What image comes to mind when you hear the word “gluttony”? For most people it usually has to do with food. Overeating, overdrinking, not getting enough exercise, or choosing the best meals for yourself, are commonly associated with this overlooked vice. With food being such an integral part of Thanksgiving, some Christians are naturally wondering how to avoid gluttony this holiday season. In truth, gluttony is a serious problem during Thanksgiving, but not in the way you may think.
First, let’s start by looking at what the term “gluttony” actually means. Gluttony is defined by over-indulgence, mostly with food, but it can apply to other things too. It is also defined by selfishness. Having a big appetite does not make someone a glutton, but hoarding food you don’t need instead of sharing it with others does. Food isn’t the problem, needless excess is.
Secondly, we need to understand the nature of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, with its towering dishes and oversized portions may appear to be an exercise in gluttony, but it’s actually quite the opposite. The Bible depicts a number of celebrations that would put our holiday to shame,
- “On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’” – John 2:1-3
- “And it was told King David, ‘The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.’ So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing. And when those who bore the ark of the LORD had gone six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened animal.” – 2 Samuel 6:12-13
It even likens Christ’s return to a wedding feast (Matthew 25). So why are none of them considered sinful? It’s because they were not selfish in nature. Thanksgiving is meant to be shared with friends and family, a celebration of God’s blessings. As Peggy Fletcher Stack mentioned in her own article, Thanksgiving is perhaps the only day of the year Americans can eat and not be guilty of gluttony.
Lastly, if enjoying food isn’t a sin, how can gluttony be a problem on Thanksgiving? Well, as mentioned earlier, gluttony isn’t always about what you eat. You may have noticed that many stores and shopping malls get particularly crowded around the Thanksgiving season. People are hunting for the best deals, and while some do this with good intentions, there’s no denying consumerism reaches a fever pitch. That’s where you’ll find gluttony, in the rampant, unapologetic consumerism.
On Thanksgiving Day, allow yourself to enjoy the bounty of God’s love. Eat your fill, drink up, “be merry” as they say, and don’t feel bad when you feel full. Just be sure that instead of rushing out to the nearest outlet mall once dinner has been cleared away, you take the time to reflect on the things you’re thankful for. Instead of meditating on your Christmas list, turn your thoughts to home and family, two things we so often take for granted. Don’t let gluttony poison your Thanksgiving.
I read a sobering article a few weeks ago that stated gluttony, or excessive eating, is the most accepted sin in the Christian community. And it is one of the focus areas of a Christian weight loss approach.
If excessive eating is a challenge for you, I’ve got a picture that can change your life.
I think of gluttony as getting drunk from food. Think about it…how do you feel after stuffing yourself from Thanksgiving dinner? Don’t you feel lethargic…sleepy?
The bible itself lumps drunkenness and gluttony together in Proverbs 23:21:
“For drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.”
Both alcohol and food have a profound effect on your mental state. Alcohol has a depressive effect and lowers your inhibitions. Certain foods have a chemical makeup that can either make you feel calm or more mentally alert, depending on the food.
While God created food for you to enjoy and allows you to drink alcohol, moderation is key. The problem comes when both are done to excess and you are unable to control yourself. My issues seemed to get worse at night.
I learned recently that the root word of gluttony means “to gulp.” How fitting! When I used to overeat, I was less concerned about what I was eating and more about getting it down as fast as I could to get to the mental effects the food would bring me. I was using food to self medicate.
Is that true of you?
And then after the excessive eating, when my stomach was stretched and aching, I would be overwhelmed with shame and guilt…and regret. I was frustrated and depressed, wondering why I seemed able to control every other area of my life but this one.
It also impacted my spiritual life. As I made excuses for my behavior in this area, it became easier to make excuses for other behavior in my life that wasn’t pleasing to God.
Do you have peace about your eating habits? Gluttony can be a destructive habit at any size. I’ve seen people who are slim, but are secretly bulimic. They eat excessively then purge themselves afterwards.
While my faith helped me to renew my mind regarding eating healthy, it took longer to overcome my tendency to overeat. To this day, there are times when my mind still wants to keep going even after my body says “Enough.” Especially if the food is good!
But with God’s help, I have gained the self control to say “No” to the temptation.
So what picture was I referring to earlier? A couple of weeks ago, I was fasting and praying, and a picture popped into my head of a man with horizontal lines going through his body. Before the image left me, I took a piece of paper and drew it out. I called the image “Temptation Anatomy”.
Once I looked at the picture, it became clear to me as to why gluttony became a habit for me. I believe this picture can be the key to overcoming every other negative habit that you might be struggling with.
Take a moment to look at the picture below:
The reason people fall victim to temptations is failure to make the cut between your thoughts and imagination when it comes to destructive thinking habits. Just having a thought about a temptation is not a sin. However, when you start indulging your imagination about that thought, involving your heart and emotions by picturing yourself engaged in that act, that’s when it gives birth to sin.
In the bible, Jesus said that if any man looks on a woman with lust in his heart he has already committed adultery with her (see Matthew 5:28). This is true because the act of imagination breeds desire, desire a decision to do it, and finally, the decision to act.
If it is a habit you’ve practiced a long time, you may not even be aware that you go through these steps…because you’ve done them so many times that you move to Action with lightning speed.
I realized with my gluttony habit in the past, I would often think about going to buy a Pepperidge Farm coconut cake. Then I would generate mental pictures and movies in my head about how good it would taste, which would make me desire to have it. Then, I would decide to go get it. Finally, I would take action and drive to the store. I would end up eating the cake with abandon, even on occasion eating the whole thing.
So you see, a diet will NEVER fix the tendency to gluttony. It is an external solution to an internal problem. Sure, you can restrict your food intake, but unless you learn to exercise self control at the Imagination level, you will go back to your old habits as soon as the diet is over.
Here is the mistake most people make: They have the thought, start imagine doing it, desire to do it…then try to exercise self control at the Decision level by talking themselves out of it.
That is way too late! Once you start imagining, it is very hard to stop yourself from moving to action.
So the easiest thing to do is to stop it right at the Thought level…imagine cutting the temptation off at the head as in the picture. Then, patiently replace the thought with something else because the mind cannot hold onto two thoughts at the same time.
What is the best thing to replace your thoughts with? The word of God. That is why it is so important that you study the bible so that your mind is renewed and you can be transformed. My favorite scriptures related to this habit are Romans 14:17 – “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
And Galatians 5:22-23 is another good one: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
Print the “Temptation Anatomy” picture and post it on your refrigerator or any other place where you need the reminder of how temptations work.
Pray that God grant you wisdom in your eating habits and trust that he will answer your prayer. SLOW DOWN and really taste your food. Enjoy it. You must eat slowly in order to hear when your body says “Enough.” And when it speaks, listen and stop eating. Put the fork, spoon, bag or box down. What the enemy means for harm, you can allow God to work the situation out for your good.
Your mind will protest as you start this new habit, but smile and simply tell yourself, “No.” Speak it aloud if you have to. What the mouth speaks, the ears hear, and the soul absorbs.
You will be amazed at how powerful this little word will make you feel. And each time you say it, it will get easier.
Finally, learn about other ways you can relax and calm down. I’ve have found that most people overeat in response to stress. There are far more effective ways to manage stress than to eat. One simple, but overlooked technique is to practice deep breathing regularly when you feel tension in your body. Another is simple stretching exercises. Praise music is also a great relaxation tool. Find some alternatives that work well for you.
The bottom line is that your body is not your own. Remember, because you are a disciple of Christ, your body houses God’s spirit – an honored guest! Keep this in mind as you welcome that guest by allowing him to cultivate those fruits of the Spirit within you, including the fruit of self control.
Then by your faith and positive action, you will be truly asking God to “Take Back Your Temple.”
Be blessed with health, healing, and wholeness,
Creator of the Take Back Your Temple program
P.S. When it comes to weight loss, do you often know what you should do but have a hard time doing it?
I struggled with this issue on my own weight loss journey, but I discovered that “Nothing is different until you think differently.” – Pastor James MacDonald
The value of the Take Back Your Temple program is that you will learn how to think differently through using Biblical keys to overcome obstacles. You’ll discover how to win the Spiritual and mental battle that often causes us to become inconsistent and get off-track on our weight loss journey.
Join a community of like-minded Christians losing weight and keep it off.
Click here to learn more about the Take Back Your Temple program
High on any list of weight loss mistakes you’d expect to find one of the original seven deadly sins: gluttony. And if gluttony means regularly consuming portion sizes that might be best measured in bushels, many of us are going to have more than one problem when it comes to fitting through the Pearly Gates.
“It’s not the food, it’s how much you’re eating,” says Jane Kirby, a registered dietitian and author of the recently revised guide, “Dieting for Dummies” (John Wiley & Sons, 2003). “People on a low-carb diet might think, ‘I can eat all the ham and Swiss cheese rollups dipped in mayonnaise that I want.'” She sighs. “No, you can’t. It’s portion, portion, portion.”
We’ve known about at least one deadly sin of weight loss for a long, long time: Eating too much too often is not a winning strategy. It doesn’t matter that ham and cheese is low in carbohydrates, or, for that matter, that bagels are fat-free. You cannot eat more calories than you expend day after day and expect to have a happy experience on the scale.
This brings us to a second big mistake many dieters make:
Trusting in a miracle diet. We all want weight loss to be quick and easy, and if it means six weeks of eating nothing but somebody’s secret recipe for slimming soup, we’ll do it. Unfortunately, it’s not taking off the pounds that bedevils many dieters, it’s keeping them off. That’s why many weight loss researchers prefer the term “weight management” to “dieting.” Staying fit and healthy – and at a reasonable weight – is not something you do for six weeks. It’s a lifelong commitment. And no one can eat that much soup.
Not counting calories. At its most basic, losing weight is a matter of taking in fewer calories than you expend. So as tedious as it sounds, Kirby says calories do count, and counting them can help you stay on track. For example, ignoring the nibbles and sips you take each day can foil your weight loss plans. An energy bar and a sugary sports drink – even if you consume them at the gym – both count toward your daily calorie total.
Eating too little. If eating too much is bad, shouldn’t sealing your lips to everything but leafy greens and an all-purpose vitamin work? Not necessarily. Eating too few calories may slow your metabolism, the process your cells use to burn food and create energy. Researchers vary on how few calories it takes before you slip into starvation mode and begin conserving calories, and the number depends on your own body and activity level. But as a general rule, Kirby says, going below about 800 calories a day may be counterproductive.
Expecting too much. How much weight do you want to lose, and how fast do you want to lose it? If the answer gets you back to your junior high weight in a week or two, it’s probably not a reasonable goal. Keep in mind, says Kirby, that losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight – that’s 10 to 15 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds – can provide health benefits as well as make you feel like a winner. Once you attain that goal, you can always set another.
Skipping exercise (also known as sloth). Let’s revisit the calories in vs. calories out concept: Exercise burns calories. Therefore, add exercise to your routine and the “calories out” part of your equation jumps up. But just as important, says Cedric Bryant, Ph.D., chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise, is what exercise does for your resting metabolism. It takes more energy to maintain lean tissue than it does to maintain fat. So, by building your lean tissue, exercise helps you burn calories even when you are not moving. Because of this, Bryant adds, research shows that people who are physically active are more likely to keep weight off once they lose it.
Neglecting your exit strategy. No matter how you choose to lose weight – especially if you opt for a “miracle diet” – make a plan for keeping the weight off. You’ve come too far to go back to your old eating and exercise habits, which led to weight gain in the first place.
“One big deadly mistake is thinking that you are going on a diet, and when it’s over, that’s it,” says Kirby. “If people can think more about doing something good for themselves, as opposed to denying themselves, I think they’ll find it a more successful strategy.”
Kathleen Donnelly is a Seattle freelance writer who specializes in health, medicine, home and lifestyle topics. She has written extensively for Backpacker Magazine, San Jose Mercury News and WebMD.com.
If I’m honest, Facebook is a major trap for me. It’s so easy to turn to Facebook for a brief stimulation, and then get caught in unnecessary scrolling. In a culture that feeds off constant attention and always being plugged in, I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggles with this.
But then, I do acknowledge the positive side of Facebook. A friend once told me that Facebook was a missionary’s best friend. It allows him (and all of us) to keep in touch with friends and family scattered across the world. Facebook, at its best, is a great connection tool.
The problem is, when we abuse Facebook, it becomes destructive, for our lives, relationships, and our spirituality.
Facebook only becomes harmful when we are gluttonous in our use of it.
Gluttony, as defined by the Bible, is the addiction to unnecessary excess. Basically, when we consume more than we need, we are being gluttonous. We are craving more instead of choosing to be satisfied with what we’ve been given.
Gluttony is typically associated with our consumption of food. But with this definition, it also fits our consumption of information as well.
On Facebook, we can be gluttonous when we scroll, read ads, and consume more information than what we need. When we are on Facebook and there’s a little voice in our head that screams, “more!” then we are in danger of being gluttonous with our social media use.
Like I said before, it’s easy to be gluttonous with Facebook, but it endangers our faith, our ability to be still and present with God. Recently, I’ve been thinking of ways I could avoid this gluttonous behavior on Facebook. Here are a few I suggest, from both personal experience and suggestions from friends:
1. Define your purpose in going on Facebook.
A friend told me that he only goes on Facebook to check up on his parents. I instantly appreciated how he established a purpose and stuck to it during his time on Facebook. He said he doesn’t do anything other than what he sets out to do.
Typically, we go on Facebook with no agenda, which means, we can easily be caught in spending too much time consuming needless information. Next time before you go on Facebook, tell yourself what you are exactly going to do, and don’t go on without an agenda.
2. Be quick to notice your surroundings.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in what you are viewing on Facebook. Once you open it up, you slowly get sucked into your newsfeed instead of paying attention to what’s around you.
Lately, I’ve been trying to implement more focus of my surroundings while I’m on Facebook. I try to spend only a few minutes on it, while also being aware of my surroundings. If my wife is next to me, I try my best to not pull up Facebook. This is because I choose to be aware of her and what’s going on around us rather than what’s happening on Facebook.
3. Don’t keep dead relationships.
This is honestly the measure I haven’t tried yet, but I’ve heard from my friends that it works. When you have friends you don’t talk to anymore clogging your newsfeed, delete them. The last thing you need is to be inundated with information about friends from elementary school. Instead, direct that attention to be more focused on those you care about. That way, you won’t be processing so much with Facebook, and you’ll be giving Facebook back its power for true connection.
4. Avoid turning to Facebook for stimulation.
When you are bored, do you ever flip out your phone and go on Facebook? This is a habit caused by your desire for stimulation. I try to fight this desire for stimulation all the time. What I do is try to find stimulation in my immediate environment. For instance, I pull a random book off my shelf, or I write a random thought down in my journal. It’s better to be productive with my need for stimulation rather than quell it with a mindless activity.
5. Set a limit to scrolling.
Scrolling is a danger. Once we get caught scrolling, we can lose track of time. To fight this, I try to set limits. For instance, I only allow myself to scroll down three posts before I catch myself doing it. Or I stop scrolling once I click a link. By setting these limits, I set boundaries to what I consume. It also helps me catch myself when I don’t notice I’m scrolling.
Facebook can either be a tool for connection or a vehicle for gluttony. Let it add value to your life by placing the boundaries that keep it within the former and never the latter.
Photography by William Iven
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