April 14, 2021
Our Plans of Eating are as varied as our members. There are those of us who are strict vegetarians (such as my sponsor) that rely upon tofu, seitan, or legumes with rice for their daily protein, whereas others among us much prefer to eat animal meat or seafood (such as I do), with healthy fats and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Each plan of eating can be as unique as the individual that decides to make it their personal plan.
Whatever our personal struggles may be with the disease of compulsive eating, it is not uncommon for us to obsess over empty-calorie foods that help us to numb out (or temporarily stuff) the feelings we want to avoid feeling. Many of us have found that our most problematic foods tend to include large quantities of sugar and flour – substances over which we have no control once we take that first compulsive bite – this was definitely my problem. While these particular substances are commonly overeaten by a good number of our membership, the exact food(s), or food behavior(s), which become the object of your particular mental obsession, could well be something entirely different. And yet, even though you may truly want to stop, the commonality is that you, like me – and so many others in the rooms of OA – have no control once you take that first compulsive bite.
For a number of us, we’ve come to recognize that sugar and flour make up the bulk of the foods we turn to for ease and comfort. For varying reasons, we’ve learned to use these foods as a means to avoid, numb out, or escape from any unwanted or painful feelings and emotions. For people like us, these foods become a “fix,” much like a drink or a drug to an alcoholic or addict. This was certainly the case for me whenever I reached for my sugary/doughy/chocolatey junk food – I could NOT stop once I started!
On page xxx (Roman numeral 30), the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous provides some excellent guidance on this very matter. By changing the words “alcoholic” to “compulsive eater” and the word “drink” to “eat” whenever reading from the Big Book, you can apply its teaching to great results. For instance, the following excerpt from this book helped many of us gain a valuable perspective on how to work a Plan of Eating:
“All these, and many others, have one symptom in common: they cannot start <EATING> without developing the phenomenon of craving. This phenomenon, as we have suggested, may be the manifestation of an allergy which differentiates these people, and sets them apart as a distinct entity. It has never been, by any treatment with which we are familiar, permanently eradicated. The only relief we have to suggest is entire abstinence.”
Entire abstinence – what a concept! To actually NOT eat those foods that send us over the edge of sanity and into the realm of physical suffering and emotional misery – how can this be possible when we’ve lost all control?
And yet, if we abstain from the offending substances (our particular forms of “alcohol”), we can change our lives for the better. We know from the experience of our members over the last 60+ years, that with the practice of abstinence, in combination with working the Twelve Steps of OA recovery, there is a solution to our problem of compulsive eating.
Consequently, at the encouragement and instruction of our sponsors, we put these offending foods down on paper, within our Plan of eating. We identify them as “red light” foods – foods we STOP eating. We assign other foods (such as broccoli and chicken – the foods we typically don’t compulsively overeat) as our “green light” foods – the foods we need not abstain from eating. Many of us refer to this list of green light and red light foods as “my food” and “not my food,” providing us with a clear understanding of what we are free to purchase and consume on a daily basis versus what we know to abstain from eating.
Anything listed as a “red light” food, is a food we abstain from eating. Instead of eating these “alcoholic foods,” we focus on working the Twelve Steps of OA recovery with our sponsors, happily discovering (as a result), we have begun to change for the better.
By heeding the suggestions and encouragement of our sponsors and our fellows (I like to refer to the members of OA as my tribe), we end our dependence on human power, seeking, instead, a Higher Power. Moving from self-reliance to reliance on a power greater than myself, I came to discover that the physical cravings and the mental obsession began to subside. In its place, I found a new mental clarity and a freedom from the bondage of self. This is the gift provided by living an abstinent life – freedom from the foods and food behaviors that used to send me into pain, misery, and self-loathing!
My Plan of Eating is simple and works well for me: no sugar, no starches, no chocolate, and no processed foods – and no eating between my three weighed and measured meals. Today, my food is fuel – not a fix! This is my plan and I’m grateful for how well it has served me. Thanks to the Twelve Steps, I now know what it means to experience “food neutrality,” regardless of what others may be eating.
Whatever plan of eating you may choose – whether it’s a plan of three meals a day and nothing in-between; a list of “green-light” foods that you agree to eat in weighed and measured portions; or something else entirely – share this plan with your sponsor, and use it, one day at a time, as an invaluable tool in the Twelve Step recovery from compulsive eating.
By Francine in Willow Glen
What is your Plan of Eating and how has it helped you practice ‘entire abstinence’ for freedom from the obsession to compulsively eat?
Please send your Plan of Eating and story of recovery to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you and to sharing your story of experience, strength, and hope with others on this amazing journey of OA recovery from compulsive eating through the Twelve Steps.