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So I recently got to thinking about this phrase after getting into a little discussion with someone very dear to me.
As you have probably gathered, I am pretty passionate about all things nutrition-related, and so I have pretty strong views about how to (and not to) nourish our bodies. This is based on extensive research, self-experimentation and common sense. I probably think about food a little lot more than your average person – not because it is the be all and end all in life (well it kind of is), but because the food we eat will either cause our bodies to function better or worse, depending on what it is. I love this quote:

“The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison” – Ann Wigmore.

And so, in my opinion, it really should be something we think a LOT about. It will either help us be better able to be of service to the world, or hinder us from fully realizing our potential. So yes, it is important. Very important.

But I digress.
So, I mentioned in the discussion, how I would not be comfortable feeding children food that I would not be happy to feed myself (namely sugar, processed grains, soy and industrial seed oils), and the response I got was that she did not want me to mention any of these thoughts in front of her kids because she’d “like [them] to maintain a moderate view of food’s role in life”.

The assumption was that a) I do not have a moderate view of food, and that
b) There is something wrong with not having moderate view of food.

It got me thinking seriously about my views on food, and whether she did, in fact, have a point. Maybe I am extreme in my ideas about nutrition! Obviously to myself I do not feel extreme in anyway, but hey, this is someone I love and trust saying this, so maybe it’s time to take a step back and look at where I stand from an outsider’s perspective, instead of from within the comfy little cocoon of nutritionally like-minded people in which I tend to circulate these days.

My conclusion? Yes. Compared with 90% (actually make that 95%) of people in this country, I hold very extreme views when it comes to nutrition. So extreme, in fact, that even someone as close to me as this person, thinks they’re extreme.

Coming from an upbringing that taught me that we should aim for “moderation in all things”, this realization shook me up somewhat. What the… ?!? I was coasting along in life, all moderate in my thinking, and suddenly I’m on the fringes of society in something as fundamental as food?!? How’d that even happen?
And then I stopped in my tracks and paused to examine what the term “moderation” even means.

Mod·er·a·tion [mädəˈrāSHən] – Noun

-The avoidance of excess or extremes, esp. in one’s behavior or political opinions.

So if something is described as “extreme” it must be deemed so as a result of its comparison with, and drastic divergence from, the thinking of the majority (who clearly define the basis upon which the term “moderate” is used). So if, for example, I were living in a society in which it was customary, say, to eat unlucky strangers who happened to wander through my village, then my abstention therefrom would probably be viewed as extreme. Yes it’s a graphic analogy, but you get the picture. The terms “moderate” and “extreme” are 100% dependent on what we interpret as the “norm”.

And so, in a society where processed, nutrient-poor foods make up the bulk of most peoples’ diets, this way of eating has come to be defined as “normal” and “moderate” even though, just 100 years ago, it would have seemed crazy (insane even). So how do we even define “moderate” any more? Is it based on how we’ve eaten during the last 70 years? Or do we look back at how healthy human societies ate for hundreds of thousands (even millions) of years and base our definition of the term on the general commonalities observed over this much more substantial span of time? In terms of looking only at the last few decades in time compared with our total existence, this would equate to looking at just the last 10 MINUTES of our existence in order to ascertain the definition of normality. Ludicrous. And possibly slightly inaccurate, right? In that case the term “moderate” would look more like the graphic up top.

And so, based on these parameters, my personal definition of what a “normal”, “moderate” diet would look like is something like this: real, whole foods that could be hunted or gathered, free from genetically modified grains, industrial seed oils, artificial additives and very low in sugar. The human diet consisted of (in varying proportions) meat, fish, animal fats, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds for most of our existence. Grains and legumes (when added to the diet far more recently) were prepared using a long, drawn-out process of soaking, sprouting and fermenting, in order to make them digestible. They were also nothing like the modern grains we have artificially created today.

And diseases of civilization we see nowadays, such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, auto-immune conditions, cancer, etc, were scarce, if not completely absent whilst we ate this way.

Based on that, when I think of the term “moderation” in terms of eating, I think I will choose to base my definition on what formed the majority of our existence as healthy human beings. This is in stark contrast to what I see nowadays, where most people start their day with a bowl of (genetically-modified processed grains in the form of) cereal with (industrially processed artificially-stripped-of-fat-and-then-filled-with-chemicals) milk; a lunch of (genetically-modified processed grains in the form of) sandwich bread, filled with some (sugar-filled, processed-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life) deli-meat and something called (but in no way resembling) cheese; and then some (genetically-modified processed grains in the form of) pasta for dinner. This seems a little more extreme than my views, I’d say.

Anyway, my point is, we have slid down such a slippery slope in terms of nutrition, that we have actually started believing that the current standard western diet is how human beings are supposed to eat. Where, even a health-conscious mother, believes that eating a diet free from processed foods, is far too extreme for her children.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. How do you define what is moderate? Do you think eating a real food diet free from processed foods is extreme? Share your views in the comments.