Practicing Rigorous Honesty – the Road to Recovery from Food Addiction


April 30, 2024

Practicing Rigorous Honesty – the Road to Recovery from Food Addiction

In Twelve Step recovery programs, the message isn’t to be occasionally honest, or to try to be honest, but to practice “rigorous honesty.” But what does this actually mean?

In the rooms of OA recovery, I learned that “honesty” is defined as “devoid of all motives to deceive.” If we look more closely at Step 9 in A.A.’s Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions, we find on page 84 that it reminds us, “While we may be quite willing to reveal the very worst, we must be sure to remember that we cannot buy our own peace of mind at the expense of others.” So this “rigorous” part of being honest must be examined a bit further to gain a clear and appropriate understanding.

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous states that in Twelve Step recovery, recovery from addiction cannot be done until one is “rigorously honest” in their thinking, behaviors, and actions. This is, therefore, a focus upon myself, and not upon others!

Per our Twelve Steps of OA, one must be honest not only with ourselves (Step 1), but the recovering food addict must also practice complete honesty with their Higher Power (HP ) as well as with other people (Steps 4 and 5).

Steps 8 and 9 require that the food addict take active steps to make amends for harms done (without doing harm to third parties, whoever they may be), and then the remaining Steps: 10, 11 and 12; remind us to live and act honestly on a daily basis, practicing the principles of our Twelve Step recovery in all our affairs.

Whether honesty is applied to our relationship with friends, family, co-workers, finances, or with our HP, for us to fully recover from compulsive eating, we must practice “rigorous honesty” in our relationship with food. This, then, has pointed me to a closer examination of what “rigorous” means, which is to be “extremely thorough, exhaustive, or accurate.”

Next comes the questions I must pose to myself, and answer with complete openness, to ensure that I am truly practicing “rigorous honesty.”

Here is my list of questions to myself:

  • Am I allowing “yellow” or “red-light” foods back into my plan of eating (PoE) simply because, at some time, my mind has convinced me that it will be “fine,” or that I can handle it this time around?
  • Am I practicing conscious eating each time I consume food?
  • Am I using food to distract myself from the moment?
  • Am I endangering my abstinence by choosing the initial pleasure?
  • Or, am I willing to act on my HP’s will (rather than my own self-will) and seek the help of my HP to weather every pleasant or unpleasant moment that life may bring my way?

These questions pertain to the real questions at the very heart of the matter and to my ultimate recovery from compulsive eating:

  • What are my principles?
  • What is my value to myself, to my HP, and to the recovery community of OA as a whole?
  • Do I believe that food addiction can kill my spirit, my mind, and my body if I don’t practice rigorous honesty each and every time I eat?

If I’m unwilling to look at these questions, or to examine the answers I might come up with to avoid the hard truth of my deadly disease, then there is no doubt for me that nothing BUT rigorous honesty is required from me to remain and sustain my abstinence! Today, I know that abstinence from compulsive eating and compulsive eating behaviors is as precious to me as the very air that I breathe. Without being rigorously honest about my food, I cannot hope to face the many challenges, and all the various ups and downs that this life may bring.

Armed with my Twelve Steps program and its sacred principles, especially the principle of rigorous honesty, I can rest assured that I will awaken to another abstinent day, and that together with my Higher Power, I can handle anything that may come my way.

Thank you, OA, for teaching me that absolute (rigorous) honesty around my food and my plan of eating is the solution to my dilemma of compulsive eating – and that I can depend upon this principle (and my HP) to help me avoid the dangers and potential slips of my relentless food addiction. By focusing on rigorous honesty about my food, I can avoid the pitfalls of self-will run riot, and follow the will of my Higher Power into a life happy, joyous, and free!

– Judith, grateful OA member