Mark Hoelterhoff

Mark Hoelterhoff Ph.D.

Second Nature

Twas the Season to Consume

Over-consumption is something we all fall prey to from time to time.

Posted Jan 12, 2013

All you can eat or all you should eat?

Have you recovered from the holidays yet? Are your clothes feeling tight? Have you renewed that vow to get fit and actually use your gym membership? Perhaps you’ve sworn off alcohol for the month? Of course, this year you will not max out those credit cards! Whatever your New Year’s resolution was, it probably had something to do with a reduction of excess.

As an annual tradition, shortly before Thanksgiving I promise myself that this’ll be the year I won’t over-indulge. I’ll eat sensibly, I won’t run myself ragged shopping and I’ll most certainly watch what I spend. Every year I fail at keeping that promise. Breaking our resolutions is easy to do; in fact, it’s encouraged. “Tis the season” becomes a blanket excuse for me to embrace excessive behaviors. I pay the price on so many levels and spend the next few months trying to recover.

Over-consumption is something we all fall prey to from time to time. Yet, as a society there are continued trends that should stop and make us think. Recently, a report found that up to 50% of the four billion tons of food produced around the world each year went to waste.

Dr Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: "The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is staggering. This is food that could be used to feed the world's growing population - as well as those in hunger today." It’s not just a human health issue but an ecological one; over-consumption is a waste of land, water and energy resources. Just think of the amount of resources used in the production of all that wasted food.

I must admit, I do love buffet restaurants. There is a certain level of excitement in seeing a banquet of food laid out before me. There is probably some hard wired evolutionary instinct that when I see an abundance of stuff, I should take all of it before Katniss does. I can hear the samosas calling my name. But I need to know the difference between “all you can eat” and all you should eat.

Overconsumption doesn’t just damage our waist lines, but our environment as well. If the environment is important to us, we need to take the effects of excessive consumption seriously. The expression "waste not, want not" is relevant to the world as well as to our waistline. When a third of the world is starving, can we choose restraint instead of excess consumption?

About the Author

Mark Hoelterhoff

Mark Hoelterhoff Ph.D. is the Senior Lecturer of Applied Psychology at the University of Cumbria, and a chartered psychologist.

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