For one woman, eating in moderation might mean drinking only one soda per week. For another, it might mean putting down her fork when she’s full; or ordering a small pizza over a large one; or finishing her salad before moving on to dessert. And here's the kicker: Technically, they're all doing it right. Though that non-specific advice might be unhelpful for someone trying to lose weight by counting each calorie, it could actually enable you drop pounds without a food diary or nutrition tracker.
Why it Works
No two women have the exact same caloric or nutritional needs, so they shouldn't all be following the same advice anyway, says nutritionist Jamie Mass, R.D. Plus, we all come to understand what moderate eating is from a different starting point. How you grew up, your family and friends, and even the messages you get from commercials, TV shows, and movies impact what overeating and moderate eating mean to you.
That’s where eating in moderation trumps pretty much any other diet strategy. When women focus on eating the correct portion size—whether it's dictated by a nutrition label or a diet plan—they ignore their body's personal needs, says Michelle May, M.D. author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat. Here's the thing: If you get hung up on thinking, "Okay, a portion size is 12 crackers, so I'm allowed to have 12 crackers," you ignore the fact that sometimes you might not need that many to be satisfied—or you just want 15 or 16 because they taste good, she says.
How to Make it Work For You
That being said, moderation should be the result, not the focus, of every meal. Otherwise, moderation can easily become restriction, says May. And we all know feeling like we can't have the things we want doesn’t pan out in the long run. Deprivation isn't good for our mental health and can lead to not-so-moderate food choices later on, says Mass. That's because when we ignore our desires for, say, a doughnut for so long, we don’t know how to listen to our bodies, she says. That can translate to ignoring hunger and fullness cues and just feeling crummy.
So the next time you get ready to make a meal, ask yourself, “Am I really hungry? Or just bored, tired, or stressed?” Check in again about halfway through your plate and think, “Do I need any more? Do I feel satisfied?” These questions will help you automatically eat in moderation—and reach your ideal weight.