I’m on a cleanse right now. While I restrict my diet, I am observing closely the diets of others.
We have very low standards when it comes to what we put into our mouth and take into our bodies. (The same low standards apply to what we take into our mind, but that subject is for another day.)
Awareness is the first step
Part of a cleanse or a fast or any intentional deviation from your standard operating procedures should be to produce awareness. Want to know what you’re eating? Restrict yourself to only eating certain things and observe your cravings and temptations. Awareness is always the first step towards reformation.
I’m an extremist
People often accuse me of being extremist. Everything in moderation they tell me. You’ve probably heard that too no doubt. Well, you know I take language seriously so when someone tells me everything in moderation, a typical response is to ask how I should regulate my heroin intake if I am to be moderate in that particular activity. Not heroin, the person is likely to say, just things like coffee and alcohol—you know, that kind of stuff.
Yeah—I know. All the stuff that society says is OK we can enjoy in moderation. Of course, if you base your standards off of society, you could have extremely low standards depending on which particular society you are in. My empirical observation tells me that ours are pretty low indeed.
Here is what Ben Franklin said
Eating is something extremely fundamental. It’s what we take into our mouths, digest, and build our body with. How and what we eat affects us on a very fundamental level. Ben Franklin wrote about temperance in his 13 virtues (eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation) and said this about the benefits of temperance:
It tends to procure that coolness and clearness of head, which is so necessary where constant vigilance was to be kept up, and guard maintained against the unremitting attraction of ancient habits, and the force of perpetual temptations.
You know what this is saying here, right? Be temperate in your eating and drinking and the power of self-control you attain from this practice will spill over into other aspects of your life. Franklin put temperance as the number 1 virtue because the practice of this virtue made the others easier. (Yeah, Ben’s words could be interpreted as moderation, but when he wrote that he probably had no idea how much we’d fuck up our food supply and how many temptations people in subsequent generations would face.)
If you haven’t recently restricted yourself from eating sugar, or drinking alcohol, or coffee, I encourage you to do so. Does it make you angry to withhold things that gratify your mouth? Do you have kids and tell them what/how to eat yet don’t follow your advice? Are your cravings out of control? How do you view these weaknesses in yourself? As things that are beyond your control (“Oh that’s just how I’m wired up!”)? Or do you view them as the weaknesses in character that they are and strive to correct them?
Please, don’t adopt the powerless approach.