Gluttony is one of the most common and dangerous sins in existence. It is a sin that is not taken seriously enough, if not ignored entirely. The overindulgence of food and drink is viewed more as a period of enjoyment then as an act of defiance.
Take drinking, for instance. Alcohol consumption is perfectly acceptable on its own. But consuming too much alcohol by definition becomes gluttonous, and we know that we are drinking to much when we begin to get drunk from it.
Why is this such a terrible affront to God? St. Thomas Aquinas answers this by going back to the Beginning, when humans are described as being in the ‘image and likeness’ of God (Genesis 1:26). To be in His image and likeness is to have an intellect and a will to follow Him, to do good, to know right from wrong. This is what sets humans apart from all other living things. By consuming too much alcohol, then, we lose control over our intellect and will. By taking away the very thing that makes us in His image and likeness we are debasing ourselves to the level of any other living thing, degrading ourselves from our God-given nature.
Excessive eating is also a major part of gluttony, though it is typically viewed as more comical than excessive drinking. Usually when a person eats too much they complain about how full they feel, praising the deliciousness of the food that they ‘could not stop eating.’ And this sinful behavior is not confined to any particular group of people; everyone who has ever eaten food before has experienced a time when they have eaten too much of it.
Think back to a moment when you yourself over-ate. Ask yourself: ‘Was there a point where I knew I would be satisfied if I stopped, but decided to keep going anyway?’ ‘Did I ever cross the line between eating to meet my bodily requirement of food and eating purely for the pleasure of it?’ ‘How did I handle myself after this situation? Did I pray to God to help me avoid this sin in the future? Did I bring this to the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Have I ever confessed the sin of gluttony in the Sacrament of Reconciliation?’
It is one thing to enjoy your food. It is another thing to eat your food for nothing more than the enjoyment of the taste, despite already having met your necessary intake. And purposefully doing the latter is an abuse against the Temple of the Holy Spirit that is your body.
So what we see inherent in gluttony is a lack of control: one does not stop eating or drinking when they should, they simply keep going until they cannot eat or drink anymore. With this in mind it seems obvious that the Godly virtue that contradicts this is Temperance, or self-control. If you control what you consume and how much of it you consume then you are following the will of God.
Restraining yourself does not merely benefit in avoiding a sin, however. Actively choosing over and over to limit yourself to what you need and what you should take in will bring to fruition the grace to choose God over all things. By restraining yourself from the passions of material consumption you will be able to remove yourself from the slavery of your appetite, thereby giving you more freedom to use your body as God intended you to use it: for His glory and worship.
So the next time you eat a meal, no matter how good it may be, resist the temptation to keep eating until you are ‘full’; eat only until you feel ‘satisfied’, when you could technically keep eating if you so wanted to but you do not need to. It may be harder than you realize. Similarly, the next time you drink alcohol do not stop once you start getting dizzy and lightheaded; stop sooner. You will probably feel the urge to eat or drink more, but remember that such an urge, regardless of how small it may be, is nothing more than the temptation to relinquish control. Stay steadfast in your temperance so that it may build into a habit of restraint from all things that separate you from God.
“A clear rule for self-control handed down by the fathers is this: stop eating while still hungry and do not continue until you are satisfied.” –St. Maximus the Confessor