Step One

We admitted we were powerless over
our compulsive behavior with food ~
that our lives had become unmanageable.


Hi friends.

I once told my sponsor that I think I am a big boy now and I can sponsor myself. My sponsor who is a bit blunt said "you can try but than you will have an asshole for a sponsor." So I stuck with him.

How about you, my friends, have you all got a sponsor? If not, then hurry and get one. You need one urgently for the actions to follow. And as my sponsor told me another time "if you think you don't need a sponsor you have an ego problem, and if you are not searching for one until you get one, you also have an attitude problem."

Life as a compulsive eater is much more interesting, I think, than life as an alcoholic. The poor guy has only one trigger substance, but we are rich. We have a lot, and what is even nicer, we get interest on ours, since our trigger list grows with time as our disease progresses.

Is that all we have? NO! We have different kinds of first bites which can make trouble for us.

There is the addictive first bite. That is a bite of a trigger food. This usually results in cravings and binges. But there are other first bites too. Bites that only we compulsive eaters were given the honor to have.

There is the compulsive bite. This is eating from my safe food choices list in order to soothe my feelings. It is using "safe" food as a crutch to deal with my feeling. Of course this may also give only momentary relief and the amounts we use grow with time. It results in volume eating or overeating my safe food choices, which also grows with time.

There is also the spontaneous bite of safe food choices, allowing ourselves a bite of this and a bite of that whenever we are near food, or preparing food. This is undisciplined eating, and usually leads to a total loss of control and a relapse. So we have to be wary of all theses kinds of first bites and be abstinent.

I define abstinence as abstaining from compulsive eating by not eating my trigger foods at all, and sticking to a food plan on a daily basis. I weigh and measure my food to avoid overeating, and I don't eat anything between my meals to avoid spontaneous eating.

I call my food plan the 301 train. Three (3) weighed and measured meals a day with nothing (0) in between and no trigger foods, one day at a time (1). The train drives me on my road to recovery. Other people may have other trains like 401, or 201, or even 601. That is our personal choice. What matters is that by being abstinent we ride the recovery train.

The most important thing to bear in mind is that IF I eat a trigger food, even unknowingly, I cannot be abstinent and cannot be in recovery. So I have to identify all my triggers and be aware of possible new ones.

I think that one of the most paradoxical steps in the program is step one. We admit we are powerless over food and right away we are asked to be abstinent, but by being abstinent I control my eating and I just admitted that I cannot do that. My obsession does not allow it and I cannot be disciplined. "We compulsive eaters are undisciplined..." BB page 88. We cannot discipline ourselves, and no other human being can discipline us, so how can we stay abstinent??

My sponsor told me to read page 188 in the Big Book in order to get an answer to that question.

"The next question they asked was, 'You can quit for twenty-four hours, can't you?' I said, 'Sure, yes, anybody can do that, for twenty-four hours.' They said, that's what we're talking about. Just twenty-four hours at a time.' ... this idea of twenty-four hours, that it was up to me from then on, was of a great help."

So all I have to do is be abstinent for 24 hours only, but can I really? Well, the Big Book says: "The compulsive eater at certain times has no effective mental defense against the first bite." Page 43. This also means that for short periods of time I may succeed being abstinent by using my willpower (the half-empty and half-full glass syndrome). If I try doing only that I will relapse for certain , but we do more than that in the program. We work the rest of the steps, and by working all of them we are freed of our obsession and are not driven uncontrollably to take the first bite.

That's one of the reasons we have to take the steps quickly in order to minimize our chance of relapsing during that time, since we cannot remain abstinent for long periods without working all the steps. The alcoholics in the Big Book stories usually took all steps in a few days. We do it in a few months, so it is possible that our obsession will have the upper hand during that time. Let us not worry our heads about that. Let us stick to this one day at a time idea, and if we slip in the future let us just get up and continue trudging. We are like a baby learning to walk, the idea is to get up and continue immediately after falling till we learn to walk (work all 12 steps on a daily basis).

We get up by committing to abstinence again for one day, immediately after a fall. So writing a trigger list, developing a food plan and being abstinent on a daily basis only, is how we begin our daily work on step one. We do it with our sponsor. We can get help in developing the food plan from professional people, but in the end it is up to us. If we are sick and tired of being sick and tired, we will try to stick to our abstinence and get up immediately after we fall.

Some of us find it useful to stick to a specific food plan used by some program fellowships.

So after I decided on a food plan what do I do about it?


1. GET A SPONSOR!!!!!!!!!

2. Write down your trigger food list. (It is also a good idea to be examined for different kinds of allergies and food sensitivities by some professional person, and add the findings to my trigger list.)

3. Write down your daily food plan.

4. Commit to yourself, to your sponsor and to H.P. to be abstinent for one day, and avoid triggers, overeating, or spontaneous eating on that day.

5. Ask your H.P. for help with your abstinence for one day.

6. Work the steps. Ask your H.P. for help with that too.

7. Go to meetings - at least one meeting a week

8. Give service.

ACTION to be taken when you have the immediate urge for the first bite. The following suggestions are delaying tactics only. The 12 step program is a preventive program, not an intervening one. The whole idea of the program is to undergo a spiritual awakening which will remove my obsession with food, so that I will not have the urge to take the first bite.

The urge is a sign for one of the following:

a) I eat trigger foods unknowingly, which means I hadn't identified all my triggers.

b) I have not worked all the steps, and if I did, I neglect my daily work of steps 10-12.

So I know what I have to do to correct this situation. But in the meantime some delaying tactics may give temporary relief.

Here are some helpful suggestions from my personal experience and from the experience of others. Again REMEMBER, these suggestions are only temporary delaying measure that may give temporary relief, and nothing more.

1) POSTPONE THE FIRST ADDICTIVE SPONTANEOUS OR COMPULSIVE BITE. You have undoubtedly had character defects such as procrastination, sloth, laziness, denial and fear. So, USE THEM right now in a constructive way by postponing that compulsive bite. You know you can hold off for 10 minutes, an hour, or even more. And, while you are delaying the destroyer, take the remedies listed below:

2) STAY AWAY FROM TRIGGER FOODS. If you are in a restaurant or a place where food is available to you, like home, go out for a while, at least.

3) PRAY. Ask God to keep food from entering your body this time and to remove the obsession to eat. This action can and should be done repeatedly while you are following the rest of this survival plan.

4) CALL ABSTINENT PEOPLE. Tell them that you want to take the first bite. Give your sponsor a chance to relieve the insanity of taking this bite. Or, call anybody who can help, even your OA Intergroup or central office. In anticipation of finding a lifeguard, hopefully you have been collecting phone numbers and saving phone lists from meetings. If you are in a strange town, OA is usually listed in the white pages of the phone book.

5) GO TO AN OA PLACE. Head for a meeting or an OA gathering place, such as an after-meeting hangout. Sometimes a church or a parish will help.

6) READ AA and OA LITERATURE. Try the Big Book (Alcoholics Anonymous), Chapter 2, the 12&12, pamphlets or other material.

7) VISIT Download and read step guides. Visit abstinent chat rooms. Go to and search on "Sobriety" or "abstinence," for example.

8) WRITE A GRATITUDE LIST. We get so hung up on what we don't have or want to get rid of, we fail to "count our blessings," which we have in abundance.

9) WRITE A HARMS PREDICTION. If you eat compulsively, who is going to get hurt? Besides yourself, how about your family, your work, and those who depend upon or respect you?

10) WRITE A "REWARDS" FROM RELAPSE LIST. If you are or might be a compulsive eater, you have reasons to not eat compulsively. If you are gripped by the desire to eat, put the burden of proof on that food. What is it going to do for you that is worthwhile? How long will that benefit last? How much are those desired moments of ease and comfort worth? Are you really ready to throw away your abstinence for a food?


12) ASK your sponsor what he does to avoid eating in such situations and do the same.

All of the diversions above can be done within a short time of having a serious thought about eating compulsively.


1. Share your trigger list and your food plan with us.

2. Share about the actions you take to stay abstinent on a daily basis..

3. Share about the immediate actions you take to prevent following the urge to take the first bite.

4. Share on the actions you take to get up after a slip or relapse.

5. Which of the different actions listed in this post are of the most help with your abstinence, and/or with getting up after a slip or relapse, and did you learn something new from those lists?

Have a nice day.
Shlomo, Step Leader
WTS 2002 Study, 1st Quarter



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