On Overindulgence

Everything in moderation, including moderation.

I’m not sure who said it originally, but my father-in-law is the one who mentioned this to me.

Overindulgence is such a funny game. On one hand, it’s a mirror of addiction principles. The first bite of something sweet, the first toke, the first sip, whatever it is… is usually the best turn you’ll take with the indulgence. After that? It’s just an action repeat, on loop, until it’s impossible to continue.

Overindulgence is a fun activity in which I sometimes participate with friends. No, we don’t drink ourselves into a stupor or do anything dangerous. Mostly it’s food. But it’s an unspoken bonding ritual.

The thing about overindulgence is that it teaches you the same lesson every single time: there are diminishing returns when you continue to indulge. Yet, we never seem to be able to turn it off.

So what Charles Duhigg (Power of Habit) tells us is that it all comes down to the fact that overindulgence is a habit that is stored in the brain’s basal ganglia (an operating system for habits, I suppose). If we were to just change the cue (don’t invite friends over) or the routine (do something other than eating) or the reward (order something healthier but still tasty at the restaurant) we might be able to fix it.

But who has time for dissecting habits when there’s a plate of fries around?