...Whats Your Next Diet Book? Ancient Wisdom for a Modern Problem

Excerpt from The Talmud and Other Diet Books published at The New York Times:

Perhaps a different approach (to obesity) can be considered, one that begins from within. Instead of fixating on indulgence and excess, as do so many top-down and outside-in efforts, we should focus on what it means for each individual to be sated

Satiety, the feeling of being satisfied, is inherently idiosyncratic: everyone has her or his own sensation of being full. What sates my hunger will be different from what sates yours. Nevertheless, what sates our hunger will be less than what you might imagine.

Long before cooking shows and diet fads, many ancient civilizations understood this balance.

The Greeks, for example, worried that excessive consumption would disrupt the four humors constituting the human body. They, like the ancient Buddhist and Confucian traditions, encouraged moderation as the golden mean. Judaism, Christianity and Islam added to those arguments theological overtones: eating too little could be as spiritually damning as eating too much. 

The prophet Isaiah, for example, inveighed against the Israelites for vainly fasting when so much injustice surrounded them. Such fasting, and particularly fasting only for self-affliction, was sinful, rabbis of the Talmud said. But the Talmud also counseled “removing your hand from a meal that pleases you.” 

Christianity, especially through the teachings of Pope Gregory I and Thomas Aquinas, identifies gluttony as a mortal sin. More than just excessive desire for food, gluttony involves eating irregularly (snacking), being preoccupied with eating, consuming costly (sumptuous or unhealthy) foodstuffs and being fastidious about food. And the Koran insists that improper and wasteful eating incurs God’s wrath. 

Eat well and live well, Islam teaches.

Of course, one need not be a theist to experience satiety. One needs only a belly. 


This approach is personalized: everyone is empowered to be in control of his own satiety. It is adaptable, changing as a person ages and ails. And although it is not exactly nonhierarchical if you believe it’s God’s will, at least it is not imposed by any human government. Finally, it is sustainable, as it promotes a culture that views limitless consumption with suspicion. Capitalism may abhor contentedness, but our bodies need us to heed it. 

We have to realize that enough is enough. We should stop asking ourselves, “Am I full?” and start asking, “Am I satisfied? 

Read the original article here.

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