I have been called many names. Lately, “passionate” has been whispered under heavy breaths and downcast eyes to explain my unruly behaviour at a recent business meeting. [By “unruly,” I mean a display of a boiling level of emotion and engagement that may have caused discomfort to what could otherwise have been an uneventful and routine discussion. Yawn.] For the record, I wholeheartedly own my passion. Because that is my public declaration of revolt against our present understanding of “moderation,” the alternative that is like most of my meetings: routine, monotonous, ceremonious, often stagnant. Eventually, the road leads to atrophy. In fact, I believe that the current perspective of “moderation” may be what has veered us off course in the last few decades, forcing us to live with one foot on the train, the other on the platform, at best unmoving, at worst with irreversibly damaged adductors.
The concept of moderation comes up in most discussions on nutrition. Surely [absolutely not], if we eat everything in moderation, we are bound to live healthy, disease-free lives despite a few, occasionally-consumed substances that science has unequivocally proved to cause disease. Our human nature is finely attuned to picking up —and actively seeking— any pieces of good news about our harmful choices. [My friend’s great grandfather lived to the age of 99 eating everything he desired. The 1000 men in his village who died young of heart disease just had bad genes. Roll eyes.] It helps when the industries behind those damaging products fund the production of this “news.” Take “evidence” on the benefits of smoking in the 50s for example. And thanks to technology and algorithms, confirmation bias has made the search relatively non-existent, organically and seamlessly drowning us with the “good news” to sustain our undemanding life of moderation.
Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is a conscious choice to bypass. It is an escape mechanism. And it could be the reason why nutrition may be the primary cause of most leading diseases today.
“Heart disease is an epidemic… [It] begins in childhood and progresses during adolescence and young adulthood. By age 10, nearly all kids raised on the standard American diet already have fatty streaks building up inside their arteries —first stage of the disease. These streaks turn into plaques in our 20s, get worse in our 30s, then can start killing us off.” —Dr. Michael Greger.
[Unless you are my friend’s great grandfather.]
In the brain, the same disease can cause a stroke. Dr. Greger likened the concept of “moderation” with beating ourselves with a smaller hammer. There is an impact. It may not seem as painful and evident as with a larger hammer. Eventually, the outcome is similar. Damaged adductors.
Science states that the natural tendency of the human body is to be in a state of balance. We are self-healing, regenerating beings, at varying paces. It takes a dedicated effort and stubborn bias to disrupt the organic state of the body’s balance. This work disguises itself in many forms including our current understanding of moderation, self love, and bypassing practices.
In his book The 4 Hour Body, Timothy Ferriss borrows from pharmacology the concept of the “minimum effective dose” (MED). He uses water’s boiling temperature of 100 degrees celsius as an example. Anything above 100 degrees is a waste of energy. In my mind, moderation is MED. It is the conscious —and very dynamic— path to our boiling point. That boiling point is our homeostasis —the state of balance and well-being.
It is not simple nor easy to figure out our MED. The mind is a powerful force. It can convince itself of anything. And Google will be right behind, flooding us with evidence to corroborate the story. Cultural and religious ingrained beliefs in our subconscious mind ensure these stories nestle themselves comfortably into our “reality”. Self love becomes taking it easy, avoiding discomfort and disruption under the guise of being gentle with ourselves, as we indulge in the occasional tub of ice cream. [Random scientific fact: the milk protein casein is a highly carcinogenic element. Think of it as the light-switch to the perpetuation of cancer cells in the body.]
It is not easy. It takes tremendous courage to seek knowledge, to ask the difficult questions, and then face, accept, and process the even more complex answers. Without fail, those answers involve work, commitment, sweat, and tears. But they get us to the 100 degrees. Once there, we get to figure out the minimum effective dose needed to keep us boiling —evolving, growing, and nourishing our mind, body, and soul with all we need to function in balance. When we are in balance, the universe is in balance.
Moderation is often confused with neutrality. Humans are too evolved to be spectators. We have to take a side: that path that is paved, facilitated, and protected by Grace. Ultimately, it is the path of least resistance. It is the path chosen by true moderates who embody the concept of balance in the macro and micro sense. Moderation requires courage and involves discomfort and disruption. This is the very epitome of self-love and love for all beings. Moderation in its essence is an openness to explore terrains that are off the trodden algorithm, where provocative ideas, new evidence, and embodiment of alignment welcome us.
I choose to put down all sizes of hammers as I search for my boiling point. My tools so far have included observation, study, active research, experimentation, and an openness to exploration —despite occasional fear. I am not sure I will have it figured out in this lifetime. For now, it’s baby steps. When my knee hurts from too much running, I recognize that I may have gone past my boiling point. Life is a marathon. We gotta keep running. Efficiently.