you sits a blank word page, the curser flashing at you, daring you to write something. But you can’t, your attention is captured by the movement of the second hand of the large clock to your left. Not long left until it’s time to stop, pack up and head home. Your stomach roars. You realise you’re chewing on your pen…..again. That’s it. You can’t take it anymore. You open your top draw, sort through your stash and grab out a block of chocolate. The crisp wrapping invites you to tear it open, but you don’t. You sit staring at it. You look up. It is now 3.35pm. You have been staring at the chocolate for seven minutes. Wrestling with your self-conscious for seven minutes.

You sigh and put it back into the drawer, ignoring the growing rumble in your stomach.

Heaven forbid you should have that chocolate…

We’ve all heard the saying ‘moderation is key’. Some of us use it to justify eating a piece of chocolate, others three packets of Tim Tams. But there seems to be an underlying ripple of confusion about moderation. What exactly are we moderating?

In “That Suga Film”, Australian actor Damon Gameau exposes the dangers of ingesting processed foods on a regular basis. To show the effect of processed foods he matches the average adult daily sugar intake of 40 teaspoons a day for 60 days. Throughout this time, the physical and mental changes experienced by Damon are measured by a team of doctors and other professionals. The expansion of this experiment takes Damon to America and leads him to challenge major corporations’ idea/definition of moderation.
According to Damon the line pushed by major corporations such as Coca-Cola is that individual products should be enjoyed in moderation. So, one coke a day, one chocolate a day, on iced tea a day and so on.

Adhering to this concept of moderation and only eating perceived healthy foods, Damon put on 8.5 kilograms in two months, increased his body fat by 7% and gained 10cm of fat around his waist.
And these are just the physical changes. Damon experienced mood swings, significant sugar crashes, short attention spans, as well as a major lack of energy.
Nutritionist Elisa Darmanin explains why processed foods are so dangerous for our health. “Often processed foods have less nutrients and more undesirable additives than non-processed foods. When more calories are consumed on a regular basis than the body requires, they are stored as fat throughout the body. Excess sugar consumption can lead to a variety of conditions, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, obesity, tooth decay and potentially Diabetes”.

Despite this, many of us keep eating processed foods. Why? It is easy and it is addictive says Elisa. “Processed foods such as chips and microwave meals are often high in sugar and fat to increase the desire of their consumption”. This high level of sugar gives you a brief peak of energy and alertness, once this runs out, the body somewhat crashes and looks for the next available source of sugar. This source is often found in further consumption of processed products.

In the face of all the confusion, Elisa believes in the moderation of processed foods as a whole. “Food is not the enemy, it is to be enjoyed, but cutting back on sugar and fat is recommended, especially given the average person consumes more than the recommended daily intake on the regular basis.”

Damon’s ‘average’ consumption of sugar: 40 teaspoons a of sugar a day for 60 days.
“Whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, grains and protein should make up the majority of one’s diet”, Elisa said.

Elisa’s message of moderation differs from that thrown at us by major corporations. In response, she states “there are a lot of different opinions out there and people gravitate towards what feels right for them but people should follow the advice of professionals who are guided by the facts”.

One woman listening to the professionals is 44-year-old Jenny. Much like Sarah Wilson, author of “I Quit Sugar“, this mum of two believes “you should eat whole foods, grains and nothing that is processed”. For Jenny, eating non-processed foods allows her to “nourish [her] body from the inside”. She thoroughly believes “if you eat unprocessed foods you will improve your vitality, your skin will glow and you will generally feel better”.

Jenny tries to minimise her intake of processed foods and also work out on a regular basis. “I work out 5 times are week for one hour each day doing strength and resistance training…I love the way I feel during my workouts and what it is doing to my body and mind; that keeps me disciplined”.

Elisa applauds Jenny’s efforts, stating “exercise is crucial to a healthy lifestyle”. It allows for the strengthening of one’s muscles and immune system, not to mention the benefit of endorphins.
Although Jenny avoids processed foods, she knows this is not always possible or desirable. “I enjoy a pizza or pasta every now and again”. Jenny also knows unprocessed foods are not everyone’s cup of tea; “I try to implement my beliefs to my family but they really don’t like to listen to me, hopefully when they are adults they will understand the importance of it”.

And it is important. Moderation is important. But it seems we have been listening to the wrong message of moderation. Experts are telling us to reduce our intake of processed foods, to moderate it as a whole, not to moderate the intake of individual items of processed foods. “Focusing on ingesting a wide variety of vegetables, grains, proteins and whole foods, rather than ingesting a large amount of processed foods is crucial for the body to function at its best”, Elisa said.

And who wouldn’t want their body to function at its best?

So go on, pull out that piece of chocolate – enjoy it. Just don’t go eat a box of shapes, a cup of soup or a Nestle iced tea afterwards.

And maybe next time, try to get that does of sweetness from a natural source. Happy moderating!

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