Help for the Newcomer
For the person wanting to get abstinent without yet finding a sponsor or an accountability group, I hope to share some insights that might help and encourage you.
In Full of Faith, God and abstinence (as described in the recovery tools) are the most important things without exception. We plan what we eat and we eat what we plan. For the beginner in food addiction recovery, there is a suggested food plan. It is three meals and a metabolic adjustment (a smaller meal). There are some options for portion sizes. If you want to lose weight, decide on the lower amounts. Please note that we do not eat flour (this includes grain flours, nut flours, and bean flours), sugar and other sweeteners (natural or artificial), alcohol, snack foods (roasted nuts, popcorn or processed grains) and dried fruit, and we weigh and measure all our food on a food scale or using measuring cups and spoons. We don't eat extra anything (even abstinent food), no bites, licks or tastes.
For accountability, while trying to find a sponsor, we have a small group/thread in the Full of Faith Accountability group called "In Need of a Sponsor Group" (look for a graphic of a smiling face on a plate). People post their food there and one of our leaders is assigned to monitor the group each day to offer help and guidance.
Outside everyday eating, we think in advance to have plans in place for exceptional circumstances. When dining at a restaurant or at a social event, it is best to scope the scene beforehand by checking the menu on-line or calling to ask specific questions to be sure that your needs will be met. When we go to restaurants, we make a plan that will keep us close to our basic commitment, being 100% honest. We look for plain, pan-fried, grilled or roasted meats or fish with plain vegetables, baked potatoes and/or salad. We stay away from French fries, sauces, gravies. For me, I order broiled steak or fish without the crumbs, baked potato, steamed vegetables and a salad. I eyeball the steak or fish to the size of a deck of cards, and I cut a big baked potato in half (aiming for the visual of 1/2 cup/4 oz portion). For my fat, I use a dollop of butter (to equal one tablespoon), and I use vinegar on my salad (no oil or salad dressing), although I could choose to use oil instead of the butter. Those choices are personal. (A tablespoon is 3 teaspoons.)
The bottom line for everyone is not to eat sugar, flour or sweeteners no matter what and to keep the portion sizes close to normal. (For the record, most salad dressings and condiments contain some form of sugar.) For social events, it is best to call ahead to see what will be available so that you can plan how you will cope before you enter the room. It is usually wise to take back-up food with you even if it appears that there are good options. Sometimes amounts are skimpy. We don't want to feel deprived. It's a set up for failure.
There will be times when circumstances arise and you will need to change what you have planned. For emergency dining (those times when you thought you'd be home, but aren't), you could eat at a fast-food chain being careful to order with a plan in mind. For me, I order a burger (without the bun), a salad (dry) and a baked potato (if I am at a Wendy's), using butter as the fat for the meal. Since my salad is minimal, I would eat 3/4 of the potato. Again, if you are opting for a salad dressing instead of butter, always check the labels. If I cannot get a potato, then I buy a fruit for the meal. Fries or potato puffs are not an option for us. It is important to always tell someone what you are doing and why. It's the motive that matters.
Getting sick, and therefore unable to eat normally, causes us to change our intended plan for the day. For me, I have two choices as my back-up plans. One is having breakfast again for lunch or dinner or I could have a simple homemade vegetable and chicken/fish soup that is easy to prepare and gentle on the stomach. Having a plan for these exceptions is what matters most. We don't want to rationalize and justify our "need" to eat off plan. Having these back-up plans in place assures that we will be abstinent no matter what happens. Again, when this happens, we tell another food addict, so that we are not alone in any decision.
Another challenge are those times when we go to get something that we had planned to eat only to find out that it has spoiled or has disappeared because a family member ate it. In those cases, we make equal exchanges, but with the 100% honest approach, we tell someone. You can write on the accountability group, text or call a fellow member. We don't keep any secrets about our food. When I set out on a new day, I think of all the possibilities, and I either bring food with me or I know what I will do in different situations. I often carry my metabolic adjustment (could be referred to as a "snack") for those times when I need to rearrange the order of my meals. This may all sound complicated, but planning is essential. I have heard, "the person who fails to plan, plans to fail."
Now to the living-life part of the program. Whenever temptations plague us (as they will), there are things we do to help us make it through the thoughts/wants/feelings for more food. We often compare these action steps to instruments in a tool box. They equip us in building a strong foundation. The cornerstone is Jesus.
Communication with God and other members is first and foremost. We communicate with our fellow members by phone calls, texts, emails or personal messages. We share how we are feeling and/or ask how fellow food addicts survive from meal to meal.
Going to the phone meetings keeps us connected. Members share their experience, strength and hope, and even their struggles.
Reading the Life Recovery Bible, The Big Book (Alcoholics Anonymous), Sweet Surrender can all help us to understand the intricacies of recovery from anything that draws us out of God's will and purpose. It is the truth that sets us free (the process of realization, acceptance and surrender).
Writing on the Facebook group pages, journaling our feelings and participating in one of the step studies are good ways to replace our food thoughts. Food never fixes a problem or a feeling. Peer pressure can seem unbearable at times, but we need to dispel the myth that we are normal when it comes to food. We are "normal" in these rooms.
All the tools are part of an action plan. Committing a food plan each day, showing up on the groups and/or at a meeting, making phone calls, praying for others in the group are involved in making a choice to stay abstinent (following our food plans no matter what is happening in our circumstances or how we feel.)
Finally working the 12 steps is vital. Abstinence is the zero step. Steps 1-12 are the life-changing process of transformation/restoration. In my head and heart, the first three steps are "I cannot control my eating; my life is a mess (Step One), God and people who have gone before me can help me (Step Two). I will let them (Step Three)." Here's the prayer that I memorized on my first day of abstinence:
The Third Step Prayer
from page 63 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Copyright © Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.
My mantra has carried me through many storms...use as needed..."My food is my food. Everything else is not my food. It is not an option to overeat NO MATTER WHAT is happening in my circumstances or how I feel. Period. End of food thought. Love and service keeps me dry." Love and service is doing whatever I need to do to stay free and clean.
We apply all these principles "Just for today". We don't worry about tomorrow, our birthday, the next holiday or vacation.
"So don't be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow, too. Live one day at a time." Matt 6:33 TLB
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