Document 8: From a Traditions Perspective
The Twelve Traditions provide a practical framework to help meeting groups operate, preserve FA unity, and carry the message of recovery to newcomers.
When concerns arise related to FA meetings, FA members are invited to reach out to the Traditions Review Committee (TRC). The role of the TRC is to reply to the concern using a Traditions perspective. The meeting can, if they choose, use this perspective to help them discuss the issue and develop group conscience.
The Traditions perspective may also guide individual members. A member may be inclined to carry out an idea that is likely well intended. However, such ideas may (unintentionally) negatively affect newcomers, the meeting group, or FA as a whole.
The excerpts on the pages that follow illustrate a Traditions perspective on some of the most common questions posed by FA members/meetings.
HOW TO USE THIS DOCUMENT
- Read through it independently to personally learn more about each Tradition.
- Read one Tradition each month at your business meeting, along with one or more of the examples. Engage in a brief discussion if the group so chooses.
- Use these examples in conjunction with an AWOL or other method of studying the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.
- Keep in mind, as you read through the examples, that many questions or issues relate to more than one of the Traditions.
If a member is interested in additional concerns that have been presented and reviewed by the TRC, please access the complete Traditions Review Index: https://www.foodaddicts.org/trc-index-search.
HOW DO THE TRADITIONS IMPACT MY MEETING?
TRADITION ONE: Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on FA unity.
- Since we get our food plan from our sponsor, and that food plan can differ depending on the sponsor, where is the unity around the food? Our unity comes from our definition of abstinence. Even though some members may eat a different variety of fruits, vegetables, proteins, etc., none of us eat flour or sugar. We avoid personal binge foods. We weigh and measure all the food we eat.
- My sponsor gave me a letter regarding how she sponsors. I want to put that on the literature table at my in-person meeting or at least hand it out to all of the members who attend. Is that okay? This practice may cause friction. For example, a letter could be misinterpreted, someone else may have a different philosophy, etc. A sponsor and sponsee will of course share thoughts with one another, but formally distributing such thoughts may cause disunity at both the meeting level and within FA as a whole. Only conference-approved materials are allowed on the literature table.
- I was told that even though virtual meetings were voted to be actual FA meetings at the 2021 WSBC, they weren’t “real” FA meetings, and I’m not allowed to go to them. This conflicts with Tradition Two as well as Tradition One. Our World Service Conference (those who are elected by meetings to have a voice and vote at the annual business convention) makes decisions regarding FA policies (Tradition Two). These policies are found in the Bylaws and Standing Rules of Order. To disregard them clearly conflicts with Tradition One and causes disunity in the fellowship.
- Our local area decided to put only selected meetings on the trifold. I was told this conflicts with Tradition One. Why? When a group selects only certain meetings to place on the trifold, it can be viewed as discrimination. Meetings have felt marginalized because of this kind of exclusion. The idea of strong vs. weak meetings challenges the unity of FA. It is suggested that geographic location would be a thoughtful and legitimate criterion for listing. If there are too many meetings in an area to fit on a trifold, then a variety of days, times and locations should be represented.
TRADITION TWO: For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority - a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
- Why has my sponsor asked that I not quote other FA members by name when I share at an FA meeting? This may be perceived as making a member an authority figure or “putting them on a pedestal.” We have no leaders. Alternatively, one could say, “I heard from another member….” or, “Something I identify with that I’ve heard from others is…” This helps us to share a principle without elevating a personality.
- I heard of a retreat that is being held by FA members. They have an agenda with several great topics. They have a person with long-term recovery sharing on each topic. My sponsor suggests I not attend and said it conflicts with Tradition Two. How does it conflict? Tradition Two tells us we have no leaders except our Higher Power. When one member formally shares on a topic, they can be perceived as the leader or expert on that topic. This is why eForums typically have at least three people sharing on a topic – as a panel. This prevents any one individual from being held up as an expert.
- I have a year of abstinence and disagree with a decision made at our business meeting. What can I do about it? Tradition Two tells us that we make decisions by group conscience. All members with 90 days of continuous abstinence working with an FA sponsor who regularly attend a meeting have a voice and a vote at business meetings. It is important to attend business meetings and share, but keep an open mind. Important topics at business meetings can be tabled until the next meeting to give members a chance to discuss topics with their sponsors and others with long-term abstinence. When decisions don’t turn out the way we want, we let go and trust our Higher Power with the outcome.
- I called someone to tell them that we had a specific person qualifying at our meeting who was one of the people who was there when FA started. I was told that this is against Tradition Two. Why? Tradition Two reminds us that there are no leaders in FA. Because of this, we do not promote one person as an authority in FA. We are all food addicts and each abstinent member has experience, strength, and hope to share.
TRADITION THREE: The only requirement for FA membership is a desire to stop eating addictively.
- Why is it okay to have special composition meetings? Special composition meetings create a safe place for members to hear the message of recovery from food addiction. Everyone who wants to stop eating addictively is welcome at our meetings. If the meeting has a special focus/composition, all are still welcome. For example, if a person who presents as a woman were to log in or attend a “men’s” meeting, they would still be welcomed. We refrain from asking personal questions or making comments to each other. The important thing is that the person who walks or logs into an FA meeting is welcome. Anyone who regularly attends the meeting and has the suggested abstinence qualifies to fill a service position.
- When some of the people at my meeting are leading, they call on the same people to read or share. Some people feel left out. Is this issue related to any tradition? We always want to make an effort for everyone to feel welcome at an FA meeting. Calling a variety of people or someone who is new or has not recently shared is a great practice. In addition, a moment of pause before calling on someone to read or share may be useful to allow time for individuals who are new, a little shy, or who have just reached their 90 days to build up courage to raise their hand.
- Sometimes fellows mention religious names because they think everyone comes from the same religious background. Refraining from religious references fosters an atmosphere of inclusivity. No matter someone’s religious affiliation, we are all welcome. We show respect by using the term “Higher Power” or “HP” instead of “God”; this allows fellows the space within a meeting to be present with their personal HP.
- How do I share so that I don’t offend anyone? FA reaches individuals with diverse backgrounds, yet we are all here to find a solution to food addiction. Focus on what we share in common instead of our differences and on our personal experience with recovery from food addiction.
- Someone new walked into our meeting with a healthy body size. Are they a food addict? We have no idea the extreme measures a person may be taking to obtain a healthy weight. We don’t see the battle in their minds. Each individual decides for themselves. You’re a food addict if you say you’re a food addict.
- I am hesitant to call on someone because I’m not confident in pronouncing their name. How should I handle this situation? “Humility is essential to our recovery.” Ask God for help to practice Tradition Three by including all fellows in our meetings without hesitation. It is appropriate to ask someone for the correct pronunciation of their name. Perhaps the person leading the meeting could say something like, “I see your hand raised. Could you please tell/remind me how to pronounce your name?”
TRADITION FOUR: Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or FA as a whole.
- Our FA meeting would like to do a “Step a month”? In January, we would have the First Step as a topic, in February Step Two, so forth and so on, through December and Step Twelve. A sequential, in-depth study of the Steps has been shown over the years to be an effective practice for food addicts. However, a newcomer seeking help for food addiction through the FA program might be very confused by walking into a meeting about Step Nine, for example. If the Steps are not presented in sequence with each one building on the other, the process can be fragmented and confusing. We recommend the steps be studied in sequence, in a venue devoted to the study of the Twelve Steps as they relate to food addiction.
- Can we pass another basket during the Seventh Tradition to pay for someone to attend the convention? Financial support is available through FA’s intergroups. This practice on the part of meetings may not only cause hurt feelings and tension among members and other meetings, but also hurts FA as a whole. FA is self-supporting. If members are putting their money toward helping someone travel, they may put less money into the regular Seventh Tradition basket, which helps keep our office and WSI committees functioning.
- Members in our meeting believe that the meeting guidelines and commitments are too controlling, and since meetings are autonomous we should be able to do whatever we want. Please note that the second part of Tradition Four states that meetings should not do anything that may cause harm to other groups or FA as a whole. At the 2011 WSBC, the World Service Conference (the group of FA members elected by their meetings) voted to adopt meeting requirements and standards which have been critical to the continued health and longevity of FA.
TRADITION FIVE: Each group has but one primary purpose – to carry its message to the food addict who still suffers.
- Many in-person meetings are becoming fragrance-free. Why? Fragrances can set off migraines, asthma, and nausea. We want to be able to carry the message to anyone who walks into our rooms, so we avoid situations that may cause people to leave a meeting before hearing the message.
- Why don’t we have clothing swaps or provide farm-fresh produce at the break? Our primary purpose is to carry the message of recovery from food addiction. Looking at clothing or shopping for food distracts us from that purpose.
- Are service animals allowed at an FA meeting? Service animals are trained to help a person with a specific task. These animals go through extensive training so they can be well behaved in any environment. Service animals are welcome. On the other hand, an emotional support or companion animal is typically trained by their owner. If they are disruptive during the meeting, members may be easily distracted. This dilutes our ability to deliver the message of recovery.
- Is it okay to mute a disruptive member or one who is continually interrupting to ask questions during a virtual or phone FA meeting? Of course. An announcement could be made requesting that anyone with a question please hold it until the break or after the meeting. With many virtual platforms, the host has the option of muting everyone and blocking participants from unmuting themselves. It is very challenging to share the message of recovery if someone continually interrupts.
- Is it appropriate to hug members as they walk into a meeting? Many people feel uncomfortable with physical contact from strangers. It typically takes a lot of courage and/or desperation for a newcomer to walk into an FA meeting. We can be welcoming to all by offering a smile or a kind word. We keep the focus on the other’s comfort and not our own, so that newcomers stay and hear the message of recovery.
- Is it in conflict with the Traditions for the information on the FA phone list be used to market a service offered by a member? When a member agrees to place their name and phone number on the phone list, they are doing so to connect with other food addicts and get support for their recovery. To use that list for any other purpose is a break in trust and could turn many away from FA.
- Can a meeting distribute fliers for great offers like massages and other health-conscious opportunities by putting them on the literature table or handing them out at meetings? "We attend meetings to share experience, strength, and hope with each other." If you would like to share an opportunity or event that you see as beneficial, consider doing so outside of a meeting, perhaps while sharing a meal together or while socializing with a fellow. During the meeting and the break, we focus on recovery from our addiction. We stay away from anything that may distract from that experience. If you need guidance on what can be on the literature table, please see Document 2 of the Meeting Guidelines, found on the FA website. https://www.foodaddicts.org/documents/document-2-meeting-essentials.
TRADITION SIX: An FA group ought never endorse, finance or lend the FA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
- Can we announce Twelve-Step studies facilitated and/or created by non-FA members during announcements? No. These are outside enterprises. Making such an announcement implies that FA endorses their company, brand, or product. FA has no opinion on any outside enterprise.
- A group was started by an FA member for people who relapse. The member created some of their own materials in addition to those created by FA. Can this group be promoted at FA meetings? Programs outside of FA should not be announced at FA meetings. This group is an outside enterprise. If it is announced or if fliers are on the literature table, it may appear that FA is endorsing this project or literature that is not Conference approved.
- One of our members has a business and uses the FA phone list to send out promotional invitations. Is that okay? FA cannot endorse any outside enterprise. Therefore, members should never use FA phone lists to advertise or promote their businesses.
- I am confused in regard to religion and FA. Can we have a meeting in a religious facility? Can we publish meetings in weekly church bulletins? Can we list meetings in religious calendars? The answer to all of these questions is yes. Even though we use religious facilities, we follow the guidelines in Document 2 to avoid the appearance of affiliation. For example, when meeting in a religious facility, do not meet in the worship space. Also do not place chairs so meeting attendees are facing religious sculptures/figures. We can list our meetings on any calendar or publication https://www.foodaddicts.org/documents/document-2-meeting-essentials.
TRADITION SEVEN: Every FA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
- We have a virtual meeting with a “free” service. Do we need to have a treasurer and make a donation? Yes. Each meeting needs a treasurer to announce and collect the Seventh Tradition, which is a requirement for each registered FA meeting. The FA office and WSI committees depend on the funds collected in order to function. If the treasurer needs help determining a method for collecting funds, they can contact email@example.com. Even though the company may not charge a fee for its virtual service, FA meetings must donate since they are self-supporting. Several companies do accept donations; if they do not, the meeting can donate elsewhere.
- The local YMCA is offering free rooms for Twelve-Step groups. Do we need to give a donation? Twelve-Step meetings and FA-WSI are self-supporting. If, for some reason, the venue will not accept rent, ask if you can make a donation to a general fund. Please continue to collect the Seventh Tradition donations and send these collections to your local chapter, Intergroup, and World Service.
- Our meeting would like to collect extra money or use our regular Seventh Tradition donations to buy a holiday gift for the person at our venue who opens the doors for us. Is this within the boundaries of Tradition Seven? The purpose of the Seventh Tradition is to reach out to newcomers and pay for the maintenance of FA. Meetings typically send a monthly donation to the venue without designating how that donation should be used. Individual members may want to give a card of gratitude to a person who has helped the meeting.
- Our meeting would like to collect money to send a person to the WSBC as a WSC member. They cannot afford the trip. Please refer to the pamphlet “Your FA Seventh Tradition.” Seventh Tradition donations are used to support the meeting, chapters, intergroups, and world service initiatives. If a voting member cannot afford to attend the convention, they can apply for financial assistance from their intergroup. Using this process ensures that financial assistance is based upon principles rather than personalities.
TRADITION EIGHT: Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
- I am a professional writer and was asked to anonymously write an article about my experience with food addiction. I would receive $75 for this article if it gets published. Can I accept the fee or should I donate it to FA? Writing about our experience regarding recovery from food addiction is Twelfth-Step work. This type of endeavor should be unpaid. Additionally, if a company or organization were to pay money to a member for an article about food addiction, and the member then donated that money to the Seventh Tradition, the money would be coming from an outside enterprise and therefore not aligned with the principle of being self-supporting.
- I have created a food journal and have found it really valuable in my recovery. It has spaces not only for food, but also helps keep track of the tools. I would like to publish it and sell it to FA members. I contacted the World Service Board and they are not interested in it. Is this okay if I proceed? Even though FA may hire people in our office to do specific services, a member selling their journal would be in conflict with Tradition Eight. They would be selling it as a professional service.
- I discovered that a member of FA started their own company and is using the food plan and some of the principles from FA in their business. They are profiting from Twelfth-Step work. Isn’t this against Traditions? Yes. Members of a Twelve-Step group should not charge for Twelfth-Step work. This is one of the basic principles of Twelfth-Step work.
TRADITION NINE: FA, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
- A small group of members got together to create a local newsletter. We include items such as good yoga classes in the area along with uplifting Twelve-Step related phrases and small articles. We email it to all local members. Is this okay? This may be seen as being in conflict with several Traditions. It is within the principles of Tradition Nine to create a committee. However, committees are typically organized by a local service group, chapter, intergroup, or World Service. If small groups of FA members take on service projects on their own, it may harm FA as a whole. Take, for example, FA branding. Our website, literature, and connection magazine have a consistent presentation. This allows anyone to recognize FA as FA, which creates continuity and trust. Including items such as yoga classes would imply that FA is endorsing an outside enterprise, which is in conflict with Tradition Six. Using the FA email list is in conflict with Tradition Eleven. Even though this is being done with good intentions, sharing this type of information in your personal interactions is a better option. It is important that FA is portrayed as a recovery program and not a social group.
TRADITION TEN: Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the FA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
- Sometimes at a meeting, I hear comments from fellows that are uncomfortable or controversial. It is important to be aware of the diversity in our fellowship. Comments about things such as appearance, beliefs, or culture can be hurtful. In our meetings and conversations, we keep the topic on recovery from food addiction.
- What’s the problem with reading highly respected religious material, such as the Bible, at a meeting? Reading or referring to non-Conference approved literature from the front of the room may be seen as promoting an outside issue. This also may lead to an impression that FA is endorsing the issue. FA is a spiritual, not a religious, program.
- Why was I told not to wear religious or political clothing to a meeting or display a background in a video meeting that expresses my beliefs? We choose not to wear clothing or display symbols that represent outside issues at FA meetings. We never want to give other members the impression that FA is associated with any religious or political ideology.
- Someone wants to announce a Twelve-Step study from an outside source during an FA meeting. Is this in conflict with the Traditions? We only announce AWOLs or Twelve-Step studies that are being co-led by FA members. If we announce others, this may be interpreted as supporting or promoting an outside enterprise.
TRADITION ELEVEN: Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.
- Why is it discouraged to post “before” and “after” pictures on Facebook and when sharing someone’s FA story? Posting before and after pictures is promotional. It follows the type of publicity used for diet programs. In addition, publicly relating your social media accounts to FA online is not in the best interest of FA. Please refer to the social media guidelines document on the FA website. https://www.foodaddicts.org/social-media-guidelines. Also keep in mind that we can send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com when we read or hear about a group that would benefit from hearing about FA.
- The American Diabetes Association may be interested in placing a member’s story in their literature. Is this okay? As in any other type of media, we need always maintain personal anonymity in the public eye. If the ADA is okay with using a pseudonym in the article, it would be fine.
- I think it would be a great idea to include “before” and “after” pictures with the podcasts so people can actually see that this works. Using before and after pictures is a promotional strategy used by dieting programs. In addition, our podcasts do not include names. Including pictures would be a definite break in anonymity. The concept of recovery extends beyond weight.
- What’s the difference between attraction and promotion? Promotion is often associated with promises about results in order to sell a product or program. Promotion often presents FA as a diet solution rather than a recovery program. Attraction is encouraging interest by giving information about FA. Plastering FA flyers on the subway that end up on the floor is promotional, while putting an FA flier on a community bulletin board (always with permission) is considered attraction. People are not looking for a solution to food addiction while riding the subway, but people searching a community bulletin board are looking for resources. The best way to attract interest in FA is the simple and honest sharing of our experience, strength, and hope without acting like a self-appointed FA spokesperson.
TRADITION TWELVE: Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personality.
- I noticed that people often say “this person said this” or “this person started FA in this area.” Is this type of thing okay? This is a great example of focusing on personality rather than principle. The principles of the program are of a spiritual nature – not based on a person. Our Higher Power uses us to bring the word about FA to others, but we do not take credit or give credit for doing Twelfth-Step work. It is much more appropriate to say “someone said” than to use an individual’s name.
- Our meeting asked someone who was around when FA began to speak at our meeting. We sent out a general email to hundreds letting them know about it. How is this in conflict with the Traditions? The principle at meetings is to support newcomers and share stories of experience, strength, and hope regarding recovery from food addiction. Any food addict who has 90 days of abstinence has experience, strength, and hope to share. Singling out one individual focuses on the personality, not the principle. It also makes that person appear to be an expert.
WORLD SERVICE CONFERENCE MEMBER FUNDING
It is suggested that no individual meeting use its Seventh Tradition funds or any other collected funds to defray costs associated with its elected World Service Conference member (“WSC member”) attending the yearly FA World Service Business Convention (the “Convention”). The reasons for this recommendation are threefold:
The principle of the Seventh Tradition guides us to use the funds collected at an FA meeting to support that FA meeting (i.e. pay rent, purchase literature or CDs, and pay for information session expenses) and to send remaining funds to the local chapter (if affiliated with one), intergroup and World Service offices.
The FA World Service voting body (the “Conference”) recently clarified this process in the “Your FA Seventh Tradition” pamphlet, available to be viewed and downloaded from the FA website.
The primary purpose of a meeting group is to “carry the message of recovery to the food addict who still suffers.” If many FA meeting groups were to decide to give money to their WSC members, either by using Seventh Tradition or other group collected funds, it could noticeably decrease the availability of funds for reaching still-suffering food addicts.
Decisions about how to allocate funds to help reach food addicts outside of the meeting itself are best made by group conscience at the intergroup level. Each intergroup has a defined process whereby applications for financial assistance for WSC members are confidentially and anonymously reviewed based on defined criteria before funds are allocated.
When an individual meeting group asks for money to fund one member’s trip to the Convention, it can introduce controversy to that meeting. This can occur in several ways:
- When brought up at a business meeting, the discussion/decision to fund a WSC member takes the focus away from discussions regarding meeting health and the meeting’s effectiveness in reaching the newcomer.
- This practice could be perceived as establishing “VIPs” of the group, which would wrongly place the needs of personalities before principles.
- For those who do not agree with the funding but cannot speak up because they do not yet have the 90 days required, or those with 90 days who do not have the courage to speak up, it can engender resentment towards fellows and/or FA.
- It may create a sense of obligation for the group to continue to collect money for future WSC members’ travel expenses in subsequent years.
- It can be an unsettling and confusing topic for newcomers, who should not have to witness discussions on controversial issues at their first business meetings.
As outlined in the FA WSC Service Manual, elected WSC members are not asked to represent individual meetings, but rather are entrusted by meetings, when voting, to use their individual consciences and to think of the needs of FA as a whole. A WSC member, funded by his or her meeting group, may feel obligated to take the specific concerns of the meeting to the convention, causing a potential bias with his or her vote.
Meetings are encouraged to defer to their intergroup regarding allocating financial assistance to elected WSC members. The established procedure is set up to provide anonymity, fairness, and to ensure that financial assistance is allocated based upon principles rather than personalities.
THE SWELLING OF THE VOTE AT INTERGROUPS AND CHAPTERS
Tradition Two states, “For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority - a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.” Attending a specific intergroup meeting solely to vote on a motion or a group of motions or to help elect a new officer goes against the principles of Tradition Two. It unfairly affects the practice of group conscience. The Traditions Review Committee (TRC) hopes the following perspective will help educate members who may not have considered this conflict.
Tradition Two is the primary reason that the Sample FA Meeting Format indicates that, at business meetings, only members who regularly attend that meeting are to have a voice and a vote. Group conscience represents our collective Higher Power, and trusting the group conscience keeps any particular individual[s] from manipulating a meeting to suit personal ideas about how they believe it should be run. For example, at a regular FA meeting, two people might desire to be the meeting’s secretary. In this case, the group will hold a vote. Only the members who regularly attend that meeting will know which person is best suited for the job, based on what the members have observed during their experiences at that meeting over time. To have a member who does not regularly attend the meeting show up and cast a vote, without this first-hand knowledge, can both be disruptive and “political.” Most importantly, it directly contravenes the spirit of Tradition Two.
The TRC believes that the same principles that apply to FA meetings apply to intergroup meetings; that only those members who regularly attend are in a position to voice their thoughts and vote.
The bylaws of EAI and WAI require members to be present to have a voice and a vote. This is consistent with parliamentary procedures. An exception to the above applies to members of the body who live beyond 100 miles from intergroup meetings and, therefore, could not reasonably be expected to regularly attend. In particular, if a member has made the effort once in a while to attend intergroup, his or her vote is especially welcome and spiritually appropriate.
Members who live within 100 miles of intergroup meetings and who choose to attend only to vote at a certain meeting are, from a Traditions perspective, going against the spirit of Tradition Two. Based on geographical distance, these members can participate regularly in the life of the group, but choose not to. When a member attends a specific intergroup meeting for the sole purpose of casting a vote, and with the intention not to continue as an active participant at intergroup meetings, this results in an artificial vote, swollen for a political purpose. This results in an inauthentic and illegitimate group conscience.