October 28, 2020

The Forgotten Deadly Sin

Many of you are probably familiar with C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity.  His chapter on “Sexual Morality” has some analogies in it that have struck me for some time.  With your indulgence, I will quote what Lewis has to say then go on to make my point.

Lewis compares our sexual appetite with our appetite for food to show us how disordered the sexual appetite is.  “The biological purpose of sex is children, just as the biological purpose of eating is to repair the body.  Now if we eat whenever we feel inclined, and just as much as we want, it is quite true most of us will eat too much; but not terrifically too much.  One man may eat enough for two, but he does not eat enough for ten.  The appetite goes a little beyond its biological purpose, but not enormously. . . .

“Or take it another way.  You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act – that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage.  Now suppose you come to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let everyone see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food?  . . .

“Here is the third point.  You find very few people who want to eat things that really are not food or to do other things with food instead of eating it.  In other words, perversions of the food appetite are rare.”

Lewis’s point is that our food appetite is relatively healthy, but our sexuality is messed up.  You can read the whole chapter to get Lewis’s valuable insights on sexual morality, but I’m interested in how the sin of gluttony has changed since Lewis wrote these words in the 1940s.

Let’s look at his claims one by one.  First, he says that we may eat a little more than we need to, but not enormously more.  Yet according to Denise Grady of the New York Times (3 August 2010), “Slightly more than one in four Americans were obese in 2009, and nine states had obesity rates of at least 30 percent.”  These numbers are considered conservative; many researchers put them higher.

We’ve all heard that food portion sizes have increased in the last decades, with the biggest increase seen at fast-food restaurants.  In 1977 snacks, for example, were “11.3 percent of average Americans’ energy intake, while by 1996 that figure had climbed to 17.7 percent, which is more than a 50 percent increase.”  That wasn’t the only figure that increased, if you’ll excuse the pun.  This same report from Science Daily, 22 January 2003, also says, “Among people under age 39, pizza and salty snack consumption rose as much as 143 percent” during the same two decades.

People are not just eating a little more than they need to.  They’re eating terrifically, even enormously, more.  Decades ago, when I was a kid, I don’t remember anyone carrying food or drink around routinely.  Now people even go into church with a thirty-two ounce vat of coffee, and my college students complain that I won’t let them eat during a class that lasts only an hour and fifteen minutes.

Next Lewis imagines a strip-tease act for food.  He assumes that we will laugh at how ridiculous such an idea would be.  But Paste Magazine.com’s review of “The Ten Best Food Shows of the Decade” offers this statement with a shrug-of-the-shoulders tone:  “It says something about America, no doubt, that we’ve reached the point where eating food is not enough – we now must be entertained by it.”

Look in Wikipedia under “Food Reality Television Series” and you’ll find 53 links listed.  They include such classics as “The Naughty Kitchen,” featuring the chef’s Sexy New American Cuisine.  Take it all off!  The chef even prefers to call her show’s coordinators “door whores.”  How sexy can you get.

Or you can look up the website called The Food Pervert.  Her slogan is “I’m here to show you mine, whether you show me yours or not . . . . .  . my food of course!”  Sounds like a food strip-tease to me.  The picture shows a sultry wench proffering a giant turkey.

Thirdly, Lewis claims that food perversions are rare, that mostly people just want to eat food.  Well, The Food Pervert is not the only person on the internet boasting of intemperate appetites – search for yourself, if you really want to.  Or you can look up www. ifood.tv.  The writer there chortles about the Gross Food Movement.  I will not strew the requisite numbers of [sic]s among these poorly written sentence look-alikes; you’ll just have to “stomach” the gross prose.  “Why is it (the Gross Food Movement) done? Simply because it is not considered norm.  It is a breath of fresh air!  An act of breaking the healthy diet vows that has chained our food habits!  The Gross Food Movement worships everything that we have been banned from our diet for our health.  . . .  It seems like gluttony has a new movement in its honour!  Hail the Gross Food Movement!”  It’s not just a meal any more, it’s a movement.  The banner of the revolution is a Krispy Kreme doughnut stuffed with sloppy joes.

Not perverse enough for you?  How about the television show “Hurl!”?  This is what the page linked to Wikipedia says about the show.  Again take the [sic]s for granted:  gluttony cancels grammar, evidently.  “The concept is for competitors to alternate between challenges of competitive eating several pounds of food is to play through extreme activities after eating a lot to see who will be last to vomit.”  You’ll be glad to know that “All food and drink are identified as being organic.”  Vomiting is filmed and rated by a sophisticated bucket-count system.

What is going on?  What have we become?  Our culture has gone crazy.  But at least the church is addressing the problem.  I’m glad that there are so many sermons on the Deadly Sin of Gluttony in churches around America.  I’m delighted that St. Thomas Aquinas’ definition is so frequently quoted from the pulpit:   “Gluttony denotes, not any desire of eating and drinking, but an inordinate desire… leaving the order of reason, wherein the good of moral virtue consists” (Summa Theologica 2, 148, ad 1).  It’s a good thing that all Christians, in a non-legalistic way, practice the biblical discipline of fasting, as Jesus modeled, in order to remember that man does not live by bread alone.

Or not.

I think we’ve forgotten that gluttony is one of the Seven Deadly  Sins.  Most Christians would agree with Lewis that our sexual appetites are disordered, but would they say the same about our desire for food?  When we confess our sins, either privately or to another, does gluttony even make the list?  Satan’s done a good job getting us running around after sexual sins while completely ignoring the other organ that runs our lives.

Here’s what Lewis has to say in The Screwtape Letters.  Remember that the narrator is a devil and speaks from that perspective.  “The contemptuous way in which you spoke of gluttony as a means of catching souls, in your last letter, shows only your ignorance.  One of the great achievements of the last hundred years has been to deaden the human conscience on that subject, so that by now you will hardly find a sermon preached or a conscience troubled about it the whole length and breadth of Europe.”  Or America.

Why do Christians – preachers, writers, teachers, people in the pews – so infrequently address gluttony?  Could it be that fasting and conscious moderation are seen by evangelicals as too papist, too legalistic and smacking of works righteousness?  Temperance in eating, to the Extreme Grace crowd, becomes a way of earning favor with God or an unhealthily monkish mortification.  What a shame, when generations of wise Christians have known that temperance is training in freedom, and fasting is a means of quieting our flesh and developing our hunger for God.

Modern Christians have also been more affected by pop-Freudian ideas than they would like to admit.  They have absorbed, without perhaps acknowledging it, the conviction that repression is unhealthy.  Repress the desire for food, or sex, or blurting out whatever you’re feeling, and you’ll develop a complex; eventually all the repressed emotions will boil over and harm you and everyone around you.  Or at least that’s what the check-out counter magazines say – you know, the ones that tell you that you have to be good to yourself or you’re no good to anyone else; that you deserve the best; that this month you need to pamper yourself.  You can find the magazines right next to the chocolate bars.

Finally Christians are reluctant to confront gluttony because of the sheer weight of the problem.  (Sorry, these phrasings just seem to happen.)  So many people now are obese and unhappy about it that they exert great pressure on others not to mention the weight problem.  It’s rude to say anything about eating habits, they imply.  It’s unkind.  It’s also embarrassing to many would-be prophets who are packing on the pounds themselves.

But while growing obesity is one symptom of our cultural problem with gluttony, not only fat people are gluttonous.  The issue is to what degree we are ruled by our stomachs.  Screwtape goes on to say, “But what do quantities matter, provided we can use a human belly and palate to produce querulousness, impatience, uncharitableness, and self-concern?”

I’ll be the first to confess that I speak from personal knowledge.   I do not live according to the freedom of the spirit but am still trammeled by the flesh.   My inner spoiled child clamors for bribes from the grocery cart of life, and I too often placate her; I can hardly hear God’s voice over her yelling.  I have convinced myself that life is not daily crucifixion but daily treats  awarded to myself for – well, for having survived another day.  I have mistaken the source of my life; I have forgotten that my true life is hidden with Christ.

The antidote to gluttony is not a successful diet and a sleek figure.  Even if it were, that’s no good to me.  I’ve never been able to manage the successful diet, and the sleek figure is long gone.  The antidote to gluttony is drawing life from the living vine, not from one more treat; it’s being fed by the word of God.  To use Jeff Dunn’s imagery, if we continue to seek happiness by stuffing ourselves, we’re just feeding a corpse.

Now there’s an image to put me off my food.

[Pictures of state fair food taken by, but not eaten by, Jeff Dunn at this year’s Tulsa State Fair.]


  1. Wow, Damaris, say it like it is! And it IS this way for sure. I am 50 pounds overweight myself and it is because I do what I call “mindless eating.” I am not hungry…I just eat because it is there. And like so many of us, I reward myself with food.

    You mentioned the reality TV shows about food. The one called “Man vs Food” is one that really bothers me. People watching to see if this guy can really eat all that he is going to eat! When I am channel surfing and see it, I cannot stay there more than a minute. Maybe if I watched the entire show I would learn that I am missing something, but I don’t think so. And I have never liked food eating contests. I just don’t understand them and also think that it looks disgusting.

    My weight is getting in my way and it makes me feel angry with myself for not being more disciplined. I tried Weight Watchers once, but I can’t commit to going to meetings or just keeping track of all that stuff. All I really need to do is stop eating sweets and snacking because I don’t over-eat at meals. But it’s tough! A Snickers at the end of the day makes me feel happy for a bit. A bowl of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream topped with hot fudge and chopped nuts…yummy.

    Hey, maybe Chaplain Mike and Jeff will ask us here at internetmonk to try out a day of fasting as a “group” once in a while and see how we respond to it. But, that may seem too much like they were being pastors and I think they would want us to be guided by the congregations we are a part of in “real life.” But still…it could be interesting.

    • Well, Lent is coming up . . .

    • I’d defend Man Vs Food, as it really is a typical guys show full of challenges and man type food. The host, Adam Richman, is also extremely vocal about eating healthy regularly while maintaining an active lifestyle, and goes out of his way to show that the food challenges are just that: challenges. Feats attempted on rare occasions, or in his case, every other week during filming.

      In a way, it could be called Man Vs Feast, of which there is a season for feasting.

  2. I wrote a chapter on this for a Bible study book on Daniel 1. It’s very challenging stuff.

    “Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things” (Philippians 3:19, NRSV).

    “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31, NIV).

    Also, Aquinas identified five ways of eating gluttonously: “too soon, too expensively, too much, too eagerly, too daintily.”

  3. QUOTE: “Why do Christians – preachers, writers, teachers, people in the pews – so infrequently address gluttony? Could it be that fasting and conscious moderation are seen by evangelicals as too papist, too legalistic and smacking of works righteousness? Temperance in eating, to the Extreme Grace crowd, becomes a way of earning favor with God or an unhealthily monkish mortification. What a shame, when generations of wise Christians have known that temperance is training in freedom, and fasting is a means of quieting our flesh and developing our hunger for God.”

    I have a better answer. Maybe Christians infrequently address gluttony because they are engaging in gluttony! We don’t want to implicate ourselves! If we do, we would have to change. Besides, it’s not as bad as viewing pornography every day or binging on alcohol, right?

    • Jonathanblake says

      I have often thought the same myself. It’s one of the sins we are so guilty of. When a skinny persons (though they can be just as gluttonous) says something about it to a bigger person, they get mad like the article says and say its discriminatory but the overweight Christians I know never had a problem calling out others on their sin. Heck, they’ll start railing you if you say anything about gluttony (whether directed at them or not).

      • I’ve always felt that it is a mix between what you spoke on, and because preachers do not wish to lose the lining of the offering plate. People will repent of not reading the Bible enough, not praying enough, not loving/respecting their spouse enough because when it comes down to it: those seem respectable things to wish to work on at all times. “Aww, well at least he’s trying!” However, you speak about the glutton, the person that has a low self image due to a society’s norm of overindulgence (so on and so forth), their feelings are hurt, and they leave the church.

  4. The church’s attitude of approval of gluttony while slamming the social drinker or other comparable behaviors disgusts me. I cannot sit under the preaching of a morbidly obese minister any more than I can fathom following the leadership of a drug addict or an alcoholic.

    Thank you for addressing the BIG elephant in the room

    • I always had a problem with it too. But I never knew why until I read your post.

    • I agree! (CM – we need ‘like’ buttons for the comments – it would be handy!)

      There’s a great (and most likely apocryphal) story of Moody saying to Spurgeon “I can’t believe a man of God like yourself would smoke so many cigars” and Spurgeon replying to Moody “I can’t believe a man of God like yourself would be so fat”.

      Point is, Wanda is correct. We can’t excuse one and condemn the other without being hypocritical.

    • Hehe “Big Elephant” I think we should comment on this and count the puns!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      The church’s attitude of approval of gluttony while slamming the social drinker or other comparable behaviors disgusts me.

      The image of a fat preacher ranting and railing against some other (usually sexual) sin is a classic. And happens often enough IRL to keep the image going.

  5. A few years ago, I led a Sunday school class on Lewis’ Mere Christianity, and there was a good discussion on how our culture has changed in regards to food. We now have websites called Food Porn and whole cable channels devoted to the subject of food. Ironically, fewer and fewer are actually cooking and preparing food. Just as sexual pornography detaches us from the real thing, it appears that food pornography does the same when it come to the normal behaviours when it comes to food, including the social benefits of preparing and sharing a meal together.

  6. Usually when the preacher wants to talk about a particular sin, it is done in a general way. For example, in considering whether we are materialistic, rarely would a preacher say, “if you drive a car with a blue book value greater than $xxx, you are materialistic.”
    In contrast, if a preacher speaks on gluttony, even if he mentions no specific body mass index and even if he says that thin people can be gluttons too, the natural tendancy is to visualize and judge the obese person sitting near you. I wish this were not so, but that’s what happens. So discussing gluttony in a group setting takes extra sensitivity.

    On another point:
    I have previously ministered to young people (generally young women) who’ve been diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia. I’m told by the experts that it has almost nothing to do with the food or hunger or desire for thinness itself, and instead is a self-harm to create the illusion of control in an out-of-control life (like banging you head against a wall when you are frustrated).
    However, I can’t help but wonder to myself whether that desire for control in an out-of-control world contains within itself a form of gluttony… I want what I want, when I want it. It’s “self control” flipped on it’s head.

    • However, I can’t help but wonder to myself whether that desire for control in an out-of-control world contains within itself a form of gluttony

      I have some experience of this and I don’t think this is what’s usually happening. Rather, the individual experiences a loss of the fundamental right of self-determination at the hands of other people (not God, in which case it would be a form of healthy and consentual spiritual surrender). Their perception is that this has been wrested away from them, and often there is truth to the perception.

    • Thank you for raising this.
      I know of 3 young women battling with anorexia in our small village church in the UK, and another two in my wider circle of contacts. I have other friends who yo yo diet. Our Western relationship with food has become totally dysfunctional. For some it has become a substitute for love, and for others a form of self-loathing and punishment by abstinence.
      So the issue seems not to be about the food but the hunger for God and the need for His love and acceptance.

  7. Shouldn’t we be focusing on other people’s sins, rather than suggesting that because most of us are overweight this might mean we’ve indulged in certain mere indiscretions of the flesh? Doesn’t everyone know that the real problem is that our metabolisms have been lowered as a result of eating vegetables that absorbed radiation that fell from the skies as a result of Soviet nuclear tests in the 50’s?

    How well I remember the warm summer evening when my college buddy convinced me to go with him to hear the evening “service” at the nearby Christian teen camp. (I later figured out that his real purpose in wanting to go was to check out the girls.) The preacher that evening was a grossly overweight fellow who chose to preach on some Scripture or the other that he told us meant that we should “abstain from sins of the flesh”, which he said meant sex. Apparently, gluttony was exempt.

    I suppose describing food as a “drug”, those who engage in the relentless campaign that we deserve to treat ourselves with all manner of food as “pushers” and those of us who happily oblige as “addicts” is pure heresy. Surely we have better things to do than discuss such things. Don’t we know that the real problems in our country are caused by Democrats, women, homosexuals and abortion doctors? Let’s spend our time and money to fight those evils. But remember to save a little for the all -you-can-eat buffet that includes shrimp, steak, pizza, cheesecake and ice cream for just $12.99 that they’re serving at____________.

    • WHERE???

    • Ah…the “all you can eat buffet”…called the “hog trough” at our house. But we all like to belly up to it(pun intended). Unfortunately, we don’t call it a sin until our pants don’t fit. And even then, our only concern is looking good in the mirror.
      Thank you for this provocative posting, Demaris.

      • The second he said “buffet,” he quit preachin’ and went to meddlin’.

        Seriously, Damaris, thank you for the convicting post. I need to take this to heart (and belly, and chest, and rear end …).

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Considering the price of all-you-can-eat places today (local Hometown runs around $12/person, Mongolian BBQ about the same, and local Chinese around $15-18), has anyone considered that after paying those kind of prices you might overeat just to “get your money’s worth”?

    • Oops! Sorry Damaris for misspelling your name.

    • +1

  8. I remember reading ‘Mere Christianity’ & thinking the same thing when I read this chapter on “Sexual Morality”. I thought to myself CS Lewis needs to meet some 21st century Americans!

    CS Lewis was writing in the 40’s – in the 50’s Mcdonald’s regular meals are what we call “kiddie meals” now. Now we are super-sized!

    we could all use more Discipline readings from John Wesley & Richard Foster, & a little less Theology. Especially some of the hugely over weight preachers I see.

    Fasting may not be the answer – but if it helps with self-control it can’t hurt.


    • Disagree – we could use more Theology (or better Theology, as the case may be).

      G.K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy:
      “The proper form of thanks is some form of humility and restraint: we should thank God for beer and Burgundy by not drinking too much of them!”

      “Keeping to one woman is a small price to pay for so much as seeing one woman. To complain that I could be married only once was like complaining I had only been born once. It showed, not an exaggerated sensibility to sex, but a curious insensibility to it. A man is a fool who complains that he cannot enter Eden by five gates at once!”

      • agreed – Better Theology – problem is most people spend all day on Bad Theology that says nothing about the body except that the body is bad.

      • Chesterton also pointed out that a grateful heart is the source of virtue. In America, we have such a surfeit of food that we no longer respect it or are thankful for it.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      CS Lewis was writing in the 40′s – in the 50′s Mcdonald’s regular meals are what we call “kiddie meals” now. Now we are super-sized!

      The reason behind “super-sizing” might be the same dynamic I commented on above re “Hog-Trough” all-you-can-eat places.

      The prices at all eateries have gone up over the years. Maybe “super-sizing” makes the customer feel he’s getting something for those higher prices?

      Outside of food, I’ve observed the same “super-sized” phenomenon in SF novels. Back in the 1960s or 70s, a typical length was around 200 pages/55000 words. Nowadays 400 pages/100k words is considered the minimum, and I’ve seen series components as long as 1000+ pages/250+k words. Prices on a mass-market paperback have also risen to around $10 a pop. Either publishing overhead is no longer economically practical at the Seventies shorter length or padding the book out to 500+ pages makes the mugu think he’s getting his money’s worth at that price.

  9. A few years ago, I was talking with an epidemiologist from a large hospital in my state about obesity. She mentioned that it has really taken on the characteristics of an epidemic. She gave me a powerpoint show that I have put up on the web showing the changes in obesity in the US. When you flip through the years, it’s amazing how quickly obesity has become a major problem across the country.


    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      In a way, this is an indirect complement to American culture.

      When one of your poor’s most serious problems is obesity (instead of, say, starvation), that indicates the country is prosperous — “So prosperous even our poor are fat!”

      Yeah, it has its problems, but it’s not skating on the edge of famine like so many other countries throughout history.

  10. Oh, this one is all too convicting! As a longtime glutton, I know that I often forget that it’s a sin. Lord, have mercy!

  11. Food, as with other modern technological wonders, has been conveniently been prepared & packaged for the mere convenience factor. There is a trend nowadays to bring back some healthier standards in the food industry, but ‘we’, the more affluent country in the world today, has capitulated to the quick-fix (drug analogy) food types.

    There is literally everything under the sun to seduce the less disciplined (vs. using the term lazy) individual that does purchase snack items of convenience. And no-prep meals. Even if these snacks & foods deemed of some healthier content than others, we simply snack, nibble, microwave, open up & eat. Then we do not actually exert enough physical energy at a regular pace each day to work it off. We eat steadily or because of conscience sake do short-term diet changes, but really, it is the inconsistent physical exertion our modern convenient lifestyle has cushioned us with that is the worse culprit IMHO. Work, really is mostly ‘sit’ for the average person in office environments. Working behind a computer monitor is really exercise for the fingers (like I am doing right now), but nothing else.

    It takes a really deliberate lifestyle change+assessment to match physical activitiy with a healthy diet. And such an arrangement is not as easy to incorporate as it sounds…

    • I used to watch women in Liberia spend all afternoon making a meal. They had to pound the rice in a mortar and fan it to remove the husks, make oil from palm nuts, and kill and skin an animal. The women, at least, burned as many calories as they got to eat. I didn’t do all that they did, but I had to walk over a mile with groceries in order to cook. I was skinnier then. I may still have been tempted by gluttony — I can remember the long evenings with other expatriates reminiscing lovingly about pie, and ice cream, and, and — you get the picture.

      • I am a great BBQ proponent. And I use charcoal. And I like the slow cook methods; low heat, longer time requirement.

        I like the food prep. All fresh ingredients (mostly). Pour a glass of wine & work deliberately around the kitchen then outside to the grill…

        I like the fellowship of good friends all gathering at one house & doing the prep+cooking, not a pot-luck. That is my idea of a grand time. Wine flowing, laughter, convo, team food prep+cooking. Being that I do like ‘good’ food & ever ‘gooder’ wine, that type of lifestyle would not be healthy.

        Even if I ate smarter, that will not help me keep lean & fit. But, the fact that we have minimized meal prep thru convenience makes it so easy to fix fast, fix a lot, eat fast, move on to other entertainment distractions.

        I need to arrange my lifestyle in such a way the makes greater physical demands (walking, moving). It is my hope that when I remarry, I will have a like-minded partner that wants to incorporate a healthier lifestyle than the more sedentary one I live in. I am much more careful about my eating habits, changing them when I moved out of the family residence. I am conscious of what I need to do personally, but I have not yet arrived at a manageable pace+diet. I am still working toward it & it is still my goal. I am not discouraged, I do not snack that much, do not binge at all, do not really need snacky stuff around, don’t eat that many sweets (not a temptation), but boy do I like my wine… 😉

        • Okay, confession time…

          Since I do like the art+skill that does go into fine food preparation, I have splurged a time or two on a fine meal (meaning expensive)…

          Now, this type of experience is not to be mistaken for simply food consumption for daily caloric requirement. This was intended to be an ‘experience’…

          Yup. And I will point out that this indeed was the exception, not the rule. But once you pass the $150 per person tab, then the actual expectation & experience is unforgettable…

          I do not advocate such a thing as a regular diet since I neither can afford it or justify it. I have good friends that cannot in good conscience spend more than $20 per person ever & that’s with a coupon. There are at least 3 such times in my life that are in fact memorable. Everything top notch: food, service, atmosphere, company. It is something special & should be avoided or coveted for what it is…

          Of course I bring my own wine which does keep that cost under control. But still, such an eat out experience simply amazing…

          • ***EDIT***

            “… & should NOT be avoided…”

            [where is that edit post feature when you need it???]

          • I would suspect that if you ate $150 meals each day, however, that such a meal might become commonplace and your palate jaded.

            But as an occasional experience…I had a boss who once treated all of his employees to dinner at a winery with $80+ per person meals. It was absolutely delectable. Oddly, though, I couldn’t tell you what I ate other than the fact that the tiny bowl of lentil soup was the most marvelous lentil soup I have ever eaten and I wish I could recreate it. Funny that it was the course containing the most humble, least expensive ingredient that I remember the most, even 15 years later.

  12. Two things come to mind. First, prayer used to be associated with fasting. Now it’s associated with breakfast. Funny thing is, I’ve been to many prayer breakfasts that have breakfasts that go so long that we don’t have time for prayer afterwards. Hmm.

    Second, you might find the first three minutes of this video informative. Gluttony appears to have become a virtue in some Christian circles.


    • Where do you find these things? Saying Amen to cream on top of milk? Aargh!

    • j. Michael Jones says

      That is about the dumbest sermon I’ve ever heard. He seemed like a master of mind manipulation but without a purpose. Like a Rebel without cause, or a sitcom about nothing, a Sermon that went nowhere . . . of importance.

      Now compare that video (where the American Christians are so entitled to the very detail of what they put in their mouths) to this one:

      You get a feeling that something is very wrong here.

      Yeah, you do have a gift for finding these great illustrations.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Gluttony appears to have become a virtue in some Christian circles.

      Baptist preachers have a rep for being fat, but that might just be the fact that they like to eat hearty in the Former Confederate States, there’s those Baptist Church Potlucks, and middle-age spread (where the metabolism cools down between 30 & 40) coming together in a Perfect Storm situation. (I mean, a certain Georgia country boy named Elvis Presley really blimped out in his forties for pretty much the same reason.)

    • Well, that’s not bizzarre and confusing…

  13. I think the church always has difficulty addressing sins that have become widely accepted socially. Others that come to mind are some forms of greed, and speeding and impatience when driving.

    The other issue is how to address such sins without resorting to mere moralism or sin management. The task I think is to develop mature believers with the knowledge, wisdom, spiritual sensibility and supportive community such that avoidance of such sins comes somewhat naturally, but that is difficult work that takes a long time.

  14. I too remember reading this comparison in C.S. Lewis’ book.

    However, the sexual component of our humanity cannot in all honesty be measured against the hunger+appetite design of our physical nature…

    I think the idea of overdoing it is valid, but can be applied to other aspects of our physical existence: if I overly inhale I will suffer the effects of hyperventilation.

    If I drink too much water it will eventually kill me…

    If I cut out needed vitamins or minerals or food groups I will tax my system with undo stresses…

    If I overwork myself it can lead to exertion sickness or muscle+joint+ligament+tendon damage.

    True it is where a sedentary lifestyle coupled with the intake of empty calories (simply unneeded in whatever form they are offered) will be the easier problem to identify in the average American. However, I think the sex+food comparison done more as a ‘grab-their-attention’ use than is physiologically comparable…

  15. David Cornwell says

    Back in the old days when I was a child and teenager, my mom always served wholesome meals. And we always could have seconds of most things if we wanted. However meat was very limited. for instance she would divide a steak up among six of us, four of us growing boys. Portion sizes were maybe a little larger than an adult hand. We always ate at the table. Someone, usually my dad gave thanks for the food.

    On Saturday or Sunday mornings she did know how to make a stack of pancakes, and we ate all we wanted.

    We seldom went out to eat and when we did it was a treat that all of us looked forward to and we went to a place that served real food and were usually dressed up because we had been to church.

    Soft drinks were in 7oz bottles, and again it was a treat to have one, maybe on the weekend.

    Thanksgiving and Christmas were the big feast days. Then we could eat all we wanted. Christmas was a time for sweets also, like hard candy (which my dad loved.)

    Life was far from perfect, but the meals we had together bring back fond remembrance.

    And really, I try not to live in the past.

  16. A few comments:

    1. C.S. Lewis asserts procreation to be THE purpose of sex. Not even the Catholic Church goes this far. If we accept pleasure and intimacy as equally legitimate aims, then we may avoid condemning (as Lewis seems to do with his analogies) strip-tease, gay sex, and oral sex as contrary to “the” purpose of sex.

    Besides, the purpose of the nose is obviously breathing, sneezing, stuff like that. Is God offended when I use it to hold up my glasses?

    2. So far, the discussion of gluttony has focused on the amount of food, rather than the type. Vegetarians would point out that meat consumes about ten times the resources required by the equivalent weight in vegetables, and leads to a whole swathe of health problems. Should Christians then (apart from the Seventh-Day Adventists) be discussing vegetarianism as a moral issue?

    • PS. This leads to a consideration of consumerism in general, not just food-related. (Activists have named the day after U.S. Thanksgiving as “Buy Nothing Day.” Interestingly, they were refused TV ads promoting it on the grounds that other advertisers would have been offended.)

    • Werner, vegetarianism is not an option. god declared meat good (see Acts). Also, we are omnivores. It reminds me of the great success of prohibition – not. The misuse of something doesn’t mean there is a problem with that thing. Shall I remind you of what Pogo said?

      • Is this maybe a misinterpretation of the Acts passage? The point was not that meat was good, but that non Jews were to be accepted into the church.

      • Er, perhaps you could also remind me who Pogo is…?

        Although I am not a vegetarian, I am aware of the vast ecological problems caused by the meat industry (among many other industries), which would not have existed in biblical times. Surely we have a responsibility to cease this destruction. Also, the amount of meat consumed by the typical resident of an industrial country (excluding Japan) is too high for our own health, let alone that of the planet.

      • Vegetarianism *is* an option. That is demonstrably true. Vegetarians exist, therefore vegetarianism is an option. And nobody mention prohibition of meat eating.. just a discussion of it as a moral option.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I’m from California. A lot of vegetarians and vegans out here are just as much into Gluttony of Delicacy about their Superior Vegetarian Lifestyle as Mr Creosote on top of this posting is into Gluttony of Consumption.

        And the Nannies in Sacramento (all incumbents re-elected, NO exceptions) have added War on Obesity to the War on Global Warming and War on Smoking as their Holy Cause. To the point that you’re getting anybody built fatter than a supermodel (i.e. six-foot-three, less than 100 lbs) defined as “Obese (TM)” and needing Intervention and Cure.

        This whole state belongs on South Park

        • So is “gluttony” primarily about what goes on in one’s head, or the practical effects of particular behavior patterns?

    • Exactly, this was driving me crazy throughout this whole post. I reject the premise that sex is only for procreation and that food is only to keep me alive. Not Lewis at his finest.

    • Werner says:

      > Should Christians then (apart from the Seventh-Day Adventists) be discussing vegetarianism as a moral issue? <

      Some Christians live in climates where few grains or vegetables grow, and without meat their traditional lifestyles would be impossible. Anyone who makes vegetarianism a moral issue would condemn Inuits, and the nomads of the Sahara and Central Asia, to extinction.

    • Werner, seriously? Strip teases/lap dances are about pleasure and intimacy?

      • @martha: perhaps between husband and wife yes! if a committed, married couple chooses to do such things then what is the harm? such behavior, within the context that i am presenting here, definitely has within it elements of joy, playfullness , vulnerability, intimacy etc.

      • Okay, then–art!

        Anyway, does everything have to have a highfalutin purpose?

  17. In general, though, I would observe that gluttons generally do not have great tastebuds, by that i mean that just as the alcoholic very often cannot enjoy a great wine, because of his greed, so the glutton cannot enjoy the massive variety of food and tastes God gave us.

    I recently spoke to a group of youngsters about healthy eating, the Canada Food Guide, food groups etc. I did notice that the (very) overweight ones were the ones with the most food fetishes, the ones who had the least adventerous tastebuds.

    If you watched Jamie Oliver’s Food revolution recently, the same observation could be made.

    It is a great irony that those who indulge too much have one thing in common with those who starve themselves (another food related epidemic: The inability to truly enjoy this gift in all its nuances. CS Lewis has a lot to say about pleasure in some of his writings, and it obviously applies to food as well….

    He is not a “Christian writer”, but I really would recommend Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” – you do not have to agree to everything he says, but it is quite eye-opening.

  18. Maybe it would a be a good idea to discuss antidotes to this problem? Although I am not a vegetarian, I think there are good reasons for Christians to move that direction. I usually do my best to abstian from meet on Sundays (though I live in Korea now, and that has proven very difficult to do.)

    We could also simply deny ourselves sugar and candy. I sure hope that’s not hard to do.

    And yes, American are fat. Fat. Fat. Fat. and gross.

    • And yes, American are fat. Fat. Fat. Fat. and gross.

      What a horrible, judgmental thing to write.

      This comment is an example of why gluttony is not a topic of discussion. My obese family and friends, most obese people, feel terrible about themselves- how they look and their lack of self-control- and calling them gross is truly disgusting.

  19. Musing from an agnostic here….gluttony is one of those accepted sins. Its needed after all..why? Let’s see…

    Sex is criminalized
    Alcohol can be demonized
    Porn off limits if your in the born again cage (credit to HUG)
    Gambling and cards in some circles can be an opening to corrption..

    In short order many aspects of humanity are criminalized and to relieve stress people eat. They worship their food, and abuse it. It’s one of the reasons in my mind why Christianity is a joke. Christians are subjective about what is sinful, I mean you can face discipline for having sex with your girlfriend yet you can be on the praise and worship team, be 500 lbs and everything is peachy!! (As in peach cobbler 😀 ) Or preacher!! I’ve seen some incredibley obese preachers.

    When the churhc is serious about sin let me know. Whne they also talk about grace in the process please hollar. Meanwhile I’ll be hanging out with some freethinkers, humanists and skeptics!!

    Nuff said…

  20. Oh great, right after I ate one more piece of pizza than was wise, I read this! 🙂

  21. We need to have a bigger discussion on what gluttony means today. Is it eating when you’re full? Eating more calories than your doctor recommends, eating more than the person next to you does? Spending too much money on food? Eating food that is not nutritious? Eating food that is not sustainable for the environment? Or something else? We are all talking here like it is obvious what gluttony means, but I don’t think it actually is all that obvious.

    Again, seeing that someone is (or isn’t) obese really doesn’t tell you anything about gluttony in their life. They could have a medical condition, they may have been gluttonous 5 years ago but not anymore, they may have become obese as a child because of what their parents fed them, they may suffer from very poor nutrition because of low income or lack of education.

    Really, we just don’t know and it makes no more sense to judge someone for gluttony based on their appearance than it does to judge someone for sexual immorality for having AIDS. Although that has never stopped Christians from trying.

    Look, I’m all for calling out hypocracy in Christians, but do we really need to be so gleeful in pointing out someone’s sin? Isn’t this just taking the same anti-grace tactic many of us complain so much about?

    Food in America is a huge problem that needs to be dealt with, but I don’t think it’s as simple as saying gluttony = sin. If you lead a busy lifestyle it is very expensive to eat healthy foods. If you try not to eat too much, you will often let an absurd amount of food go to waste. Expense and waste can help avoid gluttony but I’m not comfortable saying they are good. In fact, much of the obesity problem in the U.S. comes down to a class issue. Who are the obese here? They are (generally) the poor. Those without access to good health care, education, nutrition, fresh produce, gym memberships, or time after work to prep food or work out because they are working a second job.

    I’m sure it’s fun to make fun of fat people, but to me, sometimes it sounds like you’re just making fun of poor people.

    • When I asked a family member with more than forty years in the medical profession how many of the obese people they had encountered in their career had a medical problem that caused their obesity, my relative replied “Very few. Most people are obese because they eat too much for their activity level. But most people do not want to hear this and will change doctors if told this.”

      I am mostly organic vegan and eat mostly locally grown food (which supports local organic growers and reduces the use of fossil fuel used to take the food to the customer, thus reducing pollution). Several times I have carefully compared what my food costs compared to people I know who eat mostly processed and sometimes partially prepared food. My healthy food actually costs less than their food. I know several other people who eat very healthy food and they report the same thing.

      Several times I have been in the store to pick up an item or two and have observed the cashier ringing up a bag of fruits and veggies for one customer, then a bag of boxed, canned and jarred processed food for the next customer. Every time the bag of produce is much less expensive.

      • It is lovely when one has access to the low-cost local fruits and vegetables in the first place. Unfortunately, in northern climes this is complicated and in impoverished urban areas may be almost impossible. Further, in single-parent and overworked lower income families, the added energy cost of shopping and preparation has to be taken into account. A mom or dad who has just finished working a 9 or 10 hr shift at the plant or gas station (assuming they only have one job) on top of home and child care responsibilities may find preparing a healthy meal and cleaning up afterward more of an obstacle than one might think.

        • EXACTLY. I’m lucky enough to have great access to great farmers markets (I live in Seattle), but many in this country aren’t that lucky. Even so, if you’re (Sam) trying to argue that buying natural foods from farmers markets are cheaper than processed foods, you live in an alternate reality. Farmers markets are great, but they are expensive.

          In terms of a supermarket chain, yes, celery is cheaper than a frozen pizza, but you can’t live off celery, and when you do the math, Top Raman and off-brand boxed mac & cheese are the cheapest way to feed yourself or a large family when you don’t have the luxury of having or being a stay at home wife/husband/independently wealthy famous person. You simply can’t argue with that.

          And I’m not arguing that the majority of obese people are that way because of a medical condition. I am arguing that some are, and it makes no sense to judge by appearances.

    • Well, gluttony is, by definition, a sin — it’s what the word means. However, I take your point that not all obesity is proof of gluttony, nor are all slim people free from the sin. In “The Screwtape Letters,” in fact, the character who is a slave to gluttony actually eats very little.

      I understand what you say about poor people and don’t mean to condemn any individual. It is strange, though, on the cultural if not individual level, that the poor are overweight. In other times and places, the poor were thin. In Kyrgyzstan, a poor country, income is directly and obviously correlated to weight. Poor people are thin, rich people are fat. That observation suggests two things to me: first, that our society here in America is odd by reversing the obvious association between money and weight; and second, that people everywhere, when they can, will eat more than is good for them. The result in Kyrgyzstan was not just overweight but almost an epidemic of high blood pressure.

      So once again I question Lewis’s assertion that our food appetite is not so terribly unhealthy. Rich or poor of any culture, unless strongly motivated otherwise, will overeat when they can. That gets me back to my question not only of why Christians don’t call out the sin, but also of why Christians (except for the Orthodox) have ceased recommending the training — regular fasting — that can help us put the urges of the flesh into proper perspective.

      • Funny, I’ve been thinking recently about why Eastern religious traditions emphasize physical and intellectual discipline (yoga, meditation, etc.) as intrinsic parts of their devotional lives while Judaism and Christianity haven’t (fasting being a possible exception, though not as encompassing or focused). I have no answers; I don’t believe it is a failing of Biblical spirituality, but ponder …

        My impression is that in other times and places poor folks were less likely to have access to advanced forms of transportation and commercial foodstuffs and were more likely to be involved in physically active work. Nowadays most poor folks in our society work in far less physical jobs and have access to at least public transportation and often private vehicles (especially in small town and rural circumstances vehicle ownership is pretty much essential to maintain employment and social contact). Further, it seems that many of those with lower incomes are less likely to have the space or time to grow much of their own food, and have the problems procuring and preparing fresh food I mentioned above. While I’m not saying simple overeating or irresponsibility can’t be a factor, there are other socio-economic shifts that could also account for the trend

        • Actually, Catholic and Orthodox Christianity have had traditions of intellectual and physical disciplines, but most Protestantism has rejected those.

          And as far as spreading out the responsibility, “Science News” recently reported that a relatively new virus that has multiplied among people since the 70s seems to cause weight gain in many cases. But I’m sticking to my guns: a virus may contribute to obesity, but the pest that makes TV shows like “Man vs. Food” is human!

          • :-D! I’ll stick to my guns too – not denying a link, but resisting equating overweight and gluttony Agree – there’s plenty of gluttony to bemoan

      • I’m a little unclear on what fasting has to do with gluttony. My understanding is that fasting has to do with prayer, not with food. If someone were to tell me they were fasting because they were fat, or felt guilty for having eaten too much, I might question the spiritual advisability of that fast. Several years ago I fasted once a week for about a year and it didn’t change my eating habits on the other days at all. It’s not supposed to be a magic diet. It’s supposed to be a spiritual discipline to aid in seeking God.

        And while I agree with you that the reversal of the relationship of wealth and weight in this country is strange, I don’t agree that that reversal has as much to do with gluttony as you are suggesting. I think it has much more to do with unequal access to health care, nutrition education, fresh produce, and free time to work out and prepare healthy foods.

        The food industry in this country is a mess, most processed foods are essentially poisen for the body, and I do think it is a moral issue, I just don’t think it’s as simple as gluttony = sin. There are larger societal forces at play, and introducing shaming into the mix is much more likely to drive people to Doritos than it is to drive them to create a lasting change in behavior.

        • Sigh…and here I am railing about unequal access to education and I’m misspelling words all over the place. I am young enough to struggle to spell without spellcheck but old enough to still feel shame about it.

        • ditto your point about fasting and prayer. And thanks for your perspective – much appreciated!

        • Fasting, prayer, and almsgiving (the three disciplines specifically mentioned by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount) are certainly interrelated — as is everything involved in the fullness of Christian practice and experience. But they are not the same thing. They are all communal disciplines — or at least are intended to be — and cannot be practiced effectively separately. But prayer is our direct mystical experience (not to be confused with “feeling”) of God. Fasting teaches us that we do not live by bread alone and through its practice helps heal our disordered natural and embodied drives and impulses. A great deal of modern Christianity seems to have almost lost that understanding, but that’s what Christians have lived and taught through most of the last two thousand years.

          I agree with the rest of your comment as I’ve expanded in some of my other comments elsewhere. Peace.

  22. In the words of David Letterman, this is why the world hates us.

  23. Great post! Growing up in the South, food has always been a huge part of our lives. We pride ourselves in everything fried. The funny thing is my grandparents and parents grew up on terribly unhealthy food yet, they were all relatively thin people. I think that they were able to enjoy food in moderation. Now, it is used as a comforter. Interesting. However, I personally was/am on the other extreme of the obsessive body issues person. You know the one who is convinced she is fat when she is not and exercises or denies herself something for fear she will become fat and rejected. Although obesity is a huge problem, there are tons of girls maybe guys too who are seeking to be identified by their physical appearance and it is so damaging. Maybe you could do a follow up post on the opposite extreme?

    • When it comes to healthy diet and obesity, there are two sides to the story. Calories in, calories out. As a society, the west and America in particular is far more sedentary than in the past. Jobs often involve sitting down all day, with a sat down car ride either side. The idea of walking to the shops is considered a horror.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I work in a small cubicle farm, performing unnatural acts with Windows, VB, and SQL. I have to walk one to two miles on my lunch hour (when weather permits) to keep my weight under control. (I was supermodel-skinny in my younger days, but middle-age spread filled me out to more “normal” weight & build, giving me a fat reserve in case of serious illness such as four years ago; however, I still have to work to keep my weight from overloading my pancreas.)

        It’s gotten worse in the past few years because of “opportunities for grazing”; we didn’t use to have bags of snack foods and bowls of candy in the office, always being refilled.

        • Doing any kind of software development is bad for your health – lack of movement, zoning and becoming one with your app so that it takes a good half an hour to be able to react with the outside world… yep – I’m one of those folks too which is why I took up running….

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Oh, it gets worse. Besides the constant continuous clicking of keyboards, there’s the constant continous sounds of noshing — bags of snacks being opened, tops popping on soft-drink cans, and the continuous crunching and chewing and noshing and nomming coming from over the cubicle tops. It literally NEVER stops. NEVER.

        • “giving me a fat reserve in case of serious illness”

          I like that, HUG. I like to think that is what I am doing, too. And my job keeps me sitting too much, too, and then I come home and sit at the computer, sit to eat, sit to watch TV. Good thing I get SOME exercise going up and down stairs at home and work.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Through my mid-Thirties, I was never above 130 lbs, no matter how much I ate. When I’d catch something like the flu, it would take me weeks (sometimes months) to recover completely.

            Then between 35 and 40, I hit middle-age spread and have been gaining ever since. Topped 200 around two years ago and started having blood sugar problems (carrying 200 lbs with a pancreas rated for 180, max). Since then, I’ve gotten down into the 180 range by becoming more physically active. This gives me 60 lbs fat reserve, the average amount dropped during chemo or other very serious illness.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Growing up in the South, food has always been a huge part of our lives. We pride ourselves in everything fried.

      Like I said above, they like to eat hearty in the Former Confederate States. Both times I was in the former CSA (once in Atlanta, once in New Orleans), I ate WELL. After the local specialties of New Orleans, I understand why every Cajun/Creole chef on the cookbook covers weighs about twice as much as me. And that was during Lent; I don’t think I could have survived the visit otherwise.

      • I once was talked into getting a sampler barbeque platter from an eatery down south (OK – there wasn’t really much arm twisting). I ate so much meat I was actually seeing double… now that’s gluttony (I couldn’t really function for a few hours – kind of like a python after eating a warthog)….

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Sounds like Central Texas Barbeque in Castroville (near Monterey on the central California coast). I stop and eat there once a year, on an annual trip to an event in the Bay Area. You get your money’s worth at that place.

    • Robin,
      A word you wrote caught my eye. A few others have touched on it: food as the comforter.
      Because it is available, we often use it this way…..or search for other sources of comfort.
      In doing so, we miss out or accept an inferior object in place of the source of true comfort!
      Therein lies sin.

  24. I have to admit being somewhat conflicted by the tone of this post and the comments. I’m not going to deny that over-indulgence and lack of discipline aren’t serious problems, but I struggle with our assumptions of what gluttony is and who is guilty of it. I like Eric’s reference to Augustine’s definitions as well as Marie’s cautions. So far as a doctor’s testimonial that the vast majority of obese folks haven’t been brought to that state by medical problems, while not minimizing the issue of choice it is also true that doctors often miss subtle underlying conditions and, according to some reports I’ve heard, may be biased and dismissive of those who struggle. I’ve been on both sides of the judgement fence – both being distrusted, dismissed and even being treated with bald contempt for my extra pounds despite efforts on my part to rectify the situation (complicated by unseen medical factors), as well as my own judgement of others including a woman who was in the process of dying of diabetes). Even in situations of “choice” factors such as genetics, culture and access to healthy food and exercise play a part that can be hard for those who don’t struggle to understand. Again, temperance and self-control are Biblical virtues – but so are mercy and the wisdom to understand that judgements based on appearance can be tragically deceptive.

    I’ve been pondering what exactly the sin in gluttony is. Certainly, as I said, lack of self-control is part of it. But my admittedly less-than-thorough contemplation leads me to think that one of the defining characteristics of real gluttony is self-centeredness, especially wastefulness and lack of concern for others. This is far bigger than simple overeating, and while obesity is often (though not always) a consequence of gluttony, it may be unjust to extrapolate true gluttony from the weight of the obese person in front of us.

    p.s. reading this post did convince me to forgo that late-night tamale snack I was contemplating 🙂

    • “I’ve been pondering what exactly the sin in gluttony is. Certainly, as I said, lack of self-control is part of it. But my admittedly less-than-thorough contemplation leads me to think that one of the defining characteristics of real gluttony is self-centeredness, especially wastefulness and lack of concern for others. This is far bigger than simple overeating, and while obesity is often (though not always) a consequence of gluttony, it may be unjust to extrapolate true gluttony from the weight of the obese person in front of us.”

      You’ve hit the nail on the head here, sg. Well put.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        And having it control you. Both Mr Creosote at the top of the page and the Gluttony of Delicacy example in Screwtape Letters are completely controlled by what they eat (or refuse to eat, in the latter case). They are their appetite’s prison bitches. Man vs Food, and the food won.

    • cunnudda, MD says

      “it is also true that doctors often miss subtle underlying conditions and, according to some reports I’ve heard, may be biased and dismissive of those who struggle.”
      What patronizing and paranoid claptrap. Is hypergeneralization considered a sin?

    • “So far as a doctor’s testimonial that the vast majority of obese folks haven’t been brought to that state by medical problems, while not minimizing the issue of choice it is also true that doctors often miss subtle underlying conditions and, according to some reports I’ve heard, may be biased and dismissive of those who struggle.”

      As far as I’m concerned this entire line of reasoning falls apart when we look at the extent of the problem. Anecdotal evidence of doctors missing “underlying conditions” in specific people does not explain why such a high percentage of the American population is not only overweight, but obese.

      • w/respect @ James, I would agree – if it were simply
        a matter of anecdotal reports. This discussion inspired a late-night wander through online resources on the subject. Multiple studies suggest that weight bias in medical care contributes not only to medical care attitudes and interactions that are actively counter-productive in the treatment of weight problems but it can lead to mis-diagnosis (false attribution and dismissal of symptoms as consequences of excess weight) and refusal to provide tests or treatment (sometimes for legitimate technical reasons, sometimes for reasons of convenience or prejudice). Studies also show that doctors and other medical professionals either aren’t aware of or don’t acknowledge some of the cultural and biological complexities involved in weight issues. I read articles at CNN, the Washington Post, the NY Times and others on the subject, as well as articles in the journal Nature and a very pointed essay directed at medical professionals at the National Institutes of Health. There’s even apparently a study center at Yale devoted to ending weight bias in medical care; they have a training video for medical professionals on YouTube hosted by the model Emme; it’s about 16-17 minutes long and covers some of the issues I’ve mentioned. Sorry – no link, but it’s easily found by heading to youTube and searching “weight bias.” I’m not an expert on the subject by far; I just happened to have had a memory of a memory of a study mentioned in the news a while ago and was motivated by this discussion to look.

        I’m not trying to remove personal responsibility from anyone, but I do believe there are more factors at play than simple American gluttony. We have to take the sin of gluttony seriously, but what about the sins of false judgement and potentially bearing false witness against a neighbor? Obviously we’ve got problems with food in our country (as there are in others) but have to be very careful about ill-informed judgements and biases.

  25. Gluttony could be considered a subset of greed, in which we should discuss it alongside other forms of over-consumption. (Is it okay to spend money on nice cars and large TV’s, when people are starving in the world?) Or it could be an indicator of some sort of psychological issue such as insecurity, in which case treating it as a sin seems harsh. Either way, it might be approached as a problem of balance in one’s life.

    • “gluttony as a subset of greed …” I think the two are definitely related; perhaps parallel versions of the same impulse (one for food and drink, the other for money and possessions). Both manifestations of selfishness and desire for MORE at the expense of right and loving priorities. I’m not sure it’s referring to simply consuming more than is necessary on occasion – does the Bible condemn enjoying a celebratory feast or material blessing? – but perhaps to self-indulgent excess, a sense of entitlement or an insistence on having too much without regard for the well-being and rights of others or for honoring God. Again, I’m not condoning bad dietary habits, but am unsure that everyone who eats badly qualifies as a glutton and am even less sure that excess weight in and of itself is sufficient evidence to convict someone of this particular sin.

      • I’ve often thought that in America we have not just morbidly obese people but morbidly obese houses. The houses, like the people, are crippled for their original function by their excess. The stuff overflows the houses: every struggling town of 1000 people in my area has a U-Store business. As in the case of human obesity, I think the problem of too much stuff is evidence of a grave distortion of priorities, on the level of a disease. Again, how are Christians in America using the accumulated wisdom of the last 2000 years to address the problem? I think mostly we aren’t.

        Sin of all forms is a disease. Jesus has come to the sick, but only those who know they’re sick listen to him. I’m sorry if the tone of my article seems callous, but it’s in the nature of a yell — “Man the lifeboats! The ship is going down!” Tact and subtle considerations can and should come later, after the problem is identified.

        • Damaris,
          I appreciate the intent of the article, and the need for it. However, correct diagnosis of the disease is needed for proper response. My concern is how quickly the discussion moved from the sin of gluttony to the “sin” of being overweight. I think equating the two perhaps reflects modern Western biases more than an accurate Biblical understanding of the sin of gluttony. If both body weight and gluttony are more complex than our presuppositions allow, we may be less than fairly addressing either.

          As I said, a worthwhile discussion. Blessings!

  26. “My inner spoiled child clamors for bribes from the grocery cart of life, and I too often placate HER”
    I’m way off point here, but I wrote yesterday that I enjoyed a woman’s pov. here at im. I stand corrected!
    Years ago I was bulimic, looking back on that chapter of my life brings shame and wonder… Shame that I had no self-control, wonder that Jesus had mercy on me and slowly brought me out of the grip of that dreaded sin/disease? I was starving for love, & a little control…Suppose I am off point here again!

  27. As someone who loves to eat himself, and is likely guilty of gluttony, I find gluttony to be a uniquely American problem. I’ve traveled pretty extensively in Europe, usually for about two-three weeks at a time, and have eaten pretty heartily while I’m there…but I’ve never gone on a trip there where I lost less than ten pounds. While there, I walk almost everywhere I go, and the diet changes pretty drastically…more fresh vegetables, homemade bread, fresh cut meats (in moderation); no fast food. Even the pizzas are made with fresh ingredients!

    My European friends are consistently amazed when they come here and visit a buffet, not by the amount of food that’s available, though…but because they get free refills on soft drinks!

    We do have issues with the amount of food we eat, but also issues with the quality of food. This is a lifestyle issue. We don’t want to use our valuable time prepping fresh foods to prepare for meals, so we take shortcuts with process, preserved, pre-prepared junk. I’m guilty of telling my wife, “Let’s just have something simple tonight”…and when I say it, not meaning a truly simple meal, but instead wanting something that will be microwaveable, and require little cleanup. We miss out as a result…When we do prepare a good meal, we do so together, and share great conversation while doing so.

    Proverbs says “Better a dinner of herbs, than a house full of feasting, and strife.” We’ve all got a lot to learn from that.” I’ve been wondering what to do for Lent this year, rather than making a hollow stab at abstaining from ice cream, and eating cookies or cake instead. I think we’ll do an active fast in our home, and commit to cooking together, and enjoying meal time more…in moderate, healthy portions.

    • If I may, Lee — it might be more defensible to say that obesity is a uniquely American problem than that gluttony is. I’ve lived on four continents and seen food used everywhere as an excuse for power struggles, insult, competitiveness, whining, selfishness, and discontent. These are all symptoms of gluttony as much as obesity is. (And you might want to look at the obesity numbers in England, although the English are adamant that they aren’t really European! Obesity is also a problem in some Asian and Pacific nations.) Certainly there’s a lot we can learn from other cultures about the proper use of food, but no one has it all right.

  28. One point I find missing is that we live in a culture that is actively and deliberately attempting to turn eating into what Christianity has classically called a passion. For those unfamiliar with the history of the word, the meaning of the word in this since is tied to suffering. The “passions” are the things we suffer, the things which rule us. And they are typically a disordered natural desire. Something has truly become a “passion” when it bypasses our will and conscious thought. In other words, when we reach the point where a given situation, sensation, or event triggers an almost automatic disordered response, we have become ruled by that passion. That has occurred now with food in our culture. A healthy desire, hunger, has been so disordered that we eat without thinking. And this is not accidental. I’ve been digesting (I know, bad pun) David Kessler’s book, The End of Overeating, and will probably blog about it at some point. It’s a look into the science behind the way food is being engineered, but I’m struck by how often the physical and psychological processes he describes as a result of the chemical input sound like the operation of the passions in the Fathers. It’s not that we simply don’t pay attention or have suddenly become weak-willed. We are under active attack in this area and most Christians have largely abandoned the disciplines that would help.

    One of the first things that struck me about Orthodoxy when I first became aware of it as a distinct tradition is their corporate practice of fasting. I immediately noticed they still fast most Wednesdays and Friday, which I recognized immediately from the Didache. I didn’t realize any Christian traditions or churches still did that up until that point. They fast 40 days for Lent (and actually have preparation for Great Lent) and 40 days for the Nativity. They fast together — with clear guidance, but which can also be modified for each individual by their spiritual father or mother — almost half the year. They don’t individually pick what they will “give up.” It’s a communal practice. If you look at Christianity, that lies right at the core of our traditional life and worship, but we have almost completely abandoned it. We desperately need it now.

    Of course, fasting without a corporate practice of prayer and the other disciplines and structures to support it won’t really accomplish much and can even become legalistic. (The Orthodox are aware of that tendency. You’re supposed to mind your own plate and not judge your neighbor’s during a fast.) So it’s really organically tied together. You can’t pull out one piece of the tradition and somehow make it work.

    Food has become more important to me since I’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease. I have to be aware and conscious of what’s in everything I put in my mouth. It’s been quite an adjustment, but it’s also been eye-opening. I was never oblivious to food and had tried to make more healthy choices than not. But I had not paid the close attention I now pay to every ingredient in food, especially processed food. I’ve come to really appreciate one of Michael Pollan’s food rules — Eat food. It sounds obvious, but he expands it with some simple ones to make it clearer and one of my favorite ones is – Only eat things your great-grandmother would recognize as food. It’s not clear that some of our highly processed “foods” are even much like food anymore. And that’s certainly true of fast foods today. There are some interesting examples of McDonald’s burgers siting for days and even longer without decomposing. No rot. No mold. Nothing. If bacteria and molds can’t eat something, can it still be considered food?

    Anyway, just some thoughts spurred by this discussion for what they are worth.

  29. do evangelicals need a ‘theology of the body’??? or do they have one that I don’t know about?

  30. Thanks, Damaris, for a post that says what I’ve often thought but have never voiced.

    I have always been a little bothered by the fact that “fellowship supper” at church consists of little more than big buckets of fried chicken, casserole dishes of unidentifiable cheesy-creamy (and usually yummy) “vegetable side dishes”, a table full of desserts, and a huge vat of coffee. I love desserts as much as the next person and am not against enjoying food and fellowship, but I always find the fellowship-supper spread a little obscene.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      And if you were in Utah, there’d also be “salads” consisting of Jello shot through with bits of fruit.

      Like I said above, the Church Potluck is one of the reasons preachers & deacons have a rep for being fat.

      • And Kool Whip, don’t forget — a product that would not pass as food on Andy’s flowchart linked below.

        • LOL. One of my favorite iMonk posts was a few years ago on how the church potluck food varies depending on denomination. Maybe CM will re-post it as an iMonk classic one of these days. 🙂

          • Nina said, “One of my favorite iMonk posts was a few years ago on how the church potluck food varies depending on denomination.” Yes, I liked that one too, Nina! It was very funny.

  31. Scott Morizot says:

    > I’ve been digesting (I know, bad pun) David Kessler’s book, The End of Overeating, and will probably blog about it at some point. It’s a look into the science behind the way food is being engineered . . . <

    There no such thing as a bad pun.

    But you raise a good point. Processed food today is engineered for sterility and shelf life, and often there is little nutrition left in packaged foods despite what the label says. A person who ate processed foods today in the amounts that people ate of fresh food in the '60s probably wouldn't get enough vitamins. Damaris and others are right that compulsive eating is a sin that some individuals succumb to. But there is also something inhuman about the food industry and the social values it panders to.

    Behind the sin of gluttony lie other sins of selfishness, disregard for families and time together, and more. Maybe one of the reasons gluttony gets so little serious attention in pulpits and in Christians' consciences is that the notion that every family should have a hot meal made from fresh ingredients every night would rub too many special groups the wrong way.

    • Actually, though I did have a point about the sterile nature of much highly processed food, that’s not the main thing they are engineered for. Since sugar, fat, and salt are comparatively rare in nature, our brains are wired to react strongly to them. Processed foods and modern restaurant dishes are engineered to hit those triggers. They are designed to create a craving for more. That’s what I meant when I said it’s not incidental or even fundamentally a result in changes in our culture. We are under relatively deliberate attack through our food. Now, culturally changes like the increase in snacking instead of eating at set times and with cultural rituals certain plays into it. But it seems to me that snacking has risen and broken down the cultural mores and rituals as our cravings have been increasingly stoked through our increasingly processed food. The food industry makes a lot more money off processed food and restaurants than through fresh meat and vegetables. They want us to buy more and more and design accordingly. Thus, although hunger has always had the capacity to become disordered to the point of becoming a passion, I think this is the first time in human history we have had the means to create the sort of food environment in which we now live.

      Sin means to miss the mark and gluttony is certainly a sin. But too many Christians seem to have lost the concept of our natural functioning desires and signals from our bodies — all of which were created good and for good purpose and are innate to our essence — becoming so disordered that they effectively bypass our wills. Hunger has become a passion in that sense rampantly throughout our culture. Once we are ruled by a passion, whatever its source, direct means do not suffice to break free. Our will, the means by which act, has been compromised. AA recognizes this truth about human nature. We become helpless. We have to recognize that fact and begin to work in community through less direct means. Too much discussion I’ve seen treats this like a conscious, deliberate, and willful sin — as if people could simply decide to change and be changed like magic. I don’t know anyone who wants or wills to be obese. Does anyone? The problem is much deeper than that.

      I also saw that Damaris posited above that since our poor are, percentage-wise, the most obese among us, that’s evidence of our great wealth as a nation and the relative wealth of our poor. While we are certainly the wealthiest nation today that has ever existed in human history by any measure that can be made, I would counter that he’s drawing the wrong conclusion from that statistic. First, the rates of obesity are increasing everywhere in our country at all classes and levels. Moreover, we are seeing the same effect happening over time in every country in which the American diet is introduced. The fundamental reason that the poor are growing obese at a faster rate is because they have the least access, by and large, to fresh food. Especially in urban areas, the poorest areas generally have few if any supermarkets. They can’t get real food even if they had the money to buy it. And that’s the second catch. The highly processed food that is the worst for us and the most likely to lead to obesity, though it has a higher profit margin, tends to be the cheapest at the retail level. (There are a number of reasons for that.) So even if they have access to real food, the poor often can’t afford it. (I’ve been poor in this country in the past. Though I didn’t think of it in those terms, I remember that dynamic. And it’s gotten worse, not better.) Of course, even the things we have traditionally considered “natural” (fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy) are beginning to increasingly be engineered and processed to increase those profit margins in a variety of different ways. Even if you want to eat “food”, it’s becoming harder and harder to find in our country.

      • Print that comment in a pamphlet, Scott, and hand it our at grocery stores and fast-food purveyors! It should be read widely.

    • But there is also something inhuman about the food industry and the social values it panders to.

      Careful there bub…I happen to work in the food industry. And let’s not over-demonize in generality when there is actually a trend in the ‘food industry’ to provide healthier foods as a result of medical science concerns & public awareness.

      The human default condition is self-preseveration, so people will always be battling comfort behaviors. Some are agreeably bad. Some neutral. Some are good. For every person, a certain amount of ‘effort’ will be required to seek a healthier (vs. healthy) lifestyle. Identifying the ‘cravings’ a first step. Why the cravings? Is it emotionally, psychologically, physically unhealthy? I do believe the journey of discipleship should be one of transformation, & yes, that includes better diet & exercise discipline. God is not blind to the American over-consumption habits of its citizens. But I think the ‘lean’ preaching about being overweight due to lack of eating discipline a valid one. Moderation & activity should be encouraged. I prefer a ‘positive’ encouraging approach to the finger-pointing guilt inducing one, but we (Christians with friends+family) can be a good witness with their consumption habits & an encouragement to others that have difficulty saying “No!” to ungodliness in all its insidious forms…

  32. cunnudda, MD says

    Once again it’s amusing/depressing to see all sorts of folk jump in with explanations or exculpations for a particular sin. This is a regular feature here at IM. “grace,grace,grace”. The fact is that, thanks in part to a culture built on psychology and blaming society for one’s bad choices, there is a very strong antinomian streak in the evangelicalism that is supposedly all law and no gospel. Of course, they’d never call it that. They call it “compassion”, “grace”, etc., but the bottom line is the same: we’re all sinners, but any individual sin is explained away. Sheesh.

    • MD – stand for Doctor or Maryland?…. We all make choices. I can choose to be a glutton or not – and although society might have an impact on my outlook its still my choice whether I participate.

  33. Eddie Scizzard says

    Nothing I disagree with too much here. Except for the Gross Food Movement bit.

    How is that a “perversion”? Just cause it’s not a majority “taste”?

    Maybe the analogy is apt, though, as most (consensual) sexual “perversions” seem to align with them simply not being the majority practice.

    • The literal meaning of the word perversion is a turning aside from the proper use of something. Deliberate indulgence in food that one acknowledges to be gross, and that one eats as a statement, is a perversion in that sense of the word. It is a turning aside from the proper use of food as the humble and pleasant means of keeping oneself alive.

  34. I wonder how much latent gnostic tendencies might be contributing to the sin of gluttony. If spirit is good and material/phsical is evil/bad, one possible outcome is that abuse or misuse of the material/physical can be overlooked because any connection to the spiritual is lost or denied.

    I don’t know how much this may or may not be contributing things, and I’m not sure there’s any good way to measure or demonstrate a causal connection even if it’s there, but it’s an interesting question to ponder.

  35. Lewis was wrong. The parallel between sexuality and food is a culturally constructed one; other than that they are both necessary for survival as well as pleasurable and social-bonds-enhancing, they are completely different. While we do have to weigh the pleasure of eating against the dangers of overeating, the endorphins produced by orgasms (and, let’s face it, the exercise!) are healthy; you can hardly overdose on those. (If you tried, physical exhaustion would hinder you, I guess?) Never mind that your crooked analogy also turns out despicably misogynist (stripping woman = dish? hello objectification!). Stop feeding into harmful cultural stereotypes.

    • Don’t think we are talking about the activity itself – which is very healthy – in a place where there is trust like marriage. What could be unhealthy is overdosing on porn, multple partners etc. or separating sex from intimacy so that it becomes just a release.

      As for food – I love to eat…. and there have been times in my life when I would fall in the gluttony category – eating a pound of speggetti and laying on the couch becuse I was so bloated. And I am not overweight and run about 25 miles a week… but its still glottony.

    • Francesca — Sex is not a consequence-less activity. That people think it is may be one of the most harmful cultural stereotypes there is. There are other results of sex besides orgasm. You’ve already found Lewis offensive, but let me quote a little more just to allow him to speak for himself. This continues the quotation in second paragraph of my article above: ” . . . but not enormously. But if a healthy young man indulged his sexual appetite whenever he felt inclined, and if each act produced a baby, then in ten years he might easily populate a small village. This appetite is in ludicrous and preposterous excess of its function.”

      And surely it’s clear that Lewis (it’s his analogy, not mine) is saying that objectifying anything for the indulgence of appetite is wrong. How is that misogynistic?

      • Saint John of the Cross….

        • Help me out here.

          • I think Lewis puts iit in layman’s terms. Saint John of the Cross would state that appetites, those things that are completely self-indulgent, do damage in our growth with God and should be tempered. So… outside the bonds of marriage one is fulfilling a sexual appetite, without condsideration of trust or intimacy, just concerned about the feeling – only thinking of oneself. Within a marriage if one is looking at porn or having affairs instead of strengthening the bond with one’s spouse, again that person is feeding an appetite which is self-centered and left unchecked is ultimately destructive to both in the union.

          • Got it. Thank you.

  36. A seminary professor once mentioned that there is a deeply spiritual aspect to food that we haven’t fully explored. I agree. From the fruit of the tree in the garden, to eating the sacrifices of the OT in the temple as worship, to Communion/Lord’s Supper/Eucharist, to fasting, to the wedding feast of the Lamb, food is found throughout salvation history. I think perhaps that gluttony has been traditionally included in the seven deadly sins because we recognize that there is a deeper aspect to food than just eating it. (Similar to sex, which helps provide oneness/union in marriage that then points to oneness/union with Christ.) Perhaps food has more to do with trust in God’s love and provision, and finding satisfaction in what He only can provide.

  37. I don’t know Rad…. sometimes between husband and wife you do just need to have release. But that being the case, it does not necessarily mean that intimacy and sex have been separated just because an individual and their spouse are engaged with one another for release. The tension that can build up can cause serious problems in a relationship. Sex is one of the most private, and intimate of issues, and as such, I do not believe that any one person has the right to claim “good” or “bad” for another in the context of a committed, monogamous union between a man and a woman. Whereas one person’s sex drive is naturally low and they can get along fine without engaging in sex very frequently, for another it may be the exact opposite – they have a high sex drive which means that they like to have sex – a lot – and it causes no problems for them in their life.

    I really think that the church’s attitude toward sex is by and large myopic and destructive. God gave us the gift of sex, and when two people are engaged together it is one of the most beautiful things this side of heaven – whether or not conception occurs.

    • that was intended for Rad’s comment above.

    • i would add that due to the personal nature of sex, i do not believe that one person has the right to pronounce “excess” on to another person.

    • Jason,

      I agree with what you say. I was responding to the commentator who I thought was championing sex for sex sake, separated from intimacy and outside of marriage.

  38. Great article. I’ve shared it on facebook, and on a discussion forum. I’ve found no “image to put me off my food” more effective than Mr. Creosote.

  39. Hi there – I’m fat and I just wanted to comment on this article. First of all I agree with most of the points you’ve mentioned here. For me, the sin of gluttony in my life comes down to self-indulgence. For example, I’m on a diet and I know I don’t *need* any extra calories for the day, but I *want* to entertain myself by food so I have a dessert and I remain fat. I also agree with what you’re saying that you can be a glutton and not be fat. I live in California and I know so many people so hyperconcerned with what goes into their mouths, they can only have organic, only expensive foods from Whole Foods etc.

    But one thing I did want to mention – you said: “So many people now are obese and unhappy about it that they exert great pressure on others not to mention the weight problem. It’s rude to say anything about eating habits, they imply. It’s unkind. It’s also embarrassing to many would-be prophets who are packing on the pounds themselves.”

    Oh please. Anyone who has grown up fat knows from the day they step into school they are different. People are bullied for not having a normal body weight. People are ostracized for not fitting in to the thin image of what a person is supposed to look like (especially a woman). If you think it ends at the schoolyard think again – my co-workers, my boss, my friends, and my relatives all make negative comments about my appearance regularly. And I am not the size of a house! I am 40 lbs overweight and I am working hard to lose it. Some people will say “Well stop being fat and people will stop making fun of you!” – I’ve done a great deal of thinking about this and I think this is a very shallow and uncharitable way to be. I’m kind of sickened that lack of control in this area in my life has resulted in rejection and abuse all through my life. It has lead me to have a very sobering view of the people around me knowing that my appearance has been enough for them to treat me like dirt.

    Surely gluttony is a sin, but keep in mind that far from glorifying gluttony, this culture comes down hard on people carrying around extra weight in a way no one would dare or dream to come down on someone who is sexually promiscuous. If you’re into porn or sleeping around, the culture will defend your sins, but if you’re fat… well the condemnation will fall.

    • Exactly. The hypocrisy involved in this sin is the reason I wanted to write about it. Sorry if I didn’t make that clear. Thanks for your contribution.

    • “Anyone who has grown up fat knows from the day they step into school they are different. People are bullied for not having a normal body weight. People are ostracized for not fitting in to the thin image of what a person is supposed to look like (especially a woman). If you think it ends at the schoolyard think again – my co-workers, my boss, my friends, and my relatives all make negative comments about my appearance regularly.”

      This goes both ways. I have always been on the skinny side, and I have been teased by my friends, acquaintances, and even total strangers for it. One time I went to Dairy Queen and the girl at the counter made some really nasty remarks to me about my weight because she thought I was “so much skinnier” than her (and there was nothing wrong with her! She was petite and cute and normal weight). Friends – even close friends – have made comments about my weight= around the lunch or dinner table often enough that I am often uncomfortable eating around people because if I eat a normal amount of food they ask how I can eat so much and stay thin, and if I eat anything light or small they will bring up eating disorders.

      One time in high school we read this humorous essay that characterized “fat people” and “skinny people” – it was not serious writing or anything, but I started crying when I read it because it cut to the heart of everything I had ever been teased for growing up, and if I remember right I actually asked to leave the room.

      I guess what I’m saying is, skinny people get criticized and teased too. The difference is, skinny people don’t get much sympathy for it. We’re not allowed to feel sorry for ourselves.

      • Zoe,

        I’m glad that you mentioned the problems about skinny people getting comments about their weight also.

        I’ve been on the thin side most of my life (exception: being so fat as a baby as to be put on a diet)

        A number of years ago, I broke my jaw and had to have my mouth wired shut for 5 endless weeks. When I went to church, one of the favorite questions was “How much weight did you lose?” Which was quickly followed up, by the statement, “I wish that something like that would happen to me.” There was little to no thought about how hard it is to take in sufficient calories when everything has to be through a straw.

        • Yeah, that kind of attitude toward conditions like you had (mouth wired shut) really concerns me, because the seeds of an eating disorder are in those thoughts. When my ballet teacher was a teenager, she got very sick for a few weeks and in that time she lost some weight because she just couldn’t eat much. Once she was better, she thought it would be a great idea if she could keep eating like she did (or rather, didn’t) when she was sick so she could lose even more weight. At 5’5″, she dropped to I think 90 pounds, was so weak she could hardly take class, and almost got kicked out of the ballet school because of it. I certainly hope none of those people do have something like that happen to them, because if they found that they started losing weight, who knows where – or if – they would stop?

          Weight is such a difficult subject to talk about. It seems like almost nobody has a truly healthy body image and truly healthy eating habits. We all fall to one side of the spectrum or the other.

  40. Two words: John Hagee

  41. This is something that struck me when I read Mere Christianity as well. Commercials and ads for food essentially -are- a food version of a strip-tease act, or at least they try to be. We have messed-up ideas about food, and it starts when we’re children. How many of us were brought up that we had to clean our plates to leave the dinner table? That we had to finish our Happy Meal to play in the McDonald’s playground? Rewarded for good behavior with food, or punished for bad behavior by the denial of food? When you think about it, it’s completely insane. Food is (supposed to be) a basic necessity to life. What parent would make their child sleep outside for bad behavior? When did food stop being a necessity and become a luxury?

    Like almost everyone else in prosperous countries like the US, I am not exempt from this mindset. It is something I want to change about myself. Eat to live, don’t live to eat.

    • I think it was one of the child raising Christian authors that said parents should not make meal time a battle. Kids will be fussy eaters at times, but then, they will eat when they are hungry. Definitely have healthier snack options & smaller portions on meal time plates, but don’t try to enforce parental authority to force cleaning their plate or eating everything offered. Meal time should be low stress & respectful. No need to permit disrespectful behavior regarding the food or who prepared it.

      Unfortunately, I can look back at my parenting skills & see my dad in my methodology. I did learn though with my middle child that meal wars are not worth the parental pride being preserved…

      • another family story of my own…

        I have 3 strapping young men. And anyone that has boys knows once their growth spurt kicks in, a second mortgage is needed to finance the weekly grocery bill…

        I had a rule when we ate out at any restaurant when they were still small & relatively manageable: they could order anything on the menu as long as they ate it all. If they didn’t, they would have to pay me for the meal.

        The intent not to get them to gorge, since at a young age that is not ever a problem, but it did help them put into perspective how much eating out can cost & how their eyes can be bigger than their bellies…

        We have some fond family memories of this tactic & the resulting conversation it generated. Most of the time any leftovers simply taken by me into lunch the next day or work week. And the meal was worked off by them in extra chores or whatever. It was never a mean-spirited thing & it did cause them to order a smaller selection or avoid dessert most times…

        • That is a really interesting solution! Did you find it effective? My fiance and I have talked a little bit about how we will raise our kids (when we have them) with regard to food, and we agree that “clean your plate” isn’t going to be a rule. My mom was pretty good – if we said we were full or didn’t like what was on our plate, she made us eat 5 (or some other seemingly arbitrary number) more bites, and that was good enough for her, although she did play the “starving children in Africa would love to eat your food” card often (I interpreted this to mean that when I threw away food, the starving children in Africa somehow got it and ate it; my brother interpreted it to mean that he should pretend to be a starving child in Africa and eat all his food. To each his own). Anyway, we are hoping to train our kids from an early age to like healthy food by just not having all the crap in our house that was in my house when I was growing up. My theory is, if the kids aren’t hungry enough to finish their dinner at dinner time, and are hungry later in the evening, their food will be in the fridge waiting for them.

  42. don’t know if it was mentioned already, but Michael Spencer wrote a great article about dealing with his weight in the Essay section:

    The Boy At The Beach….and How I Killed Him
    How being fat and being me became the same thing.
    by Michael Spencer

  43. I just moved into my first apartment yesterday. This morning I was going to go buy groceries, but decided to read iMonk first. Seems like a good time to revolutionize my diet!

  44. It took a while, but I found the post about potlucks that Nina and I referred to in a previous comment. It was a Liturgical Ganstas post that you can read at: https://internetmonk.com/archive/the-liturgical-gangstas-8-the-potluck

    Peter Vance Matthews wrote, “Anglicans find casseroles unseemly.”

    Wiliam Cwirla wrote, “Coffee is the 4th sacrament of the Lutheran church.”

    I enjoyed Alan Creech’s comments about what the Catholics would be eating.

    The comments about what the Liturgical Ganstas wrote contain some funny things too.

  45. A friend linked this up on our social networking site. And I’m so glad she did!
    Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts and insights!