It’s the product of a specific brain activity: the release of dopamine in the limbic area of the brain. There are many examples of these kinds of thoughts, but perhaps the most common is along the lines of, “just this little bit… everything in moderation”.
Most likely this will seem entirely reasonable and completely convincing at the time. On inspection, though – and especially in a more impartial setting, when you are not feeling tempted by something highly rewarding – it can be clearly exposed as false.
A recent study published in the medical journal Appetite looked at how people actually defined ‘moderation’ in terms of what and how much they were eating:
“The concept of moderation is ambiguous… (and) allows for a wide range of interpretations.”
Well, of course!
Moderate could simply mean less than you used to eat, a long time ago. Maybe moderate means less than some people you know. Maybe it means less than practically everyone you know. Does that mean it really is moderate? How would you know?
Consider that someone living in the 18th century would have regarded 10 pounds of sugar per year to be moderate, compared to the average 150 pounds per year in recent times. There are many reasons for this of course, including price and availability. My point is that the concept of ‘moderation’ is at best highly questionable.
The most helpful thing about all of this is that we don’t need to define it anyway. The chances are that you’re reading this because you would do well to eat less. Perhaps a lot less. And probably not green, leafy vegetables.