Death by mediocrity

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«Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.«

Oscar Wilde

One of the truly great obstacles on our path to optimal health is the solid belief in the golden mean or everything in moderation. Rarely have such an inadequate and useless thought been given so much undeserving acceptance.

The belief in a dietary golden mean seems based on a lack of knowledge. But it is understandable that, when faced with the choice of two seemingly extremes, we choose a desirable mean. This thinking has probably saved many lives throughout history. But when it comes to diet in a modern world, it is poor guidance.

«I hear both carbs and fat are fattening, so I try to eat a little of both. Everything in moderation you know.»

Yes, I know, but you are not making sense. A desperate attempt at reducing cognitive dissonance is making you choose a bloody poor strategy.

Because the truth is that a strategy that seems like an extreme, might be your best choice, thus making all other choices poorer. Your notion of what is extreme is likely not based on knowledge of the field.

This is of course all a matter of perspective. I consider a diet based on whole grains, with 60% of energy from carbs, fruit five times a day and negligeble amounts of saturated fat, cholesterol and red meat, to be very extreme indeed. By others it is considered a safe choice or even an optimal choice.

But if grains affect youever so slightly  in a negative way, the belief that everything can be eaten in moderation, will lead to greater negative health effects than that seemingly extreme no grain diet.

Disagreeing professionals confuse us. Who should we trust? In our despair we opt for a mean. Yet the desire for optimal is just as strong. Often, the golden mean is so far from the optimal, that the positive health effects honor us with their absence.

So if disagreeing «experts» make you choose a middle way, know that you have not chosen the optimal way. And when the nutritionist or doctor advice you to eat everything in moderation, cover your ears and walk away.

Following general principles is a dangerous sport. General principles are just that, general. They don’t always apply. When it comes to diet, «everything in moderation» is not a good guiding rule. Optimal diet is optimal diet, regardless of our preferences or feelings.

10 kommentarer

  1. I don't entirely agree. A healthy human body can adapt to a huge range of carb intakes (0% carbs to 95% carbs). The problem is with a continuous excess of food.

    Finding out the causes of obesity is the easy bit. Tackling the causes is likely to be extremely difficult if it means reduced profits for the food manufacturers.


  2. I can resist everything except temptation.

    – Oscar Wilde, «Lady Windermere's Fan»

    The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.

    OSCAR WILDE, The Picture of Dorian Gray

    «Et ne nos inducas in temptationem,
    sed libera nos a malo.»

    Pater Noster

    «Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation.»



  3. We would never tell an alcoholic to practice moderation.

    With all grains and most carbs removed from my daily eating, that continous excess of food that's all around has no power over me. For the first time in my life, I can trust my hunger and satiety. Carbohydrates screwed with my body's natural ability to regulate food intake so even when I had eaten 1000's of calories and felt sick, I would still want more candy or bread, or even oatmeal. Dropping carbs has been life altering and I am well over 120 lbs lighter in four years. These days, I eat until I am full at each meal, I never snack and can pass on offers of high carb goodies without a second thought. Low carb paleo will be my way of eating for the remainder of my life.


  4. So one has to devise the necessary «counter-temptation» towards the «safe dose» and thereby avoid being tempted toward the «toxic dose».

    Paracelsus' advice : “The dose makes the poison ” should never be ignored.


  5. This is an absolutely fantastic post, thank you. I have gotten into many debates with friends,family and clients attempting to make them understand that the whole «moderation» thing is very much dependant on person and goals and that generally it is just not worth it because people do not know how to truly balance things out properly, and the damage to the body is just not worth it for that momentary pleasure. Definitely going to post a link to your blog and add a link to this post on my next post, keep it up!


  6. This touches on one of the profound problems that we always faced: what do you do when you do not know? how do you manage risks when you do not know much about the underlying phenomenon?

    It is humbling to know that we do not yet know much about our bodies.


  7. I suppose a similar principle applies in philosophy/politics: Instead of choosing between good and evil, we can choose a middle way. Which means we choose to be a little bit evil and a little bit good. How is that better than choosing only the good option?
    So the middle way in that case is actually a bad choice.
    I hear a lot of these middle way recommendations here in Norway, perhaps it is a Scandinavian trait?


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