Restraint. A new concept for me. I’ve considered it but I’ve never been a true subscriber. When I was a kid I used to tell my mother I couldn’t wait to leave home because I would be able to eat Mars Bars for dinner every day. She wisely suggested I would soon get sick of this but the very idea of not wanting to eat chocolate all day was something that I just couldn’t understand (still can’t to be perfectly honest).
When eating Mint Slices during exam times, I always consumed the entire packet(s). Cakes when left unattended during my childhood inevitably ended up with the cream expertly extracted from the layers and when my younger brothers foolishly left their Easter eggs unguarded in the fridge one year, I ate every last one (this is the first time in 34 years I’ve made this public admission – hope my brother’s don’t read this).
Eating sweets and lovely things has always been something I’ve relied upon for smiles and wellbeing but overconsumption has become an issue in times of stress in the past several years and now it’s time to reign things in.
Restraint seems like being bound, at least at first instance. Life is too short to bind yourself, is something we hear over and over again (or some version of this statement). But as Stephanie Dowrick writes, restraint is ”…an expression of freedom to decide for yourself. An expression of your choice to act, or not” (Forgiveness and Other Acts of Love). I like this idea that choosing not to do something is exercising freedom of choice. When you make a decision not to have that fourth piece of pavlova (it’s not just me who can manage a fourth, right?) you’re not denying yourself something pleasurable, you’re simply saying, no thank you to something that is inevitably going to make you (me) feel bad.
This year I will be saying yes to restraint. Because so far, doing this has made me feel free again. This time last year I was cloaked in self loathing after yet another Christmas season which saw me eat until I was sick, exhausted and unable to fit into the majority of my clothes. I hate, hating myself.
There are other areas in which I have had to practice restraint quite recently, including a family gathering this past week where I took restraint to elite levels by keeping my mouth firmly shut, but that’s another story entirely.
Restraint, do you think it binds you or sets you free?