When people become desperate about their need to control and enjoy their eating, Twelve Step Programs offer a solution. Using the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, the twelve steps have been adapted to assist people who have become obsessed with food. This solution is built on a foundation of honesty.
Much like Alcoholics Anonymous, the grandfather of all twelve-step recovery programs, Overeater’s anonymous encourages complete and total honesty in all areas of a person’s life; emotional, spiritual, physical, and behavioral. In OA, however, the members are asked to take disclosure to a completely new level.
Alcoholics are not asked to report regularly to their sponsor about every liquid they allowed past their lips—however many OA programs effectively use this micro-managed level of consumption on a daily basis. We plan our food for the day and report on it. We talk about how successful we were and where we were challenged. There is a direct correlation between the level of honesty in this process and a measurable success in weight release.
Quite frequently, members of OA identify their emotional and behavioral connection to certain foods at certain times through this disclosure process. They become acutely aware of what moves and motivates them. This awareness, and heightened level of consciousness, helps as we work through the steps identifying our resentments, character defects and necessary amends.
Some people are uncomfortable with the rigidity of this accountability. Most people don’t readily jump at the chance to identify every nut, berry, bagel or burrito they ingest. However, desperate situations call for desperate actions. For those who’ve suffered with unhealthy weight and countless failed attempts to eat like a normal person, OA shines like a beacon of hope.
In the beginning stages of OA recovery, a rigid food plan is necessary. Accountability to a sponsor about intention and consumption are exercises in honesty. We learn to think about every sliver, slice, or slab we consume; every drop of juice, soda, tea, coffee or water. We do this with the support, care, and objectivity of a trusted sponsor, and we do it without shame and/or guilt.
This fact-finding exercise is designed to help us reach our optimal weight, and working the steps helps us maintain our newfound health. We change on a deep level, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. The more honest we are about our consumption, reactions, emotions, and behaviors, the closer we become to the healthy, well-adjusted, well-functioning humans we are intended to be. We become someone who can keep the weight off.
If you are recovering from other addictions (alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex) you may turn to food for emotional comfort to fill a void or help cope with all you are learning. There is no shame in reaching out for help in yet another Twelve Step Program. It works if you work it. And you’re worth it. Honestly.
Written by Karen VanDenBerg based on interviews with Dr. Judi Hollis