Friday, December 17, 2010

The Sin of Gluttony

The second deadly sin is Gluttony.  

In the words of nineteenth-century Russian Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov:
Wise temperance of the stomach is a door to all the virtues. Restrain the stomach, and you will enter Paradise. But if you please and pamper your stomach, you will hurl yourself over the precipice of bodily impurity, into the fire of wrath and fury, you will coarsen and darken your mind, and in this way you will ruin your powers of attention and self-control, your sobriety and vigilance.

Okay there is no way to mask this, so I will just come right out with it up front -- this post is intended to raise a lot of guilt.  If it raises your awareness to others' plight, then the world is a tiny bit improved.  If it inspires you to contribute to the aid of someone hungry or in need, then it helps even more.  If it inspires you to make some dietary changes from the guilty conscience I hope this unleashes, then your health will only improve from those changes as well!

I am bothered by how eating and drinking is required to have a "proper," "fun," holiday.  We live in a country (the USA - apologies to those readers from other countries) where upwards of 45% of the population is overweight.  This implies that the majority of Americans are getting all the food they need every day.  So when we pull up the plight of those living in Haiti or Ghana or Nicaragua and realize we have a "holiday" in the food department EVERY day, adding even MORE food to our celebrations seems wrong ethically. 

I can't even count the number of Thanksgivings, Christmases, and New Year's Days that I found myself "hurled over the precipice" and struggling with the bloated sloth and the mental darkness of a brain reeling from too many carbs and calories.  If I/we weren't also doing it half the week all the time, it might be "special," but as it is now, with the world hurting and hungry, it's simply obnoxious insensitive behavior.  To say nothing of the health effects.

Sugar kills immune system function for six hours after ingesting very small amounts.  The wrong fats clog arteries and veins.  The excess calories put on lots of pounds that reduce metabolism, slow down physical activity, and put undue stress on knees, ankles, and hips.  The majority of us need simpler, lower calorie diets.  Perhaps the more amazing celebration to have at holidays is a focus on the importance of the people we love and their health, and to take a break from the typical three meals and four snacks a day to eat LESS on holidays.  Perhaps greater thanksgiving would be realized if food were not the priority and people were?

So heading into Christmas I have these few suggestions to offer in some way to assuage the guilt I hope I've stimulated:

  • Visit  There is a link to the top left of this post along with just one of thousands of people in developing countries who could use just a $25 loan from you.  The cost of a very good meal out can make such a difference in someone's life!  Kiva is an amazing organization and you aren't donating $25 (or more) and writing it off.  That money comes back when their loan is paid and you get to choose AGAIN (and again) who to help next with that $25 (plus earned interest.)  If's VERY fun and terribly satisfying to watch their progress!
  • Eat less, but prepare food more!  Stop taking the easy Costco, microwaved, prepared food route to your meal.  The actual preparation of food should engage one's creative side and senses, and when done with others encourages cooperation and conversation.  These virtues feed far more than tummies.
  • Start "tweaking" recipes.  Play with reducing the sugar and the fat, while increasing the fiber, protein and vegetables in your recipes.  If you've ever noticed how food that is "good for you" tastes lousy, stubbornly adhere to the belief this does NOT have to be so and work to find the secrets for GOOD HEALTHY food!  Remember even if the recipe "flops dismally" that food represents MORE life sustenance than two-thirds of the world is getting for their meal.
  • Eat lightly then take a brisk walk and count the many, many blessings that flood our lives.
  • Remember your manners and politeness.  My mom and dad had a rule that reaching for food across the table was only permitted if one foot remained on the floor at all times.  This is a grossly minimalist approach to table manners, but thank yous and pleases really DO carry a positive energy that reflects gratitude and appreciation back to the Goodness of All Things!
 Prepare well in these last seven days before Christmas and with luck you will find some new traditions that come back year after year, as well as avoid the "fire, wrath, and fury" of gluttony.

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