Friday, May 7, 2010

Mod Squad

Everything in moderation!

I really hate this expression. It is completely arbitrary, instant justification for doing things, usually bad things.  Rarely does someone justify their extreme carrot consumption this way.  I've been known to nag my diet soda-drinking family members from time to time (fine, all the time.  I'm a hoot at family gatherings).  "Diet soda is evil!  Bad for your health!".  Their response to my loving concern?  "Everything in moderation, Michelle" and "mind your own business, Dr. Bossy".

Look, I get it.  Sometimes we choose the low road, the bacon cheeseburger path more traveled by, if you will.  And so long as one balances ones vices with virtues, one just might make it after all.  There can be joy in indulgence and misbehaving and sure, the occasional (gasp!) chemically sweetened caffeinated brown fizzy water.  I'm all for making poor choices now and then, so long as they are acknowledged; don't pretend they become good choices just because you plead 'moderation'.

What exactly is moderate?  One (insert vice) a day?  A week? A lifetime?  Horace Porter advised us to "be moderate in everything, including moderation", which really clarifies things, though he also teaches that "a mugwump is a person educated beyond his intellect", and I don't know what to do with that either.  Perhaps I'm the mugwump. 

So what's a modern moderate to do?  Well, for starters I think we can learn, edumacate ourselves, distill  facts from fiction. For example, bread, it turns out, is very tasty in moderation.  But with so much hidden wheat in our diets (it is in EVERYTHING) true moderation is rare without making a concerted effort; avoiding tasty, tasty bagels isn't enough.  And wheat is highly allergenic - a major gastrointestinal irritant - no wonder wheat products  are the first to be eliminated in most cleanses. Sweeteners? The epitome of artificial. I can't see what these have to offer anyone, and therefore I can't see any benefit or level that is moderate. I may suck back a diet coke a few times a year (what else goes with a big, but with the full understanding that this is negative good for me, not moderately good for me in any way. Another example of moderation gone awry is soy.  If health food had a mascot, it would be soyman, the tofu wonder.  But soy products confuse me - they start out as a whole food, soy beans, then are processed beyond recognition into sludge and by-products and tofurkey.  If you think soy is just for hippies and nary a tofu morsel hath passed your carniverous lips, think again meathead - much like wheat, soy is everywhere.  Most processed food contain soy oils and proteins, most animals both domestic and dinner plate-bound are fed soy, and it is even found in such foods as edamame and miso soup.  Consumption has gone beyond choosing soy 'milk' over dairy products and moderate consumption doesn't really exist.  Curiously, soy is also implicated in many food allergies.  One has to wonder if it is the ubiquity of these products that leads to such widespread intolerance?

Even the 'experts' don't seem compelled to define moderation, and my research leads me to believe that moderation is quite boring.  Moderate drinking doesn't get you drunk.  Moderate exercise allows you to still hold a boring conversation.  A consult with the esteemed Dr. Google advises me to moderately drink 1 - 2 glasses of red wine a day to prevent Alzheimers, moderate my caffeine consumption by sipping no more than 3 cuppsa joe (or... 6 colas!), and I'm told that moderate egg consumption can be good for my health - the only guide being that I shouldn't eat '12 of them'.    Moderate politics may be the answer, but that won't pay for a mansion in Wasilla.  Go big or go home, people. 

And finally... everything in moderation?  EVERYTHING?  EggsChocolateExerciseSexSaladWorkAntibioticsLoveMethamphetamines?  Do what you want, just don't do it too too much?  Look around.  Collectively, we are a fat, unhealthy, addicted, angry people.  I think we've proved ourselves incapable of effectively judging moderation.  But here's the thing... it is YOUR body. You have every right to swill down diet sodas and bacon, you can drink as much coffee or booze as you want, smoke whatever you've got as often as you'd like. Indulge in your vices, tell your tea sipping friends to go to hell and tell me to mind my own business. I may not endorse your decisions, but I respect your right to make them.

Afterall, it's your life, and we all know moderation is the key to life.