My name is Lawrie Cherniack, and Iím a compulsive overeater. Iím grateful to be able to do this Step Study.
This is a practical Step Study. It is designed to use the directions from the Big Book to recovery from compulsive eating, and to maintain that recovery on a day-by-day basis for the rest of your life.
Back in the third quarter of 2005 I did a Step Study for The Recovery Group which, after a great deal of revision, I subsequently turned into a book. That book, along with forms which Iíll be referring to in this 2008 Step Study, can be downloaded (for free, of course), by going to www.oabigbook.info.
Iím going to be providing what I think are the directions for doing the Steps as found in Alcoholics Anonymous, the Big Book, but Iím not going to repeat what Iíve already written and Iím not going to be referring to the Big Book as such.
Anyone who wants to know my story (how I qualify), where I find the instructions to read the book Iíve written, and where all the quotations and theoretical discussions can be found, should go to that Step Study book available on the website.
The Big Book Approach:
We are guaranteed recovery by the end of Step Nine. We keep recovery by doing Steps Ten through Twelve. Recovery means a personality change sufficient to overcome compulsive eating. Recovery means being sane about foods. Recovery means being able to be around the foods that used to beckon us and not want them because they are clearly poison for us. Recovery means to be free from the bondage of food.
Whether youíre abstinent for a day, or have been abstinent for umpteen years, if some foods continue to beckon you, if youíre holding on to a plan of eating with your bare knuckles, then you havenít recovered by the Big Book definition.
Since the Steps promise that kind of recovery, maybe you ought to consider doing the Steps in a different way.
If, on the other hand, you have that kind of recovery, then why change? You might as well stop reading now! Well, you might want to continue reading to see if these directions for doing the Step make it easier for you to carry the message to another compulsive eater who still suffers.
This Big Book Study:
Iíll spend two weeks on Step One, one week on Step Two, one week on Step Three, three weeks on Step Four, one week on Steps Five, Six, and Seven, one week on Steps Eight and Nine. If you follow the directions which I believe are contained in the Big Book, allowing you two weeks to do those amends youíre able to do, you will have recovered within ten to eleven weeks. Iíll then spend one week each on Steps Ten, Eleven, and Twelve-how to maintain and grow your spiritual condition.
If youíre offended by anything I write, please donít be critical until you have read the book Iíve written at www.oabigbook.info to see where Iím coming from. In this 2008 Step Study I am deliberately getting to the nub and not trying to justify and explain everything Iím saying.
STEP ONE, PART 1-WE CAN'T STOP ONCE WE'VE STARTED!:
The first part of Step One is the admission that we are powerless over food. The second part (discussed next week) will be admitting that we cannot manage our eating.
There are two sub-parts to the admission that weíre powerless over food.
Sub-part (a) is admitting that our bodies are abnormal in that we get uncontrollable cravings when we eat certain foods and/or indulge in certain eating behaviors. Sub-part (b) is being honest about the nature of that abnormality by admitting what foods and/or what eating behaviors cause us uncontrollable cravings.
The first part of Step One, then, is the realization that we can't stop once we've started because of the uncontrollable cravings we get, and the understanding of what causes those uncontrollable cravings.
STEP ONE, PART 1, SUB-PART (A)-OUR BODIES ARE ABNORMAL AND DEVELOP UNCONTROLLABLE CRAVINGS:
Sub-part (a) involves the unequivocal acceptance of a clear fact: our body is different from normal peoplesí bodies. Our body reacts differently to certain foods and/or certain eating behaviors. We develop cravings and canít stop once weíve started. This explains our history of eating uncontrollably ONCE weíve started. Normal people develop a sense of unease and discomfort when they eat too much, even of foods they love. We don't. Once we start to eat certain foods or indulge in certain eating behaviors, we get a sense of ease and comfort that causes us to eat more. And our experience is that we can't stop once we start.
You donít have to be a constant binge eater to accept this reality. If youíre on this list, you clearly think you have SOME kind of problem with eating. If youíve ever been overwhelmed by food; if youíve ever eaten, wanted to stop, but havenít been able to; if youíve ever realized that youíve eaten the WHOLE thing -- then you probably should think about accepting this reality!
This is what the Big Book calls, tentatively, an ďallergyĒ of the body -- an abnormal physical reaction to a physical substance. It is part of our essence and something we cannot control. The only solution is abstinence from those things that cause us cravings.
Eating behaviors are part of that allergy. They are so ingrained in us that we canít get rid of them. As such theyíre physical and not mental. Theyíve become part of us.
Alcoholics know what theyíre allergic to. Itís the experience of Overeaters Anonymous as expressed through its group conscience of the World Service Business Conference that each compulsive eater has to figure out what his or her own allergies are. (See The Dignity of Choice pamphlet.)
STEP ONE, PART 2, SUB-PART (B)-THE FOODS AND EATING BEHAVIORS THAT CAUSE US CRAVINGS:
The second sub-part to the first part of Step One involves analyzing our own bodyís specific abnormality. Each one of us has to reach deep inside with honesty to figure out exactly what foods, and/or what eating behaviors, cause us these uncontrollable cravings.
This involves an analysis of our eating. An honest analysis.
FIGURE OUT YOUR BINGE FOODS:
- What foods are your absolute favorites?
- What foods put you in a zone (at various times)?
- What foods canít you imagine giving up?
- What foods do you eat until thereís nothing left?
- What foods do you find yourself eating while simultaneously saying to yourself, "I have to stop eating this!" but you don't?
- If youíre overweight, what high-calorie/non-nutritious foods do you find yourself eating a lot of? Remember that sugar and refined flour have very little nutritional value, and fat in large quantities is nutritionally bad.
- You know perfectly well what foods are your binge foods, donít you? Admit them!
FIGURING OUT YOUR BINGE FOOD INGREDIENTS:
Donít stop! Thereís more to do!
(Now we're making a transition to eating behaviors:)
- Given your list of foods, are there common ingredients in ALL of these foods? Look carefully at the list of ingredients. You may be very surprised by whatís in some of your foods.
- Donít make any assumptions about what your particular problem is until you look at the complete list. You may find a common ingredient that is NOT what you think your problem food is. (For instance, you may think that sugar and flour are your problem, but when you look at all your binge foods, they may include not only pastries and ice cream, but also potato chips. The only common ingredient to ALL of these is fat.)
- When you look at the list of foods, is it the foods themselves or what you put on them for taste that can make a difference? For instance, is bread a problem, or what you spread on the bread? Is pasta a problem, or the kind of sauce you put on the pasta?
- For your favorite foods, imagine taking away one ingredient at a time-whatís the ingredient that suddenly makes the food uninteresting to you? Or imagine substituting one ingredient for another, like whole-grain flour rather than white flour, or artificial sweetener rather than sugar-whatís the substitute that suddenly makes the food uninteresting to you?
- Once you isolate a particular ingredient, imagine eating that ingredient by itself without anything added to or mixed with it. Imagine eating a bag of sugar, a bag of flour, a pound of butter. Could you eat none of it, some of it, or all of it? Clearly what you could eat all of is a binge ingredient. What you could eat some of may be a binge ingredient. What you could eat none of may not be a binge ingredient. Be honest with yourself.
- Do you generally eat foods that have been livened up with sauces or gravies or condiments that contain sugar, or flour, or fat, or a combination of those? Is taste an issue with you?
Given your list of foods, are there particular textures (smooth, crunchy, chewy) that seem to be common to some of them?
Given your list of foods, are there particular times or situations (stressful, for instance), when one kind of food predominates over other kinds of food?
FIGURING OUT YOUR BINGE EATING BEHAVIORS (ingrained and volume issues):
- Are there particular chewing behaviors you notice?
- Do you need to chew all the time?
- Have you had a lot of dental work because you grind your teeth or chew a lot?
- Are there particular textures that seem to be common?
- Are there particular times you seem to overeat ANY kinds of food, not just your binge foods?
- Are there particular situations where you seem to overeat ANY kinds of food, not just your binge foods?
- Can you leave something on your plate or do you have to eat it all?
- Do you have any way of knowing, whether or not you ever pay attention to it, when your body really doesnít need any more?
- Is there any eating behavior always leading to overeating that you just canít imagine giving up?
- Do you need to feel filled all the way up?
After you answer all these questions, you will be able to make a list of foods, food ingredients, and eating behaviors that you know, deep in your heart, cause you uncontrollable cravings.
These will be the beginnings of a plan of eating. You will have to find a clear way to abstain from eating those foods, food ingredients, or indulging in those eating behaviors. Weíll discuss this in more detail in the next two weeks. Clearly, to find a way to abstain from all those things requires some thought. It also requires the hope (found in Step Two) that within a reasonable period of time after beginning to abstain from all those things, you won't want to return to them. You will have freedom from the bondage of food.
If you want, you can abstain from these starting now, but Iím going to suggest that if youíre just starting the Steps for the first time, wait until our discussion of Step Two before you adopt a plan of eating. Step One is all about Powerlessness and Despair. Step Two is all about Power and Hope.
See you next week!