How moderation can promote weight loss


Moderation is a boring word.

I don’t like saying it. It’s hardly motivating. It doesn’t invoke images of success – or promise great results. By its very definition it implies a state of averageness.

Yet, when it comes to our diet and fitness efforts moderation is exactly what we need and benefit from most, especially if weight loss is the aim.

The human body enjoys comfort; in fact, nearly every process in the body is driven by something known as homeostasis:

  • Homeo – similar
  • Stasis – standing still

This means that for every action or change which takes us away from the comfortable middle ground our body will produce a counter effect to bring us back.

  • If you get hot you sweat to cool down
  • If you get cold you shiver to warm up
  • If you eat too little your appetite increases
  • If you exercise too much you move less during the day

It is also important to consider that the bigger the change in one direction the more aggressive the counter response will be.

Any reductions in calorie intake or increases in activity will be opposed by the body.

If by tryng to eat less, or exercise more, the body simply counters your efforts, how then do you create change?

By taking changes very slowly.

Take this example: Let’s say your energy needs for each day are 2000Kcal and your aim is to lose weight.  A lot of popular diets and exercise programs will have you eating as little as 800Kcal a day and exercising 3-4 times a week.

This can leave you with in excess of a 50% calorie deficit. Of course, you will lose weight initially, but here are some of the other things you can expect to happen:

  • An increase in appetite and obsession with food
  • A reduction in energy, motivation and libido
  • A reduced calorie expenditure

Because we are designed to store fat rather than lose it, our bodies defend against fat loss, while being much more relaxed about fat gain. Think about it: if you overeat on one day your need to eat the following day won’t be proportionately decreased. However, if you under-eat, the following day your appetite will be increased significantly more.

No matter how keen you are to lose body fat this creates a major challenge and there are several factors including genetics, environment, resilience and personal history that will dictate how well you cope with the situation.

Think small to gain your body’s cooperation for weight-loss success 

Smaller calorie deficits of 10-20% from a combination of reduced food intake and increased activity result in fewer adaptations and can prevent a body backlash often seen following extreme weight loss programmes.

In practice, if your calorie requirements are 2,000Kcal a day then eating 1,900Kcal a day and doing an extra 100Kcal of exercise (30 minute fast paced walk) will give you a 200Kcal deficit with little to no negative effects.

This will provide, on average, 1/2lb of sustainable fat loss a week. Of course, with this year’s holiday season upon us this may seem far too slow and negligible, yet over the course of a year this equates to a massive 26lb (almost 2 stone/12Kg) weight loss, with enough time for your body to adapt/adjust as the weight loss occurs. Think how good that would feel next summer!

Moderate calorie deficits and exercise routines are much more sustainable

You don’t have to eat the same food every day or stick to the same daily calorie targets to get results. In fact, your body is designed to cope and thrive on variety. It’s when you go to extremes you can start to experience problems. So, let some moderation into your life:

  • Eat cake, just not as often as you eat vegetables
  • Train or exercise hard, but give yourself plenty of rest afterwards
  • Eat more or less than you need on occasion but avoid eating with too much restraint or abandon.

As Oscar Wilde said: “Moderation in everything including moderation itself”


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Ian is a Registered Dietitian specialising in online weight loss coaching and personal training. Ian uses mindfulness and behaviour science to help people make sustained improvements to their health.


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