Friday, November 18, 2011

Dainty Eating Habits?

Hieronymus Bosch: Gluttony

I have to admit that I don't know as much about gluttony as I thought I did. Most of the information I had on this sin was from Peter Kreeft's book Back to Virtue. I don't know why I thought it was as simple as overeating or drinking too much...I should have known there was much more to it.

The easy definition of gluttony is eating or drinking inordinately. Who hasn't been guilty of this sin at times? Very few of us I'm sure. For those who say, "Wait a minute! I never overeat or drink too much!" I have some bad news for you (well, it was bad for me at least):

According to St. Thomas Aquinas, gluttony consists of :
~eating food that is too luxurious
~eating too much food
~eating daintily (fussiness about food preparation)
~ eating at inappropriate times (for example too much snacking at night or between meals)
~eating too eagerly


 I have done most of these things. I've definitely shovelled food down my throat without paying much attention to what I was doing. I've eaten at inappropriate times too. Though these things may seem nitpicky, St. Thomas warns us about each of these because gluttony generates other sins. Plus, it is selfish. I guess in our day many of us consume too much of the world's goods. As if the above definition is not enough, gluttony can also carry over to areas other than eating or drinking. 

What are some of the signs and symptoms of gluttony?
~ mindless eating
~ hiding or sneaking food
~ hoarding food
~ being picky about how your food is prepared
~ snobbery when it comes to food (only the best, costliest or most exotic food will do)
~ using food to soothe emotions
~ addictions (alcohol, drug, caffeine, etc...)
~ eating disorders
~ insomnia
~ ill health
~ lethargy
~ lack of zeal for God

The list could go on but these are the most obvious ones. I didn't put being overweight on the list because thin people can have as much of a problem with gluttony as heavy people. Gluttony is more about having a "malnourished" soul. Our selfish over consumption of the things of this world lead to a narrowing of the spirit and a lack of generosity toward others. This is conquered by praying for and practicing the virtues of temperance and charity. Fasting is a great help with this deadly sin. We can also pray for a heart that's rightly ordered because a disordered heart is one that is too focused on oneself.

I won't even get started on the subject of spiritual gluttony...I'll leave that to an expert - St. John of the Cross


  1. Regarding the bit about "eating food that is too luxurious"; it always disappoints me when people go to fancy expensive restaurants and pay well over the odds for an empty plate of nouvelle cuisine, or whatever else they call it to make it sound high class.

    The menu is always in French to impress you and the wine waiter looks down at you as if he's got a permanent bad smell under his nose. He gives you a tiny drop of wine to taste and approve. No one has ever said: "This is trash, I want another bottle!" So why bother with the tasting?

    When the wine waiter gave me some wine to taste, (I was taking business guests for a meal on the firm's account), I said to him: "Just a drop? I'm not a tiny bird you know! Fill it up my good man". My business guests were not impressed.

    Anyway, luxurious food is gluttony, and an insult to those who don't have anything to eat.

    What's wrong with a nice plate of baked beans? Apart from the fact it gives you good vibrations on the inside? Tuneful too!

    Gluttony is not confined to just food. Too much music, jewellery, fancy clothes, big cars etc ... is also gluttony.

    God bless.

  2. Mary, you are doing so much good in sharing all of this information which you have been reading. Honestly, it's like looking at one's soul beneath a magnifying glass...most of us probably overlook many of these hidden components to sin.

    I'm guilty of so much of what you mentioned here, but would not have thought a thing about it before. I am going to take notes from these posts of yours.

    Can you imagine what St. Thomas Aquinas would have to say about "super size it" at the drive through..and 36 ounce drinks to go with it? : )

    I hate fast food, but I see so much room for improvement in many areas after reading your post. Thanks for sharing!


  3. I came to understand this only slowly, Mary. As a teenager, I assumed that under-eating was noble and virtuous, but, even as an adult, my confessor has laughed when I confess to gluttony, because of my size. I guess we get conditioned by the values of our image-conscious society and don't always think about our underlying intentions.

    Great post, Mary:)

  4. I have to admit that this is hard to read. I feed my emotions and that is typical of incest survivors. We either overeat or undereat. Which brings up the question of free will. Thanks for all your hard work on putting these posts together!

  5. "Our selfish over consumption of the things of this world lead to a narrowing of the spirit and a lack of generosity toward others."

    Absolutely fascinating! May I use that quote on my FB page?

  6. Victor,
    Lol! Your comments are always priceless! I'm sure your business guests were secretly wishing inside that the waiter would fill the glasses up - especially if you regaled them with your thoughts on baked beans :)

  7. Patricia,
    I'm guilty of these things too :) Are there really that many people who are not? If there are, they don't live in my area that's for sure! Lol!

    St. Thomas would be horrified at the "supersized" food and drinks we have today. In all honesty, those supersize Diet Cokes are one of my problems. For a while I was drinking tea instead but I fell back into getting the Diet Coke.

  8. Vicky,
    Thank you :) I'm not a person who eats huge quantities of food either but I certainly can see room for improvement in this area. I confess gluttony when I do poorly in this area too. Even though it may not be a serious sin it still affects my soul so I like to bring it up during Confession.

  9. Colleen,
    I feed my emotions too. I find that just being aware that I do this has been helpful to me because I can bring it up to the Lord and place it in his hands. God understands the hurts that causes people do the things they do and knows where our hearts need healing. It's definitely a process that takes time. Writing these posts has been an eye-opener for me and helps me realize just how much I rely on God's grace. No doubt I will fail in a lot of the areas I'm tackling but that's okay too because it's still bringing me closer to God and helping me understand myself at the same time. It's a win-win situation because I am learning either way :)

    There are so many things tha

  10. Colleen,
    Of course you can :) I'm glad this struck a note with you because when I wrote it I was struck by the certainty that this is truly what happens to us and it is why we need to pray for an increase in the virtue of charity, not just for temperance alone when we try to overcome gluttony (and other sins).

  11. Oops! Sorry Colleen (TOG)! I had to get up in the middle of a sentence and then forgot I was writing one when I came back :) I'm forgetful at times. Lol!

  12. The hardest for me is being careful not to eat out of boredom and using food as a pacifier. Really, this is about the misuse of food which is basically a good, turning it into an evil. We humans can distort just about anything.

    It's true, too, that we can be glutinous about anything and often things that happened to us in childhood that we've never resolved can drive the gluttony. The answer is, of course, Jesus. Substituting something good such as a simple prayer instead of reaching for the cashews. Or staying away from the mall if we're addicted to shopping.

    I'm glad you're writing about all of these because it surely makes me think.

  13. Barb,
    You are right about humans misusing and distorting things! I've seen this in my own life and in the lives of others. It's very tough these days because we are always tempted through advertising and because we are surrounded by stores, restaurants, and businesses that promote "the easy life". It's a constant bombardment.

    Writing about this has got me thinking too. Thanks for commenting.

  14. Your great posts about this reminded me of this great post by a Jesuit seminarian

  15. I'm torn between thanking you for writing this and wishing you hadn't. ;)

    Thank you for always helping me grow in my learning.

    God Bless.

  16. Mary,

    I am soooo far behind with reading your posts. I've missed all the discussion too! What a great series of posts. I know I am going to have to reread them all as they contain so much food (!) for thought.

    God bless!

  17. Thanks ThereseRita! Great site!

  18. Michael,
    Lol! I'm torn too :) Writing about things makes me really think deeply about them.

  19. Sue,
    I can relate - I'm behind on my blog reading too. It's been a bit hectic around here lately.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the posts. Loved the "food for thought" comment!

    God bless you, too :)

  20. Mary I too struggle with this. So appreciate you sharing it though. Blessings and hugs.

  21. You have plenty of company, my friend! Hugs to you too, JBR!

  22. Mary Wow! I need to print this out for future reference. This is good! Thank you!!

  23. Thanks Esther! I appreciate the "feedback". Lol!

  24. I'm with Michael and his comment. I almost wish you hadn't written this-it's so hard!!! Your posts make me realize that we will never (none of us) be perfect! A few years ago I would have fallen into a depressive state over that thought. I'm so grateful that I am a bit better able to accept my imperfection with the understanding that God must surely appreciate my attempts at improvement.

    Still, I want to be perfect and that will never happen if I'm not at least aware of my imperfections and strive to improve. So I thank you Mary for these very thought-provoking posts on the 7 big ones. You are doing a great service to the Catholic blogging community with your wise and loving words.

    Happy Thanksgiving my dear and wonderful friend! Don't eat too much turkey!!!! :)

  25. Hi Anne! It's good that we are imperfect, it helps us grow in humility.
    You must be reading my mind! Lol! In my next post I write about the fact that a few years back I wouldn't have been able to write about the seven deadly sins one right after the other because I would have become discouraged! But I have come to the same conclusion as you have: that God is pleased with our attempts and that it is better to be aware of our sins and to trust in his mercy.

    Thanks for the great comment, Anne. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! I'm less likely to eat too much turkey than too much dessert ;) God bless!

  26. Oh my Mary, I can see myself throughout your post... and thinking about all those who go without food and die of hunger. It's shaming really. Thanks for the eye awakening!