Christine, in the comments to the last posts, asked "Where to start with gluttony?"
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I reviewed Gary Taubes's book some time ago in three parts, and I think these are some of my best gluttony posts, especially the second and third one.
- here is an introduction,
- here is where I explain why the book lacks the necessary real-life context to be considered a "diet book,"
- here is where I start to explore why gluttony isn't off the hook -- even if it doesn't cause fatness.
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Here is the part where I cheekily suggest a definition of gluttony, complete with new categories, that I prefer to Thomas Aquinas's. (Yes, I really am claiming to have improved on the Summa Theologica.) Here's my new post-Summa definition of gluttony:
The sin of gluttony is the refusal to eat within the restraints imposed on us by charity, obedience, resources, health, religious/ethical duties, and manners.
(The weakness of gluttony is the inability to eat within those restraints.)
Aquinas's definition of gluttony seems to have one glaring problem: it lacks a bright-line rule. "Gluttony means inordinate appetite in eating," he tells us, and we rightly ask: What do you mean, "inordinate?" Out of accord with the natural order of things, one supposes....
We've been over this before: we can be a glutton by eating too expensively, too daintily ("pickily"), too much, too soon, or too eagerly.
This is a nice categorization because it expands the usual definition of gluttony, but it still leaves us asking: But Thomas, what do you mean by "too" anything? If one can eat "too" expensively, then surely one can eat "just expensively enough," and so forth. Where is the line? How do we know when we've crossed over from eating promptly, to eating "too soon?" Eating with relish, and eating "too eagerly?" Selecting good food and being a glutton of pickiness?
I think the answer is that gluttony, like most concupiscence, abhors restraint; what makes gluttony different from other vices, such as sloth or lust, is that the restraints it abhors all have to do with food.
Different people live under different sets of restraints, some more stringent than others; and different times call for different restraints; so the boundaries of gluttony cannot be defined clearly as a set of rules that are appropriate for everyone. And so eating quite a lot of food, or eating expensive food, or eating at odd times, isn't inherently gluttonous; what makes it gluttonous is if the eater is supposed to be exercising restraint, but isn't.
If I may say so myself, I think it's worth reading the whole thing. Rather than Aquinas's categories of gluttony as eating "too expensively, too pickily, too much, too soon, or too eagerly" my categories -- stripped of the vague modifier "too" -- could be phrased as
- eating inconsiderately
- eating disobediently
- eating wastefully
- eating unhealthfully
- eating irreligiously (or, if you are not religious, substitute "unethically")
- eating rudely.
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Oh, and for the people who would like to eat low-carb but feel bad about the environmental impact of consuming so many more animal products: here are some things to keep in mind for improving the sustainability of lower-carb eating. I am rather fond of this article. The short of it is:
- Eating enough fats and oils, and not too much protein, will alleviate the famous unpleasant side effects of low-carb diets.
- Don't overestimate your daily protein requirements. Three grams for each ten pounds you weigh is a good rule of thumb for the minimum. You could eat more, of course, but you don't necessarily need more.
- Eat your veggies, and eat them with plenty of tasty, tasty fats and oils -- enough to give you all the energy you require over and above your calories from protein.
- Don't waste so damn much food, especially protein. Avoidable food waste is the most shameful portion of our environmental impact.
- Choose animal products that make efficient use of agricultural protein. In order, the most efficient "ordinary" sources from the grocery store are dairy; eggs, tied with aquacultured fish; chickens; pork; beef. (Wholly grass-fed beef, or beef fed on non-human-edible agricultural residue, is great if you can get it, but not everyone can get it).