Though I have no interest in dieting or weight, these topics constantly pop up in my Facebook and Pinterest. Then I saw this pop up in my newsfeed around the time that I saw this video on Southern Smash. The statistics overwhelmed me. 1 in 5 women has an eating disorder. It’s a statistic I believe as I know too many girls with an eating disorder, but I also find it shocking. Even more shocking is the fact that 6 out of 10 women are disordered eaters. It takes me back to the ninth grade Literature class I recently taught.
We were reading Dante’s Inferno. I forgot how many of the sins Dante describes would have to be defined for modern ninth graders, but I never expected gluttony to be one of them.
A hand shot up, “What is gluttony?”
“Excessive eating,” I said. Their looks were a bit blank. After all overeating has become as American as the apple pie we take too many slices of. I clumsily tried to explain, “It’s like when you eat more even though you have already eaten and aren’t hungry.”
“Oh that’s me!”
“Oh I do that with doughnuts all the time.”
And I realized that Dante calling this a sin seemed archaic to these ninth graders.
But I wanted to better explain it to them, and in thinking and researching, my one definition was broadened.
Gluttony comes from the Latin verb “gluttire” which can mean “to gulp down.” The Catholic Encyclopedia makes some interesting points:
Clearly one who uses food or drink in such a way as to injure his health or impair the mental equipment needed for the discharge of his duties, is guilty of the sin of gluttony…Gluttony is in general a venial sin in so far forth as it is an undue indulgence in a thing which is in itself neither good nor bad…a person who, by excesses in eating and drinking, would have greatly impaired his health, or unfitted himself for duties for the performance of which he has a grave obligation, would be justly chargeable with mortal sin.
Thus gluttony is much broader than just eating too many sweets. It’s how women talk about their weight and how they shouldn’t have another piece of chocolate cake, but they eat a slice anyway. It’s the person who won’t eat or the person who over exercises to achieve a certain look. It’s when I skip lunch because I am too busy or when I have too many cups of coffee thus becoming jittery. And yes, it’s also that sixth doughnut or sometimes even the first or the refusal to take one at all. It’s our glorification of food as something to be indulged in and also something to be avoided.
Most of us are disordered in this aspect because of our excessive devotion to appearance and how we gulp down everything we see and hear related to appearance. Look at the sheer contradiction of pins on Pinterest–super skinny models, decadent cakes, weight loss motivation posters!
The self-esteem movement can’t fix this because no matter how many “imperfect” bodies we see, we still desire to have the “perfect” body we think we see. Some of this is due to the brokenness of the world–we long for health and for wholeness. Ultimately, we long for good desires for good food and for good bodies. We will not achieve perfection on earth, but we can strive for a healthier view of ourselves, others, and eating.
I bring up the concept of gluttony not to condemn but to make us think and make us mindful. I am concerned about mothers who call themselves “fat” and the effects this has on their children. I am concerned about the number of middle age women who talk almost incessantly about weight anytime they are around food. I am concerned about our need caffeine. I worry about the desire we have for others to “hate us” for how good we look. When will we stop longing for the next outfit, the next look, a number on the scale, or the next meal? We surely have an excessive indulgence in these things.
A lot of this issue for me boils down to what we talk about and share. So many conversations, posts, articles, books, and photos somehow relate to weight and body image. No matter how much you try to shield yourself, it is around you.
Most Christian women get a little tired of hearing Proverbs 31:30. You might tell yourself while you are looking in the mirror that “beauty is vain.” But you don’t know how to carry it out in life. Furthermore you never hear the praise you are expecting from the second part of that verse. And you probably won’t in our culture with its focus on appearance. I find it interesting that Proverbs says “a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” It does not necessarily mean you will be praised on this earth or by people you know. However, it also says “is to be”–almost like a command.
We–with our mouths and our actions–should be valuing and praising character over beauty. We should be careful what we pin, what we photograph, what we think about, and what we talk about. We should get back to eating–eating good foods when we are hungry and eating with delight. And when we talk about our food and ourselves, let’s remove the focus on weight and instead focus on the goodness of both food and our bodies.