Step One

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

Leader's Share and Step Questions


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

The principle behind this Step is: HONESTY


Hi all, still Sharon COE and welcome to this wonderful recovery journey with me. I've heard it said that step one is the only step we really have to do perfectly and based on my experience in OA, I know that to be absolutely true. I can so easily forget and get complacent the longer I'm in program and I dare not. The principle behind this step is honesty and when I first found OA I thought that I was the most honest person ever. Just like my dad, if 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 and all the compulsive overeating was done in secret. For years I didn't 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 won't 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 everyone's 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 also had to buy more of the sweet treats that friends who came for dinner would give us. I was very clever with all the deviousness and mostly was able to hide my tracks so boy was I dishonest around food! Also I always ate in secret and so 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 I'd blame it on someone else as to why things were finished.

My eating spiralled out of control after my stepson's suicide at which time I was studying and completing an honours degree in Psychology 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?

Thank goodness it was just after my exams that I found OA, and when I read step one that I was powerless over food, I certainly got that intellectually based on my eating history, but I most definitely never got that my life was unmanageable. I mean after all I worked part time as well as running my home and cooking and whatever needed to be done for my family, in addition to studying and even getting my degree cum laude. On the surface it looked as though I had it all together but of course that was all a facade, because deep down I was miserable and hated myself so had to fill that great big hole inside with food.

I had been on so many diets and diet clubs and I'd 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 begin to realise that maybe, just maybe, I was actually powerless over food. But being powerless over food for me seemed like an admission of weakness, and that was something I didn't want to admit to. What I didn't realise in those early days was that just because I was powerless over food didn't mean that I was helpless, because this is a program of action and so I learned that I needed 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 I'm powerless over food but I actually have to accept it on a truly gut level. They say there's a long distance between the head and the heart, and it took me a really long time to finally get how powerless over food I really was. It was only when I finally accepted the powerlessness and stopped working the program on sheer will alone as I always had on all those diets that things started getting better. They say this is a disease of forgetfulness and I know I daren't forget that I am powerless over food and particular certain types of food.

I compare myself to my husband who loves food but who isn't a compulsive overeater, so when he's upset he's too upset to eat, but when I am all I can think of is what's in the fridge. If anything ever convinced me of that powerlessness, that was it. All the diets I ever went on only helped me lose weight but they never changed my life, especially all the things in my life that made me keep turning to food. The other thing I realised was that I could easily stop the eating on those diets but I never could stay stopped.

As for the unmanageability of my life I've also realised that 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 I'm cured, because I'm always still recovering one day at a time and will always be a compulsive overeater. 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 don't have it you can read "The doctor's opinion" and "Bill's story" 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. In what ways have you been dishonest around food?

2. How 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 is it you say to yourself every time you try to "diet" and fail?

4. Are there particular foods, situations, or emotions that trigger the craving phenomenon or the mental obsession for you?

5. How has food been used as a survival tool?

6. Do you believe that your life is unmanageable and if so why?

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

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

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

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

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

It's 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. However for any other queries or questions you might want to ask me related to this step study, please email me privately on

In case you don't really believe that you are powerless over food here is one of step one prayers for you.

FIRST STEP PRAYER: 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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