“If one oversteps the bounds of moderation, the greatest pleasures cease to please.” -Epictetus
Do you ever find a song, maybe you hear it on the radio for the first time, and then that radio station begins to play the song ALL the time? Give it a few weeks, maybe a month, maybe more, but if you’re anything like me, I guarantee you’ll begin to hate that song. Occasionally, though, I’ll hear a song that I really like, and the radio station will hardly ever play it. I enjoy that song so much more than the song I hear all the time. This is true of so many things in life. And not just in regard to our enjoyment… it is true regarding our health as well. There are very few things in which having an excess is a good thing. Unfortunately our society tends to advocate that we need everything in excess. We need the best of everything and we need lots of it. We need to super-size our meals and buy the newest generation of technology every time it comes out. We indulge in every bit of extravagance we can find. If you compare our ways of living to impoverished nations in the world, the one word I would use to describe our lifestyles is excessive. Moderation is not a concept we hear too often. In our excessive culture, it is fitting that the major diet crazes tend to revolve around excessive restriction. Don’t eat any carbs. Remove all fat from your diet. Only eat grapefruit. Can’t there be a balance? We want to find that one thing that is causing all of our health issues and take it away. Unfortunately, it may not be exclusively what we eat, but rather how much of it we eat that is behind all of the major health disparities afflicting our nation. As I have gained experience providing nutritional counseling, I have seen that promoting the idea of moderation is crucial. But why is it so hard for us to live with balance and moderation? It is very rare that we are told that living in moderation is enjoyable and beneficial. Until we come to this conclusion for ourselves, we will have no reason to be motivated to accept this notion.
I have several conclusions I have come to that I want to share. I’m going to relate each conclusion to food and then to life in general. First, the more we have the more we want. In regard to food, this doesn’t happen immediately. If I eat a huge meal, I can promise you it is NOT more food that I want. But, if I continually eat large amounts at every meal, my body will adapt and begin to require more food at each meal in order to feel full. This is why the best diet plan is to eat small frequent meals. If you eat small amounts throughout the day, you don’t allow yourself to become so hungry that you must consume excessive amounts of food to be satisfied. In regard to life in general, I don’t feel that I need to explain much, it’s pretty obvious. We all want more than we have. The newness of what we have eventually wears off and we are left feeling dissatisfied and wanting more. Just like with food, if we continually indulge in excessive living, it will take more excessive living to find that feeling of satisfaction, which will eventually wear off and we will be left hungry for more. We are merely setting ourselves up for disappointment. I’m not saying don’t ever buy new things. But if we live in moderation and avoid trying to find fulfillment in what we have, we can spend more time investing in relationships and other people.
Secondly, moderation allows us to continue to find joy in the things we don’t overindulge in. My mom makes this chocolate cake that I absolutely love. It is by far my favorite dessert. She made it for me a couple of weeks ago when I went home and I don’t think I’ve had it in years. Can I just tell you I enjoyed eating that cake more than I have enjoyed any type of food in a long time… and I’ve had some good food. Let’s say, though, that I make that cake for myself every week. Would I have enjoyed it, then, that much when I went home? Of course not! In fact, I would probably be sick of it and would never want to eat it again… and what a shame that would be! I think we could say the same of relationships, too. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Have you ever had those times where you spend excessive amounts of time with one person and you just begin to get frustrated easily? Things they did that were funny soon become annoying. Time apart is good! If we are excessive in the time spent we spend with others we can get worn out. Now, I want to explain myself here. I mentioned at the beginning that there are a few things that in excess are beneficial. I believe that faith, hope and love fit in this category. But what I am trying to say with this is that moderation, in regard to relationships, can allow us to continue to find enjoyment in the relationship even after years of time together.
Sorry if I have been rambling here. Accepting and then living out the idea of moderation is difficult. When we allow the idea that excess is needed to benefit our lives, we are putting ourselves in danger of making life a lot more difficult to enjoy. If we can begin to search for ways to live in moderation, we can enjoy what we have, not constantly crave more, and avoid facing the consequences of our over-indulgence, specifically with food. It is definitely contrary to what our society promotes, but if we can learn and begin to accept this lifestyle, it will help us live healthier more purposeful lives.