What is moderation?
We have been told through out our lives that we should avoid excess or extremes, we should not be greedy, so why does it give us such joy to feast? When I was a child I was certainly reminded regularly that my eyes were bigger than my belly, which was confusing as a metaphor as they so clearly were not, though once you have experienced the pain of trying to eat two Christmas roasts and half a ton of chocolate, even a ten year-old finally understands the metaphor. Luckily humans have invented many opportunities for you to experience excess to remind you of this fact, birthdays, anniversaries, even funerals promote feasting, whenever humans gather together, the grease of social interaction is eating and in many cases drinking together. The feasts of Easter, May day, summer and winter solstice, Christmas, all involved meals and even seasons of overeating, it is deep in our DNA and completely satisfying, we love to eat, laugh, rest and sleep, we even share the joy of suffering with epic hangovers, teenage war stories that bonds friendship, when we are enriching our relationships it comes with a side order of rich, heavy foods, poor decisions and shared regrets.
And there is nothing wrong with the feast, this is not the kind of excess that harms us, people sometimes get confused by the idea that moderation is not consistent. We do not need to be moderate every day, it is the long term cycle that matters, we need to be moderate over the week or lunar month rather than in every moment. When you settle in a natural flow and start listening to our bodies, there are occasional days when you overeat and on the rest you might under eat a little, we build up a deficit in calories and then spend them on a day or two of feasting. It was something you did not have to think about in the past, it was the way that nature delivered our calories and food, we would forage for berries, grains, roots and strange looking mushrooms, it would be enough to sustain us between the large meals that came with a sudden excess. When the hunters returned with a deer, there was no refrigeration or knowledge of something to preserve meat, so the only way to store calories for the future was to feed to excess, as the African saying goes, “the best way to carry water is in your belly,” and the same is true of food.
We were forged by the pressure of natural selection to be able to cope with these two different situations, we are meant to oscillate between deficit and surplus. We sleep more and have less energy when there is a deficit, but the moment there is the possibility of a surplus we spring back into life like a tree after winter. If you have never had the fortune to experience clean energy, I would suggest that it is well worth trying it, the cost of the admission can be as low as skipping breakfast, though for the true experience a day or two of fasting is highly recommended. Such clean energy experiences are in some ways similar to the clarity that you get through anger (hence some people's confusion between hunger and anger), you are able to concentrate and perform tasks better, your internal dramas and narrative seemed to quieten, it is a state where you are focused without distraction and you are able to perform tasks with leadership detachment, flow states are easier to achieve and have a longer duration. Which has a internal logic as the time you wanted to be at peak performance was during the hunt, as it was a time when you were most likely to injure yourself and you needed to be at your best.
Through it should be noted that not everyone has the same reaction to anything, there will always be outliers, nature likes a little randomness and it protects us from over specialisation. That is why we self experiment, we try things and see if they are applicable to ourselves, there is a tendency for men to prefer this experiment to women, and to get gain greater benefit, I can only apologise on behalf of nature, it can be a little sexist. Also it does not work if you have a sugar addiction, instead of the benefits of fasting you will feel the pain of withdrawal, which in its own way is a demonstration of why moderation is good for you. If missing a meal makes you feel awful, it is worth asking whether it is the type of food that you are missing or food in general, if the meal you missed would normally be sugar-based, as well as the usual suspects, it is also anything that contains carbohydrate (also known as sugar), which includes bread, cereals and fruit, try swapping them for protein and vegetables, if you still feel awful despite eating, that is a massive clue that you experiencing sugar addiction and not hunger.
And why would we want to experience hunger, well, if you have never experienced breaking fast with something as simple as an apple, you have probably never as an adult truly tasted how good an apple can taste. For me, when I first tried this, I experienced an apple the way I remember an apple tasting when I was a child, which is probably the last time when I had truly been hungry. Children have an extraordinary ability to eat until their full and then be truly hungry again within a few hours, as such they get to truly experience it many times per day, whereas adults have to wait a long time before hunger really kicks in.
One of the most surprising things that you find out is that being hunger does not mean you are going to die, you feel lack for a while, you experience what it is like to have an empty stomach and then you feel peaceful, it comes in waves, you start to notice that hunger and boredom can feel the same, even thirsty is similar, the body has a simple language it uses the same words (sensations and emotions) for many different meanings. Though when you get past the noise it can become a pleasurable experience, life is simpler and meditative when you are freed from need, desire and the constant distraction of meal planning that is involved in having three meals a day instead of one. It really was a surprise how much time I spent on thinking on what I would eat and what I ate earlier. One meal is simple, you need vegetables, protein and a little flavour, and you have the most important ingredient, hunger, lack can actually become a good thing, it is the salt that makes the honey sweeter, the contrast that makes food more vivid and the absence that makes the heart grow stronger.
Whilst we have concentrated on food, moderation applies to most human experience, if we do anything on a daily basis with an identical dosage, that can be a clue that we are not acting with moderation. We work the five days and rest for two, we need a change of pace, so if you are exercising for the same amount every day, it can feel like a great thing and yet we would not be getting the maximum benefit from it. The body actually prefers to exercise hard on some days and then rest on others, we like to work hard and then play hard, even during a day we can probably only maintain peak performance for an hour or two, which seems like a ready-made excuse for writers to be lazy, famously Hemingway only wrote 500 words a day, but importantly they were right 500 words, and trying to write 5000 would have probably resulted in less of the right words, and they certainly would have been hidden within a mass of lesser quality words.
That is what moderation is really about, learning what gives us the maximum amount of value, without food we die, too much we die slow, too regular and it becomes boring and repetitive. We are not static being, we flow, we oscillate in our wants, we are drawn one way and then the other. A repetitive beat is just the ticking of a clock, but add in a rising and falling element of a voice or violin, one which starts slowly and quietly, and then rises in pitch and volume, and you have an epic piece of music. That is what we want in our lives, crescendos, peaks and troughs, we want period of peace and then clashes, we want emotional dynamism and we want to find our way towards understanding and connection, and we start with moderation.