Minimalism – The Long Forgotten Virtue of Temperance

Monster Foods

I am a foodie. I love my food. Somehow, Facebook is in on me. It loads my newsfeed with decadent food videos – some provided by this mysterious entity ‘insider’. I must admit that the tactic has been very successful at keeping my attention captive.

Consequently, each time I plug into the all powerful FB, I am bombarded with videos of what I would like to term ‘Monster foods’ – Foods that are so excessive that I can not stop looking at them.

A part of me longs to stuff my mouth with those foods (The sugar rush would be soooooo pleasurable). The more collected part of me advises otherwise (I am after all, a trained nutritionist).

Either way, my daily rendezvous with this food pornography just screams “Diabetes heaven” – an apt oxymoron.

Decadent milkshakes – Diabetes Heaven

A Culture of Excess

Our world is predicated on excess. Our senses have identified what is good and pleasurable and we want as much of it as we can get.

Our foods have become monstrosities. A single beverage can now provides us with enough calories to sustain us for a whole day. Diabetes and obesity are on the rise but for many, there is just no turning back, we have grown addicted to excess.

We have slid down the slippery slope of monster food addiction and we no longer want to recondition ourselves to survive on just enough. Many would rather die in a pool of chocolate syrup topped with rainbow sprinkles rather than to ‘suffer’ in poached salmon and steamed carrots hell.

Baked breaded Cod – not the most excessive thing but it keeps me healthy.

The truth is – while addiction to poor eating is not as destructive as addiction to drugs and alcohol, it will inevitably lead one to the same outcomes – premature death and extended years of disability.

Perhaps it’s time to find our way out of this rut. We need to once again acquaint ourselves to the virtue of temperance.

Temperance – The Long Forgotten Virtue

All addictions stem from the lack of temperance.

Temperance is the virtue of having one’s desires perfectly aligned with one’s needs. In short – wanting exactly enough of a good thing to keep one’s body and soul healthy.

It comes from the verb temper which is the practice of heating up and hitting metal until it conforms to the desired shape of the metal smith.

Tempering metal – heating up and hitting metal until it conforms to the desired shape of the metal smith. In a similar fashion, our distorted passions have to be painfully tempered into shape. Picture source: Pixabay

It is one of four cardinal virtues St. Thomas Aquinas espoused (prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance). Temperance, I believe, is the virtue that is tied most closely to the practice of minimalism. After all, minimalism is the practice of living with just enough and eschewing all excesses.

To reiterate, temperance is having our desires shaped perfectly around our needs so much so that we want just enough of a given good thing. (eg. wanting just enough food, knowing when to stop eating.)

What is ‘just enough’ you may ask? It does seem quite arbitrary. Well, ‘just enough’ varies from person to person. If you are a recovering alcoholic, the correct amount of alcohol to have daily is zero. (Kevin Vost, One Minute Aquinas) Similarly, if you are diabetic, the correct amount of sugary snacks to have is as a little as possible.

Being aware and mindful of your own health condition will help you determine what is enough for you. When you have ascertained that, it is time to discipline yourself and temper your desires to conform to your self-imposed limitations.

When you deny yourself of a pleasurable thing once, you develop continence. Do it repeatedly and you will feel your excessive desire for that object diminishing. In time, you will able to temper your desires so much that they fit nicely into your definition of ‘just enough’.

When you achieve that state, you would have gained the virtue of temperance. It is likely that a healthier body and soul would follow. Temperance, like the other virtues, are transferable to the other areas of life. When one gains temperance in one’s eating habits, he/she will also notice a marked improvement in ability to deny oneself of other unhealthy excesses (e.g. alcohol, shopping).

Needless to say, a person with temperance is a happier and healthier one.

Final Words

Disclaimer: I think that it is important that I let you know that I still do indulge in an occasional sweet snack. (Lest you stop asking me out for chit chat sessions. )

Indeed, I do not condemn a hedonistic life. I believe that there is definitely a place for good company, good food and merriment in a good and holy life. I just do not think that I need any of those in such great excesses that they cause harm to my body and soul.

Finally, a beautiful quote from St. Augustine:

“Take care of your body as if you would live forever. Take care of your soul as if you would die tomorrow.”

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Counsellor, Writer (Christianity, Children’s short stories)