Giving up eating for pleasure


When someone is an alcoholic, they need to give up drinking altogether. Doctors don’t just advise cutting down on smoking, but giving it up completely.

I knew someone who had overcome compulsive eating, and had slimmed down (without surgery) from nearly 500lb. She went to a support group and, much like a recovering alcoholic, she never ate for pleasure. She would only eat what was necessary for nutrition, fruit vegetables, dry crackers, nuts and the occasional boiled egg, and followed a really strict eating plan, even if other people were eating out. She knew that if she started eating, like the alcoholic having ‘just one drink’, it would lead to more serious problems.

There are really two kinds of eating, eating for pleasure and eating for nutrition. As a Catholic who struggles with gluttony and eating for pleasure, I’m thinking, maybe, like the smoker or the alcoholic, I should just give it up cold-turkey.

What do people think? Is that a good idea? A good penance? A good way of combatting gluttony? Or is it too extreme? I’m a little overweight and have a family history of heart problems and high cholesterol, but am still young and eat reasonably healthily, but just have a few weaknesses.

The other thing that concerns me is the environmental impact of my food choices. How can we overeat when people in the world starve? How can we eat ‘quality’ brands grown with the best land and the best cultivation when land is being taken away from those who don’t even have the basic grain and vegetables to survive? That’s the (only) reason I became vegetarian about a year ago. The environmental impact of our meat-intensive diet really concerns me.


You can try to always leave yourself a little hungry whenever you eat. It is sad how so many people suffer hunger. All the more reason for us to be grateful for His tremendous blessings. We all should do what we can to rectify the injustices in the world. Good luck with your diet. :thumbsup:


treatment for obesity is a medical issue, and yes, if there are psychological reasons underlying the person’s use of food, those would be addressed as well. If there are spiritual issues that must be addressed, they should be addressed in the spiritual realm under the guidance of a good director, but one should not undertake a severe physical regiment w/o the advice of a doctor, and a spiritual director is not a doctor.

Someone who is “a little overweight and has a family history of heart problems and high cholesterol” should see his family doctor now for advice that will carry him healthy into his later years. A young person seeking a penance or sacrificial spirituality should see a spiritual director or his confessor for advice in that area.

The traditional Catholic spirituality from the monks sees food as a gift from God, regards it as all such gifts, with thanksgiving, and uses it as the Creator intended, to build up the body for the service to God, the Church and the poor.


do not understand the logic of this whole paragraph.

if you state (w/o any evidence or verification) that growing quality food takes land away from the poor, how can you justify a vegetarian or organic diet, which does in fact take land out of cultivation for commerial factor farming of any commodity?

this sounds like an area that needs more research before being used as basis for a moral decision or spiritual guidance


I’m not arguing in favour of organic food, I never even mentioned that.

But it takes 10kg of grain to feed a cow to make 1kg of good meat. We have become so used to throwing away the bits of the cow that aren’t ‘premium’ (offal, tail, hooves, tongue) that this percentage is even higher.

All the world’s cattle produce as much greenhouse gas as all the world’s cars. Rainforest is being destroyed to make way for grazing for poor-quality cattle to produce poor-quality meat to satisfy a society that wants meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

If everyone in the world ate and lived the way the average American does, it would take 5 1/2 planet earths to feed them. We only have one.

So, yeah, high-yield crops, seasonal fruit and vegetables, sustainable use of dairy, etc. is the way of eating that is most charitable to the poorest (though of course you’ve also got to give your spare cash to the poor, and lobby governments for fairer trade).

On a spiritual level, the act of going hungry (fasting) or doing without unnecessary food seems to be a good way of expressing this.

I guess my question is, is the kind of thing I’m suggesting for myself appropriate? I know it’s possible, because I know people who have done it. I also know it’s healthy because the people I know who do it did so under doctor’s orders (although my own doctor says he wouldn’t recommend it except in extreme circumstances, like if someone was morbidly obese and their weight was going to kill them). The thought of spiritual death has kept me from other mortal sins since my conversion (most of the time), so I don’t see why I couldn’t do this.

Question is, is it a good idea? Is there something about eating for pleasure, even when it is done habitually (and most of us do enjoy sitting down to eat something tasty every day), that makes it different from other habitual empty pleasures, such as pornography, habitual use of alcohol or smoking.


I don’t want to get into this whole thing, but those numbers about how much ‘human’ food it takes to feed livestock are pure fantasy. The ‘grain’ livestock eats is only a small part of thier diet, and it isn’t human food grade. Most of their diet is things like alfalfa hay and roughage not digestable by humans, as well as ‘leftovers’ from processing human foods like sugar.

More importantly, most of the land on earth is NOT crop land. It is too high, too dry, too cold, or too rough. The only way to get human food from it is by letting animals graze it. And grazing is an earth friendly activity-- it’s biologically diverse and causes far less erosion than farming.

California rice is a much better example of a eco-disaster. Rice by its nature grows in swamps, and to grow it in most of the US you have to drain rivers to build them. The amount of water involved also works to carry chemicals into the water supply causing massive pollution.

As too actually ‘eating for pleasure’, St. Theresa of Avila said ‘There is a time for penance, and a time for partridge’ [her favorite food], so I don’t think it hased to be all one, or all the other.


Some suggestions.

  1. Before making any drastic changes to your eating patters, get a thorough checkup from your Physician. Explain to them your problem, and ask for advive on weight loss. I speak here as a Type II diabetic.

  2. Talk to your Spiritual Director and/or Priest about this, and get the current guidelines on Catholic fasting and abstinance,

Now, I am a member of the CFP


3We follow St. Francis’s concept of being content with dinner and supper only, no solid food between meals, abstaining 4 days a week, and fasting every Friday. OBVIOUSLY, this is something to be worked into, and the current CFP guidelines give you a whole year to put this plan in place.

  1. Patience. Easy Does It, as we say in AA. Your Physician may only want you to lose a pound or two per week.

  2. A regular exercise program helps. Even if it is “only” walking. My 84 year old Mother walks 2-3 miles several times per week, and could probably outwalk everone in this forum:D

Your body is supposed to be a temple of the Holy Spirit. Once you undertake eating to live in place of living to eat, you might be amazed at the graces forthcoming.

  1. You WILL have slips and relapses. Duh. Pick yourself up and try again. Never give up. Realize that you may be in for a lifetime struggle. It will be worth it:thumbsup:

None of these opinions have been endorsed by my three cats, who sneer at the concept of food restrictions. :rolleyes:


I disagree. You can choose to eat nutrious meals while preparing them in a way that will taste delicious. Yep you can have it both ways. :thumbsup: Rather, moderation of food intake including desserts is the key to weight control. :cool:

closed #9

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