Monday, January 3, 2011

The Definition of Moderation

Moderation must be defined in terms of quantity and frequency. If I were to consume a whole rotisserie chicken on the first Sunday of every month, you'd think I was insane. But if I consumed a chicken leg on the 1st of the month, two wings on the 8th, a breast on the 15th, and so on, you'd still think I was crazy for planning out how I eat a chicken over the course of the month, but at least you might agree that I was eating the chicken in moderation. How much (quantity) chicken I consume and how often (frequency) I consume it defines my moderation of chicken intake?

But how do we define these quantities and frequencies for different activities or foods?

1-15 minute shower/day
60 minutes of exercise/5 times each week
8 oz. coffee/each morning
8 oz. of fillet/monthly

Maybe our definition of moderation is a range of quantities and frequencies, and falling below the lower threshold (we're not consuming or doing enough) or surpassing the upper threshold (we're consuming or doing too much) causes harm either physically or mentally.

For instance, either a 1 minute shower each day or a 15 minute shower once a week would fall below the lower threshold, and a 3 hour shower each day or a 15 minute shower 3 times a day would fall above the upper threshold. So what is the range of moderation for showering. Because it might vary by culture or geographic location, I can only suggest a range for what I know. Maybe the range is between a 5 minute shower every other day and a 45 minute shower every day. Anything below or above this range in frequency and duration, in this case, would be unreasonable.

We can do this with everything we consume or do. Texting, drinking beer, playing video games, blogging, eating pastries, going to the bathroom...the list is endless. So regarding my post, "Going to the Dentist", how much espresso can I drink and still remain within a moderate range? Well, for me, drinking less than a single espresso every other day would affect my emotional well-being, while drinking more than a triple espresso each day or two double espressos twice a day would give me the jitters. This seems reasonable, however, there's an internal conflict arising that makes me think I should be satisfied with a single espresso two or three times each week, quite possibly because deep down I know consuming the same thing every day must not be healthy for my body - just like eating the same meal each and every day might deprive you of some other essential nutrients.

Espresso is a pleasurable experience; for me, it's like a piece of dark chocolate, an almond croissant, a scoop of pistachio gelato, or a piece of tiramisu. Maybe true moderation of espresso intake IS two to three times each week. And for my emotional sanity, I can replace the absence of espresso the other four to five days with another pleasurable food or drink experience (like a mixed berry cobbler or a key lime pie martini). I think I could live with this compromise of moderation.

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