Dear Fellow Travelers,
Step One Essay
"The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his eating is
the great obsession of every compulsive overeater. The persistence of this
illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or
"We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we
were compulsive overeaters. This is the first step in recovery. The
delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be
smashed." (AA Big Book, page 30, adapted to compulsive overeating)
All those diets we've done in the past that failed. All the exercise
gyms and health clubs we've joined. All the little pills we've taken. All
the books we read. All the money spent. All the promises we've made to
ourselves when our stomachs were stretched to bursting or our joints ached
with the pressure of excess weight. Why did we do all these things? We
wanted to lose weight, of course. But what else? Didn't we always have in
mind that maybe someday we would once again be "normal" eaters like our
friends? Weren't we holding out hope that somehow we could eat those
yummies and be satisfied with just one? Or that our bodies would magically
learn how to burn those calories a little faster so that we didn't gain
So how do we smash this delusion that we may someday eat like other
people? The key lies in our past. Many of us have found it helpful to
write out a history of our eating. Some may ask why it is so important to
relive the past instead of focusing on the future. We who are addicted to
food or overeating have a wonderful defense mechanism called "denial."
Although we can readily acknowledge that we often ate too much or even
superficially admit to being a compulsive overeater, our minds soften the
impact of this notion by turning our heads away from the whole picture, the
honest and brutal truth of our food consumption and how food has intertwined
itself into all facets of our lives.
Writing a history of our eating problem may seem overwhelming or a bit
too uncomfortable. This is not an easy or pleasant step. The emotions we
experience as we relive these moments in our minds can be very intense and
this is where we rely on our sponsors for support. Many of us can't write
our history in one sitting because it is too painful. Some of us have a
difficult time knowing where to start so we often find it helpful to respond
to specific questions about our eating rather than to write our history in
story form. We also find it helpful to be specific in our answers. Don't
generalize. The questions we can ask ourselves may include, but are not
Do I continue eating after I'm full?
Do I hoard food or am I unwilling to share what food I have?
How has eating effected my marriage or my relationships with family and
Have I lied about my eating or stolen food or money to buy food?
What diets have I tried and what were the results?
How has my weight grown or fluctuated over the years?
How does my eating make me feel about myself?
Does my eating effect how others treat me?
Has overeating hurt my health or self esteem?
What are some of those eating binges that I'm most ashamed of?
Do I eat to help deal with anger, hurt, frustration, or boredom?
What are my worst fears about my overeating?
If these questions aren't enough, I'm sure your sponsor can ask you
plenty more!  : )   You may have heard people talking about "hitting the
bottom" in their disease. This exercise of writing a history has finding
your bottom as its primary purpose. If you don't take that honest look at
how far down you've gone, then its likely that you are doomed to live it
This now brings us to the oft forgotten second half of the first step.
Hopefully, if we've been thorough in our Step One history, we now know that
we are compulsive overeaters and always will be. But what do we mean now
when we are expected to say that our lives had become unmanageable? Do we
believe that our lives are just fine except for the eating problem? Do we
think that once we lose our excess weight that our lives will then be
perfect? Do we blame the eating for all of our problems in life?
Does the step say our lives had become unmanageable "because" of our
overeating, or simply that it had become unmanageable? Does it have any
hidden promise that if our eating gets better that our lives will no longer
be so unmanageable? We apply the same level of honesty to this half of the
step as we did to the first. Is our marriage really as strong as you like
to say? Are you really doing such a great job at work? Are our homes
really pleasant places to be? Are we as honest as we say we are? Do we
blame others for those things in our lives that aren't going as we want? Do
we simply have bad luck?
This second half of the step is about acknowledging a simple but
powerful truth - the way we have managed our lives so far hasn't worked!
Once we can make this admission, we have become teachable and can learn to
live life on an entirely different premise. Once we can admit that we are
compulsive overeaters AND have been unsuccessful in attempts to control and
direct our own lives, we will be ready to move on to the next step - one
step closer to freedom from the ravages of this disease.
Thumper, Step Leader
WTS 2001 Study, 2nd quarter