Where’s the enjoyment when we swing between gluttony and self-denial?
Self-Discipline or Self-Denial?
Self-discipline and controlling your impulses are two of the keys to a balanced and happy life. Yet, self-deprivation can cause undue suffering and a grim existence.
Excessive abstinence can also lead to a rebound effect. Strong desires can be suppressed for only so long, and then their overpowering force can cause you to succumb. Remember the movie “Chocolat!” and the priest who passed out from over-indulgence in the chocolate store after forbidding everyone to put a foot into the store?
Enjoyment or Gluttony?
Pleasure and enjoyment of the senses, such as eating and drinking, are the spice of life. Yet, the attempt to have escalating amounts of gratification by increasing your consumption can cause discomfort, displeasure, and dire consequences to your health. Gluttony can also lead to self-loathing, anxiety, and insatiable craving.
Pleasure and enjoyment live in a narrow zone of moderation, though we should also take heed of Julia Child’s notion: “Everything in moderation… including moderation.” Note that for people dealing with alcoholism and drug abuse, abstinence does give the best chance of avoiding further harm. For most people, however, mindful indulgence eliminates the need to make an unpleasant vow of abstinence OR to give in to every temptation.
Mindful indulgence is an effective way to reduce the unwholesome swing from gluttony and guilt to self-loathing and abstinence. Mindful enjoyment means being present, aware, and engaged.
For instance, eating mindfully entails that you eat slowly and consciously, enjoying the flavors as well as the company you are with. It means that in addition to enjoying the flavor, you take notice of the subtle changes in your body, such as feelings of satiation, well-being, or anxiety. Also important is to notice and remember how you feel hours later and the next day.
This kind of mindfulness and patience will allow you to maximize pleasure and enjoyment by honing your ability to gauge how much you will eat and drink. Mindfulness includes being aware of what kind of situations trigger you to lose awareness of your actions, sensations, and long-term pleasure. Regaining awareness will help you to avoid falling into auto-pilot and mindless consumption without appreciation, awareness, or true enjoyment.
One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends.
~Laurie Colwin ‘Home Cooking’
by Alison Poulsen, PhD