The Fast Path to Temperance

Gluttony is literally a deadly sin.  The number one killer in our society is heart disease.  The primary cause of this is obesity which is mainly the result of eating too much and exercising too little.  Gluttony and sloth.  How are you doing in overcoming sloth with diligence?  Did you successfully complete last week’s challenge of replacing one sloth behavior with diligence?

Gluttony is an inordinate desire to consume more than what one requiresOvereating, insatiability, piggishness, voraciousness. Drinking to excess.

The latest statistics show that two-thirds of adults and nearly thirty percent of children in America are overweight or obese.  Every time I look into this issue the numbers are higher.  Especially among our youth.  Then there is alcoholism and drug addiction.

I could go on about all the problems we have related to gluttony, but I wouldn’t be telling you anything you don’t already know.  Let’s talk about the solution instead…Temperance.

Temperance is moderation or self-restraint, especially in eating and drinking.  Self-control, self-discipline, self-denial, abstinence, restraint, moderation.

The virtue of temperance is focused on meeting our needs.  In contrast, the vice of gluttony is consumed with fulfilling our wants.  Meeting our basic need for food and drink is temperance.  Anything beyond our basic need is want, therefore gluttony.

Have you ever heard the saying, “You sure are a glutton for punishment?”  Gluttony does indeed carries its own punishment. We cause our own health problems by gluttonous behavior.  Why?  Because temperance is hard.  But why?  Because we have to control our appetites.  Wait, that shouldn’t be hard.  We should be in total control of ourselves, right?  Our own behavior is the only thing we really have control over.  Or do we?  Apparently not!

Why is it so difficult to control our cravings?  I think part of it has to do with our definition of needs and wants.  There seems to be confusion about the distinction between the two.  The line between them has been blurred by our expectations.  When we get something we want it somehow magically transforms itself into a need from that point forward.

I’m fascinated by the way people describe their needs on those home buying shows on HGTV.  All we really need is the structure.  Well, electricity and plumbing are nice too.  The rest is all want.  But they always use the word need instead of want.  Do we really need a three-car garage and an ocean view?

For purposes of this discussion I propose the following as our working definitions of need and want:

Need – That which is required, necessary, essential…Temperance.

Want – Everything else.  Desires, cravings…Gluttony.

When I catch myself saying that I need something that I actually just want, I remind myself of the movie “The Jerk.”  Specifically the scene where Nathan is shuffling out of his mansion picking up ridiculous things he says he needs.  If you need or want a laugh…

So what do we truly need to eat and drink?  The simple answer, enough to survive.  I could go into daily calorie and water needs.  And bore you with a vitamin and mineral discussion.  You likely know all that stuff anyway.  Since our goal is to inspire and motivate ourselves to become more temperate, let’s try something different.  I find that making myself feel guilty is a good way to change my behavior.  Is that a Catholic thing?  Try this.

I recently reviewed our last grocery store receipt and labeled each item as either a need or a want.  The result was roughly 30 percent need and 70 percent want.  I noticed that the needs corresponded with the things Melanie picked out, and the wants were primarily mine.  Oops!

We shop weekly and the amount is usually about the same, $100.  I wondered how much we spend on wants in a year, so I multiplied $100 x 52 weeks x 70%.  The result, $3,640.  Wow, that’s a lot of want, or let’s just call it waste to add to the shame.

Then I wondered how many meals could have been provided to the hungry with our annual wasted dollars?  The Food Bank of Iowa states that they can provide 4 meals for every dollar contributed to them.   4 x $3,640 = 14,560 meals.  Okay now I feel really guilty.  I’m a horrible person!  Makes ya think, doesn’t it?!

So here’s what I’m going to do to become more temperate.  I’m going to Fast.  The fast way to becoming more temperate is to Fast.  A fast is to abstain entirely from or limit food.  I’m going to attempt to limit my food and drink intake to my needs, not my wants.

There are many ways to fast.  I’m no expert.  I think of it as denying myself in some way.  In this case, from food I want but don’t really need.  I thought about starting small, with one food type and then adding others over time.  But I know that won’t work for me.  I’ve tried it before.  I end up substituting one bad food for another and defeat the purpose.  The cold turkey approach works much better for me.  You are probably more disciplined.

Know thyself and choose your own approach.  Fast from one thing for a day, week, year, forever.  Fast between meals.  Fast from a meal each day for a week.  Fast entirely for a day.  Do whatever works to help you become more temperate.

To deny myself my wants, I simply won’t buy them.  If I don’t have the wants in the house I can’t eat them.  Brilliant!  Maybe we can reduce our grocery bill in half.  We’ll donate it to the Food Bank resulting in providing over 10,000 meals annually to the hungry in Iowa.  Interesting, by becoming more temperate we are also becoming more charitable.  Growing virtue in one area tends to grow it in others as well…Nice!

I just realized that the best way for me to succeed in my temperance quest is to not go to the grocery store at all.  Melanie can do all the shopping since she only buys our needs anyway.  Another brilliant strategy.  Think she’ll buy it?  No way!

Here’s the challenge for the week; Fast from one of your food wants.  Pick just one.  One you know you shouldn’t eat anyway.  You can do it!

Join the conversation.  What are your strategies for exercising temperance over gluttony?  How do you Fast?

To Your Health, Scott

One Comment on “The Fast Path to Temperance

  1. Scott, Dad wrote this last Friday and then revised it. Then we went to Madison and he has been going like an Energizer Bunny since we returned. Mom

    Scott, In this consumer oriented society food is not the only excess in our lives. We fill up our lives with things we do not need, but we want for a variety of reasons. Advertising shapes our wants into have-to-haves. Fasting from material goods also frees our income for other beatitude purposes. We also can be gluttons for approval. Security and success is tough to satisfy We are driven to be—want to be important—can’t have enough power and prestige. We can be gluttons for the non-material, marks of being somebody. Your piece is stimulating entry into the way we think of gluttony and temperence. As always you offer valuable suggestions and tackle the problems with your life. (I’m not sure you have to justify writing how you deal with these problems and having to be an example of what you are doing to demonstrate you are walking the walk). As you say, I could go about all the problems we have related to gluttony.


    Liked by 1 person

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