This website is now published on my mobileme account. Any opinions expressed, however, are totally my responsibility.
The original website was published through the courtesy of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Jim Andris, Sept. 17, 2003.
For some people, food is an addiction. It is a well-known fact that almost anything can become the object of addictive behavior. Still other people have addictive personalities. That is, they tend to become addicted to a number of things. A good example used to be, and perhaps still is, to go into an AA meeting and find the people there using nicotine and caffeine as substitutes for alcohol. This is not to criticize, but just to make the point about addictive personalities and substituting one craving for another.
If you are one of these people for whom food is the object of addictive behavior, then you must deal with the underlying causes of the addiction if you want to freely choose food as a pathway to health and even higher consciousness. This is easy to point out, difficult to secure agreement on, and very difficult to put into practice. A more limited approach is to play your addiction to food off against your addiction to something else that you want even more: a slim physical appearance, appearing more attractive to potential sexual partners, a career in modelling, physical fitness, or regaining lost health. The latter approach is like living on the surface of addiction, the former gets beneath the surface. But what is underneath?
Ken Keyes, in Handbook to Higher Consciousness and other books, has pointed out that it is freedom that lies beneath the surface of addiction. If you simply must have what you desire, then you are not free. This is especially true if you will do destructive things to yourself and or others to get what you feel that you must have. You can have a lot of external power—money, authority, recognition, physical beauty—but if you have no choice in how you wield this power or what you wield it for, your freedom is lacking to that degree. To have this kind of freedom, Keyes argued, you have to "upgrade your addictions to preferences." However, substituting preferences for addictions is not as easy as the idea might sound.
It turns out that this shift in outlook is actually connected with spiritual advancement. When you consider that an addiction is similar to a knee-jerk response, the idea of being guided by preferences does seem to be an advance in the quality and complexity of our intervening thought patterns. A preference is actually the end point of a process of reasoning and decision-making. It implies two things. First, it implies that the person has actually tried various desires out and evaluated them. Second, it implies that the person can be satisfied with a different, but acceptable, state of affairs when, for whatever reason, the preferred state of affairs does not obtain.
Going hand in hand with the idea of upgrading addictions to preferences is also the idea that "we always have everything we need to be happy." Put a different way, the one thing we do have under our control (or at least can work towards having under our control) is our attitude about the current situation. We can always choose a positive attitude over a negative attitude. Ok, so you're thinking about the woman with stage 4 terminal cancer. We're actually talking about going about your daily business here. And, the point is, if we practice working on our attitude, we may find that even to be a help when we face our death.
Another idea very strongly present in the work of Ken Keyes is that to move to this new level of awareness, we are replacing fear, sadness and anger with love, peace and even gratitude for our lives. These feelings arise when we perceive that we have been deprived of conditions we regard as essential. Fear is a lack of security, sadness (not the same as grief) can result from sensory deprivation, and anger can signal feeling that one has lost control, especially if one is accustomed to getting his or her way. So you can see how practicing the perception that we always have everything we need can reduce our sense of loss of security, sensation and control.
There is even another level of spiritual advancement that can be attained beyond the free state of love and gratitude described above. Most of us aren't likely to get there from here, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time discussing it. One way of describing this state is to say that we even drop our preferences. We simply don't need to have sensory experiences at all. People at this stage do things like dedicate their lives to helping the less fortunate, or spending most of their time contemplating God. Recently a man was studied for three weeks in a Harvard lab. He ate or drank nothing in that time period and did not gain or loose weight. He claimed to not have eaten or drunk for many years. We've all read about Jesus, the Buddha, and other realized souls.
Of course, if any of you make it to this level of awareness, you won't be worrying too much about dieting, will you?
Back to dieting systems
There is a point to be made about dieting resulting from all this reflection on spiritual advancement and addictions. It's simply this: anyone who has to adhere to a dieting system, whatever it might be, in order to loose weight and keep it off, is still relinquishing their mental control of their eating to an external structure. Atkins, The Zone, Dean Ornish, they may work, and people may use and need them, but they are all external, artificial structures. What we need to do to be really free of this cumbersome apparatus of deiting is to upgrade our food addictions to preferences for good health. That is what I am trying to do, and what I am trying to show you how to do.
So look. I can now eat anything I want. Anything. And still loose weight And keep it off.
In other words, my diet approach gives me the power IN ANY SITUATION to make the right choice to maintain a healthy body. I'm through blaming my weight gain on greedy restauranteers, or my life partner, or my food-pushing friends, or marketers wanting to sell addictive food products, or my "glandular condition," or my gout, or anything else. It's not THEIR fault. It's MY responsibility to make the right choices every time, or at least, enough of the time to stay healthy. That's true freedom.