Credit: © iStockphoto

Despite its broad scope, the old adage, “everything in moderation” doesn’t apply to all situations. For instance, poison in moderation probably isn’t a good idea. Or jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. But turns out that “everything in moderation” might not be good advice when it comes to eating either. In fact, shooting for “moderation” might actually be causing people to eat more.

A new study from researchers at the University of Georgia and Duke University posed the question “How do people define moderation?” Interestingly, the answer seems to be, however the hell they want. In three separate experiments, a majority of the subjects repeatedly chose moderation to mean more than what’s recommended – essentially defining “moderate” eating as more than “proper” eating.

In the first experiment, over 67 percent of people defined a moderate amount of chocolate chip cookies as more than they thought they “should” consume when asked to definite the two terms. Only about 9 percent said a moderate amount was less than what they defined as what they “should” eat.

As if that isn’t bad enough, in a second experiment, researchers found that people who like gummy candies defined “moderation” as being higher than those who didn’t like the gummies, showing that people may typically raise their levels of moderation to fit their preferences. A similar result happened in the third experiment where people who enjoyed sodas, alcohol, ice cream and fast food all set higher levels of “moderation” than those who didn’t eat as much from those categories.

“[The] results suggest that the endorsement of moderation messages allows for a wide range of interpretations of moderate consumption,” the study said. “Thus, we conclude that moderation messages are unlikely to be effective messages for helping people maintain or lose weight.”