Compulsive behavior with food is not a moral issue, a psychological problem, or a matter of willpower. While moral understanding, therapy, and persistence have helped some of our members’ recovery somewhat, they have not been enough for any of us in FCA.
Addiction is not something to be ashamed of. It is a disease, no more shameful than Multiple Sclerosis.
For those of us in FCA, the most successful treatment for food addiction is the Twelve steps of Food Compulsions Anonymous.
For many compulsive eaters, part of the disease is denial. Here are examples:
1) “I don’t want to be rigid with my food. So I let myself eat sugar now and then.” We are the last to deny what works for other people. We only speak for ouselves. For us, the issue is not rigidity. One principle on which FCA is founded is that sugar and refined carbohydrates are addictive substances. Imbibing them triggered our compulsions, whether we were overeaters, anorexics, or other. For example, we’d be impelled to eat harmful quantities of sugary foods. Or it triggered binging on other foods—even healthy foods—either immediately or eventually. Or it fed our anorexia.
Sugar addicts can no more afford occasional sugar—or refined carbs—than a recovered heroine addict can afford occasional heroin. For us, taking an addictive substance eventually leads back to full-blown addiction. In our case, the idea of avoiding rigidity is like insisting freedom requires drinking arsenic.
2) “I don’t want to beat myself up for eating something I shouldn’t.” That statement falls apart upon examination, because it usually leads to beating yourself up even worse, over and over, in the sense of continuing self-destructive food behavior. Admitting a relapse does not require shaming yourself or any other self-abuse. Since compulsive food behavior is a disease—not a moral failing or sign of weakness—admitting a relapse simply means facing the reality that you have a disease. You need feel no more shame about it than you would if you acknowledged you had the flu. That admittance is the first step of the treatment you need and deserve.
If you do feel shame about a relapse, be aware that denial about relapse and your disease will not heal shame; denial only buries it.
When we admit to a relapse, we can learn from it. If we cling to the typical addict’s self-deception by insisting, even to oneself, that one never make mistakes, there’s no room for improvement. We are left hopeless about ever recovering.
3) “It’s too hard to change my compulsive eating. After all, I have to deal with food over and over every day.” If we get addictive foods out of our system, we do not have to deal with them every day. Healthy eating can begin.
Those are only a few examples of denial. If you are like us, you are a master at making up excuses to eat in self-destructive ways, and refusing to see how deeply your food compulsions hurt you in all areas of your life.
But many of us recovered when we moved past denial to admit the reality of our problem: Our addiction to sugar and refined carbs (and possibly to other foods) triggered destructive food behavior, and we could control neither the behavior nor the addiction. That admission made some of us feel hopeless but, surprisingly, honestly facing our problem was the beginning of hope. FCA’s first step of recovery is “We admitted we were powerless over sugar, refined carbohydrates, and other addictive foods—that our lives had become unmanageable.”
So if you think, “It’s too hard to change my compulsive eating. I guess I’ll stop trying,” our answer is, “Yes, it was too hard for us, too. But knowing that was, paradoxically, the first step of recovery.”
If it seems impossible to overcome your problems with food, you landed on the right web page.
Again, many compulsive eaters have not found recovery despite their sound moral beliefs, endless therapy, and strong will. Come to a meeting to learn more about the disease of food compulsion, denial, and the first step. There is a solution.
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