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Food Sober Through the Holidays – 5 Tips

The holidays can be a tough time for many reasons and for those of us that struggle with food, eating and weight issues it can be an absolute night mare. It doesn’t have to be though. Below are 5 tips that can alleviate the “Holiday Crazys”!

  1. Support is KEY! Whether you’re in strong recovery, precarious recovery, relapsing, or still trying to wrap your head around the idea of food addiction and how to confront your food or weight challenges…we cannot do this alone! Many of us can probably look back at our attempts to control our food and/or our weight and agree that ‘doing it alone’ has not been the most successful strategy. Need support before heading over to your in-laws for that big turkey dinner on Christmas Eve? Or feeling stressed about the holiday office party? Is your best friend hosting a holiday cocktail party that you just cannot decline but know it will be filled with appetizers, eggnog and cookies galore? We at ACORN have found sharing our fears, anxieties and stressors with someone else to be a crucial part of recovery and every day life. And doing so could involve any of the following: Going to 12-step recovery meetings, calling a close friend who you can confide in, speaking to a therapist or family member, texting a fellow or friend your thoughts and feelings while at the event, excusing yourself from the dinner table and making an outreach call in the bathroom, texting a fellow or friend your dinner commitment ahead of time…the possibilities are endless! There is strength in numbers!
  2. PLAN AHEAD! When we fail to plan, we plan to fail. Walking into any situation involving food without a plan is walking into treacherous territory when you have a complex history of eating/ weight predicaments. If you are going to a party or dinner… call the host or restaurant ahead of time and ask what is on the menu. Check out the restaurant menu online if possible. Do not be afraid to speak up for your needs. Many restaurants can accommodate special requests if they know about it ahead of time. If this is not possible, bring a dish (or two!) that you know you can eat comfortably! Another strategy is to consider eating a meal prior to going to a party where there will be a lot of food present. You will be satiated and then you can focus on socializing and enjoying the holiday ambiance more than the appetizers and desserts. Or you could bring your prepared dinner with you! Wherever you are in your food journey…putting yourself first in these situations is extremely important. It may be helpful to ask yourself: What is going to put my abstinence, my recovery OR my highest self that I am working towards ahead of anything else? What would it look like if I were putting my needs first?
  3. IT’S OK TO SAY NO! Often our default is to say YES! Have you ever said YES when you really wanted to say NO? At ACORN, we believe healthy boundaries are a very important part of self-care as well as food addiction recovery. If attending a particular event will threaten your abstinence, your sense of well-being, or your emotional stability…here is a gentle reminder that it is okay to decline an invitation. Many times you do not even have to give an explanation! A simple, “I’m so sorry but I am unable to attend. Thank you so much for thinking of me! Happy Holidays!” Is enough! It is easy to over complicate RSVPs when overwhelmed by feelings of fear, anger, or sadness. Less is more! Keep the RSVP short and sweet. And enjoy an activity on the evening of that event that feels loving and gentle to you. 
  4. CREATE AN ALTERNATE EVENT! Try planning a holiday gathering for you, close friends and/ or family that does not involve food and drinking! (This might be hard to imagine…) BUT the possibilities are truly endless…craft nights, bowling, ice skating, attending a live sports game, organizing a ‘Secret Santa’ gift exchange, going for a hike in the park, attending a yoga class, seeing a movie in theaters, visiting a comedy club, getting manicures and pedicures, a meditation class…These are all wonderful ways to spend time with loved ones. And better yet, the focus is not exclusively on holiday cookies, desserts, and warm sugary drinks. 
  5. RE-EVALUATE YOUR VERSION OF SELF CARE! In a season filled with MORE…more gifts, more desserts, more cookies, more parties, more beverages, more family, more friends…it is helpful to take a step back, take a deep breath and remember that these materialistic and external ‘things’ do not necessarily ‘fill us up’ internally. Haven’t many of us spent our lives trying to ‘fill up’ with various external items such as… diets, expensive clothing and shoes, food, food and more food… working excessively, compulsively exercising, compulsively spending, gambling, trying to control others… the list goes on and on? Ask yourself ; did these ever work? Have I ever been truly serene and at ease engaging in this particular activity? What may be a better way to feel content and at ease internally? Often the answer is rather simple…maybe it is spending just 10 minutes a day reading your favorite book? Is it hugging your pet? Is it meditating for just 5 minutes? Telling another person how you are feeling? The holiday season is often categorized by an excess of materialistic things; but self care can take on so many different non-materialistic forms. Less is very often MORE! What helps you feel calm and serene inside?

Is your recovery shaky? Join us to start 2019 on solid ground!

$525 Savings! Reduced for the holidays.
Start 2019 right by joining us for a special Holiday “3-Days with ACORN” in sunny Bradenton, Florida

Are you tired of food controlling your life? Do you want 2019 to be about more than food obsession? If so register for this event. The focus will be on food sobriety and recovery”

There will be two process groups daily led by world renowned food addiction expert Phil Werdell. The three days will take place in a cozy residential home where people are welcome to stay for a small additional cost. The home is sugar and flour free and has a great community kitchen for people to prepare their meals.

3-Days with ACORN

Who: This event is for ACORN alumni to maintain and strengthen recovery.

When: December 28 – 30, 2018
Friday, Saturday and Sunday: 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. daily

Where: Sugar Free Place
3018 Pine Street
Bradenton, FL 34208

Lodging: Lodging is available at Sugar Free Place for $45 per night. Please note, rooms will be shared with other participants and may be on the 2nd floor.

Meals: Meals are participant’s responsibility. You may bring prepared meals or purchase groceries upon arrival. Participants may elect to organize meals with other participants.

Fun: Evenings will be optional – local meetings, movies and fun. One night Phil may read his current First Step.

Cost: $975 – $525 Savings! Reduced for the holidays.

Register: Call the ACORN office to register for this event. 941-378-2122

We look forward to seeing you and sharing recovery with you! 

Kate from TV show This Is Us…do you relate to her?? If so you probably want to register for our upcoming program.

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Is the 3 Day program right for me? This is a great question. And just to be annoying, I am going to answer this with another question (actually a couple of questions)….Do you now or have you in the past struggled with being unable to stop eating? Do you eat when you are emotional? Does your eating or weight have negative consequences on your life? If you answered yes to any of these and you want 2019 to be different then YES this 3 day program is for you.

One more question, do you relate to Kate on the TV show This Is Us? I remember watching the very first episode in season 1, within the first 5 minutes we are introduced to Kate, an obese woman just about to turn 36 years old. The scene takes place with her standing in the kitchen looking in the refrigerator. She opens up the fridge and there are several yellow sticky notes on different food items. One is stuck to what looks like sugary treat foods and it says, “Bad’ another stuck to a plastic tub of pineapple says “250 calories”, another attached to take out food containers says, “throw this crap out” and yet another stuck to a birthday cake says, “Do not dare eat this cake before your party, Kate. Love Kate”. Kate then rips this last note off the cake and underneath is another note, it reads, “Seriously, what is wrong with you?” A bit later in the episode Kate is sitting in her bathroom on the floor with her twin brother, she is crying, she says, “how did I get here”, “what happened to my life, I feel like I ate my dream life away”. She looks at her brother and says, “tell me to quit feeling sorry for myself and to lose the damn weight”. Kate says this last statement to herself firmly, loudly and with conviction, “I am going to lose the damn weight”. Flash to next scene Kate is at a weight loss support group convinced this is it, she will now lose the weight. And she means it with everything she has. Sadly, in episode 2 you see Kate hiding empty junk food containers in the garbage, she is eating again.

This whole scenario really hit home with me. At the time I first watched it I was abstinent and had lost over 100 pounds. However, it was still painful for me as I had spent so many of my years being Kate, doing exactly what Kate was doing. Trying desperately to gain “control” of my weight and eating issues and every single time I failed and then beat myself up, asking myself “what is wrong with me?” Do you relate to Kate? If you do you may be food dependent and need more than just another diet and exercise plan.

I was so grateful when I realized it wasn’t my fault yet it was my responsibility once I knew what the solution was. The solution is physical, mental and spiritual…I need a personal food plan that deals with the specific food ingredients I am addicted to. I need tools to deal with my feelings and not eat over them. I need the support of others, I cannot do this alone. At ACORN’s upcoming event we will take a look at all of these and ensure you leave with a plan specific to you and your needs including aftercare support.




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What do the Holidays mean to you?

 The holiday season is certainly upon us!! Holiday music is blaring, stores are bustling, roads are busy, lights are twinkling and chocolate is EVERYWHERE!! I say that very dramatically. However, thank you Universe, chocolate is not speaking to me at all this year. Wow, what a huge gift that is.

Recently, I have been thinking about what the holidays really mean to me…and the truth is, I really don’t know. Holidays were always a “food extravaganza” for me and, therefore, I LOVED it!! I couldn’t wait for the holiday season to come.

So I have been surprised and saddened in recent years to find that the thrill and excitement are no longer there. The loss of these “happy” feelings came at the same time I became abstinent; hence, the holidays were no longer about food and eating.

My first abstinent holiday was OK. It was a little boring and lackluster but I was pretty thrilled with the changes both physically and mentally that had happened in my life (I was just shy of 12 months of abstinence). That was still quite exciting and thrilling and I made it through pretty well.

Then along came year two…this was tougher. The honeymoon was over. I was restless, irritable, and discontent, and I HATED everyone in my family that still thought the holidays were about indulging. Didn’t they know I was not doing that anymore and therefore none of them should?! Clearly, they had not received my memo. My expectations were drastically unmet…and it was all their fault…HUMPH!

Year three I was going to show them and stay away for the holidays. I spent them in Florida. It was actually a lovely day that started with a 12 Step meeting on the beach and finished with an abstinent dinner with friends in recovery.

Which brings me to this year where I am still asking myself what the holidays mean to me? Now that it no longer includes indulging in food, alcohol, shopping and all around gluttony, I am left with this big unknown.  I am home in Vancouver this holiday season and working to create a new image of the holidays. So far what I have come up with is pretty simple, the holidays are:

  • Just like any other day in that my recovery and abstinence will come first.
  • A day I will weigh and measure all of my meals following my food plan.
  • A day I will get up and the first thing I will do is pray and meditate.
  • A time of beautiful, twinkling lights and sparkling candles.
  • A time I can spend with family and friends, if I choose to. (Choose is a big word for me here as I don’t have to do what I have always done. This will take courage as I get stuck in the “I will miss out if I don’t do EVERYTHING.”)
  • A time I can choose to buy gifts for people in my life. (Again, choose is the operative word here. I don’t want to consume just to consume. This is also very hard for me to do.)
  • A time I can play Catch Phrase with my nieces and nephews and laugh hysterically when my Mom and Aunt join in. (I promise that we laugh with them, not at them.)
  • A time I can get quiet and present and reflect over the previous year.
  • A day I will practice Steps 10, 11 & 12 throughout the day.
  • A day I will end with prayer, meditation and gratitude.

So, what I am really saying is that on my holiday I will get up, show up and God willing, go to bed abstinent. And I pray for the same for all of you!

Wishing everyone a holiday season full of abstinence and inner peace,

PS I would love to hear what this time of year means to you!


Are you Codependent? What is Codependency?

Are you Codependent? What is Codependency?

Both great questions and really worth answering as codependent behaviors are among the top reasons why people relapse.

Here are 15 questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do I have difficulties identifying what I am feeling?
  2. Do I believe I can take care of myself without help from others?
  3. Do I express negativity in indirect or passive ways?
  4. Do I judge what I think, say or do harshly and as never good enough?
  5. Am I unable to identify and ask for what I need and want?
  6. Am I extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long?
  7. Do I put aside my own interests in order to do what others want?
  8. Am I afraid to express my opinions and feelings when they differ from others?
  9. Do I freely offer advice and direction without being asked?
  10. Do I refuse to give up my self will to avoid surrendering to a power greater than myself?
  11. Do I suppress my feelings or needs to avoid feeling vulnerable?
  12. Do I mask pain in ways such as anger, humor or isolation?
  13. Do I seek recognition and praise to overcome feeling less than?
  14. Do I believe others are incapable of taking care of themselves?
  15. Do I adopt an attitude of indifference, helplessness, authority or rage to manipulate outcomes?

If you answered yes to 3 or more of these there is a good chance that Codependency is part of your life and could be a stumbling block to achieving the recovery and freedom you deserve.

If you answered yes to 3 or more of these questions, then a great gift to give yourself would be to register for our upcoming Alumni Weekend, Codependency & Food Addiction 101

How do I know if I am addicted? Emily’s Story

I just celebrated 30 days of abstinence..
My name is Emily and I am a 24-year-old food addict. I have tried to control my weight for as long as I can remember. In high school I went on diets periodically but could never stick to any of them. Nonetheless, I obsessed constantly about the size of my jeans, how flat my stomach was, and always compared my body to other women. I went away to college when I was 18. I spent my freshman year starving myself, exercising compulsively, and taking laxatives until I withered away to a mere 102 pounds. At 5’9” this put me at a dangerously low BMI. When this period of restriction inevitably ended 6 months later, I began binging at every meal. At the beginning, I knew this binging was from the months of starvation but once my weight was restored to a healthy level the binging did not stop.

My remaining years at college were filled with intense alcohol and drug abuse about five times per week as well as frequent binging. Each summer I came home from college to live with my parents and I would begin a diet to try and lose the weight I packed on from my hardcore partying and binging. I did Weight Watchers, juice cleanses, shots of apple cider vinegar, the Paleo diet, abused laxatives, used my FitBit to obsessively count steps and track my workouts, chewed gum incessantly, trained for a marathon, counted calories and everything in between. I would then return to college and gain all of the weight back. It was between 25-35 pounds that my weight yo-yoed up and down. This happened too many times to count. I remember thinking to myself “I am going to be this way for the rest of my life. Always ‘on’ a diet or ‘off’ a diet.” There was nothing in between and I felt hopeless.

After college I got sober from alcohol and drugs which I am so beyond grateful for. I hit my bottom with these substances the summer of 2016. I celebrated two years sober on July 3, 2018. I thought getting sober would solve my “issue” with food. But it only accelerated from this point forward. I kept binging periodically and then exercising compulsively to compensate for the excess calories. Eventually the binging frequency picked up even more and I lost the willingness to continue with the exercise bulimia. I had seen countless nutritionists and one of them recommended that I attend a 12-step fellowship for help with my food issues. I went to my first meeting May 6, 2017 and knew I was home. I got a sponsor and started working the program. But I was treating it like a diet club. I still binged. I saw multiple different nutritionists throughout NYC trying to find the perfect food plan to stop these binges and relieve me of my constant obsession with food.

I tried low sugar plans, low carb plans, vegan plans, intuitive eating plans (eating all foods in moderation), only measuring my grains but giving myself unlimited vegetables, eyeballing all portions, not measuring anything… and I just kept binging. It had been over a year in the rooms of this 12-step fellowship and I was beyond frustrated. Why couldn’t I get abstinent? My life was falling apart. My binges plunged me into a deep depression. I was suicidal, utterly hopeless, demoralized and desperate. I was unable to leave my bed for days at a time when I binged. I “kept coming back” to meetings as they say to. I saw therapists and tried group therapy. But I kept picking up the food. Many times I considered going away to eating disorder treatment facilities but never committed to one because they all were of the philosophy that I should learn to eat “all foods in moderation”. But I had tried that for years. I knew it didn’t work for me. What was wrong with me? It was only until I met my current sponsor who planted the seed in my head that I might be a food addict. She encouraged me to look into ACORN Food Dependency Recovery Services. I ended up taking a medical leave of absence from my finance job in NYC. I couldn’t show up to work with my active food addiction. I was falling asleep at my desk, missing meetings, and binging at work. The food was taking over my life.

I attended my first ACORN 5-day Primary Intensive in San Diego, CA at the end of September 2018 and my life has changed dramatically since. I now understand that my food addiction is a disease of the mind and the body. My addiction has wrecked relationships, seduced me into secrecy and dishonesty, and taken me deeper into depression than I ever thought possible; but it isn’t my fault. I am powerless over food. I have an “allergy of the body” as well as an “obsession of the mind” as the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous states. It is no different than my addiction to alcohol and drugs. When I begin eating certain foods and ingredients I cannot stop (this is the allergy of the body) and I perpetually obsess about food (this is the mental obsession). Although I appear to be a “normal” weight, the disease centers in my mind. If weight were my problem, the hundreds of diets that I tried previously would have worked. ACORN helped me understand this and helped rid me of the guilt and shame I used to carry thinking that my eating behaviors and deceptive thinking were all my fault.

Today, I weigh and measure my food without exception in accordance with my food plan. This solves the “allergy of the body” problem because I am not ingesting any of my allergic substances. I am physically abstinent from the phenomenon of craving by doing so. I am working the 12-steps with my incredible sponsor that God blessed me with. By doing so I am working towards the psychic change needed to relieve me of my “mental obsession”. Through this practice I am learning to arrest my disease one day at a time with the help of my Higher Power. Being abstinent is the most important part my life today without exception. Without abstinence I will die. ACORN helped me comprehend the seriousness and severity of this disease. I have since attended a second 5-day Primary Intensive as well as a 6-day Living in Recovery Event in Bradenton, Florida. I plan on attending another Primary Intensive at the end of November in Vancouver, BC. I just celebrated 30 days of abstinence which is the longest stretch of abstinence I have ever had since entering the 12-step fellowship rooms over a year ago. ACORN has changed my life as well as my recovery forever. Each day I am seeing how I can truly live free from an addiction that I feared would consume me forever. Thank you, ACORN for helping me realize that none of this is my fault and there IS a solution. You have saved my life. 

– Emily S, Brooklyn, NY