Step One

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


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 life.

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



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