Parish Diary

Fr. Peter J. Daly

November 16, 2005


            Diet books; they take up a lot of space in my kitchen drawer. That’s about all they do. Over the years I have accumulated a fair number of them.

            Every season brings a new “diet revolution.”  Like any hopeful “revolutionary” I sign on for a while, but eventually I become disillusioned and fall away.  

            I’ve tried them all. I’ve been through the high carb --- low fat diet and the low carb--- high protein diet.

            I’ve tried the vegetarian, fat free diet and the meat lover’s diet.

            I’ve tried the grapefruit and watermelon diet and the bean sprouts and lettuce diet.

            Some years rice cakes are in. Some years rice cakes are out.

            I’ve tried diets that were supposed to be good for your mood (“potatoes, not Prozac”) and some are good for your heart (the “fish oil” supplement).

            I’ve tried the diet that comes from South Beach in Miami. It holds out the vague hope that I will eventually have one of those sculpted and tanned bodies like on “Miami CSI.”

            In a weak moment, I even acquired a copy of Richard Simmons “Food Mover” diet. It really works, because I sure have moved a lot of food since I got it.

            The “Food Mover” comes complete with a plastic “reminder” system which tells what to eat and reminds you to take your vitamins. It has little plastic windows that slide open like an Advent calendar. They reveal a drumstick or a carrot. It also has little exhortations marked by hearts which say things like, “never doubt your abilities.”

            My purchase of the “Food Mover” proves that judgment is impaired by late night TV and insomnia. I probably bought it the same night I bought the “Ab-flexor”, which was guaranteed to give me sculpted abs in only 10 minutes a day. I tried it for a couple of days, but my devotion waned.

            The thing about all these diets and gadgets is that they all work. Of course you have to actually do what they say. That is where I fall down. I can’t follow directions. I am too weak.

            With the holidays coming, I am giving a little thought to the sin of gluttony.

            With so many of us (myself included) becoming obese, there is a moral dimension to this question. This is especially true in a world where the real food problem is not having enough.

            My failure to control food reminds me of a couple of basic spiritual truths.

            First, we are all weak. We are all subject to our appetites, whether for food or  sex or power. Even the Lord was tempted after his 40 day fast. I am a lot weaker than the Lord. I can hardly make it from lunch to dinner without giving in to temptation.

            Second, we are only stewards of our bodies, not masters. We can’t do whatever we want. We have to respect the limits that God has imposed. Moderation is the key to all our appetites. .

            Third, for myself and a lot of my brother priests, food is the “acceptable” weakness. Parish life is fraught with temptation. We go to a lot of banquets. We have dozens of wedding and funeral receptions every year. We have parish dinners, heavy on the mayo. Food is part of everything.

            At a recent priests’ convocation, I looked around the hotel lobby and noticed that a lot of us have given in to temptation more than we might admit.

             There is no magic formula. There are only simple rules: eat less and exercise more. That is all anybody can say.

            So now I can clear out my kitchen drawers and make space for those other things that seem to multiply over the years, like cookbooks.