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 our compulsive behavior with food - that our lives had become unmanageable.

~ The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous - Introduction and Step One

~ Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (Alcoholics Anonymous) - Step One
It's only 4 pages!

~ Alcoholics Anonymous (the Big Book) - "Forewords","The Doctor's Opinion", Chapter 1 "Bill's Story;" Chapter 2 "There is A Solution," Chapter 3 "More About Alcoholism," Chapter 4 "We Agnostics";
It's a lot of pages, but it's worth it! Take your time.


Deep breath.
Let it out.
Connect with Higher Power.

I'm Cait, compulsive eater, binge eater, grateful to be living in recovery today.

I have discovered through long and painful experience that, as miserable as I have been in the throes of compulsive eating and food obsession, as much as I have wanted to live differently, I cannot get anywhere different unless I first admit, understand and accept where I am. As long as I am not honest about where I am, I can't move off of it. How can anyone navigate to a destination unless they first know where they are? I am constantly taking Step One as I deepen my understanding and acceptance of "where I am."

As far as my compulsive eating is concerned, if I start, I can't stop. And I can't keep from starting. I am powerless over my compulsive eating behaviors. When I start eating compulsively my life gets messy - I lose sleep, staying up late to eat. I ignore my work in order to eat. I'm distracted because I'm thinking about food, what I ate, what I might eat. I avoid social interaction. I can't think straight or concentrate because my mind is in food fog, food obsession, and self-recrimination. I have little energy or attention available for my loved ones or to enjoy their company. As it says in The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous: "We procrastinated, we hid, and we ate."

For at least 50 years I was a compulsive eater struggling to control my eating. I had good "will power" about so many things in my life, yet I couldn't stop compulsive overeating. Until I came into this program I didn't "get" that my "will power" was both a blessing and a curse. "Will power" cuts both ways - it enabled me to accomplish a lot of things I wanted to do, but when it came to my eating, my will power was completely devoted to willful compulsive eating. Very little of it was directed to eating healthy balanced meals in moderate amounts, and I couldn't sustain that focus for long.

In the recommended reading I learn that my compulsive eating problem is three-fold: physical, emotional/mental, and spiritual. Physical - I have a hyper-reaction, an abnormal reaction, to certain foods and eating behaviors. I have no "off switch" when eating these foods and engaging in these eating behaviors. Normal people eat and get "full" - I eat and get momentum to eat more. For me, these foods and eating behaviors lead to craving more and more food. Emotional/Mental - I have long-standing habit patterns of eating in certain situations, in response to certain feelings, to certain people, to calm me down, to celebrate, to relieve tension, to escape stress and boredom, and as a pastime. I become obsessed with food and eating. Spiritual - I made food and eating and weight into a god-like power in my life; I turned to it for comfort, refuge, reassurance, calming.

In order to live in peace, ?I need to abstain from the foods and eating behaviors that cause me problems, those that lead to the overreaction, to the craving and obsession.? I need to eat the foods and practice the eating behaviors that keep me free from overreaction, craving and obsession.

How to do this?
Self-knowledge, and knowledge of the science of nutrition and focusing my will power have failed.
Trying to remind myself of the consequences of compulsive eating is of little use.
In Alcoholics Anonymous (The Big Book), Chapter 2 "There Is A Solution," it says "We are unable at certain times to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. . . . We are without defense against the first drink. There is a complete failure of the kind of defense that keeps one from putting his hand on a hot stove."
This is true for me.

I love the stories of Jim and Fred in The Big Book Chapter 3 "More About Alcoholism," because they are SO LIKE ME! The writer begins exploring "What sort of thinking dominates an alcoholic who repeats time after time the desperate experiment of the first drink?" Does this sound familiar to you? It sure does to me.

Jim is the one who has stopped drinking after a history of violence while intoxicated, and commitment to an asylum. He is doing well, in the middle of an OK work day, although he has some resentments circulating through his mind. He goes to lunch, is having milk with his meal, and "Suddenly the thought crossed my mind that if I were to put an ounce of whiskey in my milk it couldn't hurt me on a full stomach." He gets drunk and is hospitalized yet again.

Fred is the one who thinks he can beat the alcohol problem with self-knowledge, will power and vigilance. He stops drinking on his own. But then he finds himself at "the end of a perfect day...." when "the thought came to mind that it would be nice to have a couple of cocktails with dinner." After a disastrous spree Fred realizes "Not only had I been off guard, I had made no fight whatever against the first drink....I had not thought of the consequences at all. I had commenced to drink as carelessly as though the cocktails were ginger ale."

The Big Book author concludes: "The alcoholic at certain times has no effective mental defense against the first drink. Except in a few rare cases, neither he nor any other human being an provide such a defense. His defense must come from a Higher Power." In the following chapter "We Agnostics," the author states "If when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or if when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take, you are probably alcoholic. If that be the case, you are suffering from an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer. . . . Our human resources, as marshaled by the will, were not sufficient. They failed utterly. Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a power greater than ourselves."

For me, the takeaway is that although I have occasionally been able to control my eating for periods of time, over the long haul I was not able to do so. I am powerless over my compulsive behavior with food, and it has made my life unmanageable.


1. What is your reaction to "admitting I am powerless over my compulsive behavior with food"?

2. How has your compulsive behavior with food made your life "unmanageable"?

3. What are some of the compulsive behaviors with food that you need to abstain from?

4. Any other thoughts or reactions to the reading or Step One?

Best wishes


Step One

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