Step One

We admitted we were powerless over food,
that our lives had become unmanageable.

Leader's Share and Step Questions

The principle behind this Step is: HONESTY

Iíve heard it said that step one is the one step we really have to do perfectly and based on my experience in OA, I realise that itís absolutely true. The principle behind this step is honesty and when I first found OA I thought I was the most honest person ever. I mean after all, like my dad, when I was given too much change in a shop I would go back and give them back the money, and of course I never told lies or so I thought. But when it came to food I was anything but honest. For years I didnít know there was such a thing as compulsive overeating or being addicted to food, but of course looking back I most definitely was.

As for being insane around food I definitely was, because what sane person bakes double batches of goodies for the kids so they wonít eat them all, but guess who did and then had to bake more so nobody would find out. Also what sane person raids the kitchen at night when everyoneís asleep and has to make sure not to get found out or hides all the wrappers under other stuff in the garbage and so it went. I was of course very clever with all the deviousness and because I always ate in secret and also because I was never that overweight, my family never knew what was going on. Most times I was clever enough to hide all the evidence of a binge, but every so often I got caught out and then Iíd blame it on someone else why things were finished.

At the time when my eating was totally out of control just before I found OA, I was studying and completing an honours degree in Psychology and looking for all the reasons for my problems, and yet bingeing my way through it all. I think I must have written my final exams in sugar coma. I now know that compulsive studying is also a form of escape and an addiction for me. I mean what sane person does that?

So when I found OA and read step one that I was powerless over food, I certainly got that intellectually based on my eating history, but that my life was unmanageable I didnít. I mean after all I ran my home and cooked and did whatever needed to be done for my family in addition to working and studying and even getting my degree cum laude. But of course it was because on the surface it looked as though I was doing OK, but that was all a facade because deep down I was miserable and hated myself and had to fill that great big hole inside with food.

I had been on so many diets and diet clubs and I knew I had lots of willpower to lose the weight, but of course the weight always found its way back and sometimes more. So intellectually I did realise that maybe, just maybe, I was actually powerless over food. But first of all if I was powerless over food then that sounded like an admission of weakness and that was something I didnít want to admit to. What I didnít realise in those early days was that powerlessness doesnít mean helplessness, because this is a program of action and I need to put in the action, the first being to put down the food and clear the food fog in my head.

The other thing I realised a long while later after many slips along the way, is that not only do I have to admit Iím powerless over food but I actually have to accept it on a truly gut level. They say thereís a long distance between the head and the heart and I know for me thatís definitely true, but when I finally got that I really and truly am powerless over food, thatís when I was able to really accept not only the powerlessness, but also able to really work this program and not just on self will as I always had on all those diets.

I compare myself to my husband who loves food but isnít a compulsive overeater in that when heís upset heís too upset to eat, but when I am all I can think of is whatís in the fridge. If anything ever convinced me of that powerlessness, that was it. The reality is that all the diets ever did for me was to help me lose weight; they never changed my life so I didnít need to keep turning to food. I also realised that I could easily stop the eating on those diets but I never could stay stopped.

As for the unmanageability of my life Iíve also realised that that was because of the food, because when I was in the food I was emotionally unavailable to people especially my kids. So today I know that working this program is the only way I can not only stay abstinent but become a more sane and serene person. I have to be careful not to get complacent and think Iím cured, because Iím still recovering one day at a time. So I keep coming back to meetings and do service so that I never forget who I am around food.


First read step one in the OA 12 & 12 and if you donít have it you can read ďThe doctorís opinionĒ and ďBillís storyĒ in the Big Book of AA which you can read online. You can always substitute alcohol for food. Now answer the following questions honestly.

1. What is it you say to yourself every time you try to ďdietĒ and fail?

2. In what ways have you attempted to gain control of your eating? For example, have you avoided certain social situations, paid for diet programs, taken diet pills or used laxatives?

3. What foods, situations, or emotions trigger the craving phenomenon or the mental obsession for me?

4. In what way has food been used as a survival tool?

5. What are your fears about stopping the compulsive eating?

6. In what way do you feel your life is unmanageable?

7. Do you feel angry at being powerless over food?

8. Why do you think Step One is the only step that even mentions food?

9. Is accepting that you are powerless mean you are helpless? Explain.

10. How will you know when you have taken the first step?

Itís a good idea to share your answers with your sponsor but you might also want to share some answers with the loop as you may just help another compulsive overeater simply by sharing them.

In case you donít really believe you are powerless over food here is one of step one prayers for you.


Dear God, I admit that I am powerless over my addiction. I admit that my life is unmanageable when I try to control it. Help me this day to understand the true meaning of powerlessness. Remove from me all denial of my addiction.

Love in recovery,


Step One

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