After spending some time introducing myself to a new acquaintance yesterday I realized it had been some time since I had written in my online recovery journal, and it could use some reintroduction. So allow me to reintroduce myself.
My name is TL, and I am recovering from compulsive overeating. I have been freed from a body weight of 320 pounds and now maintain a healthy 185. I lost 150 pounds in fourteen months initially, and was told by my doctor I had lost too much and needed to put on a little weight. I had been hypertensive; now I am free of my blood pressure medicine and have bouts of low blood pressure, which I’ve been told is normal while my body adjusts. I struggled with severe gastro-esophageal reflux disease; but now my eating habits and God’s providence have kept that in check. I had nearly constant joint pain; now I have begun a running exercise regimen – something I never thought I would do, let alone enjoy. My family had pretty much disowned me, and my brother had actually forbade me from seeing his children; now I am the one the family comes to for encouragement, advice, and support. Even my grown kids, who had fled the house to get away from me have either moved back in and enjoy relationship with me, or seek me out at every available opportunity. My wife has even enjoyed some of the benefits of recovery, though it is hardest at home. She has gone from daily considering why she ever vowed to spend her life with me to a grateful and (mostly) happy co-union of marriage.
I met my first sponsor my first week of abstinence, when I knew nothing more about abstinence than, “We practice abstinence by refraining from eating between meals and from all individual binge foods.” That’s how simple it was for me in the beginning and how simple it can be for you too. Abstinence is key. Our plans of eating and action just keep us as far away from those forbidden fruits as possible given our willingness. One piece of advice that I got when I first started is to record everything I eat. I do that and publish it online to stay accountable: here with LiveStrong’s MyPlate application. There are several others that work just as well.
“The insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to die.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 66)
I like to imagine the things on my abstinence list (cakes, candies, cookies, sweets, ice cream, nachos, eating directly from the container, eating between meals) as a molten lava pit. Abstinence is simply a list of what and how we will not eat. As I form my plan of eating, I march a wide path around the mouth of that volcano. If I say, as some have unsuccessfully tried, that my PoE will be merely to stay abstinent, then I have blazed a path on the fragile lip of the narrow edge of the mouth of that volcano. One slip and it’s game over – a tumble into relapse which, for me, is death. Because I do not wish to die, I develop a plan of eating that keeps my path far from the mouth of that volcano. If I am not allowed cake, then I do not go around thinking, “As long as it’s not cake, it’s okay.” I research healthy eating and plan my choices based on that research. If nutritionists, cardiologists, dieticians, and cancer researchers all agree that salmon, sweet potatoes, raw almonds, Romaine lettuce, blueberries, bananas, unprocessed whole grains, and other superfoods are the best fuel for a human body, then I take that as a notice from my Higher Power that is what I’m supposed to eat. Then I add the proper portions according to my calorie goals, spread them out over the proper time table, and I have a plan of eating. A plan of eating is not just a food plan. A food plan is a grocery list that says what we will eat. A plan of eating has amounts and times; it tells how much and when we will eat. The great news is that when I plan to eat according to this super-healthy plan and slip a little, say because I am out of broccoli and have to substitute green beans, I don’t fall directly into the molten lava of Candyland, forced to give up my service positions, start over with a white chip of surrender and do it all over again. I just pray to my Provider, “Lord, You have given me all I have, and I am grateful for this fuel You have provided. Please make it enough to last until Our next meal together. Thank You for abstinence, renewal, and abundant life!”
It takes a little work to make this happen. I have to spend some time chopping vegetables and boiling beans. I pre-package things so I can eat them on the run. I always carry a spare meal of canned goods with me in case I get stuck away from healthy options, and I replenish that meal quickly once I eat it, so that I am not without an option for the next day. I also carry a partial bag of raw almonds and a measuring cup that serve as a substitute or augment a meal that doesn’t meet standards when eating out. I have to plan my meals, and that takes work. This action is something I consider investment in my health. This action plan works with my plan of eating as tools to build for me the abstinence I choose. I can’t build a structure without tools, but the tools aren’t the structure.
For more about my plan, check this out.
I celebrate progress. No one can lose a hundred pounds. No one has the power to say to even one pound, “Get off me!” We can, however, put down a fork. We can choose to wait until mealtime to eat, and we can eat that meal God would have us eat rather than what we feel like eating. If we continue to do that, “we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”* That’s the power of “keep coming back.”
I hope you find the joy of recovery as you seek to gain your freedom from food obsession.
* Reference to Galatians 6:9