"Just a Little Bit": How To Practice Moderation Skills

Chocolate cake with a slice cut out. Unsplash - Henry Be

Imagine the following situation: you had one of those days when everything went amiss; you arrived late for work, had to solve several problems and as if that wasn’t enough, you had a fight with someone in the family or with your boyfriend…

Sounds like a disaster, right? However, in your mind, there is only one alternative that can make up for the exhausting day: eat a piece of that irresistible cake you saw in the bakery near home. As it’s just a little piece, it won’t hurt or interfere with your super restrictive diet, right? However, the end of this story you and I most likely already know, and what was a single piece of cake becomes several slices or even the whole cake.

Faced with this scenario, you blame yourself and the old cycle of regret arises, followed by restriction and again leading to overeating.

What I want you to understand is that it IS possible to eat something very tasty (and very caloric) in a moderate way, and that you are fully capable of training your mind for it!

Why is eating “just a little bit” not working for me?

First, we need to understand that there are people who can spontaneously eat just enough to feel satisfied, and there are those who (feel) cannot control themselves when it comes to food — this is extremely normal.

Food being served buffet style

People are distinct by nature and this would be no different when it comes to food. But if you identify with the type of person who has no control over eating, be aware that there are some common behaviors that may have led you to develop this type of binge.

Keep in mind that, probably, the beginning of your lack of control is due to the mental restrictions that you created yourself. Even before eating the “forbidden” food, there is an internal voice that echoes in your mind telling you that you shouldn’t be eating it. So you need to eat as much as you can, as you won’t always have that food available, and yet, because you’re feeling guilty, the pleasure in eating is limited, and you end up eating more and more trying to feel genuine pleasure, but it never really comes!

If food is your only source of pleasure, you may never feel fully satisfied. You need to think about activities that can stimulate this feeling in other ways and how you can make your routine more pleasant!

In addition, another possible cause for uncontrolled eating is emotional hunger. If you eat to feel better, to relieve stress, sadness, frustration, etc., you need to handle your emotions more assertively. Food is not a “band-aid” for the feelings that afflict you…

Yet, given the diet mentality ingrained in our minds, you may think that moderation is difficult and sacrificing, and that being moderate is about self-control and willpower, but it doesn’t work like that.

A plate with a slice of pizza and salad

How to Learn Moderation

Moderation is a practicable skill, that is, a learnable skill. It’s as if you were trying to learn a language, you study, practice, and learn! And besides, moderation is about eating without fear, knowing that you are taking care of your body and that you are not over or underfeeding it, it should be a pleasurable process.

We must also not forget that willpower is finite and faulty, that is, it is an exhaustible resource, different from self-knowledge and self-care, which are durable “tools”.

Do you realize how the lack of control around eating is the result of several factors that act, many times, all together in your mind?

Okay, since we’ve pinpointed the causes of the problem, how can we fix it?

Wait a minute! Before I give you a step-by-step guide to practice your moderation skills, you need to understand some important fundamentals about them.

Avocado toast on a plate with donuts on another plate for breakfast

3 Steps on How to Practice Moderation

So that you can eat whatever you want parsimoniously, keep in mind that moderation is done through a mindset focused on pleasure, abundance, and awareness.

Keep in mind that:

  1. You need to increase pleasure in your life. The act of feeling pleasure must be a prerequisite, whether via food, eating rituals, or other pleasures besides food. So don’t deprive yourself and eat until your hunger and craving are satisfied, without feeling too full, of course!
  2. You need to have an abundant mindset. Start seeing the glass as “half full” and abandon the idea of ​​scarcity: put in your mind that such delicious food will always be available. Don’t forget that we get sick of everything that is very available…
  3. You need to exercise your awareness. Balance is the key to conscious actions, so don’t be obsessive or completely disconnected when it comes to your eating. It is important to reflect before eating, to think about your hunger, if it’s real or if you are just looking to change the way you are feeling.

Given these steps, we can move to moderation in practice!

Avocado toast with a fried egg on top.

Learning moderation in practice

To eat just a little bit (for real!) practice, first of all, putting intention into your meals. Think about what your intentions are with the food at that moment, is it celebrating something? Make up for some bad situation? When and how much will you eat? What are you going to eat? And so on!

Then also think about the possibility of portioning food. You can very well repeat the dish as many times as you want or save as much as you want for later… Try putting a smaller amount on your plate and keep in mind that you can get yourself more if you want.

Also, be present when you’re eating. It’s no use having all this information in mind and eating while scrolling your feed, for example. Exit automatic mode and enjoy every bit, every bite, you’ll notice that the food is even more delicious when you enjoy every bite.

And last but not least, respect your body! Try to seek a healthy and possible fullness for you, sometimes the amount of food sufficient for your friend is different from yours, and it’s all right. Understand your signals, your taste buds, and don’t forget that you can eat again whenever you want, you’re the only one who can understand and meet your needs.

It is important that you never forget that self-knowledge is the key to achieving a nutritious and pleasurable relationship with food. When we learn to listen to our bodies, everything flows better, and life becomes lighter!

The big insight from this topic is about living well, thinking positively, looking at things on the bright side, and understanding that practicing moderation around food is a mental process, and your perceived lack of control is a result of some deceptive beliefs and diet mentality. Yes, you can eat in moderation, just train your mind and body for it!

Last updated: February 23, 2024

I am a Brazilian girl (living in Sao Paulo with my fiancé — and other 20 million people). I love coffee, books, and good food. I also really enjoy studying and learning new things that allow me to further develop myself both professionally and personally. I have a degree in Food Science and hold a Ph.D. in Agri-food Marketing. In addition, I am a Certified Nutrition Coach and an enthusiastic Nutrition student.

After 15 years of living in war with my body and with food, I found freedom through mindfulness and intuitive eating, practices that allowed me to overcome yo-yo dieting and binge eating.

I’m passionate about helping women rewrite their food and body histories so they feel free and confident to live their lives to the fullest.

There is a power that comes alive when women free themselves from the food prison in which they have learned to live, when they realize that they are capable and deserving of feeling fantastic in their own bodies, and that confidence is a state of mind — not a body lotion which you get the right to use when you reach a weight-loss goal.

My work is dedicated to nurturing, celebrating and sharing this message.

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