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Appetite. 2016 Jun 1;101:156-62. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2016.03.010. Epub 2016 Mar 8.

How do people define moderation?

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Department of Psychology, University of Georgia, USA. Electronic address:
Department of Psychology & Neuroscience, Duke University, USA.
Department of Psychology, University of Georgia, USA.


Eating in moderation is considered to be sound and practical advice for weight maintenance or prevention of weight gain. However, the concept of moderation is ambiguous, and the effect of moderation messages on consumption has yet to be empirically examined. The present manuscript examines how people define moderate consumption. We expected that people would define moderate consumption in ways that justified their current or desired consumption rather than view moderation as an objective standard. In Studies 1 and 2, moderate consumption was perceived to involve greater quantities of an unhealthy food (chocolate chip cookies, gummy candies) than perceptions of how much one should consume. In Study 3, participants generally perceived themselves to eat in moderation and defined moderate consumption as greater than their personal consumption. Furthermore, definitions of moderate consumption were related to personal consumption behaviors. Results suggest that the endorsement of moderation messages allows for a wide range of interpretations of moderate consumption. Thus, we conclude that moderation messages are unlikely to be effective messages for helping people maintain or lose weight.


Consumption; Eating; Moderation; Self-control

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