The Common Weight-Loss Advice That Is Actually Useless

A new study shows moderation is a pretty useless concept.

When it comes to healthy-eating and weight-loss advice, the “everything in moderation” mantra gets thrown around like confetti at a New Year’s Eve party. The problem with this advice, though: Everyone’s definition of moderation is different, and, according to a new study, it’s often defined by individuals as more — not less — than what they think a person should consume. #Fail

As Science of Us reports, a new study published in the journal Appetite looked at how individuals defined moderation, finding that, for starters, the study participants’ answers didn’t make a ton of sense. Take this for example:

For the first part of the study, the authors presented volunteers with a plate of 24 chocolate-chip cookies and asked them to define three things: how many cookies they thought a person should eat at a time (on average, 2.25 cookies), how many could be considered a “moderate” amount (slightly more than three cookies), and how many would be considered an “indulgent” amount (just under six cookies). In the second part, a separate group of volunteers viewed photos of gummy candies and then answered a similar set of questions: how many candies a person should eat at a time (around eight), and what would constitute moderate (around 11) and reasonable (just over 14) amounts to eat.

You’d think that what someone should eat, what is considered moderate and what is considered reasonable would all land in the same ballpark when being defined by one person, but according to the researchers, it seems that people don’t actually think of moderation as a limiting concept. Later on in the study, people also bent their definition of moderate to account for their own eating habits. For instance, when they were asked to define what was considered moderate consumption for indulgent foods like pizza, ice cream and fast food, the more they typically ate of the food, the less strict they were with their definition of moderate.

The point: Moderation is not an easily defined term and it certainly is not a one-size-fits-all term, so suggesting someone eat everything from ice cream to bacon to almond butter in moderation doesn’t actually translate as meaningful advice. After all, one person’s definition of a moderate serving could be a couple of bites of ice cream while the next person thinks a half a pint fits the bill. Womp, womp.

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