The quite cliche piece of advice, “everything in moderation,” is something I always wished I could follow. My doctors, parents, and friends preach it. If you’re anything like me, you’ve attempted to balance your lives, as well as your eating habits, by following this mantra.

The last time I was served chocolate cake, however, the amount I ate was anything but moderate. You probably have had a similar experience a couple of times (or maybe every day). The phrase can actually cause more guilt and stress than inspire the healthy outlook we all assume it does.

In theory, moderation works. We should eat healthy, wholesome foods, while allowing ourselves to eat whatever we want at other times. As humans, we need to indulge in order to keep our sanity. While our generation as a whole is more health-conscious than our parents, we still struggle to strike a balance between discipline and indulgence.

In our culture, there’s a tension between the “treat yo self” and “fitspo” Instagram accounts. In commercials, we’re urged to order a supersized Big Mac, and then we’re graced by the presence of fit athletes, actors, and models in the commercials immediately following. 

As researcher Michelle van Dellen puts it, “the more you like a food, the more of it you think you can eat ‘in moderation.’” This is the root of our problem with moderation. We aren’t programmed to stop eating something we like – it’s human nature to keep eating after we know we’re full. And the response to going way past moderate can end in regret.

A photo posted by 🍕 #DailyPizza (@pizza) on

We shouldn't take the well-meaning advice of "eat everything in moderation" to justify eating whatever we want. We have complex expectations and desires for ourselves, and masking our habits with the word “moderation” can do more harm than good for our lives.

So take every piece of lifestyle advice in stride. Listen to your own needs rather than the misleading advice, such as "everything in moderation," because we all know that usually doesn't end well. And if you can't eat in moderation, don't worry, because I can't either.