Practice Moderation

Learning to eat no more than is appropriate and necessary is a fundamental skill, and is central to achieving your health and weight-loss goals.


Lord, please help me to master the skills of moderation and portion control in my eating. I understand the dangers of overeating and want to eat appropriate portions so that I may meet my health and appearance goals, and so that I may better fulfill your vision for me.


Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.

Proverbs 23:20–21

Failure to exercise moderation in how you eat can quickly undermine your efforts to improve your health and to lose weight.  In Proverbs, we are told not to “join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags” (Proverbs 23:20–21).

While eating too much may not lead you to poverty and rags, there are many problems associated with overeating both in the short term and long term. Overeating at an individual meal can cause real short-term problems – beyond simply the discomfort of feeling “stuffed.” Your digestive system is designed to move food efficiently from the mouth, through the stomach, and into the intestines, but can only do this well when faced with a reasonable amount of food. When your stomach is over-filled, the digestive enzymes cannot keep up, and the system gets backed up. Food then stays in the stomach much longer than intended, leading to various potential problems, including reflux, incomplete digestion, and excess gas. Poor digestion such as this also may mean that you are not getting the most nutritional value from the foods you eat.

In the long term, chronic overeating likely leads to being overweight, which in turn can lead to numerous other problems, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, increased risk of stroke, coronary artery disease (and the associated risk of heart attack), decreased self-esteem and confidence, physical discomfort, and increased risk of physical injury. There is even evidence that people who are overweight are at increased risk for several types of cancer. This is by no means a complete list of the problems associated with overeating, but it should be sufficient to convince you that it is critical to your health and weight-loss goals to heed the Bible’s directives to practice moderation and to avoid gluttony.

How many calories are appropriate for each person varies according to many factors, including gender, age, weight, fitness, activity level, and metabolism. There is no good “one size fits all” answer. You must learn what is appropriate for you by doing some research, working with your physician or a licensed nutritionist, and experimenting a bit. There is an incredible array of resources available to guide you in the medical community, in books, and on the Internet. A great place to start is the “MyPyramid” website of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which includes an easy to use tool to help you determine the appropriate caloric intake based on your personal factors.

Use these resources to determine more appropriate portion sizes, and then use the techniques listed below to reduce the amount you eat to the appropriate level. There are many more than these, but these are among the best and most reliable.

  • Study and learn appropriate portion sizes for the foods that you commonly eat. For example, three ounces of meat or chicken at a meal is often cited as an appropriate portion size. Three ounces of meat or chicken is roughly the size of a deck of playing cards. When you see a larger serving on your plate, you know you’ve got too much.
  • When you prepare a meal, put no more than the appropriate portion sizes on your plate. It may help to use a salad plate for your meal instead of a dinner plate.
  • After you prepare your plate, but before you eat, pack up and put away all extra food. This will make it less tempting to grab “just a little” more.
  • Try to eat more slowly, chewing each bite thoroughly, and pausing for a few breaths between bites.
  • If you are still hungry after you’ve finished eating the proper portions that you set out for yourself, wait at least fifteen minutes before considering whether to get more food. Use a timer or a watch and observe this interval rigorously. It is well established that the stomach does not transmit signals of fullness to the brain immediately. After waiting fifteen minutes, you may find, to your immense benefit, that you are not still hungry after all.

Recite the prayer at the top of this page frequently, ideally before each meal, until your comfort with this skill improves.

Next: Be sure that the foods you eat are healthy.