Everything in moderation
I have been thinking about the problem of excessive eating on and off these past 18 months since our move back to the United States.
It seems to me that during the 14 years we spent in Asia, Americans have become bigger and heavier. This first hit me on a visit to Hawaii some years ago, when I was in a small elevator and was joined by four truly huge tourists. Since then it has become more and more obvious.
The other night when we were eating out with our cousin and his office friend and family, all five of us were stunned by the size of the meal placed in front of our guest’s seven year old child. We deliberately asked for a child’s portion and what we got was a plate of chicken fit for two adults. The excessive amount of that meal astonished me.
This is not unusual. Fast food chains make it very easy to order super-sized portions. And all-you-can-eat buffets are everywhere. This generosity alarms me, given the well-known health issues related to the consumption of large quantities of food and drink.
Not being able to eat in moderation is just one aspect of our life in general. We live in a society of abundance, indulgence and addiction. Let’s look at how we spend our lives. We consume tons of time with TV, the Internet and smartphone texting, talking, emailing and playing games. I am one of them. I enjoy playing Drawsomething, an electronic version of Pictionary, with our grandchildren in Washington. I play Words with Friends, an electronic Scrabble game, with friends around the world as well as with my husband in the same apartment.
Where is the problem? Playing too much and not knowing how to do these fun things in moderation makes me ignore the more important things I need to attend to. Things I should have done yesterday start to pile up.
This isn’t the only form of excess by any means. A man named Paul Riddick was named Britain’s most prolific car owner according to Auto Express magazine after going through his 400th vehicle since passing his driving test in 1959. We all heard about Imelda Marcos’s obsession with shoes; she owned 3,000 of them at one point.
The most tattooed senior citizen is Tom Leppard (United Kingdom), aged 74, who has 99.9 percent of his body covered. Tom, who resides on the Isle of Skye, opted for a leopard-skin design, with all the skin between the dark spots tattooed saffron yellow.
Donald Gorske of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, consumed his 25,000th McDonald's Big Mac in 2011. He is now in his 37th consecutive year of eating Big Macs on a daily basis. (At 6’2”, he only weighs 185 pounds ― go figure!)
The largest collection of trolls belongs to Sophie Marie Cross (United Kingdom), who began collecting in 2003 and, as of Dec. 3, 2009, had 633 unique items. The Guinness Book of World Records lists other title owners of the largest collection of traffic cones, Charlie’s Angels memorabilia, sick bags, rubber ducks, masks, gnomes and pixies, film projectors, and Pokémon memorabilia.
This reminds me of our time in Hong Kong. One day we were invited to tour a collector’s house. His collection was stone objects from Asia. He confessed that his hoarding behavior made him think that there was something wrong with him. His huge collection took over his house to the point that we visitors actually barely had place to stand.
How many workaholics, alcoholics, and “exercise-aholics” do we see around us? Some seem to be obsessed with staying fit to the point of exhaustion and shutting out all other areas of life, while others go other extreme of staying put as couch potatoes and become obese. What causes us to behave beyond moderation?
What did some wise men say about moderation? Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) said, ``Moderation is the center wherein all philosophies, both human and divine, meet.” Confucius (551-479 B.C.) advocated the Doctrine of the Mean. Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) pointed out the golden mean, the desirable middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency.
However, St. Augustine observed how difficult it is to exercise moderation, noting that ``complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation”. This wisdom applies to many; when an alcoholic is determined to be freed from the grip of intoxication, he knows that only by complete abstinence can he conquer the power of alcoholism. Only you will know where to exercise the total abstinence.
Do you have an addiction? Do you over-indulge yourself in any area of life? Do you need to moderate your behavior? Moderation means avoiding extremes. It involves finding ways and habits that can be maintained over the long term without tossing from one extreme to the other. At a deeper level, moderation is a commitment to balance and wholeness.
Good luck to you as you struggle to take charge of your life. God be with you and me!
Hyon O'Brien is a former reference librarian now living in the United States. She can be reached at email@example.com.