Mastering Appetites in a Gluttonous Age

Our Gluttonous Age

We live in a time of plenty. Most of us can have whatever we want and have it fairly quickly. As a result, instant gratification has become a way of life for some. But our easy ability to instantly gratify costs us dearly in a variety of ways. The issue here is not so much about the things we crave and have instant access to. Rather, it’s about how our penchant for instant gratification impacts our character development. Ours is a gluttonous age. And in a gluttonous age it’s particularly challenging to learn how to be master of our appetites.  Our gluttonous culture significantly and negatively impacts our moral development. It arrests our social awareness, our taking of responsibility, and, most of all, our acquiring of healthy self-discipline.

The Road To Addiction

Our gluttony isn’t just about food. From sex to money, we want more of just about everything. And nothing really satisfies. Moreover, anything we can get too easily and do too often can become an “addiction.” We develop increased tolerance to the things we expose ourselves to repeatedly. And once we have, we experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when denied. We then more ardently crave the very things we should avoid. This begets the deadly, vicious cycle that any recovering addict can tell you is really hard to break.

The Wrong Solution

The mayor of New York City sought to ban “super-sized” high-calorie beverages. He meant well, hoping to help curb the country’s obesity epidemic. But his action sparked outrage about the ever-increasing intrusion of government into our personal lives and individual choices. The remedy he proposed would have set a dangerous precedent. So, many individual rights proponents steadfastly opposed it.

We can probably all agree that as a nation we have some pretty abysmal eating habits. Moreover, these habits have led to an explosion of diabetes and other obesity-related illness. This costs everyone in many ways, including driving up the cost of everyone’s medical care and insurance. But hidden somewhere in the debate is the unspoken issue of whether the government must now do what all too many individual seem either unwilling or unable to do for themselves: impose healthy self-restraint.

Compounding the Problem

For all too many folks, daily life is empty, sterile, mundane, hurried, and devoid of moments of true joy. That makes it all-too-tempting to voraciously seize on the small opportunities to self-gratify. And when it comes to food, the media are no help. They bombard us with unhealthy messages daily. Whether it’s the TV channels that present the one hundred tastiest places to chow-down or those that glorify binge-eating in contests that pit people vs. food, the message is always the same: gratify, gratify, gratify! Pay no attention to the costs or consequences. Just open wide, and enjoy. That’s the dominant message of our time.But perhaps that’s also one of the reasons we seem to have lost so much of our capacity for balance and moderation and self-control.

The Real Solution

To reduce our addition risk we need to develop a strong capacity for self-regulation early in our character formation. But in our gluttonous age, all-too-many folks haven’t sufficiently developed that capacity. That’s why a virtual industry has developed around the treatment of so many so-called addictive diseases (e.g., sex, food, spending, gambling, etc.). The addiction industry appreciates that we’re a gluttonous culture, out of control largely because we haven’t learned how to master our appetites.

One Way Out

One way to avoid becoming addicted to things bad for us is to limit exposure to them. Keep bad foods out of the house, for example. But certain substances – even activities – are powerfully addictive. They can release endorphins and enkephalins in the brain’s so-called “pleasure center.” And the stronger the release of these chemicals in the brain, the harder it is to just “stay away.” That makes developing moderation very difficult. And while some activities and things are okay in small doses, others are far too dangerous and addictive right from the start (like certain pain drugs like oxycodone). So, there are times when it’s best to never go near them. But having the strength to do that requires a strong foundation – one that has to be laid down early on in our character formation.

Becoming an Early “Master” of Appetites

To become a true master of one’s appetites, the process of self-discipline has to start very early and be strongly reinforced. It’s a difficult task that strongly challenges both parents and their children. And there’s been a lot of debate over the years about just how to accomplish this task. So, we’ll be be taking a deeper look at the lessons we have to learn early on to truly become master of our appetites and how we have to learn those lessons.

Learn more about character formation in Character Disturbance and my upcoming book: The Ten Commandments of Character.  My book The Judas Syndrome also addresses character formation, and from a faith perspective.

Character Matters will be a live broadcast Sunday, August 21, 2016, so I can take your phone calls. Call in to share your thoughts, ask a question, or simply join the discussion.

12 thoughts on “Mastering Appetites in a Gluttonous Age

  1. High Protein breakfast keeps you feeling full pritty much most of the day.

    Lean Ham ( bacon u.k. We have alot of choice hear), poached eggs, ( if you want more than two, only cook/ eat the whites), Mushrooms grilled or poached, Tomatoes grilled or steamed. NO TOAST. Black tea or Coffee. NO KETCHUP. Baked beans small amount, unsweetened.

    1. Years ago when I traveled to England I meal I enjoyed most was breakfast. The butter in England is yummy, as is the cream. All high fat, delicious, glutonous foods. The eggs were perfection and were usually served with warmed fresh tomatoes. I was in heaven . . . . And toast, toast placed on a metal divider bread holder type thing.

      1. All plants contain Alpha-Linolenic acid. The parent to Omega-3 fatty acid.
        The problem with Alpha-Linolenic acid is that it reduces shelf life. And we have unwittingly we have been selecting and breeding vegetables that store well.
        So eat some weeds and wild berries as and when you can. You will be helping your body and alot more appropriate than eating a chocolate bar

  2. Go vegetarian. I learned discipline and self control by forsaking meat. I also lost a lot of weight by doing so (not necessary but nice).

  3. We indeed are in a gluttonous age. My favourite is and I have heard it often, “what do I eat to lose weight?!”

    Food for thought:
    Americans are worst in the world when it comes to eating habits. Europeans are much better than Americans, but they are also slowly going worse.
    Rest of the world does not have enough food. But, things are now changing. Consider two most populated countries: Chinese one child policy led to doting parents overfeeding their dear one, and a whole new generation of obese children; Asian Indian never had much to eat, so 50% of urban population turned obese in last 25 years of moderate life-style improvement.
    I guess technology advances over last century means we have much easy life. So, exercise (proactive physical activity) is need of our time. And, we have propensity to avoid short-term pain (exercise) to avoid long-term problems (diabetes etc). I fall short here… should be exercising more, and spending less time on computer. :-)

  4. I have an indulgence problem. I have a silly way of coping with it. That bag of candy I grab while going through the store, impulsiveness. I get in the car, rip open the bag, eat a bunch of it, get disgusted with myself for having no self control, then I throw the contents of the bag out on the road. Ridiculous, I know, but that’s what I have to do. I have to dispose of it before I use my body as a garbage can.

  5. Buy some fruit with your candy. Take a bite of your chocolate bar then eat a whole banana. Then take a bite of candy, then eat a whole apple. Take a bite of some candy then Eat a whole orange.

    Every time you eat candy, eat fruit as well. Instead of candy try, Nuts, raisins, dryed dates, figs, prunes and do not forget the WHOLE fruit. Also maybe go to the freezer isle
    and buy frozen fruit. Try that, I love Mango.

  6. I married a malignant narcissist he weighed 200 pounds at six foot two. I divorced a malignant narcissist he weighed 380 pounds at six foot two.
    Gluttony is what most defined him whether it was food, porn, manipulation, creating a false self, sex, anger, cruelty, shopping, lies gluttony in almost all areas is what defined him. i learned it slowly through years of observation.

      1. My ex could be kind and was in fact to many different people, he cultivated an image outside of the image we new him as at home.

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