Suppers has only one food rule: avoid processed foods and do personal experiments and observations to determine which whole foods are best in your highly individual body. This means that the food you learn to prepare and develop a palate for at meetings will be primarily single, whole, fresh ingredients. A can of coconut milk, some organic chicken broth, or a jar of prepared salsa with no sweeteners represent the most processing you will find at our meetings. They are the foods that are most likely to satisfy normal hunger and least likely to trigger addictive feelings.
There are certain foods that – no matter the degree of processing – are nevertheless highly addictive even in their purest, most organic, natural states. And while we don't tell you never to use them, you won't find them at meetings. Gluten grains, dairy products, and concentrated sweets operate on the same brain pathways as street drugs. In the case of gluten grains and milk products, the pathway is the same as for heroin and morphine. In the case of sugar and corn syrup, the pathway is the same as that for cocaine.
Suppers is a recovery-style program cleverly packaged to feel like cooking groups, a delightful social experience, and an educational process. The biochemical and counseling models that underlie our program design are all based on the assumption that most of the chronic illnesses today are fueled by people’s difficulty giving up favorite foods, the foods with which they have a dependent or addictive relationship. Medical nutritionists are still studying this, but what we know for sure is that gluten grains, milk products, and concentrated sugars top the list that also includes items that are obviously more obviously drug-like foods including chocolate, coffee, and alcohol. Suppers has no opinion on whether or not you should have them; we leave that up to your personal experiments to determine.
Some reactions to food have to do with genetic vulnerability, and some to compromised digestion. Usually it’s a combination. The genetic vulnerability will only express if the potentially offending foods are eaten. So abstention is the clearest way to not get the reaction. Nutritionists who study grains report different incidence numbers, but what is clear is that there is a large percentage of the population that has a pathological relationship with these proteins even if they don't have celiac disease or a frank inability to digest dairy proteins. The range of estimates for the percentage of people who are sensitive to wheat starts around 40% of the population, and I've seen some estimates as high as 60%.
When a sensitive person eats baked goods or pasta and feels a sense of comfort, sedation, or resolution of uncomfortable feelings of low energy, we know that that food has acted more like a drug than a food. If it changes how you feel quickly and is not just about resolving normal hunger, the eater is likely to develop a special relationship with that food. Picture someone who intends to eat one slice of pizza and some salad and ends up so affected by eating one slice that intentions go out the window and a few more slices go down. At Suppers we do many experiments to test our theories about how our bodies interact with specific foods, including the Suppers Breakfast Challenge. In this experiment, you test your relationship by eating first what you typically eat for a few days – Including your usual wheat and dairy products – and then eating other, specified breakfasts for the next 10 days and observing your energy, mood shifts, cravings, sense of feeling satisfied, and inflammatory responses. These experiments have led to life-transforming changes as people reduce or eliminate the foods that make them feel too happy, set up a crash or make them feel unwell. Tips offs could also be feeling de-energized, mentally fatigued or brain fogged, or – on the positive side – energetic, satisfied or clear.
Another personal experiment you can do is to determine which foods in your highly individual body act as treats – the foods that you eat and really enjoy without leading to unwanted eating or other unwanted behaviors – and triggers – the foods that, once ingested, lead to unwanted eating or other unwanted behaviors. Think of yourself sitting next to a breadbasket while you're waiting for your dinner. If it requires a lot of willpower to have just one or two pieces of bread as you wait, it's possible you have a special relationship with wheat products. Think of how you react to your own uncomfortable feelings. If you get temporary comfort from pizza, cheese, ice cream or cookies, the chances are very good that these foods contain ingredients that affect your brain more like drugs than food.
Here's the summary, the list of reasons that we do not serve gluten grains or concentrated sweeteners, and always announce it if there's going to be any dairy product in the menu.
- People don't need to learn how to use processed foods to develop a palate for real, whole food. Our first point of supported behavior change at Suppers is to help people develop a taste for real food.
- We reduce or eliminate foods that "have no brakes,” meaning you have a hard time stopping once you start eating them. Suppers facilitators are trained to not give nutrition advice or tell people what to do at home. Instead, we are trying to help people do personal experiments to test personal theories. And we don't use the most common trigger foods at meetings.
- The deeper we get into our work – at this point, 11 years of running meetings – the more we are seeing that people’s chronic health issues relate to their digestion. There is something going on with the grain products in our processed food supply that is making more people depressed, fat, sick, and addicted. Until scientists can tell us how to behave, the safest thing is to avoid the foods that are the most common culprits for mood swings and inflammation and do the experiments.
- With high individual variation, people come to Suppers and continue to come to Suppers because they have a sense of feeling supported in living according to their intentions instead of their impulses. Many people live not knowing if their unwanted eating relates to emotional triggers, bio chemical triggers from exposure to specific foods or something else.
- And finally, the irresistible combinations of starches and sugars with salt and fat disrupt a person’s taste for natural flavor and natural sweetness like blueberries.
The mission of The Suppers Programs is to create the safe setting in which people can manage their own personal transitions to a healthier life. Creating a warm and non-judgmental environment in which it is safe to experiment with eating styles and particular foods is central to our accomplishing our mission.