Balance & Moderation: What Does This Even Mean?!

Megan Dahlman
March 21, 2016

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 “Everything in moderation, right?” I feel like this phrase is usually spoken in front of a plate of nachos and a big margarita. It’s used somewhat jokingly to justify ridiculous choices. But many trainers and health coaches these days are promoting a balanced and moderate lifestyle, so we’re quickly adopting this mentality, too. Who doesn’t love moderation when it means nachos!?

But, what are we even talking about here?

Ridiculously ambiguous. Balance and moderation makes me think of chemistry—you know that it must be a real thing, but you have no idea how to wrap your mind around it. How does this even transfer to real life? (I use chemistry as an example because it was the one subject that caused me to actually chuck my textbook across the room. It just doesn’t make sense!)

You want to believe that you are capable of balance and moderation, but you are completely unaware if the choices you’re making are actually that. It’s a moving target.

What does being balanced look like? Possessing balance and moderation in life means that you are wise and acutely in tune with your body. Well balanced individuals don’t dabble with extremes, whether physical or mental. They know when to go for something and when to hold back. They hold every aspect of life in perspective, seeing the impact of choices from a broader angle.

They’re the perfect balance of careful and careless.

Let's apply it. When we apply balance and moderation to fitness and nutrition, it should look like this:

  • Knowing your goals and having a very clear understanding of what it requires to achieve them. Once you know this, you can determine what kind of “wiggle room” you can afford. Personally, I don’t have any goals to lose weight or “tone up”, so my wiggle room might be bigger than someone who is looking to lose 20 pounds.
  • Knowing when something is too much, or you’re overdoing it. 
  • Knowing when eating something is going to be too much. One glass of wine may put you out of your wiggle room for achieving your goals.
  • Knowing when your workouts are too much. More is not always better, and piling on harder and longer workouts does not necessarily lead to a healthier, fitter body.
  • Knowing when you’re obsessing too much, about both your food and exercise. ​​If obsession is even in your vocabulary, then you are NOT balanced and moderate.
  • Knowing when something is not enough, or you’re underdoing it.
  • Knowing when you are not being attentive enough to your nutrition. You’re letting a lot of things slide in and it’s affecting your progress.
  • Knowing when your workouts are insufficient. Utilizing moderation with your workouts means you have hard days, medium days and light days, and you also have days to just play around. If hard days, or even medium days, aren’t even in the picture, then you need to step up your game.
  • Always maintaining a big perspective. Knowing that 6 tortilla chips will not stop you from moving forward and neither will one bowl of ice cream. However, if 6 tortilla chips leads to 24 chips and you have it every night, this is not moderation and it is not keeping your objective in perspective.
  • Constantly asking yourself “How is this working for me?” Constant self-evaluation! If your current behaviors are not helping you toward your goals, you need to reassess. If you are making progress, then great—don’t change a thing! Also, if your level of “moderation” always leaves you feeling out of control and plain unhealthy, then this is clearly not working for you and you should reassess.
  • Knowing that "balance and moderation" means something different for everybody. It works for me to have a piece of chocolate and a small bowl of ice cream nearly every day, but this could send someone else into a tailspin. We all have triggers, cues that send us out of our wiggle room and into the zone of no control. These triggers are very different for everybody.
  • Being able to say “sure, but just a little”. Nothing is off limits, no food is inherently bad, but you should still have the reins in your hands. This requires willpower and mental practice. Someone who has a food addiction has zero willpower over food. Their conscious mind is unable to control their eating behaviors. A food addiction is a fairly extreme situation, but we all find ourselves in scenarios where we eat mindlessly, unable to stop ourselves. Make a conscious choice to challenge yourself: order dessert but limit yourself to four bites; open a bag of chips and limit yourself to only eight. You may fail miserably at first, but over time with more challenges like this, you will develop a much stronger willpower and will have the ability to say “sure, but just a little”.

I am not a master at balance and moderation. In the past, my weaknesses have been a pot of macaroni and cheese, pizza, pita chips, diet coke, spinach and artichoke dip, and brownies. If these foods were available, the word moderation was non-existent. “I must keep eating this!” I would sometimes make myself feel sick.

However, with practice (lots!), understanding my goals and the bigger perspective, being very in tuned with how my body feels with certain workouts and foods, and building up my willpower, I am now able to say “sure, but just a little.” I am proud to say that last night I made mac n' cheese for the kiddos and I had only one bite! This is a major victory for me!

Above all, be wise. Let’s all be wise and intentional with our fitness and nutrition. Avoid extremes and be honest about your own personal “wiggle room”. Balance and moderation does not need to be so vague after all. And enjoying nachos and a tasty margarita could absolutely be within your personal realm of balance and moderation.


This philosophy is absolutely refreshing, and it's at the core of what I coach in the Strong Mommas Membership. If you are looking to eat healthier while maintaining balance and moderation, become a member today! Click here to learn more and to register...

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Trainer, nutrition coach, and Christian mom — in a culture that’s obsessed with “gym-selfies” and a number on the scale, I’m passionate about helping moms discover what it feels like to actually love their bodies and thrive in them.
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