The Increasing Weight of the Sin of Gluttony

Some folks built like this
Built like that
Don’t you holler at me
Dontchoo call me fat
Ya know I’m built for comfort
I ain’t built for speed

So sings bluesman Taj Mahal in his rendition of the Willie Dixon tune usually associated with blues legend Howlin’ Wolf (Dixon had played bass in Wolf’s band).1 It is a somewhat playful and humorous song; however, the subject of gluttony is a serious one. In America the problem of overeating is increasing – along with the collective girth of the population in general, and the Church in particular.

This is going to be somewhat of a rant, rather than any sort of well-researched article. This issue has been on my mind for a while now; but, the idea to actually write this article came when I went to an Italian restaurant for lunch this past week.

It’s a restaurant I go to only sporadically. It’s a bit far from my office; so, when I do go it’s usually on the weekend. I’d been there a few times during the week, but this particular time was different. I noticed that the restaurant was a bit busier than usual; however, it wasn’t until I sat down that I noticed something was out of the ordinary. There was a spread of food by the bar area. “What’s that?” I asked, pointing. “It’s our buffet,” came the reply from my waiter. An Italian buffet? Sounded oxymoronic to me. This was not a pizza joint; this was a somewhat respectable Italian restaurant. Apparently, they instituted a Tuesday and Thursday buffet somewhat recently.

I tend to stay away from any buffet. It’s too tempting to eat too much just to “get your money’s worth.” But, this is precisely why some frequent buffets. They come to enjoy “all you can eat.” Like the individuals who ordered the buffet at the Italian restaurant mentioned above. Not one was what I’d term “trim” or “thin.” A few might be considered of normal weight; however, most were overfat. Some were probably obese.

About a year ago I began going to a particular Chinese restaurant for lunch. I usually eat lunch alone, bringing material with me to read as I eat. I now go to this particular establishment about two or three times a month. When I first began going there, the restaurant had just ceased their all-you-can-eat buffet. Apparently, they were losing money with it. Yet, I witnessed countless patrons asking about the buffet. A few left upon hearing what they perceived as bad news. Most would eat their lunch, but I don’t think these individuals would come back, as I noticed the clientele decrease with each passing month. Frankly, I don’t know how the restaurant stays in business.

America is overfat. In San Antonio, the city in which I live, we have the distinction of being the 2nd fattest large city in America.

I’ll try to be precise with my terminology here. The term “fat” comes with baggage. It’s viewed as not “politically correct.” It’s just not nice to call another “fat.” “Overfat” seems better, as we all have a certain amount of fat, even highly-conditioned athletes. “Overweight” does not seem helpful, since body builders, most especially males, can exceed the BMI (body mass index) limit for height. Moreover, all things being equal, one with a large skeletal frame will necessarily weigh more than another person of similar height who is small-framed. Hence, the key is one’s body fat percentage.

BMI tables can be used as a guide; however, these must be put in proper context. For example, I am thin – though not exceedingly so (and quite healthy, thank the Lord) – in part because of exercise and a balanced diet; however, according to the BMI table I can gain another 30 pounds and still be of “normal” weight. Yet, if I were 30 lbs. heavier, I’d be very much overfat!

Eating is a necessary part of life. And, it’s used for celebrating. In the Church many gatherings are associated with food. There’s the “pot-luck” dinner in which everyone brings one food item, for example. A somewhat recent Purdue study found a correlation between persons of faith and an increase in both BMI and obesity. Church members were found to be more overfat than the general population, with Baptists having the distinction of being the most overweight religious group.2 We’re setting a very poor example.

We can and should do better than this. Being overfat increases the risk for certain diseases and maladies. It shortens our lifespans. But, more importantly, gluttony is a sin. Overeating indicates a lack of self-control, which illustrates that one is not walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). Moreover, one can argue that it defiles the body, the temple of the Holy Spirit.

As a Church body, let’s endeavor to become more physically fit. Start slowly if you haven’t exercised in a while (and consult your health care professional). Let’s eat a more balanced diet. Cut down on the junk food (stop drinking sodas, both diet and regular!). Add more fresh veggies and fruits. The money saved can go to the poor and/or missions.

1 Lyrics from “Built for Comfort,” Taj Mahal Oooh So Good ‘n Blues, 1973, Columbia Records, C 32600.
2 See Wendy Ashley, “Obesity in the Body of Christ,” SBC Life, June 2007: http://www.sbclife.net/Articles/2007/01/sla8.

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7 Responses to The Increasing Weight of the Sin of Gluttony

  1. mywordlikefire says:

    Ouch, Ouch. And ouch. The truth hurts. Thank you.

  2. mywordlikefire says:

    Reblogged this on My Word Like Fire and commented:

    This one got me right between the eyes.

  3. IWTT says:

    An article I read recently was a research paper that was done on the effects of “processed foods” on the body. The short of the article is that process foods actually affects the brain/body into addiction. They found that as a “processed food” that a combination of carbs and fats that are part of the “processed food” actually does not satisfy hunger but rather increases hunger in a shorter amount of time. They tested several “overfat” people and in one group gave them “processed food” as their diet and the other group “real food”. The “processed group” was 24% higher in hunger in less than a 2 hours that the real food group. I switched my diet to Mediterrainian style eating, more fruits and vegetables, white meat such as chicken, pork and more fish. Eating less red meat and “processed food” I feel much fuller after a meal and I am not getting hungry or have the need to CONTINUALLY feed my mouth like I used to.

    Great post and something that the church needs to be educated on.

  4. Craig says:

    IWTT,

    I’m glad to see you’ve changed your diet for the better! I’ve eliminated most processed foods from my diet a while back, while adding more “whole” and fresh (“living”) veggies and fruits. It’s made a world of difference in how I feel overall. I’m more energetic and more mentally clear. Exercise certainly helps, as well.

  5. Craig says:

    IWTT,

    Sorry, meant also to state that I’d read/heard that eating processed foods actually triggers addictive eating, as well. Sadly, many of the poor – which are largely uneducated in general as to nutrition – eat fast food (processed) because it’s cheap and easy. I’d also read that the SNAP program (formerly food stamps) allows no limits on junk food; so, some of these individuals largely buy junk food. This accounts for some of the growing obesity among the poor. Of course, the other side effect is declining health – though this is a boon to the healthcare industry. I’ve often wondered if there’s some sort of correlation there between the healthcare industry and junk food, with the latter contributing ‘positively’ to the former.

  6. Steve Busch says:

    Not only are processed foods to blame for untold health problems, but now we have GMO’s entering the picture. UGH! Fresh food is the best food. I’ve been gardening and raising chickens for years Now we finally have the space to raise a couple head of beef as well, that is, after I fix all the pasture fences (hard work =exercise). My son hunts, so we always have venison, which I despise personally. I do like to fish, so steelhead, salmon and fresh trout are often on our table.

    But speaking of the #2 fat ranking of San Antonio, I’m a big Charles Barkley fan, and when he said that San Antonio had a lot of fat women, he was blasted mercilessly by the media. Seems he was right, eh? Of course Sir Charles’ has never been thin, and his own weight ballooned after retirement, but he’s shown that even a really big, big butted man, can maintain a healthy weight if he puts his mind to it. As for apologies, the man once nick named “the round mound of rebound” said he would apologize to all the obese citizens of San Antonio “when hell freezes over.” I like that man.

  7. Craig says:

    Steve,

    Sounds like you’ve got the fresh food thing taken care of.

    As for SAT being #2 in fatness, I’m not sure of the % of women vs. men; however, I can state that there are certainly a lot of overfat and obese men. I know of one man who is having some serious issues with diabetes (which I do believe is adult onset), yet he continues drinking them sodas. Being thin and trim at over the 1/2 century mark, I’m somewhat of an anomaly among men here. You won’t find many men my age running or working out. For many men here the most strenuous workout is lifting a beer to their mouths while playing armchair football (or basketball, etc.) as they watch “the game”. As if watching “the game” is the hallmark of masculinity.

    Having stated the above, there sure a lot of overfat and obese women here, yes. In fact, all those hovering around the “Italian buffet” were women, bar none. And the age range was pretty broad.

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