Most people familiar with addiction of any kind know about Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 Steps. Those steps have been modified more than a dozen times for other addictions as well, including food addiction.
I have worked through the steps–a series of questions about addiction prompting thoughtful answers–for Al-Anon (a group for people living with an alcoholic) and OA (for overeaters). But now that I am working through the aftermath of a relapse, I think it is time for me to work through the steps again.
The steps I will be using are from Acorn and were revised by Phil Werdell.
Why make my answers public? As Werdell says,
It helps to read each of these assignments, one at a time, to another food addict in recovery and get feedback. It is best to read to a whole group of recovering food addicts including ones who have done this type of rigorous food First Step work.
So, here we go.
There are eight basic questions which can help a food addict better write a rigorous story of their powerlessness over food.
- What are your secrets about food? Be as specific as possible.
Food is my friend when no one else is.
Being full feels better than feeling empty.
I have eaten thousands of calories in my car.
I have stolen food from others.
I have eaten food from the trash
I have encouraged others to engage in binge eating behaviors with me, including my child.
2. What are other secrets? Again, be specific.
At this point, given that I am a memoirist, I have few, if any, secrets to share. In fact, at this point, I cannot think of any.
3. What is it that convinces you that you are powerless over food? (Some find it helpful to also write about what convinces them that they are not food addicted.)
What convinces me that I AM a food addict:
Because I can eat and eat and eat and not feel full.
Because I can eat until my stomach hurts and not feel full.
Because one bite of a hyperpalatable food can lead to days and weeks of obsessing over food–that food, all food.
Because I have sacrificed my time, my health, my family, my friends, and many other things in my life to get more food.
Because I have spent my last dime on food when I was not hungry.
Because I never know when I am truly hungry.
What convinces me that I AM NOT a food addict:
Because sometimes I can eat a food thought to be a trigger with no problem.
Because “experts” on binge eating disorder tell me that abstinence is wrong and that Intuitive Eating is the only way to heal.
Because “What? It’s just food?!”
Because I am stronger than food and eating.
4. What convinces you that your life is unmanageable? (Also, possibly, what convinces you that that it is not unmanageable.)
I am convinced that my life is unmanageable:
Because I continue to overeat rather than deal with my life problems.
Because I overeat when I am bored.
Because I overeat when I am angry.
Because I overeat when I am stressed out.
Because I overeat when I am lonely.
Because I sometimes drive hours out of my way to get my food craving.
Because I sacrifice time with my family to eat.
Because I manipulate others in order to binge.
Because I don’t take time to exercise.
I am convinced that my life is manageable:
Because I am very successful in my career.
Because I am a well published author.
Because I have maintained a great job for 20 years.
Because my bills are paid.
Because my son gets to school.
5. Make a list of all the foods you have binged on, and any other out of control eating behaviors. Be specific.
Honestly, there is no point in listing all of the foods I have binged on because I cannot think of a food that I have NOT binged on.
Other out of control eating behaviors are mentioned in the above answers.
6. Make a list of all the diets you have tried, and everything else you did to try to control your weight or eating.
6. Again, another question that leads to an expansive and exhaustive list. Here are some:
Richard Simmon’s Deal-A-Meal
Sweatin’ to the Oldies
Cellophone and baby oil in the hot sun
Speed (over the counter and street)
South Beach Diet
Carb Addicts Diet
Sugar Busters Diet
And sooo many more.
7. Make a list of 15 specific times when you were powerless over food.
Sitting in the car eating marshmallow cream out of the jar with my hand. I just could not stop.
Driving home from work after a long hard day eating a giant bucket of chocolate covered almonds.
Stealing a container of the world’s saltiest popcorn and eating it in my office.
Eating five grilled cheese sandwiches one after the other.
Hiding in the kitchen after a birthday party and eating over a half a sheet of leftover cake.
Hiding in a different kitchen and eating 16 leftover cupcakes from a birthday party.
Being so sick that I could not taste anything and eating cookies and lasagna by the plates full because I felt so unsatisfied.
Eating eight slices of pizza on a Friday night because I had nothing else to do.
Eating five deep fried trout because once I ate one, I could not stop.
Eating a half gallon of ice cream on the way home from the grocery store. One hand on the wheel, one hand eating the ice cream with a spoon.
After everyone went to bed, eating four bowls of buttercream frosting one after another.
Hiding in my home office with enough junk food to feed a family while there was no food in my kitchen.
Eating 3,500 calories in one sitting just because I was lonely on a Saturday night.
Buying pudding for my friend who was sick and when she did not eat them, I ate them all…all 16.
8. Make a list of at least 30 negative consequences of being powerless over food – some physical, some mental-emotional, and some spiritual.
- I am not connected to my higher power.
- I am depressed.
- I have anxiety.
- I am not the best mother I can be.
- I am not the best wife I can be.
- I am not the best teacher I can be.
- I spend more money than I have buying and eating binge foods.
- I go far out of my way to buy binge foods.
- I take time away from my family.
- I am not connected to inner self.
- I hate myself.
- My body is not healthy.
- I get migraines.
- My body struggles with inflammation.
- I have joint pain.
- I have IBS.
- I feel tired all the time.
- I have no energy to play with my son.
- I have no energy to take care of myself.
- My car becomes full of food wrappers and refuse.
- My stomach feels bloated.
- I spend less money on healthy foods.
- I lie and cheat about people that I love.
- My clothes become uncomfortable.
- I cannot ride on rides with my son.
- I cannot do other fun things comfortable.
- I am not confident in myself.
- I feel sick to myself often.
- I am willing to do anything for food.
- I hide from the world.
And this is the end of my first step.
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