Moderation vs. Elimination

Moderation. Balance. 80-20. These are words and principles that are littered throughout health and wellness publications, especially as the new year is upon us and health and wellness resolutions and goals are en vogue. With the frequency that we read about these concepts, it’s easy to become a bit numb to them. Today, I wanted to address this concept and that of elimination and discuss when and why each may be useful in the context of a healthy and fit lifestyle.


Most of the current research and wellness data seems to indicate that moderation is a good thing. It allows indulgences when they are part of the 20% of the 80-20 rule. Generally speaking, this is the way that I live my life. I typically eat balanced healthy meals and I enjoy occasional indulgences like ice cream, wine, and pizza. This also means that this concept applies to working out. Most days, I spend time at the gym or outside running,but there are some days when I need a break or a day to relax. The 80-20 principle works well for me, but there is new, emerging research that tells us that moderation may not work for everyone.

Merriam-Webster defines elimination as “the act, process, or an instance of eliminating or discharging” and also as “the removal from a molecule of the constituents of a simpler molecule.” In the second definition, if I were to relate this to health and wellness, I would think about removing a habit, substance, or behavior from the human body. This could take the shape of diet or nutrition adjustments such as removing animal products, sugar, or caffeine. It could also include removing unhealthy behaviors such as skipping stretching after your workouts. Yes, I consider that an unhealthy behavior…we’ll talk more about the benefits of stretching soon.

The difference is that moderation introduces certain “less healthy” behaviors, habits, or substances into a lifestyle while elimination removes them entirely. There are pros and cons to each technique or philosophy. I often tell clients that knowing yourself is the most important parts of making positive, healthy choices. If you are one of those people who cannot stop at 1 cookie or 10 tortilla chips, elimination might be the right option for you when it comes to nutrition. In some cases, going cold turkey can help jump start long-term changes. For others, eliminating something from a diet could result in a craving-driven unhealthy binge or serious frustration with an all or nothing lifestyle. In this case, introducing infrequent, moderate amounts of a less-healthy food option may be best.

While moderation and elimination seem to best apply to nutrition, there are additional linkages to working out, sleep hygiene, and other health behaviors. For example, when it comes to sleep habits, some people may require certain specific conditions or rituals to obtain quality sleep and for others (elimination) and others may be able to be less consistent with their healthy habits (moderation). In the case of workouts,

Regardless of which principle best fits your life, both concepts have a place in a healthy lifestyle. At the end of the day, it comes down to selecting tools and techniques that will enable you to make and maintain healthy habits. Tell me about how you make decisions on how to manage your healthy habits.

Be well,

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2 thoughts on “Moderation vs. Elimination”

  1. Thank you for addressing this. I am one of the minority of the population for whom moderation does not work. I recently purchased a book called “Better Than Before” and am making my way through it. It’s about using your personality’s preferences to make changes. In it, it details “abstainers” and “moderators”. I am an abstainer. It is far, FAR easier for me to never eat a cookie than to eat only one. Once that threshold has been crossed, there’s no stopping me. I am really tired of having people that don’t have my personality makeup chide me and say that I just need to learn moderation. For now, abstaining is the thing that gets me change. And results are the thing that counts.


    1. Hi Jennifer, Thanks for your comment. I heard a podcast about that book and it sounds really interesting. The different personality types definitely ring true to me. Like anything in life, one size fits all doesn’t usually really fit all. So glad that you found some methods and tricks that help you maintain healthy habits!


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