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Editor’s note: This is Article 9 in the new Meridian series, “The Half-Diet” wherein Richard Eyre lays out the basics of the most simple and logical method of losing weight and keeping it off. New installments in the series run every Wednesday. Most of the concepts are taken from Richard’s latest book THE HALF DIET DIET. Meridian readers who comment on all articles in this series will be put into a drawing for free copies of the book when the series concludes. Readers may still comment on articles 1 through 8.

The idea of bridling passions and appetites is particularly meaningful to LDS readers who are familiar with Alma’s use of the metaphor in his letter to his middle son Shiblon. Let’s look a little deeper into the symbolism:

Horse riders and horse lovers know how strong these magnificent animals are. They outweigh us by a factor of five or six to one, but that’s just the beginning. Their tendon and muscle connections give them a leverage that probably doubles their weight advantage. You may already know that if you have been literally thrown across the barn by a horse that just got startled and lifted his head.

Because of their strength and their beauty, horses have been used by man for countless things, ranging from toil to pleasure. They have also been used since antiquity for several of the most apt metaphors in history.

“We put bits in the horses’ mouths,” said James, an apostle of the New Testament, “… that they may obey us, and we turn about their whole body.” To become “perfect men,” he said, we must be “able also to bridle” our bodies … our expressions, our appetites. And when Alma penned his short but powerful letter to his son Shiblon he gave a strong admonition coupled with a remarkable and thought-provoking promise, “See that ye bridle your passions that ye may be filled with love.”

One reason the horse is such a perfect teaching symbol is that horses are extraordinary, remarkable and beautiful creatures than can serve us in ways that are exciting and thrilling as well as useful. There is nothing quite like a horse at full gallop, especially if you are on its back, moving with it and feeling its grace and power.

If you focus only on the danger that is potentially posed by a horse—focusing only on its strength and potential to hurt you—the horse could begin to seem like an enemy, something you need to fight and subdue. One way to be sure that a horse does not hurt you would be to tranquilize it or drug it to neutralize its strength. And the way to absolutely guarantee that a horse will not hurt you would be to kill it. But what a foolish and cowardly approach that would be, and how it would deny the beauty and the usefulness of the horse.

So it is with our passions and our appetites. These are not things we should want to kill or to medicate out of our lives. They are not our enemies, but our energies. They can be our motivators rather than our masters, and a thrill to ride rather than a threat to ruin.

But only with the bridle! Until we put the bit of our own control between the teeth of our urges and instincts, these appetites can injure us, wound our destiny, and throw us off the path of our dreams and our goals.

The last thing we should want to do with any of our appetites—for food, or for sex, or for any of life’s gifts—is too dull them, subdue them, tie them up or hobble them so they lose their beauty and strength and passion. We do not want to kill these things because they are not our foes. Vows of celibacy are tragic in that they seek to kill rather than bridle one of our most natural and life-giving appetite. Rather, we should bridle this wonderful and divinely given appetite, harness it, and control it to work with us and for us instead of on us and against us.

Your brain is the bridle, and your mental commitment to eat half as much and twice as slow is the bit that can gradually come to feel natural and accepted in the mouth!

As you eat half, eat twice as slow and with twice the appreciation and enjoyment, keep the horse in mind; think of your soul as the rider and your will as the bridle.