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If Gluttony Is A Sin, Am I Guilty?

Why is gluttony a sin? A sin against who? Who is wronged by you stuffing your face?

The questions are easy, the answers quite difficult. Could gluttony be a sin against others? Certainly, if you're taking more than your share while someone goes without, it would seem sinful. But in fact when we leave food over because we are full, starving people in other parts of the world do not benefit. Of course if we clean our plate and have seconds or thirds, they don't get any thinner either.

Could gluttony be a sin against oneself? Surely it is disrespectful to imagine filling your car with more gas than it could take. Excess spillage is wasteful, and potentially dangerous. Same goes for weight; excesses are considered wasteful and potentially dangerous to ones' health.

When some people overeat, they beat themselves up by putting themselves down. Degrading, insulting name-calling can be seen as abusive. Verbal abuse is sinful, whether you say those words to others or you say them to yourself. A spiritual view suggests that we are all children of God, so it is just as wrong to call yourself a fat, ugly, worthless slob as it is to hurt another. Please offer yourself the same minimum amount of respect you would offer to a friend, or even to a perfect stranger.

What about "cheating?" Why is going off a diet considered cheating, and therefore considered sinful? Is it really a sin? If we think of dieting as virtuous, and chips as sinful, perhaps there is a point. But if chips are whole grain, with natural ingredients, where's the sin? Spiritually speaking, if ice cream contains pure ingredients (created by God), how can that be sinful? Simply because it's delicious? " Sinfully delicious?" Perhaps it's not the food itself which is sinful, but polishing off the whole container! But if that container was considered dinner, since it has protein, carbs, fats, and calcium, without artificial, potentially carcinogenic chemicals, perhaps it is no longer sinful. It's practically health food!

Ah, but gluttony might actually be a sin against the very food itself. Eating like a pig, without regard for the process of how it appeared on your plate seems like it might be sinful. Inhaling large quantities of delectables without being thankful may seem unforgivable. Did you forget to bless those delightful indulgences? Gulping food is without respect for subtleties of taste, which can only be experienced by eating slowly. All of this seems disrespectful to the food.

Sounds crazy? Well, in the Jewish religion it is "forbidden" to eat milk with meat. This crucial aspect of being kosher has a surprising meaning. It is considered disrespectful to bathe an animal in mother's milk. It is also important to isolate meat as a reminder that it is special. An animal was killed for your benefit, so show respect by making it special. Unfortunately it's not such a good reminder. After asking quite a few kosher people why it is forbidden to mix milk with meat, most could not tell me why. They simply follow it blindly. Is blind submission a sin??? Is it a sin not to use the brain we were gifted?

Finally, we come to the obvious. Most of us overeat from time to time, and some of us overeat often. Perhaps gluttony is a matter of degree; greater frequency, intensity and duration of binges. And if gluttony is a sin, so would be anorexia; starving the body one was given. But wouldn't these be considered "conditions," or "illnesses?" In fact eating disorders earn diagnoses in the psychiatric bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. It's a mitzvah, or good deed to have compassion for the sick. "The sick" should include ourselves. Why is it kind to have sympathy for another, but considered self-absorbed pity-potting to have it for yourself?

I say we need to be more tolerant and compassionate towards ourselves and others regarding weight, and less vulnerable to "supersizing", as they get fatter profits while we get fatter bodies. The deception here is that what we are being sold is› supposedly a "bargain".› Hardly!

Politics of gluttony exist as well, since U.S. government subsidies to large farmers encourage them to glut markets with overproduction. This fosters "supersizing;" subtle encouragement for our overeating which can be deemed sinful in my opinion. It is not a wise use of our resources, and we are victims of the policy.

We must offer kindness towards ourselves and others in our collective "battle of the bulge." We need to find a reasonable path of biological and psychological fulfillment with a plan we can stick to. Then we can focus on alleviating sins of greater destruction in the world around us.

Abby Aronowitz, Ph.D. Author of Your Final Diet