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Editor’s note: This is Article 13 in the 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 12.

In today’s column we want to go beyond the physical “food diet” to consider the possibilities for applying the same principles to a kind of mental and spiritual diet.

The physical, mental and spiritual are not only connected, they are three parts of the same whole, and that whole is the soul. A physical body that is lean and clean, that is trim, strong, tuned and hydrated is infinitely better at receiving, conducting and supporting the mental and spiritual processes that happen within. And that re-tuning can open up the whole universe to us.

We need to be sure we don’t shortchange the reasons for and the ramifications of the physical diet, reducing our motives down to things such as a more attractive appearance or smaller dress size. Instead, let’s elevate the idea of the physical diet to purposes such as longer life, cleaner insights, and a more pure intelligence and spirituality.

You who have followed this column have now read through much of the “eat half” physical diet and many are now implementing it. If you still need a little motivation or a way to strengthen your resolve to eat half, let me pose some questions that might help:

1.What if the God who made us could have used any means He wanted for us to “refuel” or to get the nutrients into our physical machines to keep them going (and growing)? He or She could have designed it so we just tapped a tree or a pond or some nutrient source through a tube or in some other utilitarian way, like gassing up a car. But instead, He made eating and drinking a pleasurable and infinitely varied experience and gave us appetites and tastes and expandable capacities. Why? Could it be that our food appetites are intentionally the physical representation of all our other appetites, and that by learning to control that most obvious appetite we can learn the principles that control all other appetites?

2. What if one of the most stunning ways in which man is different from animals is that animals manifest their destiny and fulfill their purpose by following and being subject to their instincts and appetites; while humans reach their fullest potential and gain their highest destiny by controlling and mastering their appetites? Perhaps our human qualities of patience and discipline, of the capacity to delay gratification and be proactive rather than reactive with regard to our appetites are the very qualities that separate us most dramatically from the animals.

3. Why is it that he word “appetite” often carries a negative connotation unless it is modified by a positive adjective like “healthy”? By itself it sounds a little like a foe or an enemy or at least an unpleasant challenge. But in fact, isn’t it appetites that make life exciting? They are our passions; the very drives and urges that motivate us and that make life enjoyable. Yes, they require controlling, but even that can be a pleasure. Try to imagine a life without appetites and we find ourselves contemplating a flat, effortless, and boring state.

4. Could joy be defined as appetite control? Is self-mastery ultimately the source, or at least the trigger, of our happiness?

5. Could there be not only a connection, but also a wonderful sequence between body, mind, and spirit? These three may provide related but separate and appropriately sequential ways of knowing and understanding things, with the sensory method leading to the scientific method and finally being eclipsed by the spiritual method.

6. In this larger perspective, might appetites be perceived as the passions and potential joys that come with this mortal opportunity, and could diet may be viewed as how we choose to think and to live while we are here on earth?

Expanding our view of Appetites

So what are our other appetites? Before you read the list below, pause for a moment and think about what you would put on the appetite list.

Now, without trying to be expansive or to sequence or categorize them in any particular way, here are some appetites:

Fame (or visibility or credit)
Television and Media
Internet and Technology
Games and Diversions

With the list in front of us (and it could be much longer) let’s ask some key questions: What are appetites? Are they things we need? Things we want? Things we desire? Are they instincts? Natural attractions? Are they learned or are they inherent?

With animals, appetites or instincts are built-in energy-and-purpose-producing urges that allow them to survive. Are they more or less than that with us? Are we best served by subduing them or celebrating them? Can we do both?

Here’s a crack at defining an appetite: “something that attracts us, then something that, if we let it begins to control us, then if unchecked becomes an obsession, and finally, if it is not mastered or bridled, turns into an addiction.” With that definition in mind, what would you add to the appetite list?

Are there good and bad appetites? Are our longings for things such as love or wisdom too high and too pure to be called appetites? Are those with stronger or weaker appetites higher or lower beings?

Do any of these questions matter?

The Half Diet takes the view that these are the very questions that do matter–that they matter very much. Further, it takes the view that all appetites can be appreciated and understood and controlled by the same principles that work with our appetite for food.

The result of the physical half diet is a body that is fit and strong and joyful. The result of the mental diet can be a mind with the same characteristics.

The physical diet and the loss of physical weight and the control of the appetite to eat is only the tip of the iceberg; the real challenge of human excellence is to master and control all of our appetites. Remember as you read that the appetite for food is a “type” for all other appetites, instincts, cravings, and desires. The principles that work for the physical also work for the emotional/mental and the spiritual constructs of life.

During the two concluding articles in this series (on the next two Wednesdays) we will apply the principles of the physical diet to a corresponding kind of mental diet, and then to an even more advanced “spiritual diet.”