Step One

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

Leader's Share and Step Questions

Hi everyone.

My name is Shlomo I am a compulsive overeater and leader of this workshop.

Let me first explain my understanding of a few basic ideas and concepts That are specific to compulsive eaters.

Alcohol vs. Food We don't need to drink alcohol in order to live. We do need to eat in order to live. Therefore eating is a basic survival instinct. A recovered alcoholic lives his life without feeling any need to drink alcohol. But a recovered compulsive overeater has to eat. and has to deal with his propensity to overeat In a compulsive overeater, cravings are an abnormal reaction of the body to certain foods or food substances (called triggers) This manifests in a desire to overeat and binge which is usually beyond our mental control Compulsion-is a strong irresistible impulse to act.

Obsession-is compulsive preoccupation with a fixed idea or unwanted feeling. (a disease of the mind)

Now an important quote from the Big Book (fourth edition).page 30, chapter More About Alcoholism. " We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics (compulsive eaters) . This is the first step in recovery . The delusion that we are like other people or presently may be has to be smashed". I call this step STEP ZERO. It is not the first of the twelve, since the first step is about powerlessness. So what do I mean when I say that I am a compulsive overeater? I have a disease of addiction Two folds of the disease are:

1. An abnormal reaction of the body to certain foods and food substances which I call triggers. Eating those triggers leads to cravings which are a desire and feeling for more ,generally beyond my mental control. This abnormal reaction is activated by eating certain foods and food substances that I am sensitive to. Such abnormal reactions are the evidence of a certain biochemical imbalance in my body for which there is no known cure. The disease is chronic and it gets worse with time no matter how recovered I am. The only way not to activate the abnormal physical reaction to triggers is not to eat them. I can do that only when I am free of my obsession.

2. Therefore the second more serious aspect of my disease is a disease of the mind. I have an obsession of the mind which convinces me to desire and eat triggers and therefore I cannot stay stopped from overeating and bingeing. That is why abstinence fails again and again when it is based on my will to stop eating compulsively. My obsession redirects my will to a will to eat foods that harms me, reassuring me that this time it will be ok, or making me not give a damn about the destructive results. This is called insanity in our program: repeating the same action (eating foods that cause me cravings) again and again and expecting different results or not caring about the results.

My problem is complicated by the fact that I tend to overeat abstinent foods too, and this can and will bring me back to eating triggers. That is why I have a food plan without my triggers and I limit quantities in order not to overeat.

Compulsive eating is therefore a disease of addiction that takes our basic eating instinct of survival to destructive extremes like overeating and bingeing, like bingeing and purging (bulimia), and like starving ourselves to death (anorexia). The disease distorts our perception of our reality. Therefore we are often confused and believe what our mind tells us about ourselves as the truth. But what it tells us about ourselves is a delusion. We are deluded by our mind to believe lies and do not see the truth. This is the main cause of the development of the third fold of our disease, our spiritual malady on which I will write presently.

We have to understand that the abnormal reaction of our bodies to food will always stay with us even if we recover. But this is not our main problem. Our main problem is our obsession that causes us to return to compulsive eating after periods of not eating compulsively by using our willpower. If our obsession was somehow removed we wouldn't feel the need or desire to eat triggers or at least not succumb to that desire. And then we will not activate our abnormal bodily reaction to triggers.

The first thing I have to do is to concede to my innermost self that I have this disease, since denial will leave me stuck in it. When I admit that I have this disease I can seek ways to deal with it. When I do concede and internalize it I can now try to find a remedy for it. How disappointed I was when everything I tried didn't work. Diets or food plans based on my willingness to follow them seemed to work but eventually my obsession made me begin to eat compulsively again. So I tried to get all kinds of professional help and it didn't help either. Eventually I reached bottom. Bottom is not what happens to me or around me. Bottom is an internal thing. It is a feeling of complete defeat and despair.

I realize I have nowhere to turn. I cannot help myself and others cannot help me either, and there is no way out. Bill W., describes his bottom in the chapter Bill's Story before he meets his friend who recovered. Page 8 " No words can tell of the loneliness and despair I found in that bitter morass of self -pity. Quicksand stretched around me in all directions. I had met my match. I have been overwhelmed. Alcohol was my master." Only when I reach internal bottom will I really try to sincerely practice the solution offered by the 12 steps Now we can look at step one STEP ONE: We admitted we were powerless over our food compulsion-that our lives had become unmanageable.

In step one I admit that my disease controls me and has power over me with regard to food and with regard to my life(thoughts feelings and actions)

Let me expand this a bit. When am I powerless over a disease? When there is no remedy for it or I can not obtain a remedy for it. When I have a remedy for a disease that is not chronic, it can be cured . This means that the disease leaves me. If the disease is chronic it stays with me all my life or until the medical profession finds a remedy for it. There are a lot of chronic diseases that can be stabilized by treatment with medication as in the case of diabetes, or by other means. The treatment has to be applied on a regular, usually a daily basis, or the disease will get the upper hand again. In the twelve step programs the stabilized condition is called recovery. In order to stay recovered I have to get the treatment every day .

Let me quote an important sentence from the Big Book page 85 "We are not cured of alcoholism (compulsive eating). What we really have is a daily reprieve" . So a recovered person has a daily reprieve . The remedy for our addiction is the twelve steps, and we have to work them daily in order to recover and stay recovered.

Only when I reach internal bottom will I really try to sincerely practice the solution offered by the twelve steps. Here is a quote from the AA 12&12 page 21 "We perceive that only through utter defeat (reaching bottom) are we able to take our first steps towards liberation and strength".

The result of being powerless over my food compulsion is that I cannot stay away for long from the foods that cause me cravings and overeating and bingeing, and I relapse

Till now I discussed the powerlessness over my food compulsion. Now let me discuss the second part of step one "that our lives had become unmanageable" First let me point the difference between spiritual and Spiritual (with a capital letter). In the Big Book "spiritual" means feelings(emotions) like in the expression "the team spirit" or "this boy is full of spirit". In the Big Book it also means attitudes towards myself and others . So the spiritual aspect of our disease is our emotions and attitudes, that result in an unmanageable life

Spiritual refers to a Higher Power, God as we understand God, Spirit of the Universe , Or any other name or concept that suits us to describe an incorporeal Power Greater than ourselves. As the big book says on page 12 "Why don't you choose your own conception of God?"

The second part of step one is described by the bedevilments that appear in the chapter We Agnostics on page 52: "We were having troubles with personal relationships, we could not control our emotional nature, we were prey to misery and depression ,we could not make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we could not seem to be of help to other people."

Big Book page 62 continues to describe the spiritual malady "selfishness--self-centeredness that we think is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self delusion,self seeking, and self pity , we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate." Page 64" resentment is the number one offender.It destroys more alcoholics that anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease. For we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick." All those quotes describe our unmanageable life which is a manifestation of our spiritual malady.

So when we talk about the solution to our disease it is entirely and only Spiritual. When we talk about our disease we talk about our obsession, about our bodies abnormal reaction, and about our spiritual malady.

Please do the following assignments and share them with us


  1. Read the following two chapters in the Big Book, The Doctors Opinion, More About Alcoholism. Read the chapter on Step One in the AA 12&12. Copy the sentences that you identify with, explain and share with us.
  2. Do you concede to your innermost self that you are a compulsive eater? what do you mean when you say that you are a compulsive eater? explain and share with us.
  3. What are the results of our powerlessness and what is the reason for our powerlessness in step one? Explain and share with us.
  4. describe your spiritual malady and how it affected your life .
  5. If you reached bottom describe it. Share with us.
  6. Some suggestions for daily disciplines and practice that I recommend you begin immediately.

  7. A. have a food plan without triggers. You may use professional help, but be sure not to let them persuade you to put your triggers in it. There are always abstinent substitutes. I recommend committing your food to your sponsor on a daily basis. Remember that relapsing is inevitable as long as we are not recovered. But also remember that the actions we take are our responsibility and we have to take them in order to eventually recover.

    B. write a daily review of your feelings every day (good and bad), and try to feel them strongly again when you write. share one daily review with us.

    C. Develop an attitude of gratitude by writing daily 7 things you are grateful for that day. Share with us

    D. Say the serenity prayer several times during the day.

    I recommend sharing those daily disciplines with your sponsor and if you can please share them with us too.

    That's all for now. Even if you find it difficult to keep up with this pace don't give up, and do the assignments at your own pace. The important thing is to keep doing.

    And please don't hesitate to send me questions and comments even if they seem trivial or silly. There are no such thing as silly or trivial questions. every question is important. So don't be shy. I am here at your service.

    Send answers to assignments to Send questions and comments to

    Have a nice day one day at a time


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