‪Do the Twelve Steps Cure Food Disorders? ‬

Do the twelve steps work for people with food disorders? Lily Joy, a member of Food Compulsions Anonymous. shares her thoughts about this question. (If you don’t know what the twelve steps are, click here: ‬https://foodcompulsions.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/the-twelve-steps/)‪

‪While not the answer for everyone, the twelve steps have saved many individuals from the hell of compulsive overeating, anorexia, bulimia, and other food disorders. Yet misconceptions about the relevance of the twelve steps to eating problems can keep folks who desire recovery from even trying the twelve-steps.‬

‪Here are three common misconceptions about the twelve steps in relation to food disorders:‬

Misconception 1) ‬Alcoholics can just stop drinking, but food addicts can’t stop eating. They face food three times a day, which makes recovery impossible.

Alcoholics in recovery don’t stop drinking. They stop drinking alcohol. They continue to drink water, juice, coffee, or other nonalcoholic beverages. In the same vein, some people with food disorders need to stop eating certain foods, if they want recovery.

Many food addicts are addicted to sugar, refined carbohydrates, and certain other foods, the same way alcoholics are addicted to alcohol. Once those individuals get such foods out of their systems, those substances no longer chemically trigger them to overeat those foods, binge on healthy foods, purge, or otherwise go down the rabbit hole of addiction.

And, just as a single alcoholic beverage can trigger, in an alcoholic, an irresistible urge to drink too much, so just a bit of certain foods can trigger, in the food addict, the compulsion to act out self-destructive eating patterns.

(Get support detoxing. I’ve heard sugar can be harder to detox from than cocaine. I hallucinated when I stopped eating sugar. That leads me to believe that other extreme reactions might be possible and require medical support.)

I must add: even when addictive foods are out of your system, the compulsion to overeat healthy foods to a truly self-destructive extent might remain, at least to some degree. After detox, overeating and undereating can continue as addictions unto themselves. This was true for me. (I’m both a compulsive overeater and an anorexic. I’d swing between the two extremes.) Nevertheless, once certain foods were out of my system, application of the twelve steps took care of the rest, to an incredible degree.

Misconception 2) “The twelve steps can’t help me because I‬ need to overcome the emotional reasons I eat too much” (or undereat, etc.).

The twelve-step paradigm came about because psychology rarely cured alcoholism. Sometimes, psychological treatment cures addiction. Certain individuals find using therapy and the twelve steps to be the most effective approach. Other people find the twelve steps to be enough on their own.

The twelve-step paradigm isn’t a psychological methodology. It is a spiritual—not religious—system that links you to a spiritual strength that overcomes your addiction.

When psychological counseling for the emotional underpinnings of self-abusive food patterns doesn’t stop them, or doesn’t stop them sufficiently, the twelve steps might be the better resource or an additional aid.

Please note: if you feel low self esteem or other psychological problems cause your unhealthy behavior with food, you know yourself best and should seek the style of treatment you are drawn to. Every person is different, and I’m sharing based on my experiences, which are 1) my own low self-esteem could not be addressed until I had worked the 12 steps 2) I’ve seen some individuals suffer for years, trying to overcome psychological blocks they felt underpinned their food disorders, only to find freedom from food nightmares when they finally focused on the 12 steps.

Misconception 3) Relying on a twelve-step group is just switching your addiction from food to people.‬

Support from a ‪twelve‬-step group doesn’t cause the tragedies that addiction does. Instead, a ‪twelve‬-step group helps one lead a happy, productive life.

A diabetic taking necessary medicine is not addictive behavior, no matter how long that medicine is needed. Coping with the enormity of an eating disorder can require support. Even years after sane eating patterns are established, there might be times when they’re difficult to maintain. Help might be essential. Receiving support is like taking medicine—a far cry from addiction.

‬Please come to our meeting to learn more about ‪how the twelve steps helped us overcome food disorder‬s. Here’s our meetings schedule: https://foodcompulsions.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/meetings/. ‪

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