On Moderation

29 Jan

I am the annoying person at a cocktail party who insists his guests try to drink as much water as they drink booze. Most often, I have found myself in this role at an invite only room party I co-hosted at a local science fiction convention I’ve attended for the better part of a decade. I have had many moments over the years at this convention of not making the best choices. The ill effects from ignoring the ten minute warning have inspired my current conscientiousness as a host.

If you haven’t been to a room party at a science fiction convention, it may help for me to explain a notion I first heard from a good friend, Chris Miller. He once lamented, at the very same convention one of the few years he has been able to attend, in the wee hours, that all too often the ten minute warning that we should stop or at least taper off our indulgences often comes ten minutes too late. I believe that was the year that a very nice bottle of Auchentoshan was responsible for waylaying said warning.

For me, I guess the point is that in the moment it is often all too easy to ignore better judgement, to have another drink when we’ve honestly already had enough.  I never set out to do myself harm on those few occasions when I have. Usually I aim to have a good time with friends or enjoy a good taste of something. I suspect I am not the only person guilty of always wanting a little more of either or both of those.

What works for me to hold to moderation is to practice it as much as I can, even when it isn’t critical, as a preventative of ill effect. A simple rule, such as alternating between water and alcohol, is just as easy to hold to fresh in the evening as it is deep in one’s cups. For the extreme end, I tend to include the addendum: if you cannot remember what you had last, have more water.

I’ve read that hydration doesn’t play a role in hangover as much as once thought, that inflammation has more impact. I still alternate water as much as possible. Taking a pain reliever is something you do once or twice, in foresight or in the throbbing bleariness of hindsight. Unlike drinking water, it doesn’t really alter the pace at which you enjoy your preferred libations. If the water rule does nothing else, it helps establish a more moderate pace.

Again thanks to Chris Miller, I have been listening to The Jefferson Hour, a podcast in which a scholar by turns discusses the life of Jefferson and then takes on his persona to answer listener questions in the first person. Jefferson, like many of his peers, thought deeply about personal principles by which to live his life. One of those was moderation and Clay Jenkinson really brings that to life through his portrayal of the man.

In the first episode I listened to, the topic was how Jefferson worked hard to bolster the fledgling capital of Washington, DC. He opened the White House to visitors of all kinds as well as the larders he stocked there. There simply weren’t any other options yet for dining and entertainment at the time. He was cagey about how he entertained, as good as the fare was. He invited the guests to serve each other, creating a more humble atmosphere. When he writes of food, he admits to eating well, but only a little. It is easy to imagine these feasts as filling the mind and the soul as much as the belly, perhaps even more.

I am trying, once again, to improve my diet, this time around primarily for health reasons. With the stakes being my well being rather more so than a slim figure, I obviously want to support my best chances of success. Thinking of Jefferson, of his idea of eating well, but not too much, has resonated, lately, and along with simple calorie counting, the one thing that has proven effective for me in the past, I am doing well.

Despite some bad influences in the last year or so, stress primary among them, I think I am in a better place and, at a minimum, more mindful of moderation than I have been in some time.

What about you? How are you doing? What helps you enjoy life but make wise decisions about what is enough?

3 Replies to “On Moderation

  1. I remember at the party last year you definitely lived up to this. I think that it’s being a good host and I appreciated the reminders. 😉

    I too love TJH and the notion of taking all things in moderation is one I struggle with. I love good food and good beer. I find that when I’m in a social situation that that’s when I over indulge. At home I almost never have more than one beer in a sitting, unless there are friends over and they’re also indulging.

  2. for me, the issue of moderation is not so much with drink but with food. I’m working to redefine my own relationship with my diet and with comfort food in particular. I was raised on Midwestern white bread and processed cheese food, and as such, my dietary choices have not always been sound ones. After many years of being seriously overweight I’m staring down the barrel of some serious health problems. To that end, I’ve set aside this year as time to lose some of that weight, not simply by cutting back everything and driving myself mad at the gym, but by taking it one slow redefining step at a time so that I can sustain lasting change. This month, I am doing something called whole 30 the details of which can be found here: http://whole30.com

    The point is to break some of my bad habits with sugar, salt, and fat, and then embrace healthier eating in general as a lifestyle. I’ve been making small changes for years, and there has been improvement. However, I would like to and the seesaw of gaining weight only to lose it only to gain it once more.

    To bring it back around to moderation, this is all about learning how much I actually need to eat, as opposed to how much I want to eat. I have heard it being compared to alcoholism, however not being an alcoholic, I cannot directly comment. The point is there are some things I should simply avoid, some things that I can moderate, and some things I should simply embrace as a part of my overall healthy lifestyle.

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