St. Thomas Aquinas And Gluttony

By Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am — Filed under:

St. Thomas AquinasWhen I looked for the patron saint of the chubby, I found St. John Climacus, but somehow, I missed the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. He argued that gluttony could also include an obsessive anticipation of meals, and the constant eating of delicacies and excessively costly foods. Here are his six methods of committing gluttony:

  • Praepropere – eating too soon
  • Laute – eating too expensively
  • Nimis – eating too much
  • Ardenter – eating too eagerly
  • Studiose – eating too daintily
  • Forente – eating too fervently

An excerpt from The Gluttonous PunishedThe idea that eating can be a sin is prevalent in our society. Almost every disdainful look at a person because of their weight can be linked to the thought that gluttony is a sin. There is some innate human preference to a thinner appearance, but most of the aversion is because of the concept that being fat is sinful. This hasn’t really helped our society, and in some cases, I believe it has made things worse.

When it comes to healthy eating, however, did St. Thomas Aquinas have a good idea?

  • Praepropere: I can’t deny that it is harmful if I eat too soon or eat when I’m not hungry. My biggest problem is recognizing that I’m hungry. Too often, I have let myself get too hungry and then I wolf down WAY more food than I need. Recognizing the proper hunger signals is a skill that few of us are taught.

  • Laute: During the Middle Ages, St. Thomas Aquinas suggested that eating food that is too expensive was a sin. I hear this argument even today when people say that eating meat is too much of a strain on the environment and if you want to reduce your carbon footprint, you should eat vegetarian. It is the underlying assumption for the whole food movement. Eat simply, is the battle cry of laute. I have eaten both ways and I honestly feel better when I eat fresh, whole food, so maybe there is something to this argument.

  • Nimis: Anyone with a full stomach after too big of a meal agrees with the idea that eating too much might be a sin. There is actually pain involved, so it’s hard to argue with something that actually causes pain.

  • Ardenter: Eating too eagerly is kind of ambiguous to me, but it seems to mean eating too quickly. I know if I eat slower, I eat less. Taking small bites and chewing my food completely helps with my stomach problems AND helps me eat less food.

  • Studiose: – When I first wrote this entry, I had no idea what eating too daintily might mean, but the excellent Raven left a comment saying that she thinks it means being too picky. I have to admit that I was brought up to eat whatever I was offered, even if I didn’t like it, so I’ve never really had this problem. I can understand how St. Thomas Aquinas might consider this to be a problem, however. Rejecting food because it doesn’t please you can be just as wasteful as eating it when you’re already full.

  • Forente: Does eating too fervently count as eating too quickly? Is it just another wording of the same thing or am I missing something here?

On the whole, St. Thomas Aquinas had some good ideas about healthy eating. I think the idea that overeating is a sin has harmed us far more than helped us, but the ideas of eating slowly only when we’re hungry and not eating too much are classic concepts that shouldn’t be shunned.


4 Responses to “St. Thomas Aquinas And Gluttony”

  1. Mary Anne Says:

    I think “too daintily” means “too picky.” If you’re too concerned about having the steak done exactly as medium rare as you want, or the fruit perfectly ripe yet perfectly fresh, or the toast exactly the right shade of tan, you’re not really hungry.

    If full stomach=pain then mine has never been full in 55 years, even though I prefer to eat two very large meals a day.

  2. Raven Says:

    I found it interesting that you wrote, “Recognizing the proper hunger signals is a skill that few of us are taught”. I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that parents often make their kids eat their ENTIRE plate of food before they can have desert (“There are starving kids in Africa you know, so you better eat everything you put on your plate!”. I’m probably wrong, but when I watch my mom’s best friend feed her (chubby) kids, I can’t help but be sad for them. She makes them eat soooo much just so they can have their desert. The kids are definitely not learning how to recognize hunger nor “I’m full” signals. The more we desensitize ourselves to those signals, the harder it is for us to (re)learn them.

  3. Rach Says:

    I think eating to fervently would mean quickly but I think eating too eagerly would mean literally being eager to eat in general, when eating excites you more than almost anything else, by the time one is done with breakfast they’re already planning/looking forward to lunch, snacks, dinner, etc. and also it is said that one is “over eager” when they don’t think about things before jumping in, perhaps it means you see someone eating chocolate and you automatically want chocolate, or someone offers you a donut and even though ou’re dieting, or it is not benificial to your health you grab it anyways before thinking and scarf it down. 🙂 Just a thought.

  4. Reedski Says:

    Thanks. I found this extremely informative. I have lost 53 lbs. through exercise and watching my food intake. It’s taken me 1 year and 4 months so far and I still have at least 40 more lbs. to go. Every few months I need something new to encourage and strengthen me for this journey. I decided to try to ask a saint to intercede to God for me which led me here. St. Thomas Aquinas’ 6 Methods of Gluttony will help me put my struggles, temptations, and desires for food in perspective. I haven’t read about St. John Climacus yet but plan to next.

    I was thinking perhaps what St. Thomas means when he speaks of studiose (eating too daintily) is perhaps not appreciating the food given to you and picking at it rather than relishing the goodness of this gift that God has provided. For me St. Teresa of Avila comes to mind. Bert Ghezzi writes of her in his book Miracles of the Saints: “This splendid woman was graced with heavenly ecstasies but never ceased to enjoy earthly creatures. ‘I could be bribed with a sardine,’ she once confessed…Once, a visitor was shocked to find the holy woman delightfully devouring a partridge someone had given her. Was this the way of the ascetic! What would people think? ‘Let them think what they please,’ said the saint, licking her fingers. ‘There’s a time for partridge and a time for penance.’ “

    My main problem is nimis- eating too much. I’m gettting better but I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to control it completely. I’m learning to pay attention to portion size. Of course, that means that I don’t eat out at restaurants much and if I do I order healthy choices and ask for a take home container if the portions are too large.

Leave a Reply


Powered by WordPress
(c) 2004-2017 Starling Fitness / Michael and Laura Moncur