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Why “Moderation” is a Poo Emoji

This morning on the trainer, I was listening to Rich Roll’s episode with Andrew Taylor…and this Andrew guy is interesting because he’s known as the “Potato Man.”

Basically, Taylor was 300 pounds and decided that he’d had enough… So he committed to eating NOTHING BUT POTATOES for a year.

“Okay, so that’s a little weird.” (Or is it revolutionary??)

I listened with fascination to the podcast.

And while I won’t be promoting Swim Bike Potatoes Only anytime soon, I was REALLY impressed by much of his line of thinking, especially with regard to addiction–food and any addiction.

I love Rich Roll’s podcast, in general. (For those of you who don’t know Rich Roll, you might as well. He’s a fascinating guy in his own right, but his big highlights are: being a raging lawyer alcoholic, going into recovery, then still not getting it “right” – so he turns to plant-based power and Ultra-racing. He eats no animal products (insane!!), and he runs for MILES and MILES (crazy! Oh my lawd!). Roll is the epitome of the Experience Life Magazine / LifeTime Fitness’ tagline— being healthy is a revolutionary act.

That’s the world we live in, though. Where healthy is a revolution!

I mean a lot of us ARE very healthy in this triathlon and fitness world. But in the “outside” world, sometimes being “healthy” is “weird.”  Truly a “revolutionary act”. Being a triathlete or a runner (God forbid an ultra-runner!)  is CRAZY… But being “fat sick and nearly dead” is fine?  (That quote taken from the documentary: “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.”)

So this Potato Man took his health into his own hands, because he was out of control with food. When he took out the options, he was able to get control.


For a long time, people have been shoving something down my face that has never worked for me.
Something in the horrific “dieting” industry that has been  massive source of my constant, life-long struggle with my weight.

And it’s this word: MODERATION

My dear sweet grandmother, rest her soul, used to say: “Just give me a small piece of cake” at every birthday. I would look at her. She would eat it. And that was that.


I was like, “Um. Give me a small cake.”

“A piece?”

“Um, no. The whole cake. A small CAKE, yes. But the whole small CAKE, please.”

And on it went.


Then in my twenties as I entered the world of full-throttle alcohol addiction, which followed up a childhood of food addiction and disordered eating and next, a very disordered teenage decade competing in a sport built around weight classes, and how to lose 10 pounds in days…

Well, I was a mess waiting to happen. Thank God I never tried cocaine. That’s all I will say about that.

So listening to this podcast was fascinating in many areas.

Me, Rich Roll and Mr. Potato can all can agree on one thing…

MODERATION, for some of us, is bullshit.

At  least in the world of addicts.  If someone is not addicted to something, then they can moderate it.

If you are addicted, you CANNOT moderate that thing.  The very mearning of the word addict– hello, you can’t moderate.

So for someone who struggles their whole lives with particular foods, then develops an alcohol addiction, and who also smoked for ten years because her friend “thought it was fun” (ah-hem)….

Well,  you can’t tell “that person” with those  issues:
1) have a little cake,
2) have just one glass of wine; and
3) a social cigarette won’t  hurt you.

Because let me tell you what happens.
(Not that this EVER happened to me. Ever.)
BUT, hypothetically, this is what MIGHT (I would guess) COULD, possibly happen.

That person, who has been on their “good diet” for a period of forty pounds of weight loss, and has had a really good non-alcohol streak will show up to dinner with you. Because you invited them, and they have to go. Even though they are SCARED TO DEATH to eat out, because they have “been doing so good.”  The whole day, they will worry about what they can allow themselves to have at dinner… Without “blowing it”–even though one glass of wine or a little cheese wouldn’t do ANYTHING caloricly.

BUT. They know the dangers.

And here’s what could happen.

Again. TOTAL FICTIONAL account…. Ah-hem.

They will have a small taste of something that triggers them (cheese, maybe. Oh lord, cheese!)… Then pair that with wine… Then, why the hell not, something fried in cheese or cheese-BEER-battered and fried. Suddenly, the night becomes way “fun”!

And, let’s just fast forward four hours later…

Dinner is LONG over, it’s approaching midnight, and this “fictional” person is at home. In stretchy pants. With a large Papa John’s pizza half eaten, a bottle of wine down, a new one uncorked, while digging her in-process-of-swelling hands into a bag of chips, and watching the effing “Notebook,” crying about why “no one will ever love” her like that.

Not that I know anything about that.  ANYWAY.

We have been lied to. Those of us with addictions have been lied to.

The cold and ugly truth is this.

Moderation cannot be MODERATED.  You cannot MODERATE addiction.

Why there are people on this planet who are “moderation pushers,” I will never know.  I mean, no one would ever say to you, “Just a little heroin is okay. Just have it once a week.”


Because that is INSANE.

But I think that people who are capable of moderation can’t conceive of those who “can’t”.  It has nothing to do with willpower. NOTHING. I have more willpower than a million elephants against certain things; and against cheese? No. None.

I can’t MODERATE cheese or wine. Therefore, Italy is like an entire country for me to abstain from. #SoSad

Something that I have uncovered is two-fold:

1) Some people are moderators and some people are abstainers by nature.


2) Addictions cannot be moderated.

So for 1), the idea of moderators and abstainers as personality types, well, this is a whole other discussion, really. [Some people can just have a taste of something that others will go into rehab for.  (Then again, it depends on the substance, I guess. You don’t really hear of people ODing on salmon.)   Anyway. I think the moderator vs. abstainer personality analysis is just another topic for another day.]

Where I was floored was this idea of “everything in moderation” – this concept that I have been LIED to my whole life. I want to talk about the ACT of MODERATION. And that comes down to the person’s individual sensitivities, and addictions and problems.

People who have addictions, cannot moderate THOSE behaviors, items, foods or drinks that they are addicted to.

Those foods/drinks/behaviors are OFF THE TABLE to that person. Those things cannot be moderated. That person cannot have a taste, smudge, a sip, a puff, or it’s a free fall, free-for-all disaster.

Items. Off. The. Table. [And yes, like, forever.]

Is this depressing?

“What!? I can NEVER have a drink again?!?!”

[Oh you totally CAN.  But how’s THAT been working out for you this past ten years of blackouts?]

“Wait? What? I can NEVER have cheese again?!”

[Oh you totally CAN. But when it sends you into a fifteen-pound weight gaining binge frenzy that you can’t crawl out of… well, why? Why do it?]

Is it depressing to WALK AWAY from THOSE THINGS that actually physically, emotionally and psychologically harm us?

No, not if you look at the TRUTH. And once you see the TRUTH, and you CHOOSE to walk away?

Actually, it’s quite freeing.

That IS freedom.

(No one is saying it’s easy.)

But, if you can come to the place in your life where you can look at a plate of cheese, a bottle of wine, a pack of cigarettes, or whatever else – and say:
“I can’t have just one bit/sip/taste of _____”
“If I have one bite/sip/taste of ___, I am going to wake up 10 hours from now and not know how I got here”—->  then this is not a moderat-able (sp?) substance.

Once you KNOW that at truth… once you stop bargaining with yourself to be a moderator of un-moderatable behavior?

That is freedom.

If there is an addiction in your life–whatever if may be–this is something we need to push the EJECT button and get it the F out of our lives. Immediately.


On the Podcast, Taylor said this, and it slapped me across the face:

“Moderation leads to mediocrity. If you want extreme results, you should do extreme things.”

Healthy IS a revolutionary act. WOW.

In this day and age when it’s “weird” to run ultra marathons, or eat a plant-based diet (I’ll give you that it’s become more con on—-but depends on which circles you ‘run’ in, really)– but for the most part, quitting drinking (“it’s just a glass of wine!”) or eating animals is considered extreme.

Here’s the thing:

1) The moderators of the word want the abstainers to dabble in their addictive behaviors.

They don’t understand why we can’t have “a glass” of wine with them. They don’t mean it in a harmful way. They just want us to play with them.

But we can’t play with them in THAT sandbox.

Because they aren’t addicted.

If we are addicted, that means we can’t play in THAT part of the playground. And that’s that.

(We just need to go to another part of the playground with them, that’s all.)


Let’s all of us with our assorted addictions (food, booze, whatever) stop whining about what we “can’t” have, and just accept it. Some things in life aren’t fair. It’s totally not far that Suzy can drink one glass of wine and handle a piece of Brie.

It’s NOT fair.

But I’m not Suzy, no matter how hard I try.

But that’s life. And you know what? I’m Meredith, and I have other great things to do and share.

And You are You, and the same goes for You too.

2) Next, unfortunately sometimes there are people out there who simply want to see us fail.

These folks “like” when we are helpless, hungover, fat, sugared, depressed, drunk and whatever—because when we have problems, people like to hold our hands and say, “Oh it’s okay.”  When what they are really thinking is, “It’s okay that you are like this, because you confirm that I am so much better than you.”

(Okay, maybe not everyone. But those TYPES of people? They exist. And they like that you are “failing.”  Yes.)

But the truth is:  abstainers MUST abstain.  Addicts cannot dabble.

I find power in the statement: Moderation leads to mediocrity.

Do I think it’s an ultimate world truth?

Nope. I see people who can have cake, one glass of wine and socially smoke ALL the time. They are fine. They are not mediocre.

But they are made of different wires and threads than I am.

For me, “moderation leads to mediocrity” in the way of my addictions is an ultimate, fundamental belief and truth about me.

And admitting THAT was the first step in me taking charge of my own recovery. Knowing what my addictions ARE (alcohol, trigger foods, cigarettes) has allowed me to know that those things don’t get to hang out with me.

Alcohol is an absolute for me.  Never, ever can I drink again. I know, with every fiber of my being, that I cannot have “just” one drink. I haven’t done it for 37 years — so I know it’s off the table.

Food? Well, that’s tricky because we have to eat to live. But like the Potato guy, I agree on this:  when you know what you will and won’t eat, it takes the glorification of some foods away. You aren’t left yearning for the chocolate cake. You just don’t eat cake. It’s not a big thing – it’s just something you don’t do. And if you DO it, you don’t dive into the whole cake.

And if you DO dive into the cake, you know why. You tried to moderate something you can’t moderate.

Pure and simple.

Here’s what I suggest, since I have lived it.

Think of the things that are issues for you, and outline the things that you KNOW are addictions.  Decide to cut them out. It doesn’t have to be major, but what one or two things cause “destruction” for you?  Think on it, and then think about this…

  • What if those two things just didn’t exist?
  • Or what if you never had tasted/tried/known about _____?
  • Would your life be better? If you had never even known about ____?

That’s a great starting point. Scary as hell. But it’s a start, and this was the first place I came when I met myself at the alter of truth last year. Face down after a night of drinking, mind you.

But the alter of truth, comes in all types of colors, shapes, sizes and states. Especially the color of clarity.

  • WE are not bad.
  • WE are not broken.
  • WE may just have some things that don’t SERVE us.

And taking the road to figuring out what those things are, and working on exorcising them… I promise you, from one addict to the next, it’s the road to freedom. It’s a road. It’s a long and hard one, but look at the road. See where you want to go. Embrace it, and keep taking steps down it.

It’s worth every tear, every heartache along the way.

I promise you.

Love to you all,


For those of you who might be struggling with alcohol addiction (or the inability to moderate it, if that’s easier to see), then please reach out or get help, and ask for help.  The same goes for eating disorders and food addictions – although I do not have any tested resources that I am comfortable sharing at this juncture—so if some of you have any that you believe in, please post in the comments.

I’m also here if you want to chat or confess or just need someone to talk to.  And I really do mean that.


SMART and SMART Friends and Family

(*I am not a psychologist or health care provider, and am not pretending to be. Just sharing some links. Feel free to add your own that might be more helpful in the comments below.)


  • Suzanne Martin

    November 29, 2016 at 12:56 am

    Meredith, you are the bomb! You speak the truth straight from your heart and I love you for it! At first, 17 years ago I did feel I was missing out but somewhere along the way my thinking changed and I just didn’t want the drink (or cocaine-you’re right that it’s a good thing you didn’t try it!) I’m now addicted to health and fitness-is that even a thing? Hang in there, lady!!!!!

  • Rachael Pick

    November 29, 2016 at 6:15 am

    Loved reading this line by line this am with my avocado toast and lightly creamed coffee- no sugar!! It validates so many things following my SBF journey. Staring down 70.3- I’m doing something revolutionary!! Cutting out things that absolutely do not serve me. Love this mantra – abstainers unite. Thank u Meredith.

  • Kathy Bruinooge

    November 29, 2016 at 6:41 am

    This is a great read… thank you. I just asked my husband how he feels about my new way of eating, and living. He asked if I will ever eat ice cream again. I said, that as of right now no, because it’s a slippery slope. I will have him read this, and perhaps it will help him understand. He is thrilled for me and my new found health, however, he doesn’t know if I can keep it up for a really long time. I do not crave those sweets anymore. I actually lost .5 lbs over Thanksgiving weekend, and that was enjoying a beer or two. I am so happy this way, and I pray that with all the support from my SBF gals, I will keep it up. My goal is a year, to earn my tatoo!!! Thank you for your ever wise words.

  • G Zingel

    November 29, 2016 at 8:28 am

    Holy cow! I completely agree! I live with a “moderation” guy, and it works for him. He doesn’t understand, or agree, that it can’t work for me. It’s so nice to hear that others are all or nothing too. Your view of how elimination is freeing is revolutionary to me! I always feel that it’s punishment to never eat meat or drink or have sugar again. I will try to focus on the freeing aspects more, and less on the attitude of not being able to have. I appreciate your thoughts and comments so much! Thank you!

  • Angie Flynn

    November 29, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    Moderation IS total BS! For me it’s wine. I can’t have A glass of wine – hell, a lot of time I couldn’t even stop at A bottle of wine. Nope, gimme the case or nothing… LOL. That’s why on 4/16/13 I stopped drinking it. PERIOD! I can’t handle it! But then, you know what happened? I started drinking beer… And for a while 1 beer was fine, and I felt I had a grip on things, and then I started down the slippery slope where 1 became 2 became 5 and then it was a 6-pack or nothing. That’s why on 4/10/16, I stopped drinking PERIOD – I’m not willing to even tempt fate with liquor! HOLY GAWD!! And there are food things too – like potato chips… I have to measure them into a bowl or I will eat the whole bag – and I can’t eat them alone or I will refill the bowl until the bag is gone. :/ So, I rarely eat them at all. I guess in the end it comes down to what you want NOW and what you want MOST. I like how I feel sober. I like how I feel not binge eating at night and waking up feeling good and not like the chemical truck ran me over during the night. Such a great, timely post – as always. Thanks Mere.

  • DeLeslyn

    November 29, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    Were you in my kitchen last night??
    Or in my bedroom as I lay on the floor completely devastated by the carnage that was left in my kitchen after I had eaten ALL THE EMOTIONS?????
    Eating all the things. Eating all the emotions. Eating all the feelings.
    I still have a long way to go. Better than before because now I can KNOW what caused it and why it happened. Thanks, SBF!

    • Swim Bike Mom

      November 29, 2016 at 3:34 pm

      I really do think that is the FIRST STEP to all of this… no matter what our issues are… just recognition, knowing… I was lying to myself for so long. Just refusing to see it… once I just pointed to it, and said, “THAT. That makes me miserable, tired, sad, unhappy. THAT makes me run slower. THAT makes me feel YUCK.” Once I realized THAT… I was able to then look to what to do to make it better—and that may vary for everyone… hence, those who moderate and those who can’t. But… recognition. Key. <3 Love you.

  • Suzanne

    November 29, 2016 at 8:38 pm

    Whenever I read one of your posts where you mention I have a deep sense of gratitude. I’m so glad that I mentioned it during one of the early SBFs and that you include it at the top of your list. I found it myself in early 2003. Being HONEST with yourself when answering the questions is so empowering. Knowing you’re not lying when entering how much you really drink is showing yourself how much you really love yourself, even if you can’t see that you do love yourself! I wrote to Reid Hester, the fellow who started the website, some time later to thank him for creating the site. He asked me to speak with a reporter from the Wall Street Journal who was doing a story on it, so I did. I still have it in my files. I love knowing that I’ve passed on a great tool for making a huge difference in one’s life. Thank you for using your SBM megaphone to effect positive change!

  • Mary Lou White

    November 29, 2016 at 11:36 pm

    Are we related? I can sure relate to your story ( my latest “Experience Life” arrived today). Alcoholism & recovery has provided me tools for living that I may not have found if I was a moderator. For that I am grateful. The freedom from obsession to drink is a tremendous relief. At this point in my journey, I admit I’m powerless over sugar. Am I willing to let that go or do I want to hang on to the crap it provides me a while longer? Thanks for the honest sharing which helps me get into acceptance. Cookies, ice cream, whatever are NOT a treat for me. It’s the same lie booze told me. Moving forward one day at a time??

  • Michelle

    November 30, 2016 at 11:45 am

    i LOVED that podcast. I listen to Rich’s while running at least 1 or 2x a week and this one was very fascinating due to my food addicition.

  • Michelle

    December 3, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    Thank you, SBM. I needed to read this tonight. I always tell others “moderation is key” but I also know it never ever works for me….and then I feel like the worst hypocrite ever. Addiction is an ugly thing and I’m finally coming out of hiding and facing my addiction head on.

  • Cindy Dallow

    December 5, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    Hi. Sounds like you are coming from a restriction/dieting viewpoint and I’m wondering if you’ve ever tried intuitive eating. I mean REALLY tried it. Like for six month or more with a trained IT counselor. You learn to have whatever amount of food it takes for you to be fully satisfied by eating the food slowly, positively, tasting and enjoying every bite and stopping when you FEEL yourself comfortably satisfied. You do that over and over again until you are able to stop eating any food you want when you are full NOT when you think you should, or you think “this is moderation” (ugh). Then, you don’t have to eliminate any food at all. It take awhile to re-learn how to eat but intuitive eating saved me from food addiction. Now I teach it to others and it’s quite amazing. Drugs and alcohol, however, are different than food – they are DRUGS after all and are physically addicting. Food is emotionally addicting but cure isn’t to abstain from the food that tempts you but to eat it in a relaxed and focused manner. Does that make sense?

  • Lisa

    December 14, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    I listened to the potato guy as well and was just as fascinated. I am addicted to sugar and if I eat it I cannot stop. I was addicted to cigarettes up until 6 years ago also and I know if I had one cigarette I’d smoke for another 20 years before I could quit again. I think I loved cigarettes more than I love cake, and I REALLY love cake. 2016 has not been a good year food-wise and every day is a struggle to get back on track. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I can avoid the holidays this year because they represent out- of -control eating and other people pressuring me to participate. Thanks for sharing your struggles and victories, I have not found another voice out there that so clearly speaks to me.

  • steena

    March 25, 2017 at 8:55 am

    Late to the party here, but wow! Great post. I find your blog because a friend shared a different post, and then I went snooping around here. I’m a person who can’t moderate. Black and white. In or out. All or nothing. This post really puts a better perspective on that. Thank you!


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