Understanding Powerlessness – Step 1 – Abstinence VS Food Plan (July 2008 Newsletter)

Sometimes I feel so confused about the words abstinence and food plan that are thrown around OA.  People treat them like they are the same thing.   I know this program is supposed to be simple but I find it rarely is because we make it more complex than it needs to be. I am on a mission to get and bring clarity with some of the terms I hear at meetings, and what they mean. Of course these are my definition, so I encourage you to find your own clarity using approved AA or OA literature.

What is the difference between abstinence and a food plan?

We practice abstinence from compulsive overeating.  My food plan, then, is a tool I use to get, and maintain abstinence.

There are times in my program when life happens, and I am not able to eat my planned meal. For example, as I am reaching for my lunch bag I realize that I left it on my counter at home. Well, my food plan changes because I need to buy lunch. I always try to get something close to what I planned but it does not always work out.  In this case I did not follow my food plan but I did not overeat so my abstinence is good.

My office likes to celebrate and have food days every so often. I will bring something that I can eat; I plan what my meal will look like. I have a personal rule in situations like this where I will have a small plate and one serving only and will not eat my trigger foods. One such food day, I ate my planned meal then about an hour after I finished eating, I grabbed a couple carrots. Carrots are not a trigger for me, but I do not eat between meals. I was simply not being mindful and in went the food.   I broke my abstinence.

I have heard it argued that because the food was not a trigger, or because it was only 1 or 2, then it was not a binge.  Then it not a slip/break in abstinence.

I understand compulsion to mean an inability to resist. In eating those carrots, I exhibited just that. I was not hungry.  No one was forcing me to eat them.

I am different from “normal” eaters.  I cannot be unmindful when I eat.  Because I am an addict, those two carrots will turn into four.  Then I give myself permission to do it every day.  And one day the moment will come when carrots are not available and I am looking for a substitute.  My illness will give me permission to substitute carrots with chocolate. 

I accept Step One.  I am powerless over food. This means I accept the definition of abstinence laid out in the dictionary and by OA World Service, even though it is not an easy pill to swallow. The easier softer way I used to follow had me eating from morning till bedtime, hating myself, and miserable to be around. Being abstinent I eat my meals, am learning to like myself, and have serenity. Not the easiest choice to make, but I think I will follow the 12 Steps and the path to long term abstinence.