By Sara Baker, MS, CSCS
Restrictive meal plans, counting macros, weighing portions or…reject diet culture entirely and eat anything we want? These extremes seem to be the only options for the diet, nutrition, and fitness industries. What if there was a livable and workable solution that navigates the middle? The moderation mindset teaches you how to do just that. It is difficult to define moderation. It is subjective and, therefore, critics consider it too vague and lacks sufficient “rules”.
#Moderation365, an ACE Approved certification created by fitness and nutrition expert and JillFit founder Jill Coleman, MS, promotes eating to satisfaction with small indulgences. The curriculum also teaches you how to use biofeedback to re-learn your hunger cues. #Moderation365 is based on the MMAD (Moderation, Mindfulness, Abundance Mindset, and Daily Nutritional Commitments) Nutrition Model, which is proven to deliver impactful results. Although the certification course can be completed within twelve weeks, four of the key concepts can be immediately implemented with clients.
Moderation is about not eating too much or too little. The Deprivation Indulgence Scale is a concept introduced in the curriculum. It basically states that overindulging will always result in deprivation, and vice versa. For example, if a client is too rigid during the work week, they will likely overindulge on weekends. A client might eat out at night if they don’t follow a strict diet during the day. We want to help clients “navigate the middle.” Instead of eating a low-calorie salad with olive oils and vinegar, “navigating” the middle might involve adding nuts, cheese, full-fat dressing, and some delicious croutons. Ideal clients will learn how to balance out the highs, lows, and satisfaction of eating and put a greater emphasis on pleasure than gluttony, or deprivation.
Mindfulness around food is something that your clients can practice in the #Moderation365 framework. It means not following a set schedule or eating plan but paying attention to what their body is telling you. People who have a history of dieting tend not to notice hunger or energy cues and are more likely to register as “starving” and “stuffed”. Mindfulness can be as simple as slowing down, or simply asking your client to check in with their body.
- How hungry am I right now?!
- Is my energy stable?
- How satisfied am I with this meal?
This can help you to develop mindfulness by asking these questions throughout the day.
Most food choices are made in adolescence, or early adulthood. These choices can unconsciously impact how we eat today. Struggling with a food scarcity mindset is a common affliction; this often involves justifying unhealthy choices or overindulging, in fear of missing out on a “special occasion” food experience. A practice of an abundance mindset, however, is based upon the idea that all foods, even those special ones, can be found at any time. For example, if a client really loves gingerbread cookies, they don’t have to wait until the holidays to get one. Restricting certain foods until a special occasion typically renders that food illicit, and therefore troublesome; when the person finally allows themselves to eat the special food, they’re far more likely to overindulge. Recognizing that special foods can be enjoyed at any moment reduces the power and control of the food and reduces the desire to eat them.
Daily Nutritional Commitments (or DNC’s) are another important concept in this framework. These are 3-5 habits that help clients stay on track. These habits help to keep your clients’ energy levels balanced, their cravings down, and their hunger stable. Each habit should be enjoyable, effortless in the sense that it can fit into your client’s schedule, and effective for their goals. Examples of these are eating protein at each meal, eating one large salad every day, and having a vegetable at each lunch and dinner. These behaviors are individual and can change over time. When clients are overwhelmed with all of the nutrition information out there or have a hectic schedule, if they can consistently hit their DNC’s 80-85% of time, they are on the right track.
Although the MMAD model is only a small part of the overall curriculum, it should provide fitness professionals and coaches with a good introduction into #Moderation365 concepts as well as tactical tools to help clients get rid of the all-or nothing mindset. Calorie counting and following food rules or meal plans, consume a lot of mental energy and are not sustainable. This eating lifestyle aims to help you eat normal food forever, to not follow diet rules, to eat the same regardless of the occasion, to not be influenced by hunger cues and energy cues, as well as to unlearn any dieting habits.