How many times have we heard someone use that saying? How many times have we heard ourselves say it to someone else?
It’s definitely a phrase worth exploring. Usually when I say everything in moderation, it’s because I want to get away with being a little bit naughty, whether that’s not doing something I generally know is good for me (nah I’ll just skip that exercise today) or taking liberties in doing something I know is generally not that great for me (why yes, I’ll have that extra chocolate bar today).
So in some ways “everything in moderation” is an excuse to be less than your fullest best self.
In other ways it’s an expression of a truth, but not just any truth, your own personal Truth with a capital T. When we talk about everything in moderation, who is moderating it? Who is saying what should be moderate? Is it our doctor? Our parent? Our teacher? Our coach? Our favorite actor? Our kid? What the fizzo is moderation? Moderate is so subjective. As it should be. We are all so different. Let’s look at two people:
An endurance athlete who is dealing with a recently sprained ankle and fresh news of a very ill sibling might view a moderate day of exercise to include a morning hike, 10-mile afternoon run and a 6-mile bike ride around town. Maybe less. Maybe more.
A father of three toddlers, new to exercise, who fueled up really well on clean food and just got word on an awesome promotion, but very little sleep the night before, might view a moderate day of exercise to be 20-minutes on the rowing machine and 20 push ups. Maybe less. Maybe more.
Less. More. Middle ground. What is the ideal?
Earlier I mentioned “indulging” in an extra chocolate bar. These days for me it is not uncommon to eat at least half of a dark chocolate bar. So a full extra one would be considered a lot. For now. I’m just really enjoying it and doing a lot of physical activity that feels it counters all that chocolate into a state of moderation. Two years ago, when I was living primarily as a raw vegan in the tropics, I might have called eating an extra yam bun and half of a papaya indulgence. Chocolate was one of the last things I desired. As we enter into full Spring swing in the Midwest and I am training in many different disciplines and exploring meat as a lifelong vegetarian, I might consider eggs benedict with prosciutto to be a new indulgence that balances crazy hard work. Some of my friends are right there with me saying, “I hear you sister!” While some of my friends out there are saying, “Ha! That’s nothing! Now if you’re talking two cinnamon buns on top of my 32-ounce coffee spiked with a little Jack Daniels, that would be a little bit of indulgence.” On the flip side, some of my raw vegan friends out there are saying, “Ha! That’s outrageous! Having a few extra cacao maca almonds with dates and coconut meat is a little bit of indulgence!”
I chose food as an example here because it tends to push our buttons politically, socially and spiritually. It’s an easy target and incredibly relatable, but we could be discussing any area of life that deserves or needs a little moderation: exercise, sex, media consumption, meditation, time alone, time with others, hobbies…
So of all those groups of friends who have opinions about my chocolate bar and have their own versions of moderation, who is correct?
We all are. For our individual selves.
For that moment in time…
…when we are listening to our own personal Truth. (Not that pretend truth that wants to get away with being naughty.)
Let’s go back to that coach, doctor, parent, kid, or friend. Having a personal Truth doesn’t mean living in a vacuum and shutting out everyone else. Be influenced. Take advice. Seek counsel from people who have been there, done that, have a similar story to tell, someone you wish to emulate, live your life like. Then come back to yourself and ask if that advice, that version of moderation, resonates with your own. If it does, then yeah that’s your Truth for that moment in time, working in concert with so many factors.
How’s your mental status? Emotional status? Physical status? Financial status? Environmental status? All those factors condense into your own personal moderation for that moment. And it might change.
In fact, it will most definitely change. It may sound wishy-washy, messy and inconsistent, but hey life is messy and inconsistent. If we’re not facing that with a little bit of awareness while ebbing and flowing with whatever life is throwing our way, then aren’t we actually just rigid and stuck? Moderation is funny because it’s not actually about moderation at all, but rather vacillating back and forth between two extremes that are constantly shifting.
In some ways, it’s really a lot of work.
It means tuning in constantly, paying attention to what is best for you given your circumstances, those factors outside your control and choices within your control. It means being honest with yourself. It means taking in information from all the sources you value, sifting through the ones you don’t value, and then actually applying them and seeing if they fit your life for that given moment.
In most ways, however, it’s not really work at all.
We all know what is really truly best for us deep down. We pretend not to know. We spend a lot of effort convincing ourselves otherwise. But we know when we need to step it up a notch or dial it down. We know. Whether we act on it is actually the part that is the work. The knowing is there. You are your own Zen Master if you can follow through with what that still small voice is saying inside without judgment from yourself or from the outside.
We are ultimately all in this together on different waves of moderation.
By Sara Thomas: Writer. Nutritionist. Adventurer.