In the ten years of research and experiments that led to the program design for Suppers, remaining flexible and open was always a priority. With many years of Al Anon woven into my fiber, I believed in the therapeutic value of sharing experiences in safe settings, knowing I would not be judged. The active practice of nonjudgment became one of the few inflexible characteristics of the program, right up there with the focus on whole food preparation.
A third characteristic emerged: zero tolerance of commercial messages. It was yet another gift from Bill W. and the creators of the 12-step programs. I called myself the founder of Suppers, but I have been more like a shepherdess; the members created the program. I took notes, helped them write their stories, observed what it takes to turn a life around through diet and lifestyle change, and protected them from influences that could slow down or artificially speed up (and thereby slow down) their processes. To keep things pure, it became clear that we’d also have to borrow the 12-step policy on commercial messages: none allowed.
People who come to Suppers are exposing their vulnerabilities. I felt a strong need to protect them from their own or anybody else’s biases about what a good diet is and particularly from anybody who wanted to turn members into a marketplace for products and services. After all, wasn’t it profit motive that got so many of these people into trouble to begin with? The food and beverage industries have a lot to answer for.
It has been very satisfying to see would-be presenters lose interest in Suppers once they learn that it is not an opportunity for a sales pitch. It has been tricky helping members to share – but not promote – the diets, products, and services that worked for them. But the reward has been worth the struggle. We are all learning to acknowledge and identify our biases and assumptions. I needed to learn the lesson too, and it was having a few vibrant raw food vegetarians and a thriving carnivore in the same meeting that taught me. Practicing nonjudgment has kept our settings safe and allowed us to focus entirely on healing through self-discovered diet and lifestyle change.