STEP ONE, PART 2 - "POWERLESSNESS"
Hi. I'm Penny, a compulsive eater and food addict.
I shared earlier that I resisted the idea of being "allergic" to
certain foods for a long time. Surrender finally came when I got
sick and tired of being sick and tired. Actually, my surrender had
more to do with the relationship between being powerless over food
and the unmanageability of my life. I was commuting to school, and
the afternoon train didn't get me home until after 7. But I had eaten
lunch at about 12, and since I was eating 3 meals a day with nothing
in between, I was STARVING by the time I got home. So I would buy
dinner and eat on the train. Sounds lovely, no?
I had heard OA's talk about their response to certain foods, but I
was afraid to explore my own reaction. When I did, when I finally
became willing to listen to others, abstinence and Step 1 became part
of my life. Here's what I learned.
I am powerless over both the compulsion to eat and the
craving/obsession for food. Powerlessness over the compulsion implies
a physical response. The best way I can describe this is by the
analogy to my severe allergy to cats. I love cats, but when I get
near them I wheeze, itch, stop breathing. It doesn't matter what kind
of cat it is or how sweet it is; that's my reaction. My body takes
over. There are certain foods that set off my
food "allergy"/compulsion to binge. When I eat them, my body reacts,
and I crave more, even if I am full to bursting. To an extent, I
respond this way to *all* foods; binge eating creates a physical need
to continue to binge. The full feeling doesn't stop me, in fact, it
makes me want more. Bizarre.
My particular binge/trigger foods are: flour, sugar, alcohol, grapes,
raisins, peanut butter, nuts, seeds, cherries, diet desserts. Some
foods don't have that trigger impulse depending on the form:
prepackaged or part of a mix. But put them by themselves in a bowl or
unplanned, and the first one will set me off and I will not stop.
While recognizing my trigger foods was essential to admitting
powerlessness - the only missing and vital element is *honesty.*
Without being rigorously honest, admitting powerlessness is nothing
more than an ideal.
Then there's the obsession, the mental part of powerlessness. It
manifests itself in so many ways. When I was dieting, I felt deprived
and thought constantly about my next meal and how much weight I was
losing. I loved being thin; it meant power and control. Remember my
magical thinking about being thin? Thin meant I could eat whatever I
wanted and not gain weight. When I was fat and bingeing - I was
always either bingeing or starving; "maintenance" was meaningless -
all I thought about was getting more food. I tried to block out the
thoughts, but I couldn't get rid of them. My brain seemed to have
been taken over by a malevolent force. Food was how I responded to
There's a saying: when a car battery dies, the normal person calls
AAA. The compulsive eater/food addict calls the takeout restaurant.
Admitting I was powerless over food involved getting honest about the
physical and mental components of my disease and acknowledging that
by myself I was not able to stop these two responses. That
acknowledgment - or lack thereof - is the spiritual aspect of this
disease and the recovery.
Next up: what's life got to do with it?
Questions for journaling and sharing:
1. Make a list of your trigger foods. What do you think about
your list? How do you feel about not eating these foods? Are you
willing to give them up one day at a time?
2. Are there foods you can safely eat in one form (i.e., my
prepackaged servings) but not another? What's the difference?
3. How does the mental obsession manifest itself in your life?
Yours in recovery,
Penny, Step Leader
WTS 2002 Study, 2nd Quarter