Gluttony: The Silent American Sin (Delight in the Word Book 7)

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And all this is, either because they overvalue the esteem and talk of fleshly epicures—cannot bear the censure of a swine; or else because they are themselves of the same mind, and are such as glory in their shame, Philippians iii. Another incentive is the custom of urging and importuning others to eat still more and more—as if it were a necessary act of friendship.

People are grown so uncharitable and selfish, that they suspect one another, and think they are not welcome—if they are not urged thus to eat; and those who invite them think they must do it to avoid the suspicion of such a sordid mind. I do not deny but it is fit to urge any to that which it is fit for them to do; and if we see that modesty makes them eat less than is best for them, we may persuade them to eat more.

But now, without any due disrespect to what is best for them—men think it a necessary compliment to provoke others more and more to eat, until they peremptorily refuse it! But among the most familiar friends, there is scarcely any who will admonish one another against excess, and advise them to stop when they have enough, and tell them how easy it is to stop when they have enough, and tell them how easy it is to step beyond our bounds, and how much more prone we are to exceed, than to come short.

And so custom and compliment are preferred before temperance and honest fidelity. You will say, What will men think of us if we should not persuade them to eat, much more if we should desire them to eat no more? Regard your duty, more than what men think of you.


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Prefer virtue, before the thoughts or breath of men. But yet if you do it wisely, the wise and good will think much the better of you. You may easily let them see that you do it not in sordid sparing, but in love of temperance and of them; if you speak but when there is need either for eating more or less; and if your discourse is first in general for temperance, and apply it not until you see that they need help in the application. It is undeniable that healthful people are much more prone to excess, than to the defect in eating—and that nature is very much bent to luxury and gluttony , I think as much as to any one sin; and it is as sure that it is a beastly, breeding, odious sin.

And if this is so, is it not clear that we should do a great deal more to help one another against such luxury, than to provoke them to it? Had we not a greater regard to men's favor and regard, than to God and the good of their souls—the case were soon decided. Another cause of gluttony is, that rich men are not acquainted with the true use of riches , nor think of the account which they must make to God of all they have.

They think that their riches are their own, and that they may use them as they please; or that they are given to them as plentiful provisions for their flesh, and they may use them for themselves, to satisfy their own desires, as long as they drop some crumbs, or scraps, or small matters to the poor. They think they may be saved just in the same way that the rich man in Luke 16 was damned!

And he who would have warned his five brethren that they come not to that place of torment, is yet himself no warning to his followers. They are clothed in purple and fine linen or silk, and fare sumptuously or deliciously every day; and have their good things in this life, and perhaps think they merit by giving the scraps to Lazarus which it is like what that rich man also did. But God will one day make them know, that the richest were but his stewards, and should have made a better distribution of his provisions, and a better improvement of his talents; and that they had nothing of all their riches given them, for any hurtful or unprofitable pleasing of their appetites; nor had more allowance for luxury than the poor.

If they knew the right use of riches, it would reform them. Another cause of gluttony is their unacquaintedness with those rational and spiritual exercises in which the delightful fruits of temperance do most appear. A man who is but a serious student in any noble study whatever, finds a great deal of serenity and aptitude come by temperance, and a great deal of cloudy mistiness on his mind and dullness on his invention come by fullness and excess. A man who is used to holy contemplations, meditation, reading, prayer, self-examination, or spiritual converse above, or with his heart, does easily find a very great difference; how temperance helps him, and luxury and fullness hinder him.

Now these epicures have no acquaintance with any such holy or manly works, nor any mind of them, and are therefore unacquainted with the sweetness and benefit of temperance—and having no taste or trial of its benefits, they cannot value it. They have nothing to do when they rise from eating, but a little talk about their worldly business, or compliment and talk with company which expect them, or go to their sports simply to empty their paunches for another meal, and quicken their appetites lest luxury should decay. They are as the Israelites who worshiped the golden calf, and as the heathens their god Bacchus, Exodus Another great cause of gluttony is, men's beastly ignorance of what is hurtful or helpful to their very health: they make their appetites their rule for the quantity and quality of their food—and they think that nature teaches them so to do, because it gives them such an appetite.

But this is the measure to a beast—and to prove themselves beasts, they therefore take it for their measure; as if their natures were not rational, but only fleshly; or nature had not given them reason to be the superior and governor of sense. As if they knew not that God gives the brutes an appetite more bounded, because they have not reason to bound it; and gives them not the temptation of your delicate varieties; or gives them foods answerable to their appetites. Yet God gives man to be the rational governor of those of those appetites which are for his special service and apt to exceed.

If a man's swine, his horses, and his cattle were all left to their appetites, they would live but a little while. If gluttony is not lawful in mankind, which is lawful in brutes—then why should they not confess the same of the appetite. Men have so much love of life and fear of death, that if they did but know how much their gluttony hastens their death—it would do more to restrain it with the most, than the fear of eternal death does.

But they judge of their digestion by their present feeling: if they feel not their stomachs sick, or disposed to vomit, or if no present pain corrects them, they think they have eaten no more than does them good. But of this more anon in the directions. Another great cause of gluttony is, that it is grown the commonest custom, and being not known, is in no disgrace, unless men eat until they vomit, or to some extraordinary measure. And so the measure which every man sees another use—he thinks is moderation, and is fit for him. Whereas the ignorance of their own health, has made gluttony almost as common as eating, with those that are not restrained by poverty or sickness.

And so every man is an example of evil to another—and encourage one another in the sin. If gluttony were but in as much disgrace as whoredom, yes, or as drunkenness is—and as easily known, and as commonly taken notice of, it would contribute much to a common reformation. To know the greatness of the sin, is the chief part of the cure, with those who do but believe that there is a God.

I shall therefore next tell you of its nature , effects , and accidents , which make it a great sin, and therefore should make it odious to all. Luxury and gluttony is a sin exceeding contrary to the love of God—it is idolatry. It has the heart, which God should have; and therefore gluttons are commonly and well called belly-gods , and god-bellies , because that love, that care, that delight, that service and diligence which God should have—is given by the glutton to his belly and his throat!

He loves the pleasing of his appetite—better than the pleasing of God. His dishes are more delightful to him—than any holy exercise is. His thoughts are more frequent and more sweet of his belly—than of God or godliness. His care and labor are more that he may be pleased in foods and drinks—than that he may secure his salvation, and be justified and sanctified.

Indeed, the Scripture gives them this reproach, Philippians iii. Nay, such a devouring idol is the belly, that it swallows up more by intemperance and excess—than all other idols in the world do.

The Moral Crusade Against Foodies

Remember that the very life of the sin is in the appetite and heart! When a man's heart is set upon his belly, though he eats ever so little because he is poor—he is a glutton in heart. When you make a great matter of it, what you shall eat and drink as to the delight; and when you take it for a great loss or suffering if you fare hardly, and are troubled at it, and your thoughts and talk are of your belly, and you have not that indifference whether your fare is coarse or pleasant, so long as it is wholesome, as all temperate people have—this is the heart of gluttony , and is the heart's forsaking of God, and making the appetite its god.

Gluttony is self-murder! Though it does not kill suddenly—it kills surely! It kills by degrees.


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The wisest physicians believe that gluttony or excess in eating or drinking, is a principal cause of death, though not the most immediate cause. Gluttony will not let them die easily and quickly, but torments them first with manifold diseases while they live. You eat more than nature can needs, and because you feel it not trouble you or make you sick—you think that it does not hurt you; whereas it does by degrees first alters and vitiates the temperament of the blood and humours, making it a crude, unnatural thing, unfit for the due nutrition of the body.

Gluttony turns the nourishing mass into a burdensome, toxic mixture—than of that sweet, nutritious milk of nature, quickened with those spirits and well-proportioned heat, which should make it fit to be the oil of life. Hence it is that one part of the body is tainted with corruption, and another consumes as destitute of fit nutriment; and the blood vessels secretly obstructed by the grossness or other unfitness of the blood to run its circle and perform its offices, is the cause of a multitude of lamentable diseases.

The frigid distempers of the brain, the lethargy, the head-ache, and oft the madness, come all from these effects of gluttony and excess, which are made upon the blood and humours. Yes the palpitations of the heart, and faintings, which men think rather come from weakness—do usually come either from oppression of nature by gluttony. The loathing of food and lack of appetite is ordinarily from the crudities or distempers caused by gluttony. Yes, the very canine appetite which would still have more, is caused by a viciousness in the humours thus contracted.

The pains of the stomach, vomitings, hiccoughs, inflammations, thirsts, are usually from this cause. The obstructions of the liver, the jaundice, inflammations, abscesses and ulcers, are commonly from gluttony. Hence also usually are inflammations, pains, obstructions, of the body. Hence commonly is the stone, nephritic torments, and stoppages of urine, and ulcers of the bladder. Hence commonly is the most of the fevers which are found in the world, and bring such multitudes to the grave. Even those that immediately are caused by colds, distempers of the air or infections, are oft caused principally by long excess in gluttony, which vitiates the humours, and prepares them for the disease.

Hence also are gouts and hysterical affects, and diseases of the eyes and other exterior parts. We may well say that gluttony enriches farmers, fills the churchyards, and hastens multitudes untimely to their ends! Perhaps you will say that the most temperate have diseases. Experience teaches me to answer, that usually children are permitted to be voracious and gluttonous, either in quantity or in quality, eating things unwholesome; and so when gluttony has bred the disease, or laid in the matter, then all the temperance that can be used is little enough to keep it under control all their life afterwards.

Many who have been brought to the doors of death by gluttony, have been preserved after many years to a competent old age by temperance, and many totally freed from their diseases.


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  7. Gluttony is also a deadly enemy to the MIND, and to all the noble employments of reason. It unfits men for any close and serious studies, and therefore tends to nourish ignorance, and keep men fools. It greatly unfits men for hearing God's word, or reading, or praying, or meditating, or any holy work, and makes them have more mind to sleep. Gluttony so indisposes and dulls them, that they have no life or fitness for their duty. But a clear head, not troubled with their drowsy foods, will do more and get more in an hour, than a full-bellied beast will do in many.

    So that gluttony is as much an enemy to all religious and manly studies, as drunkenness is an enemy to an army, where the drunken soldiers are disabled to resist the enemy. Gluttony is also an enemy to diligence, in every honest trade and calling; for it dulls the BODY as well as the mind. It makes men heavy, and drowsy, and slothful, and go about their business as if they wore a coat of lead, and were in fetters; they have no vivacity and alacrity, and are fitter to sleep, than work. Gluttony is the immediate effect of a carnal mind, and of the damnable sin of flesh-pleasing, before described.

    A carnal mind is the very sum of iniquity, and the proper name of an unregenerate state; "It is enmity against God, and neither is nor can be subject to his law;" so that those who are thus "in the flesh cannot please God; and those who walk after the flesh shall die," Romans viii. The filthiest sins of lechers, and misers, and thieves, are but to please the flesh: and who serves the flesh more than the glutton does? Gluttony is the breeder and feeder of all other lusts. It pampers the flesh to feed it, and make it a sacrifice for lust. As dunging the ground does make it fruitful, especially of weeds; so does gluttony fill the mind with the weeds and vermin of filthy thoughts, and filthy desires, and words, and deeds.

    Gluttony is a base and beastly kind of sin. For a man to place his happiness in the same pleasure as a swine, and to make his reason serve his throat, or sink into his belly; as if he were but a hogshead to be filled and emptied; or as if he were made only to carry food from the table to the dunghill—how base a kind of life is this!

    Yes, many beasts will not eat and drink excessively as the gluttonous epicure will do. Gluttony is a wasteful consumer and devourer of the creatures of God. What is he worthy of, who would take meat and drink and cast it away into the river? Nay, that would be at a great deal of cost and curiosity to get the pleasantest food he could procure, to cast away?

    The glutton does worse.

    It were better of the two, to throw all his excesses into the sink or ditch—for then they would not first hurt his body. And are the creatures of God of no more worth? Are they given you to do worse than cast them away? Would you have your children use their provisions thus? Gluttony is a most unthankful sin—it takes God's mercies, and spews them as it were in his face!

    Gluttony carries his provisions over to his enemy, even to the strengthening of fleshly lusts; and turns them all against himself! You could not have a bit of food, but from God's liberality and blessing; and will you use it to provoke him and dishonor him? Gluttony is a sin which turns your own mercies, and wealth, and food—into your snare, and to your deadly ruin.

    You please your throat—and poison your soul! It would be a thousand times better for you, that you had lived on scraps, and in the poorest manner—than thus to have turned your plenty to your damnable sin. But before they turned from the food they craved, even while it was still in their mouths, God's anger rose against them.

    Gluttony is a great time-wasting sin. What a great deal of time is spent in getting the money that is laid out to please the throat! And then by servants in preparing for it; and then in long sitting at table and feastings; and not a little in taking medicine to ease or cure the diseases which it causes; besides all the time which is lost in languishing sickness, or cut off by untimely death. Thus they live to eat—and eat to frustrate and to shorten life. Gluttony is a thief that robs you of your estates, and devours that which is given you for better uses, and for which you must give account to God.

    It is a costly sin, and consumes more than would serve to many better purposes. How great a part of the riches of most kingdoms are spent in luxury and excess! Gluttony is a sin that is a great enemy to the common good. Princes and commonwealths have reason to hate it, and restrain it as the enemy of their safety. Men have not money to defray the public charges, necessary to the safety of the land, because they consume it on their bellies.

    Armies and navies must be unpaid, and fortifications neglected, and all that tends to the glory of a people must be opposed as against their personal interest—because all is too little for the throat! No great works can be done to the honor of the nation or the public good; no schools or alms-houses built or endowed, no colleges erected, no hospitals, nor any excellent work—because the guts devour it all!

    If it were known how much of the treasure of the land is thrown down the sink by epicures of all degrees, this sin would be frowned into more disgrace. Gluttony is a sin greatly aggravated by the necessities of the poor. What an incongruity is it, that one member of Christ as he would be thought should be feeding himself deliciously every day, and abounding with abused superfluities—while another is starving and pining away in a cottage, or begging at the door!

    Some families do worse, and cast their delicacies and abundance to their dogs, while thousands are famishing, and would gladly feed on such unwholesome food as kills them—as soon as luxury kills the epicure! Do these men believe that they shall be judged according to their feeding of the poor?

    Or do they take themselves to be members of the same body with those whose sufferings they so little feel? It may be you will say, "I relieve many of the poor. As long as there are any in distress—it is the greater sin for you to be luxurious. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. Nay, how often are the poor oppressed to satisfy luxurious appetites! Abundance must have hard bargains and hard usage, and toil like horses, and scarcely be able to get bread for their families—that they may bring in all to belly-god landlords, who consume the fruit of other men's labor upon their devouring flesh.

    Gluttony is the more heinous sin, because of the common calamities of the church and servants of Christ throughout the world. One part of the church is oppressed by the Turk, and another by the pope, and many countries are wasted by the cruelties of armies, and persecuted by proud, impious enemies. Is it fit then for others to be wallowing in sensuality and gluttony? He hands the plastic cup back to the girl. Cindy is holding a Styrofoam cup in one hand and several betting tickets sorted among a shock of cash in the other.

    She walks up to Ritter with a big grin on her face, draining the remaining contents of the cup before tossing it. The old man hands Ritter two corn-tortilla tacos on a paper plate, the fresh flank steak steaming under a bed of freshly chopped cilantro and onions. Ritter gratefully accepts the plate, dressing both tacos with salsa verde from a small plastic tub before picking up the first one and stuffing half of it into his mouth.

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    Ritter takes his time chewing and swallowing, his expression never changing. Is that what this is? We all here because you came and got us and brought us here. Ritter hurriedly finishes the last of his tacos and crumples up the paper plate, dunking it in a nearby commercial trash bin. Without Darren, their apartment feels too much an empty, alien place to her. Not that any of the comforts help; she can barely sleep, netting perhaps two solid hours on a good night.

    Every noise in the dark has her reaching for the retractable aluminum baton she keeps under the couch. Every dream waiting behind her eyelids is a nightmare. Lena stands in their kitchen after midnight, cracking fresh eggs into two ramekins, each lined with a strip of bacon. She hesitates and then reaches for a scaling knife from the gleaming set in a block on the countertop. Padding silently to the door in her bare feet, Lena stares through the peephole, and her breath immediately catches in her throat.

    I can hear every step you take on the other side. Please do open up. Satisfied, she steps forward and snaps the deadbolt, opening the door. Lena feels equal amounts of disgust and rage twisting into one pulsing knot in her gut. She has the deepest urge to quite literally slam the door in his smug, perpetually lying face. Allensworth nods. Lena begins to take a step forward, not even thinking, the very notion of seeing Darren again, alive and safe, overriding even her most taciturn sense of logic. Her throat is squeezed into the crook of a massive elbow while an equally massive hand presses the back of her head farther into the chokehold.

    Lena smells heavy musk and feels the wide body of a portly man pressing against her back. Her bare feet are no longer touching the floor. She knows how to counter a rear naked chokehold, was taught countless times while grappling on a practice mat back in boot. Lena can feel her eyes bulging, bloodshot, out of their sockets. Her neck is already numb and her head full of cotton.

    Spittle runs over her lips unchecked. She forces her hands to abandon their futile ministrations, dropping them to her waist. She gropes at the band of her pajama bottoms until her fingers brush cool plastic. Her right hand closes around the grip of the scaling knife and pulls it free. Meanwhile, her other hand reaches up and grips the expensive material of the suit sleeve constricted around her neck.

    At first, he rocks her body from side to side, attempting to maintain his grip on her, but eventually a guttural scream fills her ear and the arm disappears from around her neck. Lena drops to the floor, gasping for air until she finds herself hacking on it, feeling as though she might vomit. Ignoring the sensation, she commands her weakened, oxygen-deprived body to its knees, standing and turning to face her attacker. The large man has backpedals several feet, clutching his punctured arm. The irises beneath burn gold with flecks of crimson.

    Lena extends the scaling knife and widens her stance. She tries to ignore the macabre, triggering sight and coppery smell of it all. The executioner rushes forward with a growl. Her legs seem to flee from beneath her and she crashes into the floor as if launched by a catapult, the entire left side of her face numb and stinging at the same time.

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    She feels his heavy footsteps advancing on her more than she hears or seems them in that moment. Shaking her head and blinking rapidly, Lena pushes away from the floor with her arms, bringing one knee under her for support. The other knee she draws close to her body, loading it like a spring. He might be large and thick through his limbs, but none of that padding is protecting his kneecap. His advance halts, and he seems almost confused.

    Lena gets her feet back under her, still crouching low. In the midst of his agonized throes, the executioner reaches inside his suit jacket with his still-bleeding arm. Lena sees his hand emerge, coiled around the grips of a large semiautomatic pistol. Her eyes widening, she dives for his right leg, tackling him by his folded knee. The now one-legged giant topples, crying out even louder in pain and rage. The executioner howls anew, and his hand unclenches just enough for Lena to pull the pistol from him. She quickly rolls away before he can reach for her, rising up to one knee several feet from where he lays.

    The executioner sits up. Without thinking, Lena extends the pistol and pulls the trigger once. Lena blinks and leaps to her feet, turning toward her front door in panic. Her finger tests the resistance of the trigger, finds it almost aching to be squeezed. Her body feels newborn in its pain and uncertainty.

    She feels like a completely different person in that moment, and it both frightens and compels her. He was barely a person. More like lunchmeat that received a massive upgrade. But I take your point. Also, it smells delightful in here. Is that bacon and eggs? The doctor told me that the lady quit coming to see him for advice. I relate this story because it sums up so well the way we have come to view gluttony. But I do want to be careful.

    There may well be some cases of people who have a medical condition that causes weight gain, even if a person totally fasted. But from my research, such cases are indeed rare. And, in some cases, weight gain may be from fluid retention, not fat buildup. If you truly have a medical condition that causes weight gain even though you eat nothing or practically nothing, you need feel no conviction.

    But for the rest of us, it is time we simply face the facts: fat buildup is from gluttony. Our government here in the US is getting concerned. Two out of every three people in the USA are now overweight. One out of three are not overweight by a couple of pounds, but obese, which means seriously over ideal weight. What can we expect from a generation of children who grow up sitting on the couch watching TV and stuffing Twinkies down their throats? Obesity rates have tripled in the last three decades. Twelve percent is still too many, but the difference is the work ethic and a more conscientious approach to controlling eating habits.

    Is it not time for the church of God to speak to the issue? Actually, now is not the time … the time is way past in our culture. The last few generations seem to have been too quiet about the sin of gluttony in our land. Interestingly, up until a century or so ago, the church was not quiet about gluttony, and through the ages men of God have spoken and written about it in plain terms.

    For some through the abundance of their food produce bodily ailments, and thus damage their bodies. And their bodies waste away. This intemperance in eating is harmful to you who have abundance and do not share it with those who are needy. Give heed to the judgment that is to come! You who are well-to-do, seek out the hungry [while there is opportunity].

    I find it interesting that the author sees two evils in gluttony. First he mentions health reasons. But the other evil of gluttony is that of not sharing when we have more than we need. Woe to the man who has more than he needs, but does not share it. Clement of Alexandria lived during the late 2nd century into the early 3rd century. A prolific writer, he touched many themes. I forewarn you, he minces not his words.

    Our eating should lead us to two things—health and strength …. In their greed, the gluttons seem absolutely to sweep the world with a dragnet to gratify their luxurious tastes. These gluttons, surrounded with the sound of hissing frying-pans, and wearing their whole life away at the pestle and mortar, cling to [material things]. More than that, they render plain food impotent, namely bread, by straining off the nourishing part of the grain, [4] so that the nourishing part of food becomes matter of reproach to luxury.

    There is no limit to Epicurism [5] among men. For it has driven them to sweetmeats, and honey-cakes, and sugarplums; inventing a multitude of desserts, hunting after all manner of dishes. A man like this seems to me to be all jaw, and nothing else. They partake of luxurious dishes, which a little after go to the dunghill. For they have not yet learned that God has provided for man food and drink for sustenance, not for pleasure; since the body derives no advantage from extravagance in foods. For, quite the contrary, those who use the most frugal fare are the strongest and the healthiest, and the noblest; as domestics are healthier and stronger than their masters, and husbandmen than the proprietors; and not only more robust, but wiser, as philosophers are wiser than rich men.

    For they have not buried the mind beneath food, nor deceived it with pleasures …. For we are enjoined to reign and rule over foods, not to be slaves to them …. But how totally irrational, futile, and inhuman is it for those that are of the earth, fattening themselves like cattle, to feed themselves up for death; looking downwards on the earth, and bending ever over tables; leading a life of gluttony; burying all the good of existence here in a life that by and by will end; courting voracity alone, in respect to which cooks are held in higher esteem than husbandmen.

    For we do not abolish social events, but look with suspicion on the snares of custom, and regard them as a calamity. Wherefore daintiness is to be shunned, and we are to partake of few and necessary things …. We are not, then, to abstain wholly from various kinds of food, but only are not to be taken up about them. We are to partake of what is set before us, as becomes a Christian, out of respect to him who has invited us, by a harmless and moderate participation in the social meeting; regarding the sumptuousness of what is put on the table as a matter of indifference, despising the dainties ….

    Wherefore we must guard against those articles of food which persuade us to eat when we are not hungry, bewitching the appetite. For is there not within a temperate simplicity a wholesome variety of eatables? Bulbs, olives, certain herbs, milk, cheese, fruits, all kinds of cooked food without sauces …. My inclusion of this list in this article is not an approval or disapproval of the list or its use. They are the opposites of seven virtues: humility, charity, kindness, patience, chastity, diligence … and temperance.

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    Temperance is self-control. When applied to gluttony, several aspects come into play. We think of overeating, which indeed is a form of intemperance. Eating before the time of meals in order to satisfy the taste buds. In other words, unnecessary snacking. Children easily fall into the habit of wanting a premeal snack, then they are not hungry when the beans are passed at meal time. Taking food with too much eagerness , even when eating the proper amount, and even if the food is not luxurious.

    In other words, making it obvious that the eating is done for pleasure and not for nourishment. These five forms of gluttony are summed up in the matter of timing, quality of food, use of stimulants, quantity, and undue eagerness in eating. Say you have the bag of chips lying around. Dinner is still an hour away, and the belly growls a little The barbeque sauce tastes so good that you eat more than you intended. Now, reread the five ways of being a glutton above, and compare that to the situation just described.

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    Gluttony is more than just overeating. And, of course, when the potatoes are served an hour later, the children grump about having to eat plain old potatoes, and they are not hungry they say. So they eat a few bites of potato. Then two hours after the meal, the children complain that they are hungry, and want a snack ….

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