Is the sentence "You have to be ascetic about eating junk food" correct?

Ascetic: Practicing severe self-denial

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    Ascetic is more commonly used as a substantive --> he is an ascetic than in reference to particular things one does not do. Consequently, I would probably not use the word ascetic to express your point which I take to be you have to be disciplined about not eating junk food – virmaior Feb 12 '14 at 2:49
  • @virmaior Your comment is the best answer. Why not post it as an answer? – djeikyb Feb 12 '14 at 6:47

an ascetic is one who is characterized by the practice of severe self-discipline and abstention from all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons.

an ascetic life of prayer, fasting, and manual labor

The word denotes and connotes a lifestyle, not individual choices here and there inclined toward sacrifice.

As such, You have to be ascetic about eating junk food is a misuse, as it is a choice to eat healthfully, not to meditate, sleep on stone slabs, pray, work and eat less than one wants to.

  • Knowing this, how could the word "ascetically" be used in a sentence? – Ivo3185 Feb 12 '14 at 2:22
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    His decision to live ascetically bewildered his wealthy relatives. ? – anongoodnurse Feb 12 '14 at 2:27
  • It's not just wrong as far as definition. It's also wrong grammar. I like your answer, but it's missing the crucial component of why a word like "ascetic" cannot be used in the example sentence. – djeikyb Dec 29 '14 at 0:36

It's grammatically fine, but the meaning of ascetic is much stronger than someone who would never eat junk food. An ascetic wouldn't eat much food at all, abstain from sex, and generally forgo most or all material comforts.

As such, you can't really be ascetic about eating junk food, or to the extent that you can, you would just use the expression, "never ever eat junk food".


I do not believe you can practice severe self-denial while eating. There's even an idiom,

Would you both eat your cake, and have your cake?

  • Good link, thanks. Hard to believe that idiom has been around for 500 years... Makes me feel young. :) – anongoodnurse Feb 12 '14 at 2:31
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    @Susan It just proves that my problem with junk food is hardly new! – Elliott Frisch Feb 12 '14 at 2:53

You're using it kinda verbishly, where common use is more noun or adjective.

Examples that sound better to me (western usa, fwiw):

"Jane's an ascetic. She doesn't eat junk food."

"Ascetics abstain from junk food."

"Extreme fasting is part of our monastery's ascetic practice."

"Asceticism is the practice of rigorous self-denial, typically as a spiritual discipline."

Others have mentioned that your use is wrong because it implies asceticism is casual. While yes, asceticism is defined in terms of harsh self-denial, it's the least problematic thing about your sentence. My first example is similar to your malformed sentence, and I feel it invokes humour by insinuating something as deep as asceticism could be achieved by simply avoiding junk food.

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