Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Compulsive Eaters, A Question

I have a question.

Through AA, I've sponsored many alcoholics, taking them through the process of the Twelve Steps but haven't really attended OA meetings or gotten into food abstinence.

An OA member, Jean, recently asked me to help her through the Twelve Steps, and she does practice abstinence, refraining from sugar, white flour, etc.

I'm kind of on the fence about the "allergy" to these foods. Yes, there were times in my life where one bagel lead to 12, a slice of pizza became a pie and there wasn't any amount of cake that would or could ever satisfy me. Yet, that's not the case now. I can eat moderate amounts of whatever I want and what I want these days is a lot healthier then i ever craved in the days of compulsive eating, anorexia and bulimia.

As I go through the Twelve Steps with Jean, I honor the path she's chosen (she commits her food/abstinence plan to a Food Sponsor), but i wonder if i truly get behind the concept.

Jean misses the foods she denies herself, and has ended up binging on them after a solid period of not indulging. In my own life, deprivation ALWAYS lead to binging.

What do you guys think?


  1. Unless you are medically allergic in the 'it stops me from being able to breath' or 'lactose gives me serious diarrohea' sense, I think it's a really bad idea to avoid a food group in it's totality. Endless temptation is no way to live, and also not possible in the long term.

    This made me think, because although I no longer avoid types of food, I'm still vegetarian. I've never eaten meat and I've never wanted to eat meat though. (Vegetarian since birth. Thanks Mum!) However, I do eat products which contain geletain such as Marshmellows.

    I remember reading about a study where they collected people who claimed to get a reaction to sugar, plus a control group. They then fed half of them sugar free jelly and half of them the regular sort. Those who claimed to get a reaction to sugar had no idea which jelly they'd eaten. Make of this what you will.

  2. It call comes down to exorphins verses endorphins. Foods that provide exorphins flood our brains with them, and we are not comfortable with the few endorphins we produce. We need to become accustom to living with the few endorphins we produce. The only way is to be totally abstinent (or very low) of foods containing exorphins. I will do a post on my blog soon about this very issue. http://oathursdaynightgroup.blogspot.ca/

  3. Alice; I agree with you. I have no interest in cutting out a food group. but i do know people who swear it's THE thing that keeps them from eating compulsively. i know that when i eat a potato chip, i probably think more about more potato chips than when i eat celery. but it's not that big a deal, and i'm not giving up anything!

    FredT; i'll read your blog to learn more. still, i know that when i deprive myself of something, i'm more likely to think about it. and if i do then allow myself a little, i want more and more. as i deny myself nothing now, i'm satisfied with a small portion. but i'm really on the fence here. look forward to learning more. thanks.

  4. While never diagnoised with compulsive eating, I did engage in some similar issues when I was recovering from anorexia and I think I agree with you. Though I was always outpatient, my therapist told me that in Ireland, in treatment the only allergy that they believe in is peanut or fish allergies for the first few weeks, and if they themselves believe that you have a legitimate allergy, then they will make up a meal plan for you. This is done because often we tell ourselves we are allergic to something, or tell ourselves that we do not enjoy something because we are frightened of how much we DO like it, or out of control we feel around it.
    However, I think that as long as it is not a long-term thing, I think that it can be a good thing if, after you are more balanced in terms of food, you can reintroduce the food, and learn to deal with the emotions then.
    This deprivation is only serving to increase the thoughts that this food is bad, as the deprivation leads to bingeing!
    Sorry for the long-winded comment, it was just something that really touched a nerve with me.

  5. falafelwaffle; thanks for writing. i agree that a food plan can be really good, particularly in the early days of recovery. and reintroducing foods along the way makes good sense.

    i'm still confused, as people i respect a great deal fall out differently about the wheat, sugar, flour allergy.

    i'm going to do more research. and then, i guess, as i usually do, follow my gut...er. instincts.

  6. You are such a wonderful person! And I commend you for helping people who are inflicted with this kind of condition. They are going through a difficult time, and your support is a big help to them. I do agree with one commenter here about food planning. Sudden aversion or deprivation of food might lead to a more serious case of binge-eating. A food plan will definitely help in decreasing the amount of food intake in a slow and steady manner.

  7. It's terrific that you're taking the time to do the Steps with anyone. OA doesn't have an official food plan but there is heavy (OK, maybe the pun is sort of intended) evidence that foods high in sugar/fat/salt ARE as addictive as alcohol or drugs & in exactly the same way. Two brand new books are out that give ample evidence of this -- a text for professionals called FOOD AND ADDICTION: A COMPREHENSIVE HANDBOOK (Oxford University Press, edited by Kelly D. Brownwell & Mark S. Gold) & Pam Peeke, MD's THE HUNGER FIX: THRE THREE-STAGE DETOX AND RECOVERY PLAN FOR OVEREATING AND FOOD ADDICTION, which combines why with some terrific advice on how.

    As with any addiction, the danger of abstention is that the disease waits in the wings getting stronger. But the longer anyone is abstinent -- and the better their spirits (that's the Steps!) and coping skills become -- the easier it is to stay on the path.

    All of which is to say nothing, insofar as OA doesn't require anything but the desire to stop overeating. Period.

    Bless you both & bless us all.

  8. Eunice Jackson; thank you so much for writing. And thank you for your kind words. I just want to pass along all the knowledge, wisdom and support that was and continues to be given to me.

    i really believe in food plans -- they lend safety, clarity and discipline.

    Frances Kuffel; YOU are such a part of my recovery. i saw you speak my first day of work at the 92nd Street Y, and i knew i had joined the right place! that day was the first time i learned what OA was about. it took me a couple more years to get myself to the 12 Steps, initially for alcohol.

    Thank you for writing and the book recommendations. I'm eager to read and learn.