Any excuse is a trivial excuse to eat

There’s no good excuse for wittingly taking the first bite. Not when we know what kind of pain and misery this disease brings us. Not when we know the terrible, fatal consequences of our decision to eat.

But when our disease gets hold of us, we do it anyway. We think out complex levels of justification. The broken shoelace led to not being able to wear the right shoes. That led to a blister. Which led to an embarrassing limp. Which led others to look askance and judge. Which led to negative self-talk. Which led to feelings of uselessness and worthlessness. Which led to taking off a loved one’s head at a slight provocation. Which led to a big fight. Which led to feelings of isolation. Which led to the first bite. All because of the broken shoelace!

We tell ourselves that any one of these things by itself isn’t so bad, but taken all together, it’s simply too much for us to handle.

In the Big Book’s chapter “More About Alcoholism” (page 37), it says, “There was always the curious mental phenomenon that parallel with our sound reasoning there inevitably ran an insanely trivial excuse for taking the first drink.” Or bite in our case.

In fact, given what happens whenever we take the first bite, any excuse is trivial. We understand the torture of food addiction. It is dehumanizing and utterly painful. Any time we try to take the edge off with food, we are making things worse, not better. First of all, we are engaging our addiction, which has terrifying consequences. Second, we aren’t even getting rid of the feeling. We burying it alive temporarily, knowing fully well that it will come back after us later. It always does.

Actually the broken shoelace that started this example off is in fact too much for us to handle. So are all of those other things in the scenario. We’ve proven again and again to ourselves that we can’t handle feelings of any sort. Otherwise, why do we continually eat to take the edge off? So we need a Higher Power to get us through these spots that we can’t navigate ourselves without food.

But what about truly awful circumstances? What about abuse, past or present? Instances of rape, the death of a loved one? A diagnosis of late-stage cancer? A crippling accident? Or some horrendous combination of them all? That big hairy monster that makes us unique and broken and unfixable?

The answer to that question is in the halls of OA, looking right back at us. Among OA’s membership are thousands of people who have been physically, sexual, or emotionally abused, and who are not eating. OA members have been through the worst diseases without the first bite. Live or die, they don’t pick up. Thousands of OAs have lost parents, siblings, children, friends, pets, you name it and still not taken that first sucker bite. They all have their own hairy monster of damage, and they don’t eat over it.

These people know today that there is absolutely no excuse that can justify a return to compulsive eating. If they do, they not only inflict misery on themselves, but they, in turn, inflict misery on those around them by the inevitable falling apart and negative personality changes that compulsive eating brings. These people know that in each of the dire situations just mentioned eating will make them less able to cope, less able to heal, and less able to help those who desperately need it.

One other thing they know: That they didn’t avoid picking up on their own willpower. If only! Instead, they were given courage, strength, and purpose by their Higher Power…however they understand their HP…and found additional strength through the Steps, Traditions, Tools, and fellowship of OA.

So next time the wheel of addictive thinking presents us with the choice to eat over our problems or not, let’s choose to not. Because otherwise, we’re just making excuses.


The 1 question to ask before that first compulsive bite

Are we asking the wrong question about taking that first compulsive bite? We often have second thoughts when faced with that fateful decision, questions such as:

  • Am I going to do this to myself again?
  • Will this lead to another binge?
  • Why do I want to eat this?

These are all helpful responses, and yet, they don’t get at the most basic part of what every addict faces, including us compulsive eaters.

One of the most important paragraphs in the Big Book is in the Doctor’s Opinion (pp xxvii–xxix). Dr. Silkwood tells us that when we put the substance into our bodies we have a reaction that creates physical cravings. But before we do so, however, we are activated mentally and obsess about eating. And why are we activated to obsess? Because of a thought or feeling.

The doctor tells us “Men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol.… They are restless, irritable, and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks….” Or to put it another way, we eat because we want to take the edge off.

That edge is the emotional discomfort or pain we feel in any given moment. It is both the triggering event itself (job stress, a fight with a loved one, a broken shoelace) and the accumulation of every hurt, disappointment, and fear that we’ve buried alive inside us by eating. Every new pain reminds of all the previous ones, so we do what we did before: eat compulsively.

We never just sit with emotional discomfort. It’s too much for us. We may appear stoic on the outside, but by always taking the edge off, we are admitting that our discomfort is stronger than we are.

In OA, however, we discover that our Higher Power is more powerful than our feelings. Even our roughest emotions are no match for the god of our understanding. So the question we ask ourselves now is:

Are we willing to trust and rely on God to get us through discomfort instead of turning to food?

After all, why would we ever turn to the food that makes us miserable instead of the God that makes us feel better?

Of course, there’s an important condition to trusting God instead of food. We need a conception of God that we can actually put trust in. If we are unable to achieve abstinence despite asking our HP for help, our understanding of God may be too limited. Or it may simply be the wrong conception for us.

In the former case, we may believe a Higher Power is out there, but we don’t really believe it cares about us. Or we may believe we are so terminally unique that not even God can help us. These are both instances where we can choose to let an HP show us its power rather than assume it isn’t available to us. The way we do that is by not taking the first bite, finally asking God for help, and observing what happens when we let go and let God.

In the case of having the wrong conception for us, we may have long-held religious beliefs that are hindering our spiritual understanding. If we are not actively religious, we may find it useful to finally admit that our religious heritage isn’t helping us and seek a God concept that does. If we are engaged in religion, we might consult with our religious teacher or leader to see if we something about our concept of God is holding us back.

Of course, we may be atheistic or agnostic. This is no barrier to trusting and relying on God. We might define it as Good Orderly Discipline or as Group of (Food) Drunks. Others among us with the atheistic/agnostic line of thinking have seen other OAs recover with the help of a Higher Power and simply decided their conception is a Great Friend or the God of My Not Understanding. If it helps, we don’t have to use the capital G.

The most important thing is that we have a useful, effective conception of a Higher Power.

Why is it so important? Because we need to believe that whatever it is we trust will get us through the rough patches we ate over in the past. We need to believe that we can sit with discomfort thanks to the help of something bigger than we are. We need something that we can pray to, paraphrasing the Doctor’s Opinion, asking: Higher Power please bring me ease and comfort.

Trust God, clean house, and help others is the formula Dr. Bob passed down. Not picking up the first bite is putting trust in our HP, demonstrating our willingness, and starting down the road to happy destiny.

9 ways to turn Black Friday into Cyber Monday

For us compulsive eaters, “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” can have very different meanings than for everyone else. One that we don’t like, and one that can really help us.

Thanksgiving might be better termed Amateur Day. All those normal eaters out there have their big turkey feast then fall asleep on the couch while watching the Lions or Cowboys. These normal eaters have seconds and feel as stuffed as the bird they were just consuming. Meanwhile, we compulsive eaters are just getting started. Actually, we probably primed the pump well before company arrived or before we got to our feast destination. Once there, we graze on appetizers, pick at the turkey to get the choicest pieces of skin, take extra helpings of everything, then pile in the pie. By 5:00 while everyone else is groaning about their bloated bellies, we’re thinking about turkey sandwiches.

Then comes our Black Friday. It might begin in the wee hours of the morning, with a sudden awakening to acid reflux. Or maybe we’re so full we never got to sleep in the first place and stayed up berating ourselves for gluttony once again. We get up in the morning feeling lethargic, burping, and wondering whether we’ll ever be able to control our eating. All the while, we know deep inside that we’ll never gain control, but our pride tells us to fight anyway. In this way, Thanksgiving is no different than many other days except in the volume of food at the dining room table.

Over the rest of the weekend we might tell a spouse or friend that we’re going on a diet on Monday. Or maybe after Christmas. Or in the New Year. We just need to get through the holidays. As Friday, Saturday, and Sunday roll by, we feel that familiar sense of failure and remorse, and our misery continues. Thanksgiving dinner didn’t fix it.

Luckily for us, however, we can interpret Cyber Monday in a different way as well. We can see it as an opportunity to look for the solution. We can go online to locate all kinds of OA resources that will guide us toward recovery from compulsive eating! Here’s a few examples for people in different parts of their OA journey.

Prospective members

  • Not sure if you’re a compulsive eater? Take this quiz and find out.
  • Visit this page for newcomers at to see what happens at meetings and hear podcasts of member’s experiences.
  • Read OA’s FAQ to learn the answers to questions commonly asked by newcomers.

Newcomers and returning members

Members who struggled on Thanksgiving


10 ways to know if you are obsessing about food

Are you really obsessed with food and powerless over it? Here are ten common forms of obsessive thinking about food that many OA members have experienced. If you’ve experienced these or similar thinking, you may be in the grip of the obsession with food.

1. Moments after finishing one meal, you begin thinking about the next

You arrive at work at 9:00, having just tossed down a quick breakfast. For the next several hours, you fixate on what you’ll get for lunch. The minutes tick away. You tell yourself you’ll wait until 1:00, but at 12:15, you say “screw it” and yank the takeout menu from the top drawer of your desk….

2. Anytime you have a strong feeling (happy, mad, sad, glad), you get the urge to eat

The Red Sox win! Time to eat. My daughter has filed for divorce. Time to eat. The cable is on the fritz again. Time to eat. My doctor called, and the diabetes hasn’t gotten as bad as I’d feared. Time to eat.

3. Food thoughts pop unbidden into your mind throughout the day and over time

The deadline for that report is the end of the day. You’re about halfway done. This section is just killing you. Then this thought: Oh, remember that time in Denver when I had that dessert with….

4. The same foods or food types dominate your thinking


5. You rationalize food behaviors

“Just because my blood sugar is at dangerous levels doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have a little fun. My doctor is such wet blanket. He’d eat too if he had to deal with what I deal with. What’s one little bite going to do to me anyway. I’m making too much of this.”

6. Ultimately, you always lose the argument with yourself about your eating

  • Good Self: Don’t eat that last helping that’s in the dish. You know it’s just going to make you fatter.
  • Bad Self: But it’s good. You deserve a treat.
  • Good Self: Think about how much more exercise or dieting you’d have to do to get rid of it.
  • Bad Self: Like you’ve worried about it lately, anyway?
  • Good Self: And your knees always hurt, and your back hurts, and your neck hurts.
  • Bad Self: Exactly, so just have a bite and we’ll take away the pain for a few moments.

7. The idea of going without certain foods creates a visceral reaction of fear or anger

Something is upside down if life wouldn’t be worth living without a favorite food.

8. You often plan elaborate meals months in advance, sometimes even for fantasy meals that will never happen

And you’re not a chef, caterer, wedding planner, or other culinary or event-planning professional.

9. Passing a convenience store triggers you to stop and buy food

Our dealer is on every corner and even has signs inviting us in. But we don’t really need those signs because we know exactly where the store keeps the goodies we want need.

10. Pushing away a half-eaten plate seems utterly foreign

She’s not going to finish that? Is she ill? What planet is she from? If she’s not going to eat, maybe I can.

11. I’ll never get skinny—I might as well just keep eating my face off

There’s a lot truth here. We likely never will get the body we want when our mind constantly thinks about food. That’s because we can’t fix ourselves. We can’t outwit our own diseased minds.

This is just a selection of the kinds of thinking we hear about in OA meetings all the time. These old tapes run endlessly in our minds while we remain in the throes of compulsive eating.

But there is a solution.

The 12 Steps of OA provide relief from the daily slog of trying to think ourselves out of a disease that works through our own minds. With OA’s help we can eat like a normal person, one day at a time.

Permission to be powerless

Once we walk through the doors of OA, we may think that we have made the big decision.  We have finally given up the ghost with food. Our compulsive eating has left our minds, emotions, and spirit battered and bruised. We tell ourselves we really mean it. After all, why else would we go to meetings?

As we read OA literature, listen at meetings, and talk to our fellows, we begin to understand the idea of powerlessness. We learn that we cannot control our own eating by an act of willpower. We cannot stop once we’ve started, and we cannot stop from starting. We need this program because we grasp the seriousness of the situation. And yet, many of us struggle for a long time with Step 1.

Of course, to some degree, the struggle to gain abstinence arises from the cycle of cravings we initiate any time we pick up that first bite. This physical manifestation of our disease demands more and more food. Yet, many of us will put down the food long enough to be relieved of the physical sensation of craving only to return to our old eating behaviors. We’ve all been in meetings where a member shares that they can’t explain why they threw a month, six months, a year or two of abstinence out the window.

The insidious idea that after some abstinence we can control our food is planted by our disease. It grows slowly over time. We may begin a period of abstinence as desperate as we’ve ever been, yet give it a little while, and we begin to feel and act as if we’ve been doing the trick all along by our lonesomes. We forget so quickly the lessons that our years of compulsive eating have taught us. Our periods of control are temporary as long as we’re running the show.

Why do we do this? Is it possible that we haven’t given ourselves permission to be powerless? That is, permission to admit to ourselves that when it comes to food addiction our best efforts aren’t, and will never be, good enough to beat the rap. We know it to be true intellectually, and we resist and resist and resist it. We refuse to admit that something as simple as eating has us defeated, even in the face of a lifetime of evidence. Perhaps we ultimately fear that if this thing has us beaten, then all our fears about our own worth or inadequacy are also true?

Good news: they aren’t, and we discover this when we do the Steps. But first we have to give ourselves permission to accept some hard truths. Not just intellectually, but all the way deep down inside. Not just between our ears but between our ribs. We need to take OA actions not because our sponsor suggests them but because we desperately feel we want to recover, not because we think we ought to. We give ourselves permission to embrace the outcome of recovery instead of the fear of what happens if we don’t recover. We give ourselves permission to succeed rather than to avoid failing.

The Big Book tells us that with an attitude of courage and faith, we cannot fail. We give ourselves permission to put our faith in the Steps rather than drive ourselves crazy in another vain attempt to white knuckle our way to the false promise of self-controlled eating.

We will never achieve self-control with food. But with OA’s help we can achieve something far better. We can have a life of purpose, contentedness, and gratitude instead of food obsession, anxiety, and shame. All we have to do is admit defeat so that we can begin to reclaim victory.


Why the resistance?

Bad guys in bad movies often say to the hero, “Resistance is futile.” Whereupon the hero promptly escapes whatever torture is in store, vanquishes the villain, and lives happily ever after.

It’s kinda different in OA. Our illness is the bad guy, and it uses our brain to tell us that resistance is vital. That we must maintain the illusion of self-sufficiency as long as we possibly can. Most of us will maintain that desperate idea until the very moment that the pain of our addiction becomes more unbearable than the insult to our pride that we suppose the 12 Steps must be. We cling and cling to the long-held notion that we can eat like other people and lead normal lives…if only we tried harder.

In OA, resistance is, indeed, futile. The longer we deny the truth of our situation, the longer we will be in pain. The sooner we acknowledge the truth and the sooner we take OA’s suggested actions, the sooner will find freedom from our disease. Even while we resist the program, we know we’re staying stuck in the problem. We sure do have a lot of excuses. “Work’s too busy.” “The kids.” “I’m buying a house/car.” “My child/spouse/parent/friend is sick and needs my help.” “We’re renovating our home.” There’s truth in all of them, of course. These things do keep us busy, but if we don’t make time for OA, we may no longer have a family, a job, a home, or even our life.

  • If we resist abstinence, we can ask ourselves why. Is it only that we have tremendous cravings? Maybe. But other people in OA have gotten past them. What fear lurks behind this resistance to giving up our misery-inducing way of eating?
  • If we resist Steps two and three, we can ask ourselves why we find it so difficult to identify a Higher Power then ask It for help. Atheists, agnostics, and unrepentant religious iconoclasts do very well in OA by defining an HP on their terms. What fear keeps us from unlocking the door to a source of power that helps us get better?
  • If we resist writing our fourth-step inventory, we can ask ourselves why it seems so long and daunting. Many others of all walks of life have completed it by writing a little bit at a time each day. What truth do we fear God will show us in this inventory?

These are just a few examples of common points of resistance that all of us have felt, said, or heard during a meeting. We are all human beings with flaws and with our own ideas of what the good life ought to look like. Each of us encounters many junctures in our OA journey where we just don’t want to take that next action. But we must, and we must remember that the longer we resist, the longer we’ll hurt and the closer compulsive eating may bring us to our death. Because in OA resistance is futile, but it may also be fatal.

12 Questions for Compulsive Food Behaviors…Not Related to Binge Foods

Many OAs celebrate Easter today, and for most American families, this holiday includes baskets of candy. If we have arrived at an easy-going abstinence, those sugary items may not call to us, but even if we have abstinence, we have to be on guard.

Holidays don’t typically end with stockings or baskets full of candy. We might get through the initial assault of Easter baskets, only to find that the battle is far from over. Special meals (with or without family and friends) come soon after. There may be an enfilade of appetizers to weaken our resolve before the main bombardment of fatty, sweet, bready, and salty foods commences.

We are so used to overeating on holidays that we may not realize that our mind is heading in that direction. This disease is cunning, baffling, and powerful, and it will use our minds, our experiences, our memories, and anything else it can to reel us back into compulsive eating. It will also make us forget things! Like how awful we feel when we eat compulsively.

All of which draws our attention to OA’s statement on abstinence (emphasis added):

“Abstinence in Overeaters Anonymous is the action of refraining from compulsive eating and compulsive food behaviors while working towards or maintaining a healthy body weight. Spiritual, emotional, and physical recovery is the result of living the Overeaters Anonymous Twelve Step program.”

When you stop and read that bolded part carefully, this abstinence thing is about a lot more than our individual binge foods. If we stop eating M&Ms and donuts that’s great! But have we stopped eating compulsively? Are we still engaging in compulsive food behaviors? Here’s twelve questions that might help us spot some common compulsive food behaviors that don’t include binge foods:

  1. Are we gaining weight or stuck at an unhealthy weight even though we’ve given up our individual binge foods?
  2. Do we argue ourselves into the idea that a healthy weight for us is one that’s above what’s medically recommended for us?
  3. Are we licking pots, pans, or dishes?
  4. Do we feel compelled to get at our planned meal fast?
  5. Are we thinking about our next meal rather than the task in front of us?
  6. Are we overfull when we stop eating?
  7. Do we fear telling our sponsor what or how much we’ve eaten because they will tell us to get honest about quantities?
  8. Are we clinging tooth-and-nail to yellow-light foods that should go into the red-light category?
  9. Do we eat mindlessly in front of the TV, on the phone, in the car, or in any similar situation?
  10. Are we eating between planned meals?
  11. Do we reward ourselves with abstinent food before, during, and/or after a difficult situation?
  12. Is our mind, right now, trying to tell us we don’t do these things, even though our heart knows we do?

If we answer yes to some or all of these questions, we may want to remember what the “Doctor’s Opinion” in the Big Book tells us. It describes the cycle of addiction:

  1. We have some kind of feeling and want to take the edge off.
  2. These feelings initiate the mental obsession with eating and food.
  3. We eat.
  4. Now eating either activates physical cravings or returns us into compulsive food behaviors.
  5. We become remorseful.
  6. We resolve to do better next time.
  7. Next time comes, and we repeat the same process again and again and again.

Notice that the first thing that happens is a feeling, and then the obsession begins. It doesn’t begin with the binge foods or compulsive behaviors. Our disease may still be working on us, using our feelings to get us eating non-binge foods in compulsive ways.

OA wisdom suggests that the best thing to do is be honest with ourselves and another person. If we aren’t getting the results we want in OA, or if we feel like we’re missing out on some part of recovery, perhaps we are. Our sponsors and other members can help, but most important to ask our Higher Power for the willingness to be honest, listen to suggestions, and take action. After all, we have to be ready to go to any length for recovery.


Step of the Month: Step One, Resolutions

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

Unmet New Years resolutions are almost as ubiquitous as resolutions themselves. Each of us knows dozens, maybe hundreds of people who decide that January 1st is the day they will start losing weight, not eating this or that, controlling their portion sizes, exercising, or “eating healthy.” Most of these well-intentioned individuals will have broken their resolution before the end of the month. Many before the end of the week.

How many times did we compulsive eaters resolve to stop binging, to cease numbing ourselves with food, or to get right with our bodies? How many, many times? We didn’t need an excuse like the new year either. In “The Doctor’s Opinion” in the Big Book, Dr. Silkworth describes the cycle of addiction as including “a firm resolution” never to abuse our substance again. We entered this cycle multiple times daily, thousands of times yearly. Of course, that’s not the end of the cycle, it just takes us back to the beginning of it because we are filled with remorse and worry that the next time will be just like every other time. And so our firm resolve dissolves.

Yes, the difference between compulsive eaters and all those many people making food-related resolutions is that they can stop and we can’t. Oh, we might stop for a little while. Maybe even several months or years. But in the meantime we’re utterly miserable, or we turn to some other substance or activity to take the place of food. But eventually we will return to food because we’ll still be thinking about it all the while. While we think we are abstaining, we are merely white-knuckling it. We imagine our high resolve will win out, but inside we know the truth of our powerlessness.

The problem with resolutions for people like us is simple to see: Resolutions only work when we have power in a situation. We addicts have nothing to bring to resolutions because we are powerless. We can bring no will to bear on our food problem. Without that will, we can’t manage our food. Then we find that life is unmanageable as well because our food obsession has taken over and drives our thinking during times when we ought to be focusing on how to do our jobs, love our families, or make decisions.

So if we can’t use willpower and have no resolve, how does OA work? For one thing, the first Step isn’t the only Step. We must first admit our powerless and the unmanageability of our life. In doing so we make a good start, but we’ve only identified the what of our disease and not the how of our solution to it. However, we crucially recognize that the power needed to overcome our affliction is not inside our minds. We can’t think our way out.

If we get a bloody cut on our knee, we don’t ignore it and hope it goes away. Similarly, we don’t stanch the bleeding by telling ourselves we’ll do better next time we fall. Nor do we go to a surgeon and request the whole leg be taken off. To do any of these things would be lying to ourselves about our present condition and would inhibit our ability to heal. Well, that’s just how it is with Step One. We assess the fact of our obsession with food and its affect on us. We do this in the cold light of day so that we can find the warm light of the Spirit to guide us to our solution.

Here then is the importance of Step One. We see that our way isn’t working and is making us miserable. When we see the facts laid bare and accept them, we can find the willingness and desperation to start over and find the necessary Power outside of our minds. And if we follow the Twelve Steps, we never have to make a resolution around food again.

Wanting, Wanting, Wanting

Nothing is ever enough. We always want more. We are always wanting, wanting, wanting.

The food is the most obvious example. We finish a meal and want dessert. We finish dessert and want a little something more. We finish that and wonder how it is that two hours later we want a little culinary nightcap.

On the way home from work, we stop because we want a little something, a treat for a hard day. Something sweet or salty or crunchy or all three. We eat as we drive, finish it fast and then stop again. And again. The only limit to our stops is the length of our commute.

Always wanting more. One isn’t enough. One thousand isn’t enough. Humiliation, heartburn, explosive gas, the runs, headaches, grogginess, morbid obesity, type-II diabetes, heart disease, hip replacement, and rotting teeth won’t keep up us from trying to get more. Nor will financial uncertainty, a doctor’s orders, and the concern of loved ones.

That’s just how we food addicts roll—when our disease is left untreated.

If we are fortunate enough to find OA, then start to unravel the mystery of all of this wanting. First we find out that our bodies don’t respond like that of a normal person’s to specific food substances: sugars, flours, salts, fats, whatever our trigger foods may be. Where a normal person can take it or leave it, we have no control. None whatsoever. What we want, we eat, and all of it. The more we eat it, the more we want it. It’s a physical, bone-deep need. We crave the substance.

Eventually we realize, however, that this craving is only related to the physical aspect of our disease. Maybe we abstain from our trigger foods for a couple weeks and discover that we no longer crave them after a few days. But we are still obsessed by them. Our bodies no longer need this food, but our minds do. We are still plagued by thoughts such as A little bit of this would be good; Wouldn’t it be nice to have some of that?; I bet just one would be OK. And worst of all I’m making a too big deal out of nothing. We are still wanting, wanting, wanting.

The obsession with food strongly suggests that the problem isn’t really physical in nature. It’s our thinking that gets us in trouble. After all, we know that our trigger foods lead us to danger, but we eat them anyway. If someone is allergic to shellfish, would that person spend a lot of time, money, and energy getting and eating shellfish? Of course not. But that’s just what we do with our trigger foods. So the initiating factor for our eating is our minds.

Our minds tell us that we want something. But what is it that we want so badly that we are willing to risk despair, sorrow, and, eventually, death? The answer, at least according to the “Doctor’s Opinion” in the Big Book, is that we want “ease and comfort.” We are always trying to take the edge off of life. We want to feel OK about life, ourselves, everything, and food gives us this for mere moments. But the feeling is quickly gone, so we need more. As time goes on, we need more food to feel better, but the feeling goes away even more quickly as our bodies become accustomed to the substance.

So, here comes the spiritual part of the program. We have a defective mind that can’t discern what’s toxic to us and continually tells us to eat poison. That sick mind can’t heal itself, especially because it is seeking relief from itself in something that isn’t designed to provide relief. The relief we seek can only come from a Higher Power.

We need the spiritual part of the program because only something more powerful but just as intimate as our own thinking can fix us. We need a Higher Power personal to us that will restore us to sanity not only around food, but also around wanting. If we are to live honest, fulfilling lives, we must seek our ease and comfort from a Higher Power who can relieve our constant wanting. If we are willing, merely willing, to entertain the idea that this power exists and will help us, we are on our way to soothing the wanting that traps us in our disease.

Reflections from Unity Day #2: Surrender

In our previous post, we started to look back on what we heard at Unity Day. Here’s another gem from our speakers.

Compliance, they said, is not the same as surrender. Before we came to the program, many of us would comply with a diet program, lose the weight, then gain it all back…with “interest.” Why? Because we were just obeying. We didn’t surrender.

Surrender to what? To a lot of things. Surrender is a process that begins even before we walk in the door. “Step Zero” is surrendering to the idea that we’re in so much pain we have to do something about it. So we go to a meeting. That’s as far as some of us get because we may not yet be ready to surrender the idea that we can control our eating. Or our life. That’s the surrender of Step One, to the hopelessness of our disease and the damage it does to us.

As we hear others talk about their recovery in spiritual terms, however, we come upon another place to surrender. For many of us, Step Two feels like game over. We won’t go down the spiritual path because we’ve had negative experiences with religion, and we don’t want to admit we are insane. We might be able to surrender to the idea that God exists and has the power to help us, but we may not be convinced God cares about our food. We may believe that a Higher Power cares about others but not about ourselves. We might be able to surrender to the idea that we are bonkers about food, but at least that insanity is our own. Admitting to all of Step Two can be a lot to swallow, and we may need time, perhaps a lot of it, to fully surrender ourselves to it. Some of us require more “research” into the pain of compulsive eating before we reach a place of surrender. But that surrender must be ours.

Then comes Step Three with what feels like a monumental surrender. “We turned our will and our lives over to the care of God….” Even if we can surrender to Steps One and Two, we’re in a tough spot. Will we still be ourselves? Can I really trust a Higher Power? With my very life? Here’s the catch, though, we’ve trusted ourselves, and it’s gotten us misery. We turned our will over to food and let it drag us around to the fridge, to minimarts, to restaurants, to garbage cans, to other people’s plates, and worse. This was the best we could do with what we had, but now it’s time to try something else or, more accurately, Someone Else. We decide to surrender our will and our lives because it’s our last, best chance to live a life worth living. We didn’t come to OA on a winning streak. We didn’t sit through meetings to stay sick with this disease while others got better. We surrender to Step Three because the alternative is continued pain. It’s not until later, after we’ve tried it for a while, that we learn how joyful and how much easier life can be when we aren’t trying to run the show.

Merely complying with the Steps because a sponsor says we need a Higher Power just prolongs the issue. Pretending to turn our will and lives over to God doesn’t allow the solution to fully take hold. Even if we must “fake it ’til we make it” and “act as if,” we find at some point that we’ve stopped struggling and that even more surprisingly we’ve started accepting, if not downright believing, that this solution will work for us.