If I had 10 cents for every time I’ve heard “everything in moderation”… Actually, it’s more like if I had 10 cents for each time I’ve said it (read: I’m broke). Unlike most dietitians, I don’t advocate moderation because I don’t think it’s the right thing for everyone.
As Gretchen Rubin has noted, there are 2 kinds of people when it comes to behaviour: moderators and abstainers. Moderators find it easy to have 1 square of chocolate whenever they feel like it; abstainers demolish the whole bar if it’s within reach. Needless to say, the strategies that work for each type of person are different.
I’m an abstainer and that’s why I find it easier to create rules for myself and stick to them. I now understand that I can’t ask everyone to do the same, but I can suggest people like me to try using similar strategies.
Craig Ballantyne, whose work on the fitness industry has helped me in the past, also works in the world of habits. I’ve heard him say many times that rules make life easier because you become a person who behaves a certain way all the time, which avoids wasting time fighting against oneself. I agree with this principle, but would add that it only works if you are the kind of person who can stick to rules (typically abstainers, in Gretchen Rubin’s terms).
The other problem with moderation, in my opinion, is that there is no definition or limitations as to what constitutes moderation. From what I’ve seen, people who advocate for moderation normally consume a lot more of crap than what I would consider a moderate amount. Moderation becomes an excuse to overdose on things that they know they shouldn’t be having. I think that it’s helpful to record what you eat in a day (or a few) to have a clear picture of your diet. You might find that what you call moderation looks a lot more like excess.
Final rant: nutritional guidelines typically do not reflect “everything in moderation”. This and other mixed messages are, in my opinion, why there is so much confusion in the topic of nutrition.