When does gluttony constitute a serious sin?

Hi! I am wondering, if there are any official guidelines of when gluttony constitutes a serious sin, so that we need to go to confession for that? When we eat more than three times a day (except for medial reasons) or when we overeat to the point of gaining weight, it seems obviously serious. But what about when we eat a piece of cake or something sweet outside of a celebration? Or when we eat something that has no nutritional value and is outright damaging to our body, such as chips, a can of soda, or a piece of junk food, how serious is that? Are there guidelines, or is it entirely left up to the individuals consciousness? Thanks in advance for your answers.

There are a few other threads on this topic, they might provide some more insight for you.

The example that always pops into my mind of when it could be (objectively) a mortal sin is when the Romans used to use vomitoreums in order to be able to eat and eat and eat at feasts. Drinking alcohol to excess could also be an example (if done on purpose).

The above is my opinion, I don’t have any links for you that explicitly spell it out. However, I would argue that the examples you give seem more like venial sins, or not sins at all.

I would say a slice of cake “as a treat” for no reason is not a sin. Eating “empty calorie” foods at some point during your day is not a sin (as long as you eat healthy food in general).

I would say that more than three meals a day is not a sin - most dietitians recommend snacking between meals. Especially if the food is healthy and you aren’t gaining weight.

If you are gaining weight by overeating it might be a venial sin but I think it’s mostly just human weakness. If you know you are putting your health at risk and you make no effort to stop overeating then maybe you are straying into sinful territory.

But DISCLAIMER this is, as I said, opinion and I am curious as to what other people think.

Your examples are hard to me as there is much pleasure in food and rightly so. I eat very si mply and occasionally buy a choc ice or something you might call frivolous as a real and rare treat. And I enjoy it and am thankful for it…

I think it is a matter of proportion and need and greed? If you are eating far too much every day and putting meals before all else?

I graze for many reasons. so eat when I need food which can be several times a day, Small amounts. But we in Ireland have a love of “treats” and some shops even have a counter in the bread section labelled TREATS.

I do nto think any food is “outright damaging to your body” … A matter of proportion? I hate it when someone who is self appointed "food police"watches what I am eating and tells me it is bad bad bad! There is one person at a craft fair I go to who is like that. A Kind stallholder gave me a delicious waffle, with strawberries, chocolate and cream and he glared at it and shouted FAT AND SUGAR! I cannot afford treats like that and did nto know where to look… He has never done that since… go figure…

Dear friend,

I also struggle with gluttony.

Hope this helps:


“A) Gluttony is a grievous fault: a) when it goes to such lengths that for a notable space of time it incapacitates us for the fulfilment of our duties of state or for the compliance with divine or ecclesiastical laws, for example, when it injures our health, when it is the cause of useless expenditures which endanger the interests of our home, when it makes us violate the laws of fast or abstinence. b) It is also a grave fault when it is the cause of other grievous faults.

B) Gluttony is a venial fault when one yields to the pleasure of eating and drinking in an immoderate manner, yet without falling into grave excess, and without exposing oneself to violate a grave precept. Thus it would be venially sinful to eat or drink more than is proper in order to show one’s appreciation of a fine repast, or in order to please a friend.” (‘The Spiritual Life: A Treatise on Ascetical and Mystical Theology’, Rev. Adolphe Tanquerey)

Source: littlestsouls.wordpress.com/2013/08/12/clarity-for-scrupulous-souls-simple-explanations-of-grey-sins/

**The article is made for scrupulous people, but it helps out in areas where we may not be sure where there’s sin at all or mortal/venial sin

NONE of those things is serious, a sin, or gluttony.

Please talk to your pastor. Sounds like you have a skewed view of what sin is. He can help you with conscience formation.

Live to glorify God.

The more awesome you are the more you glorify God.

Think evangelizing as a hard bodied hard worker and saying “hi let me tell you about how great God is”

Now think about rolling up in a scooter round and lazy with no medical issues other than perhaps self induced “Hi [burppppp] let me tell you how great God is”

Who is selling a great God and who is not? Hmmmm…

What is called gluttony may also be a mental/emotional problem. I’ve suffered (& suffered is the correct word - I got no enjoyment out of it) from compulsive eating & binge eating. Going to confession didn’t help, but going to Overeaters Anonymous did.

At OA I learned that I was not morally deficient, but that I had an illness. I’ve been in OA for almost 3 years & my last binge was 2 years ago. The overeating is under control, too.

If you have an unhealthy relationship with food - and thinking that eating a piece of cake might be a mortal sin is unhealthy - you might want to give OA a try. It’s not just for people who overeat, but for anyone who has problems with food.

Individual acts of overeating…intemperance (gluttony in this sense) are ordinarily venial matter for* venial *sin…(and one older moral manual even notes that such is even if one foresees it shortens ones life to some extent).

Can gluttony be grave (serious)? Such as when one is getting drunk where one looses ones reason (or if it leads to other mortal sins)…or when there uncorrected habits of eating in a way that will “seriously harm ones health or life” --at least in the “short term” that is…

Ones confessor can help in this…

and of course speak with your doctor…

We need to seek to grow in the virtue of temperance…


1806 Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; "the prudent man looks where he is going."65 "Keep sane and sober for your prayers."66 Prudence is “right reason in action,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle.67 It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid.

1809 Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion: "Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart."72 Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: "Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites."73 In the New Testament it is called “moderation” or “sobriety.” We ought "to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world."74


For me, it seems sinful to do anything destructive to the body. Now that does not mean to never have a drink or a dessert, but continuous consumption of wrong food poisons the body.
It seems morally wrong to be destructive to one’s own body. I know people who “can’t” stop eating sugar and starch even while they know they are getting infections in their toes that will require amputation. It baffles me how many people just take serious illness in stride as though it is happenstance that has nothing to do with the fuel put in the body. Yet we all know if we put even one tank of dirty gas in our cars, the engines would be ruined.

See my post. It is not always a deliberate choice.

Meaning diabetes?

I worry more about the ones like my co worker at craft fairs who are so picky and full of strange and changing ideas re food that there is litltle pleasure for them. One week iftis whole raw grapefruit, then avocados and sugar is apparently evil…All in moderation … I have wildly erratic blood sugar levels with the M.E and he watches in horror as i remedy it, now I have a narrowing of the throat so that limits food etc etc etc. But I enjoy what I eat and am deeply thankful for it all; let us give thanks for food… Not see it as an enemy… It is a gift from God and one that millons do not have

My opinion only:

If you deliberately vomit so that you can make room to continue eating … that may be one indicator.

Or, if you are with a group of people and eat ALL the food that was intended to feed the entire group.

Just because people live in denial, doesn’t mean they don’t know the truth.

I work around alot of addicts (drugs alcohol) and the ones who are clean when you ask them what made it work?

“I just finally REALLY wanted to”

They all admit prior to clean some part of them didn’t care to quit. Because personal choice is shifted to “uncontrollable” whenever it is convenient.

I might gove a half a nod that SOMEONE can be in a true dire straight… but it is like the gluten free craze. There is like less than 1% of people actually in anyway affected by gluten, yet there are probably 10+% of people crying out GLUTEN FREE!!!

I’d wager for every person who finds sonething uncontrollable, at least the same numbers as gluten apply ie: 9/10 “uncontrolled” can totally control.

I don’t appreciate the implications here. I’m not gluten free, I’m modern-wheat free. Gluten free happens to guarantee that by accident, so I often buy ‘gluten-free.’ That by default leaves out oats, which I do not avoid.

There’s gluten, such as that found in oats, and then there is the mutated, layer upon layer, out-of-control, unrecognizable as food gluten that exists in chemically mutated, hyper-hybridized, modern wheat. This destroys the intestinal lining, induces allergies, disrupts hormones, and sickens all our vital digestive bacteria. The longer the abuse, the worse the results. Some succumb sooner than others due to individual proclivity, history, or sensitivity.

Few few people cannot eat oats.

However… Modern wheat is objectively bad for everybody, whether they ‘notice’ symptoms or not. It isn’t food. It isn’t nourishing. Go back to the original wheat… What Jesus ate…(if it wasn’t barley, which was far more common back then), and you’ll rediscover real food.

This company almost single handedly resurrected this all but extinct treasure:


This is the problem with our modern ‘food’ supply. We have substituted every real thing for fakes… Fakes that do not satisfy any part of our bodies. So we keep eating… We eat too much because of the chemicals designed to keep us coming back for more… We eat too much because our bodies cry and scream and beg for nutrients, hoping that hunger will eventually lead to us eating something it can use.

It is partially a weak will, partially ignorance, but mostly, weak-willed, willful ignorance, because knowing means doing something about it.

Eating what you know is good only for the tongue, and not the stomach, and not good for the body, and to keep eating merely because it tastes good, and not because your body needs it… That is when eating becomes gluttony.

Enjoying your very good, nutritious, garden-fresh or home-grown meal, and taking such joy in it that you eat technically more than you need… Is not gluttony. In this case, an excess of the true good is far less ‘damaging’ (if in any sense it is at all) than an excess of purely pleasuring junk food.

And to keep doing what you know is wrong because you’re more attached to pleasure than taking care of yourself… That’s when it becomes a serious sin.

If anyone wanted to know how I see it. :shrug:

When does gluttony constitute a serious sin?

We’ve had some chubby popes, John XXIII was recently canonized.

I think gluttony starts with food and drink to excess or in a excessively expensive way, beyond our needs. I think we are gluttonous when we don’t share with the poor even if we don’t eat or drink to excess personally.

Obesity is an indication of a disease, not simply a moral fault of over-indulgence. Nobody wants to be fat.

People may know the truth, but people must also eat to live. They don’t have to drink alcohol or use drugs (illegal or pain-killers) to live. One can go "cold turkey and remove themselves from any kind of alcohol or drugs when, to use your quote, “I just finally REALLY wanted to”, but it’s different with food…because humans must have some form of food to stay alive. From your post, I gather that you are a counselor of sorts. Do you work with those who have food addictions? Or did you mean your co-workers are former drug users and alcoholics?


I wouldn’t call weight gain or multiple meals bad enough to warrant eternal damnation (that’s what it means when something is a grave matter). Especially considering that food is in abundance and that healthy food is actually MORE expensive than fattening lard-filled foods (try comparing the cost of McDonald’s to the cost of Grocery Store Vegetables).

I think gluttony would only be a grave manner when it deprives others of food (think of rich people hoarding food in times of famine or natural disaster) or when it is outright decadent (think of people who eat food with GOLD in it).

The quote from Tanqueray is excellent, as one would expect… You might amend it slightly to allow for the avoidance of scandal - which is quite different from merely offending sensibilities. In some small villages in Africa, guests are presented a piece of meat upon arriving, which is a sign of their value of hospitality… You might imagine that it would cause a serious commotion, depending on who was being received, to turn that morsel down.

But this kind of thing is obviously not so common.

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