Step One

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


Hello, friends; my name is Penny and I am a compulsive eater and your leader for this quarter's step study.

Once I really understood these simple words, I felt like a huge weight had been taken off my back. Here was an explanation for why all my best efforts at using willpower had failed. I had thought that it was my fault that I couldn't stop eating. Step 1 told me that I really *couldn't* control my eating - and removed all the blame and the shame.

What that meant took a while to sink in. At first I understood being powerless from an intellectual standpoint. Whiel I had an outline of a food plan, I struggled with food because I thought I should be able to eat all kinds of food because I had read that God would remove the obsession as I worked the steps. I People in meetings talked about complete powerlessness - which I understood - and how they had something like an allergic reaction to food - which I didn't understand. "The Doctor's Opinion" talked about completely avoiding alcohol, and as much as I tried, I could not relate this to food.

Everything cleared up when I listened to a suggestion that maybe I was "allergic" - not to food in general (this made no sense) - but to certain binge foods. The big "ah." Powerlessness took on a new meaning.

Today I believe - based on personal experience - that there are foods that I react to in a way that's similar to my allergy to cats. When I get too near cats for too long a time, I itch and have trouble breathing. I don't cause the reaction; it's just part of who I am. My children are allergic to poison ivy - same response. They - I - cannot help it; it just is. We can't stop the reaction without medications to take care of the symptoms, but the stimulus - the allergy - doesn't leave.

It's the same with food. When I eat certain foods, I cannot stop. It's not my fault, it's nothing I caused, it just is. <

Powerlessness equals honesty, surrender and acceptance. It stops the blame game as well as the shame and a lot of my self-hatred. I would never call my sons' poison ivy - or my cat - allergy a moral weakness. Not being able to control myself around food is also not a moral weakness.

Admitting each day that I am powerless over food means that if I want to be in recovery one day at a time, I have to avoid binge foods one day at a time. I don't want to get into food plans here other than to say that I follow one that's pretty structured because it's a tool that's a natural extension of admitting powerlessness. When I first came into OA almost 16 years ago, people talked about how food plans were diets and that people who followed them were control freaks and clearly not in a Higher Power-centered recovery. Believing that kept me in my disease for a long time. I have since discovered - for myself - that a food plan is a tool that I use *because* I'm powerless and because I cannot control food.

By the time I crawled into OA, it was pretty obvious that my life was out of control. I don't know if that's because I had spent so many years trying to control my weight with efforts that ranged from starvation to counting calories to joining weight-loss clubs to experimenting with diet pills and laxatives. I don't know if my food issues led to my life being a mess or the other way around - and I really don't care.

I can't manage food by myself and I can't manage my own life by myself; the two go hand in hand. Either way, taking Step 1 was only the first step in a process of bringing my overblown ego (that truly thought it could control the universe if only it did and said the right thing) - and body - back to normal.


1. What does being powerless over food mean to you?

2. Has your understanding of powerlessness changed since you came into OA?

3. Are there certain foods that you are powerless over? How so?

4. (Because each of us is unique) Are you able to eat whatever you wish? How, then, do understand powerlessness?

5. What does it feel like to admit you are powerless over food?

6. Did you play the blame game? Are you willing to end the game?

7. What does it mean to have an unmanageable life?

8. What's the relationship between (a) admitting you're powerless over food and (b) your life becoming unmanageable?

9. How does the tool of a food plan relate to working Step 1?

10. Are there any other thoughts about Step 1 that you'd like to share with the group?


Step Two

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