Restraint in all things is necessary for success: why not in eating?

I was thinking today about how I used to enjoy eating until I couldn’t eat anymore. It was nice to have this ability: to do something without limits or restraint, and just gorging myself until I was physically unable to do so further. This realization made me think deeper about all facets of life, and how we have to use restraint in everything else; why do we think it’s okay to eat without limits?

I’m no psychologist or any kind of “-ist” for that matter, but in my limited experience, I think it has to do with the fact that we have to practice restraint in every other part of our lives. Being able to eat without restraint is like a release valve, of sorts. Maybe. That’s the best I could come up with because nothing else can explain it (that I’m aware of; please feel free to correct me!).

Take your finances. If you live paycheck to paycheck, living without restraint would quickly run you into trouble with some of the basic necessities like paying your rent, electricity, buying food, or (heaven forbid) paying for your Internet service or cell phone service! For these reasons (and I’m sure countless more), most people know that if they receive $1000, they can’t just go and spend it all on stupid stuff without repercussions. Sure, they may have a shiny new laptop, but it won’t help to have that laptop if you’re without a place to live, electricity to power it, or Internet to use it with. Restraint.

Farmers and gardeners know you can’t over-water, over-fertilize, or over-plant ground. Pilots know you can’t over stress the air frame with too many G’s or the wings will literally rip off the fuselage. Students know  you can only cram so much before a major exam. Restraint.

Think about how you eat, why you eat, and how much you eat. Eating until we are comfortably full is what we’re wired for. Unfortunately, that wiring also makes us feel great when we go a little past comfortable. It’s a left-over survival mechanism from our pre-agricultural days. We have to learn to live with those feelings of gratification and learn to reset the volumes at which those feelings are triggered. Portion control is one very important part of eating that I don’t see mentioned enough. I’m not talking about eating all things in moderation. That is demonstrably false. What I’m talking about is eating the right foods (meat, veggies, fruits) in the right amounts for you. Find that amount and stick with it.

There are times when I eat something ridiculously delicious and I want more. I stop and think about why I want more food. Am I not satisfied with the amount of food I ate? Or do I just want more because it’s delicious? More often than not, it’s the latter, and I force myself to stop. I wrote an earlier blog post about how this is hard for me to do with sweet potatoes. I’m getting better at it, and I’m always reevaluating my eating habits and the volume of food I eat. Eating healthy is a journey and not a destination. I’m on this trip for life.

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