The Great ‘Moderation’ Hoax

A few weeks ago, I went to a vegetarian potluck dinner.  I was hoping to meet some fellow vegetarians and vegans in my suburbia of a hometown, and to eat some good vegan food.

That much was a success, but it’s not why I’m telling this story.

What made the night memorable (and pretty entertaining) was the presence of a older woman that came to it.  She was there for one purpose: to argue with everyone, trying to convince us that this vegetarian stuff was all “bullshit,” and that eating meat is healthy and there’s nothing at all wrong with it.

Though I completely disagreed with what she was saying, I actually found some bit of respect for this woman for having the balls to do something like this.  She knew she’d be alone in her views and the antagonist at the dinner, yet she felt strongly enough about her views to do it anyway.  Sort of badass, really.

But then she said something that made me think.  Backpedaling a little bit in an argument with someone, she said the words, “Meat is just fine, in moderation.”

“In moderation”

I know that this woman doesn’t eat meat in moderation.  She wouldn’t have been so anti-vegetarian if she did.  But she probably tells herself that it’s moderation.

And that’s why I hate moderation as a diet strategy: “Moderation” can be any amount that’s convenient, and it’s a slippery slope from healthy moderation to excess.

For me, moderation only works with things I don’t like all that much anyway.  I can drink a soda once every two months, really enjoy it, and not want it again for another two months.  But that’s because I just don’t like soda that much.

For things I really like, such as a cup of coffee or a good craft beer, that doesn’t work.  I’m either on a kick where I’m trying to avoid it, or on a kick where I’m having one every day.  (The beer waits until evening, I swear.)

I can understand that moderation in diet does work for some people, even if not for me.  But when the “moderation” argument goes beyond diet, I have no patience for it.

Moderation is a recipe for mediocrity

You’ve heard it a million times, applied to diet, exercise, and pretty much anything else:

Everything in moderation.

I think that’s the worst advice ever.  If we listened to that, we’d all be the same boring person.

Most of you don’t eat meat in moderation.  Instead, you don’t eat it at all.  Why?  Because you’re passionate about it.  You believe that it’s either terribly unhealthy or very wrong.  Because you care about one of these things, you don’t eat meat, ever.

If you’re not vegetarian, it’s something else.  Maybe it’s running.  I know that if I had run in moderation, I sure as hell would have never qualified for Boston.  Running is not something that came naturally to me, at all.  But when I signed up this morning to run Boston next year, it sure felt good to know that all those hours on the track and the refusal to miss a workout were worth it.  (If you’re planning to run Boston in 2011, by the way, you had better get over there and sign up.)

Michael Phelps didn’t win eight gold medals in one Olympics by practicing swimming in moderation.  He does multiple workouts every day, at the expense, I’m sure, of other interests and even relationships.  But swimming is more important than these other things to him, and that’s why he’s the best at it.

My friend Robert Cheeke doesn’t practice moderation when he tours the country to reach as many people as he can as an advocate for veganism and health.  Karol Gajda wouldn’t be Ridiculously Extraordinary if he traveled in moderation or practiced minimalism in moderation.  “Own 500 things” just doesn’t have the same power to inspire that 100 or 50 or fewer does.

When people tell you to practice moderation, it’s because they like the status quo

I learned this from Tony Robbins, and I didn’t believe it at first.  But looking back, I realize that anytime someone told me to take it easy with a certain interest that I was spending all my time on, whether it was playing drums in high school, gambling and lifting weights in college, and more recently, running like a madman or experimenting with diets that seem excessive, it was because they didn’t want me to change.

They liked me the way I was, and change was threatening to them in some way.  It wasn’t for my own good they did it, but for theirs.

I’m not saying people are wrong for this.  I probably do it to my friends too.  But it’s what happens, and I’m glad that I’m aware of it now.

If you’ve practiced moderation all your life, starting practicing moderation in moderation.  For a while, go batshit crazy with whatever you’re passionate about at the moment.  Ignore anyone who tells you to chill out.  See how that treats you.  I can’t imagine being happy any other way.

(There is, of course, one good kind of moderation…the kind I do in the NMA forums!  Get in there and join the conversation if you haven’t yet.)

Congrats to Baltimore Running Festival finishers!

Just a quick shout out to a few friends who I got to see at the Baltimore Running Festival this weekend.  Congratulations to Pete, who ran his first half, his brother Matt, Joe, and other NMA readers who said they’d be there but that I didn’t get a chance to see.

I was planning to run part of the relay in place of my cousin, who got injured, but I woke up puking on Thursday and didn’t eat for two days, so I figured running would be a be a bad idea.  Fortunately, my wife, Erin, filled in for me and did a great job on such short notice.  Thanks, E! 🙂



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  1. I ran the half marathon part of the Baltimore Running Festival and it was so great to see people in “No Meat Athlete” shirts right when I was finishing running around Lake Montebello. I was starting to fade a bit at that point, but seeing them definitely help pump me up!

    • Alexandra, I think that might have been my wife’s sister and her husband. They were there; I’m not sure if there were wearing NMA shirts. That’s when I started to fade, big time, when I did the marathon two years ago. I even walked a little bit around the lake.

    • I went through the same thing! It took forever to get around that lake, and it was great seeing some NMA shirts at the end of it, helped me dig out a little more when I was starting to feel really tired.

  2. Interesting post. This reminds me of the “my life is so balanced” hoax that has been sweeping the healthy living blogosphere (and driving me crazy!) since the great MC article.

    • Lily, when you call it the “great” MC article, is that great as in “really good,” or “really big deal”? Speaking of that, if you look at my About page, there’s a link to an interview I did with Katie, the author of the Marie Claire article. In it, she asked if I thought that all these bloggers without credentials giving health advice was dangerous. She was preparing for that article a year in advance!

  3. ^ Lily, why do you call it a hoax? Not trying to provoke an argument or anything, just curious why you referred to the various MC “rebuttals” as such.

    More so on topic, I don’t think I’d have it in me to argue with somebody who thinks that eating meat is the “right thing” to do. I just don’t know if it’s worth the energy. Let them be. What do y’all think? Do you ever argue in favour of your lifestyle?

    • Good question, Marina. I really don’t like arguing about vegetarianism. It’s like arguing about religion. Everybody just strengthens their own convictions during the arguement, you know? I’d rather just try to be a good example and let people decide to do whatever they want. But you know what? I’m glad that there are some very passionate people who do argue for our side.

      • I argue for veganism quite often and it’s very effective.

        Oftentimes people believe myths and “facts” about meat and the lack thereof that are simply untrue, and they learn a lot by bringing it up.

        I had about a million vegan potlucks (they were weekly) and we had as many as 15 non-vegetarians in attendance that didn’t ever plan on going vegetarian or vegan, just hanging out and trying something new. Occasionally there were discussions, debates, etc. with the attendees inside and outside of the potlucks that helped lead at least 5 to become vegetarian and/or vegan.

        To argue doesn’t have to be hostile; you just take your position and go from there. You can learn a lot and you can teach a lot through a healthy debate.
        (: And you can walk away with a veg*n friend you didn’t know that you had.

        • I agree with you Ashley, I think there’s a difference between educating people in a non-hostile way, and actually arguing with people. I am not a vegetarian, but I am always respectful of everyone’s food choices. 🙂

  4. I was also at the Baltimore Running Festival doing the Half, and cheered wildly for anyone wearing an NMA shirt. I didn’t have mine on …. need a larger size (oops! not enough moderation with ice cream this summer!) I personally don’t argue with anyone about my lifestyle. I set my marker where it feels right for me and let everyone else do the same. Besides, if I argue for vegetarianism I don’t feel like someone pointing out that I wear leather shoes. Most don’t buy it when I tell them my shoe cow died of natural causes.

  5. I’m not sure what argument to make for or against moderation but I do believe that people need to own their decisions. Whether or not they eat meat, whether or not they run, etc. people must be satisfied that what they are doing is right for *them* but not necesarily think that everyone needs to think/act/eat the exact same way.

    Just my 2 cents…

  6. Just wanted to point out, some people (like me) don’t eat meat because they just don’t like it.

    I love my turf-free diet (still eat seafood) because I feel healthier and I do love the environment aspect. But the truth is, if I liked the taste and texture of meat, I would eat it.

    There are many great reasons for veggie lifestyles.

    • Lindsay, you’re right. I actually thought of writing that but decided not to write it, b/c I figured it would apply to only very few people. I guess we found one!

    • I guess I’m in the same boat. I never really have liked meat; it was just sort of “there” in the things I ate until I learned about vegetarianism and cut it all out 6 years ago.

      However, I’m really struggling transitioning into veganism. This is where my personal moderation goes out the window. I feel great and I want to keep it up, but it certainly doesn’t feel natural as far as my daily habits. If it were left up to moderation, I would probably never make the switch, but just a few weeks off dairy, and I can feel a serious difference.

  7. “Life is an unending stream of extenuating circumstances. It’s easier to do something 100% of the time than 98% of the time.”

  8. Even being the intuitive eating girl, I say here here to this. Saying everything in moderation makes me want to claw out my eyes about as much as “It’s all about balance”.

  9. Awesome post. I do give that woman credit, but you are very right, it is much more than an issue of moderation and not eating meat. And I really here what you are saying with the moderation and fitness. I had a time in my life where I needed to use some moderation with my gym habits (excessive and not well-balanced) but I am not at a point where “moderate” (the recommended 30 minutes a day) fitness is not producing the results that I want for myself. The big goals in our lives require a bit more than moderate effort. Can’t wait to cheer you on in Boston in the spring!

  10. thought-provoking post. and i absolutely agree! honestly, i think moderation across the board is for people who are lazy, uninspired and afraid to go against the grain.

    i you love something (ie running), go at it whole hog! you won’t achieve extraordinary success by limiting how much time and effort you put into this activity.

    if you rationalize that an unhealthy food (ie processed sugar) is fine in moderation, you’re just trying to justify bad habits. if you really enjoy a pop or a bag of chips, that’s fine- but be honest with yourself that eating junk food in any quantity is not benign.

  11. “Everything in moderation” is an expression that works best as an excuse, disguised as an explanation.

    I totally agree with you: it’s terrible advice.

  12. I love the expression “batshit crazy” 🙂

    I do think the term moderation gets used to mean “maintain the status quo”. However some philosophy I’ve read (particularly aristotle’s ethics) seem to refer to doing things to the optimum amount i.e. whatever amount creates the most happiness in your life, not just in the moment but overall.

    So I think the expression “everything in moderation” started out life meaning don’t overdo or underdo something. This is fine as long as it’s a “rational” individual deciding for themselves. But when it becomes “don’t do anything too different” … that’s definitely a bad thing.

  13. This post is awesome. Exactly my thoughts. That phrase gets so abused, it’s ridiculous. Especially in my religious community where we are supposed to be faithful and happy to make sacrifices for God.

    My husband (RJ) eats meat in moderation but only because we don’t eat it at home, so he enjoys some occasionally when we eat with friends, etc. And you better believe he feels crappy when he does! lol

  14. Great interpretation, I’d have to say I agree.

  15. Interesting article for me at this time. Balance isn’t about hyperbole for me. I am trying to find more balance right now but that’s because I suck at the moderation thing. All I was doing for awhile was running. That’s it. No weights, no yoga, nothing else. I have limited time to work out and I was on a running kick. And then I lifted some weights and did some yoga and realized I had lost a lot of strength and flexibility. I find I need to force that moderation in order to achieve the fitness results I want. I realized how much I truly love running (after doubting it for a little while) but now I need to stop the bat shit crazy about running, and start the bat shit crazy about yoga-weights-running. Does that even make sense?

  16. Love this post!! I’ve always felt that “everything in moderation” is a huge cop-out, used to gloss over anything one isn’t proud of. I could go on and on about this topic but you stated it so well. Just like you and Christie were discussing above “it’s all about balance” is another phrase guaranteed to make for a boring blog and a boring life.

  17. My motto has always been “every in moderation, including moderation!” 😉

  18. I LOVE this post! Madly, and utterly without moderation 🙂

    I have never been good at the moderation thing myself. I either don’t do something or I throw myself into it. It’s worked really well for me, actually.

    Regarding food, I’ve always disliked “everything in moderation”. If you know something is bad for you (the example of pop is a good one) or against your ethics (in my case, meat and other animal products) then why introduce it into your body at all?

    There is no food so utterly wonderful that, with a little practice, we can’t happily live without it. I don’t believe in compromises in certain areas, for the very reasons you outlined…

  19. Loved this post! I’ve always wondered what the excitement was about ‘moderation’.. it’s much more fun to overdo it with something you’re passionate about

  20. I love your quote — “Moderation is a recipe for mediocrity”

  21. Wow, great post. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve said myself (even on my blog) things are okay in moderation. I however don’t really do well with moderation in all honesty. That is why I went the direction of raw foods. Now that I’m not eating as high-raw I do have a hard time being consistent in some my healthy eating habits. I know for me, going to an extreme works best for me. I did well with coffee in moderation for a while, but only after being off it totally for almost a year. It was a slippery slop downhill though, I’m back to having it almost daily now.

    Your post definitely caused me to pause and think I bit this evening!

    • i’m the same with you, in regard to being raw. “everything in moderation” was such a slippery slope for me and would always give way to “binge and feel physically and emotionally shell-shocked”.

      it may seem counter-intuitive, but i feel happiest and most balanced when practicing 100% adherence to what a lot of people consider total diet extremism.

  22. When I read your post last night I wasn’t going to comment, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it so I had to come back. While “moderation is a recipe for mediocracy” may apply to some situations, I don’t think you can use it in such a general, wide-sweeping way. When it comes to eating, I am 100% gung-ho about putting foods into my body that are going to result in longevity and a disease-free life. I am not moderate in my passion for this. I do, however, think it is wise to eat some foods in moderation. Nuts, for example, have an excellent nutritional profile. Most people do best eating nuts in moderation because they are so calorie-dense. Going overboard with eating nuts could cause problems for some people. Just an example to show you where I’m coming from. There are endless examples of foods that could fit into this category. Agree?

  23. I absolutely LOVE this post. Could not agree with you more. I am so tired of being told to “calm down” by people who are too scared to do anything challenging themselves. You said it much better than I ever could.

  24. Great post! I find that I have to say “everything in moderation” because people are offended by true information about things that impact their health. If you throw in the “everything in moderation” line, everyone relaxes. It’s like all those other things we tell ourselves and others to stave off guilt: “I text only at red lights”, “formula feeding is just fine”, “I don’t eat that much cheese, cake, french fries”, etc. Let’s all take responsibility and admit and accept that what we’re doing isn’t the best for us (or our families or the world). It’s tiring trying to sugarcoat to make people feel less guilty.

    Again, thank you for writing this!

  25. I never argue my lifestyle. I’ve never once seen anything good come of it because it’s human nature to argue. I used to be right into debating but all it does is anger everyone and that’s not worth my energy/stress/time.

    If you find it positive, go for it. I just don’t see the point anymore.

  26. Josh Blacker says:

    Isn’t vegetarianism a moderation of sorts. When compared to veganism? Discuss.

  27. Rundad4two says:

    Excellent post on moderation.I hope this person at the potluck dinner does not deter your appearance at future events. We have had such a great turn out lately, that the dinners will now be held in a new location, so we can also begin to invite some guest speakers! Of course, you would be on that list. I hope you received an email from Jill, if not let me know and I’ll send it to you.

  28. I loved this post! I always feel like such a weirdo for getting completely caught up in whatever I happen to be “obsessed” with at the time. But I never regret my excitement! I always learn something new and have a lot of fun in the process!

  29. Truthfully, I hear everything in moderation, mostly right after people say they ate something they wished they hadn’t.

    I think balance is overused and misunderstood.

    It doesn’t mean that you do a bit of everything, it means you make time to do what you love and you make time to do what you have to. If that means you run 50 miles in a week and still have time for work and family, that’s balance for some.

    • I agree! I am training for an Ironman, so my exercise wouldn’t be considered “moderate” by most peoples’ standards. However, I still consider myself to have a balanced life (I’m getting my Ph.D., have friends, make time for family, etc). It’s all about the individual’s perspective on moderation.

      • I thinks somewhere in the training info for Ironman is says, “this is the exact opposite of moderation” BUT you’re entirely right, if we just don’t have time for tv or hours online and opt to train, there’s a lot of time in a day.

  30. What a refreshing read! I agree with your point. A professor once said to me that she was wary of any view that saw things as black and white. “Everything in moderation” is a very extreme statement when you think about it. Everything is all-inclusive! Moderation might be good when it comes to things like drinking, but not good it comes to our commitments and convictions. I think intelligent people practice this discernment constantly.

  31. Hmm, a very interesting post indeed. Just the other day, I was reading Joe Friel’s bog (author of Cyclist’s Training Bible and the Triathlete’s Training Bible) and he actually advocates NOT finding your physical limits during training. He recommends MODERATION in training, arguing that moderation in training leads to consistency in training, and consistency over the years leads to success.

    I used to think that moderation leads to mediocrity, that it’s better to be wildly passionate and throw yourself into your sport, let it utterly consume you, and you’ll be successful that all the cold-footed, “moderated” mediocre people… But i burned out after a year of overtraining, and haven’t trained since February. So while I agree that “moderation” in meat is bullshit (should we eat poison in moderation too, if everything can be taken in moderation?) I’d have to argue that moderation in other aspects is actually good for us (e.g athletes) in the long run.

    How long can one keep burning oneself out anyway? Sustained all-out, hard-core training and living on the edge is not possible for years and years. It’s about training hard versus training smart, and I think for Michael Phelps, perhaps his training is insane to people like us, but it’s in moderation for him, or else his mind and body would have been burned out by now, no?

    Any thoughts? 🙂

  32. Hello everyone:) To answer some earlier responses, my husband (Joel) and I were the NMA cheering crew at Lake Montebello! For those who don’t know, I am Matt’s sister-in-law. While we are not vegetarians, we can say that we have learned a great deal from Matt’s blog. We are happy to whole heartedly support the NMA’s in our family and even those we don’t know!! Since cheering for Erin in her first marathon (Chicago, 2003), I learned how important (and fun!!) it is to cheer for runners. We had several friends participating in the full, half, and relay. It is so fun to support them and it is equally enjoyable/important to do the same for everyone. I am so happy to hear that our encouragement was a help to some of you. Keep an eye out for us at the Marine Corp Marathon on 10/31 as we cheer for Matt, my brother, and all the other runners!!

  33. Bobby LeClaire says:

    moderation is for the weak

  34. Yeah, I don’t know how I feel about the moderation argument either. Until recently I didn’t have a problem with it but that was before my father-in-law told me that high fructose corn syrup was ‘fine in moderation’ and I realized people use it as an excuse to get away with what they want. He feels okay with drinking multiple sodas per day.

    I do like the moderation argument for things like fats. They’re very good for you but probably shouldn’t be the sole aspect of your diet.

    I like taking a stance for what I believe in. I’m not a meat eater because meat doesn’t work for me….in moderation, or otherwise. I am allergic to dairy so that’s out the door and I cut out gluten to see if it would help my eczema. I am sure gluten ‘in moderation’ isn’t killer for me but not having it at all is better.

    • Oh moderation and high fructose corn syrup… I love that one. My parents are starting to wake up from this one specificly. “How can we have this junk in moderation when it’s in everything!” Go mom!

      When did moderation become a term to cover up their lack of clear judgement?

  35. I respectfully disagree…

    Everybody needs/wants/desires different amounts of different things in their different lives. What may be a moderate amount of one thing to one person, may be a ridiculous excess to someone else, while another individual could feel completely deprived. Staying true to what moderation is to YOU is what keeps you balances physically and more important mentally.

  36. I’m having a hard time thinking that food and what you choose to eat has to be such a black and white issue for all people. I commend those that have dedicated each and every food choice to model their beliefs. I however feel that much more ground towards the environmental, animal welfare, etc causes can be gained if we don’t force people into such restrictive boxes. I rather have many people chose moderation or chose a lifestyle where they reduce their meat consumption by 50% (for example), than those that feel so pressured to make a choice and do nothing. Small choices spread among a lot of people will make a big impact. And it will contribute to the positive impact that is made by the dedicated vegetarians/vegans. I think having the option to make small changes will get more people on board and I bet will get these people to make bigger changes in the future. And they may even grow to commit to a plant-based diet in the future. That small change among many people will add up and make a large difference.

    As I’ve heard Jonathan safran foer explain, food is one of the areas where we try to define people into an absolute, all-or-nothing box. And it doesn’t have to happen that way. These boxes don’t work in many other aspects of life and I don’t think it works for food. I’d rather people be educated.

    Overall, I think this post and these comments are really judgmental. I’m hoping to just show another perspective. I don’t think it’s cool to call other people or their choices weak or mediocre. I think we all are fighting for the same thing here, but this approach just seems to exclude people that could join the fight.

    (And the comment about moderation is for the weak…I think one that can truly exercise moderation is strong. I love sweets and sometimes it’s an all or nothing situation for me. So I exercise a rule that sometimes I have to avoid them at all costs to eliminate cravings. I think one that can exercise moderation and enjoy them from time to time is much stronger. To enjoy and not be tempted to overindulge feels stronger to me.)

  37. Moderation, as a concept, is insubstantial enough to create a problematic slippery slope. That is, one tends to define moderate as the amount they like. That, to them, seems appropriate, and thus moderate. In fact, moderate refers to a small amount — as in, less than you would likely prefer. If, say, I would like to eat meat twice a day, true moderation might be twice a week. Thus I think it is people’s tendency towards self affirmation that makes moderation a difficult concept to invoke.

  38. “everything in moderation” from a meat eating runner is different than “everything in moderation” from a typical sedentary American.
    The typical sedentary American is basically throwing up a lazy argument. The meat eating runner IS practicing moderation because they can’t chow down on horrible foods if they are going to run a 1/2 full marathon or longer race.
    I know many ‘carnivores’ who do eat better now that they are runners because they are forced to! Eating the crud that they did before, just doesn’t work that way when they are training.
    I’m not ashamed to think that going veg or vegan and running is the best way to go. We’d all be better off if we got off our butts and ate lower on the food chain.
    I’m not moderate about this!


  39. brent patterson says:

    I don’t like the basis for your argument. You use this woman as an expert on non vegetarian eating and point to her saying that meat is ok in moderation as the starting point for your rant. (i thought this post was a little rantish, and I only use the word because it is out of the norm for you.) I thought your assumption that she does not practice moderation when eating meat was a poor choice in beginning your argument. You have plenty of good information on your side and don’t need to resort to those tactics. If she had said “Meat is ok in small amounts”, would that have changed anything? In making this contrast between passion and moderation I wonder if you thought about your recent vegan month and the times you “cheated” (maybe not the best word). I agree with what you say about moderation being a slippery slope but is it an issue if it remains true moderation without entering into excess? Love the site, keep it up, thanks for all the work.
    p.s. I will continue to drink craft beers ” in moderation”. I have the passion for running and health to keep it that way!!

    • Brent, I’m interested in your comment but I’m not totally clear on some of the points. Maybe you can clarify them? Like the part about the difference between what she said and if she had said “Meat is ok in small amounts”?

      Regarding the woman as an expert, it really wasn’t my intention to portray her as one. In fact, she seemed very much the opposite. Not because she disagreed with vegetarians, but because she really didn’t have any facts or arguments to use other than anecdotal things like pointing to the fact that some people’s parents lived a long time and they ate meat. I mentioned this woman just as part of a story to lead into moderation; I really didn’t mean for her to be central to the argument. In hindsight, I think that might have caused more confusion than it was worth.

      Good point about the times on my vegan month when I either ate dairy or didn’t ask. If veganism were my passion, I’d agree that that would be selling myself short and being too willing to accept moderation and mediocrity in the endeavor. But veganism isn’t my passion; it was something I was trying for a month to see how I liked it.

      Thanks for a good, thoughtful disagreement, and for reading NMA.

  40. This is insane. I don’t pound 2 bags of twizzlers because I have a sweet tooth every night. I have a pack once in a while… moderation. Sometimes I really wanna have beer after work, and I do, but I’ll stop at 2 and save it for the weekend. That is moderation.

    You sound like an idiot.

    • Greg, I get the Twizzler thing. To me, that’s how moderation should work. I do the same thing with stuff like that, and the reason I think it works is because I really don’t even want candy any more often than that. It’s easy to moderate because Twizzlers don’t even sound good every day or even every week.

      The beer thing illustrates a good point though. If you drink 2 beers on some weeknights (for the sake of the argument, I’d like to know how often), and then presumably as much or more on weekends, it sounds like what you call moderation is more for beer than it is for Twizzlers. I’d guess that for you beer is something you like more than Twizzlers (it is for me too).

      As a result, if I’m not careful I slowly shift to drinking a beer or two every weeknight, and then 2 or 3 on weekend nights. And yet it’s easy to still view it as moderation, until one day it hits me how much more that is than is healthy for me.

      That’s all I’m saying about moderation as it applies to diet, that it’s easy to adapt it to be whatever you want.

  41. I like moderation. Moderation allows me a broad pallatte in life experience. I can do many things with mediocracy because I am not doing one thing really well. (-:

    I sense you are saying be moderate with my moderation, which by Anthony Robbin’s theory means you may find moderation a threat to your staus quo. Oh dear, this is getting confusing.

    Well, to each his own.

  42. Melissa Fisher says:

    Dude, you rock! Just that simple….you rock! Oh, and thanks for using the phrase “batshit crazy” it’s one of my favorites 🙂

  43. I stumbled upon this article and in the past 2 days I’ve read most of the articles on this site- I love it, how inspiring! Thanks for this article in particular though- my friends and family are always cautioning me to make “reasonable goals”, whereas I tend to go to extremes in whatever it is that I am doing. It’s always kind of disheartening and has made me wary to tell anyone when I am going for something really big, like training for a marathon. This article has helped me realize that there’s no shame in going for something extraordinary- and that in itself will help me to achieve my goals. Thanks Matt!

  44. Great post and interesting topic. Thanks!!
    I agree that moderation is a cop-out and a crutch for most. It seems that what is truly important to our health and happiness is to be ourselves and to stay true to our core values and beliefs.

    Jeff Golfman
    The Cool Vegetarian

  45. Bravo, Matt. I literally have nothing to add except thank you.

  46. The “everything in moderation” phrase is what keeps a lot of people eating meat, you’re right. I am tired of it, and it’s thrown around in my family way too much. Would they do cocaine in moderation? Nope. So lay off the meat completely.

  47. the Dalai Lama said, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

  48. Wow, great article. I couldn’t agree with you more. I work with loads of carnivores who complain daily about their weight, their life, and food in general. When I announced I was going vegan they all cringed, said that meat is perfectly healthy (insert laugh here) and pretty much thought I was crazy. Everything is fine in moderation they say, yea well I disagree. I once read in a health book that “moderation kills. You wouldn’t do cocaine or arsenic in moderation.” I couldn’t agree more. People are disillusioned with this whole moderation nonsense. Thanks for the great read 🙂

  49. Stacey E says:

    If I may semi-quote Adam Carolla, the reason people like that woman are so evangelical about their position is because they’re trying to convince themselves as well as you. She doesn’t really believe the crap she’s spewing, but she desperately hopes you will. I think it’s sad that we have to put up with people like her.
    I never preach about my moral decision to stop eating meat, yet have encountered idiots like her that have decided to take up her sort of arguement just to try belittling others. It’s no different than bullies from school who constantly attack you, because they don’t have an intelligent way to interact with you.
    She deserves pity and scorn. Sorry, but it’s true.

  50. On the topic of “extreme” diets, I heard a very interesting statement in the documentary “Forks Over Knives.” I think you’ll like it. The commentary was on the irony in how so many regard vegetarianism and veganism as “extreme,” in comparison to the typical Western diet, which is supposed to be “what normal people eat.”

    Proper vegetarian/vegan dietary habits promote such great health, I don’t even know where to begin. (And I say “proper” because one can just as easily be vegetarian or vegan and eat nothing but junk food, so long as it doesn’t have animal ingredients.)

    The typical Western diet promotes obesity, diabetes, hepatic sclerosis, atherosclerosis, hypertension, coronary artery disease, thrombi, stroke, heart attack, depression, the list goes on.

    To combat the illnesses caused by a lifetime of such dietary habits, one can adopt an “extreme” plant-based diet and see and feel the effects as their body responds by healing.

    OR, one can undergo extensive and invasive surgeries, such as cutting open the chest to expose the heart; driving a tube up through the groin all the way to the heart to clear out plaque; and taking a wide assortment of pharmaceuticals that not only cost a ridiculous amount of money, but also tend to have side effects that can sometimes be worse than the conditions they’re supposed to treat.

    So, how is it that the plant-based diet is “extreme” and the other path is “normal” and perfectly ok? To be expected as a part of life, even?

  51. WOW! thats the greatest phrase ever coined “Moderation is a recipe for mediocrity” I hope its yours, All in or all out!

  52. Looks like Karol is done with Ridiculously Extraordinary. Good stuff at that site still, but his new site is:

  53. Great Article, I probably have read it before, but it really hit home today. You’re so right, greatness is not synonymous with moderation in being the best you can be and contributing to this world. Anyways, thanks for the article! I love re-reading your blog posts from time to time, they always hit home at some point!

  54. Well, what the real phrase says is: Everything in moderation, including moderation. Which is to say, sometimes, nothing in moderation. But I do get your point because somethings have to be all or nothing. The things we really want, we have a hard time “moderating”. We like to call things “moderate” so that it fits in with our definition of what’s acceptable. That’s why we have the so-called experts give recommendations (on sugar, on what the definition of binge drinking is, on a serving of meat). But that definition does not apply if the person doesn’t want it to in their self-created reality.

  55. More truth in this article than anything I’ve ever read. Thanks.

  56. To accuse everyone who takes or advocates a moderate approach to any aspect of life of “copping-out” seems incredibly presumptuous to me. Some people may really want to become exceptional in some way and use a philosophy of moderation as an excuse to avoid putting in the work, sure. But plenty of other people don’t want to be particularly exceptional, at least not in ways that matter to you. Or they might find that physiological limitations require that they take a moderate approach to diet/exercise/whatever to avoid becoming injured or ill (including mental illness brought on by getting sucked into the all-or-nothing thought trap).

    I, for one, don’t aspire to be a world-class athlete, to live only with what could fit in a backpack, to change the hearts and minds of thousands, or anything of that nature. I just want to be healthy, content, and a positive part of my community. Taking a moderate attitude to acquiring and practicing the habits needed to reach and maintain those goals keeps me from getting overwhelmed and burned out, and from wasting my time and energy on things that won’t matter to me or anybody else in 5 years. Does that make me mediocre and “weak” (as a commenter stated)? If so, I’m okay with that . If being considered mediocre and weak is the cost of making steady progress toward my goals while maintaining the stable framework of my life (which I find necessary for making any progress at all), I’m okay with that. It’s what works for me.

    And sure, sometimes people do tell others to be moderate when they really mean “don’t change.” Sometimes change, especially when it’s driven by irrational “passion,” does have negative outcomes, either for the person who pursued the change or for those who have to pick up the tab and the pieces. People aren’t necessarily going to value others’ singular passions, and may resent, fear, or simply not be able to handle the emotional, financial, or logistical burden placed on them by having to deal with a person whose only focus is on being exceptional at something, regardless of the costs. Their time, interests, and feelings are valuable too.

  57. Thanks for this article, I only wish I read this a few years ago. I agree and never thought of this in that way. So many people that I know say the same thing “in moderation”. I even found myself convincing myself and friends. My mother says this all the time. But then she buys a huge box of donuts and so far has been eating 1 everyday, convincing herself she is eating in moderation. I cringe as I watch her destroy herself and can’t do anything about it (not just with a box of donuts). Thank goodness I’m vegan otherwise I will probably be eating those donuts too… What about the vegetarian who eats shrimp in moderation but still calls themselves vegetarian, a bit little different but that is one of my pet-peeves. I eat bread and exercising in moderation the bread every other day (possibly everyday) and excercising 2-5x a month. This is a bad habit that we created for ourselves and today I realized “in moderation” is a lie. Best

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