Turn The Page

Food has played a significant role in my life, it has served to be my greatest source of pleasure, purpose and pain. It has given me my highest highs and taken me to my lowest lows. It has provided me with a means of connection and it has lured me into total isolation. It’s been complicated to say the least.

My birthday is coming up and every year as it approaches, I look back, mentally flipping through the “book” of my life. With each day that I’m alive, another page is written. There are countless characters and countless plot lines but in almost every chapter, Food is a main character, secondary to me.

In this moment, I open the book to “1977”, the year that I went from a “normal” child to a chubby child. I’m at the part where the doctor suggests that I see a nutritionist….

The nutritionist was a kind lady, she taught me all about weighing and measuring my food and introduced me to the concept of “portion control”. She explained that adhering to this practice would result in me “returning to a normal weight”. Sometimes, it felt rather clinical when she came to greet me, dressed in her long white lab coat. In her office were lifelike, rubber replicas of every food imaginable and while I wondered why I never saw another kid there, I didn’t mind having those all to myself to play with. At some point, I can’t say exactly when, I was no longer an innocent 6 year old playing with rubber strips of bacon and sunny side up eggs. I was a 6 year old striving to manage my food and weight so that I could be “normal” like all the other kids at school, “normal” like my brother, “normal”.. like I used to be.

There began a 40 year cycle of binging, restricting, dieting and over exercising. There began a relentless obsession with food, body image and weight. There began a tormented love-hate relationship with food. There began my life in active food addiction.

It wasn’t just about what I ate, it was about my state of mind. What I weighed and what I ate determined my mood. If I was adhering to a diet or losing weight, I felt powerful and proud. If I ate “off plan”, missed a workout or gained weight, I felt guilty and weak. But no matter what I ate and no matter what I weighed, one thing never changed. I lacked peace of mind. Not a day went by that I didn’t feel at least one of the following emotions; defeated, disgusted, deprived..sad, self conscious, guilty… angry, punished, less than….rebellious, determined, depressed…shameful, helpless, hopeless. All because I couldn’t consistently control my food and weight.

Now I flip forward by thousands of pages and open the book near the end of “2017”. I’m at the part where I discover what “food addiction” is and my heart

aches at the painful scene that details what it feels like to discover that I am an addict. I turn the page and the story takes a hopeful turn, there’s great relief in finally knowing what is wrong, even greater relief when the promise of a solution is revealed.

With each page I turn, Food shows up less, making room for the development of three new characters, Recovery, Community and Higher Power. Gradually, these characters are woven into the story, until they are so prominent that the story begins to read like a whole new book.


Now I’m at the part where I’ve made peace with food and my body. I’m at the part where cravings and feelings of deprivation no longer exist. I’m at the part where I no longer binge eat, restrict or exercise my body beyond a reasonable edge. I’m at the part where the story keeps getting better.

I encourage everyone to believe that a hopeful turn is possible, no matter what your story is. If you’re reading this, you’ve made your way to SHiFT and that means Recovery can be a part of your story too.

I don’t know what’s left to be written in my book of life but I do know there’s always hope in turning the page.


Summer Vibes

Last week, the yoga studio that I belong to advertised a special event class. 108 sun salutations to mark the official arrival of summer. One might think my reaction would have been, “108 sun salutations!?!?”, but instead it was, “Arrival of summer!?!?”. Summer had apparently snuck up on me, though that shouldn’t have been surprising, since I’ve never looked forward to it.

And yet, as I mulled over the reality that summer was here, I noticed an energy rising, a sudden eagerness flooded me. In my mind flashed all sorts of plans and ideas.. sunrise walks on the beach, meeting friends on patios, new cooking class recipes…

I wondered if this excitement was what others referred to as “summer vibes”.

For as many years as I can recall, I’ve said that I hate summer. I was curious about my feelings in this moment and how they contrasted with this life long belief . It was a perfect day weather-wise, I felt compelled to soak it up. I grabbed a blanket, tumbler of iced tea, notebook and pen. I jumped in the car and headed to the local waterfront, where there’s a harbour, small beach and picnic grounds.

I set myself up under a tree, half in the shade, half in the sun. Pen in hand, I was ready to write my next blog. I took a moment to meditate on “summer vibes”. Opening my eyes, I was shocked to be fully immersed in the moment, all of my senses engaged. My pen fell from my hand just as it would in the classic “dramatic drop” of a movie scene.

I saw a bright blue sky, fading to white where it met the water out on the horizon. Sailboats floated by, across a glittering Great Lake. Happy dogs bounced along the boardwalk, their ears blowing in the wind. Shrieks of laughter carried far and wide as children splashed unsuspecting siblings in the water. My tongue still tingled with the taste of peppermint tea. A gentle breeze not only offered relief from the sun but also wafted towards me the smells of a feast, sizzling on a grill nearby.

In this moment, I felt like it was love at first sight, with summer. Suddenly, I remembered that for most of my life, I was in active food addiction, obsessed with my weight and ashamed of my body. Before recovery, I didn’t have the ability to be present the way I do today. I didn’t have the capacity to fully appreciate my surroundings the way I do today.

I thought hard, “there must have been a time that I enjoyed summer”. I closed my eyes and went back through the years, as far as I could. I searched for the memories from days long ago, before the diets, before the self consciousness, before the obsession with food. I asked myself to find the earliest memories of what summer meant to me.

Again, I experienced being fully immersed in a moment, all of my senses engaged. As if by time travel, I was experiencing the sweltering heat of a dark summer night in the early 1970s… I felt my dad’s arm around me, I smelled the last trace of Coppertone on his skin. I saw us sitting on the patio and heard us laughing as we watched the living room TV from outside. I tasted the cherry popsicle that was melting away, faster than I could eat it…

This vivid memory seemed to be the key that unlocked a treasure chest for me. The memories continued to rush in … nights at the drive in…lemonade stands…afternoons at the beach… my mother in a polka dot bikini… picnics in the park…bike rides in the sun…late nights…no school…baseball games… running through the sprinkler and drinking from the hose… my dad in his vegetable garden…strawberry patches… sand castles…fireworks…my birthday…The Sonny and Cher Show…theme parks…fireflies…waterslides…frisbee…swimming pools… cottages…campfires…corn on the cob… sunsets… starry nights…

All of these memories, all of these joys, all of the things that summer once meant to me, I’d long forgotten. It turns out that “I hate summer” was just another lie that my disease told me. Just another lie which enabled my food addiction and made my life small.

Living in recovery allows me to connect to my higher power, giving me an opportunity to develop my highest self. Living in recovery allows me to rediscover the forgotten and cherished parts of me. For the first time in decades, I felt “summer vibes” again.

Trust that your higher power can and will open your life back up to the greatest gifts, even the ones that were long forgotten.



Accompanied In Recovery

While leading a shift strong call, one of the SHiFT community members expressed feelings of grief and sadness. Another member offered poignant feedback in one simple sentence. “Let your fellows accompany you in your grief”.

“… accompany you…”, the words flowed with graceful beauty and within the context of grief, they tugged at my heart. Yet hours later, the word “accompany” still rang in my ears. Contemplating it’s meaning, “to go somewhere with (as a companion)”, I suddenly felt its gravity, within the context of recovery.

Addiction isolates us in several ways. Social isolation is easily noticed. In the physical sense, it literally separates us from others. Emotional isolation is inconspicuous and in my experience, far more deceptive. It can happen regardless of who and what exists in our everyday life. We may have family, friends and even a well functioning social network yet somehow, we seem to be lacking something. We can’t understand how even when life appears to be full, we get a sense that we are hovering in a space of emotional distance.

At some point in life, we may have gotten the message that it is safer not to share our thoughts and feelings. If expressing our true feelings and ideas continually led to an aftermath of painful emotions, the price was too high. In order to survive, we had to adapt by learning to avoid sharing feelings. With a lack of emotional interaction, comes lack of emotional support, this renders us unable to

share our feelings and thus, incapable of genuine connection with others.

Beyond this, emotional isolation has the potential to completely numb us. Disconnected from our bodies and our thoughts, we may find ourselves unable to even identify our feelings. But there is hope! With the right support, we can reestablish and develop all of these vital connections.

Recovery requires connection.

Peer support (fellowship) is a beautiful first step towards connecting with others. A bond is created when fellows discover they are not alone. Fellowship provides opportunities to be present with each other, to practice listening and to have the courage to share personal experiences.

Fellowship is not meant to judge, control or counsel but to lay a foundation of safe emotional interactions, upon which genuine connection can be built.

Let your fellows accompany you in your recovery. Let them go with you to the places that are painful, scary and unfamiliar. Let them go with you to the places that are enlightening, healing and loving. Let them go with you to all the “somewheres” that lead you to your highest, connected self.


P.S. If this post resonated with you and you’d like more support developing your highest self, I encourage you to explore the weekly mindfulness and meditation classes with Gina. As a participant, it has been a significant addition to my program of recovery and self care.

Mission Impossible

On January 2, 2021, I signed up for the March 2021 virtual intensive. I felt like I was on mission – a mission to lose weight. It felt like an impossible mission, one that I had never accomplished in the past. I was excited and leery all at the same time. I began with individual counseling for 2 months prior to the intensive. I was feeling like I had begun to get a handle on my food plan, but that was it. I was happy that the intensive was virtual, so I could continue to hide most of me behind a screen. Then I received my welcome package with (what I thought) was a hokey tile and candle. I thought to myself, “What have I agreed to?” … “Is this some weird touchy-feely emotional program?” When the intensive began, the counselor lit her candle and suggested we do the same. I refused. Then she said “those who attempt the absurd achieve the impossible.” This was the phrase engraved on the hokey tile that I had promptly discarded in a pile of stuff on my counter. I continued to think, “I’m not doing all this weird emotional kumbaya stuff with these bizarre people.”

I slogged through the intensive week, thinking the following thoughts: “This is a mission impossible, I’ll never make it”, “I’m not going to be vulnerable”, “I’m not going to attempt the absurd just to gain abstinence and recovery.” But I was desperate and I had no other choices. I worked my way through the material in the intensive binder and followed every suggestion that was given, except to light my candle or read my tile. I kept my nose to the grindstone and just focused on the next right step.

A year later, while cleaning off my countertop, I found the hokey tile and read the inscription, “Those who attempt the absurd achieve the impossible.” I paused and re-read the phrase. I began to reflect on how I had attempted the absurd for the past year. I followed my food plan, attended meetings, participated in additional programs, took a fearless and moral inventory, made amends for my addictive behaviors, and talked to God daily. None of these things would I have done if I stopped to think about them. I just continued to follow the suggestions without really noticing the outcome. Well, I had attempted the absurd and what was the outcome? I released over 100 pounds, I developed a deep relationship with God, and I formed lasting connection with companions in recovery. I was now living happy, joyous, and free. The mission impossible had become a reality in my life. The phrase on that “hokey” tile came true for me.

Today that tile sits on my table, right next to my computer. I often read the inscription pausing to thank God for the program that made my mission impossible a reality.


Lisa K

What Are You Craving?


A craving is defined as a powerful desire for something. It’s an intense and urgent feeling and in the realm of addiction, it’s not just a feeling of want but of need. Uninterrupted, a craving can quickly become an obsession with the power to hijack the brain and derail recovery.

When I think back over my years in active addiction, my concept of “craving” was narrow. I thought I craved two things and two things only. I craved (specific) foods and I craved total isolation. When either of these struck, nothing could stop me from satisfying them. I saw nothing wrong with my intense need to isolate, I believed it to be a normal form of rest. My food cravings also seemed like a normal part of life and indulging them was encouraged by such beliefs as “you deserve it” and “life is short”.

I tossed the word “craving” around lightly and with humour. Somehow, I’d normalized the fact that I’d progressed into a constant state of craving which was dictating my life. Until one day, there came a point when satisfying my cravings … no longer satisfied. Shortly thereafter, I discovered this to be a hallmark of addiction and I knew I needed a program of recovery.

Almost immediately, I was introduced to “the tools” of the program. I was told that by using these tools, I could effectively interrupt any food thought or urge that might interfere with my recovery. Furthermore, I was told that with consistent practice of these tools, I could rewire my brain. Despite my skepticism, I decided to trust the process. With time, my food thoughts became easier to handle, they felt less urgent and they diminished until eventually, (for the most part) they disappeared.

It was only by working a full program of recovery that I discovered my cravings went beyond the biochemical. On the surface, I was chasing the bliss of tastes and textures that once set off vivid fireworks in my brain. With the support of a food addiction professional, I was able to get beneath that by feeling the craving, rather than fighting it. By tuning into my body, I learned how to uncover what the food thought was rooted in and identify what the true need was.

Today I experience craving in a positive way. I experience it as a deep and soulful pull towards something that deepens my presence and my peace and keeps me connected to the vibrant life I have today.

Today I crave feelings of awe and wonder. I crave creativity, open roads and adventure. I crave friendly faces, laughter and connection. I crave deep breaths, brisk walks and sound sleep. I crave sunshine, blue skies and drifting clouds. I crave great music, sunsets and starry nights…

I wonder if you asked yourself, “What am I really craving?” if, like me, it’s something that food can never satisfy


From Willful To Willing

Sometimes I wonder how it is that I am living the life I have today. By “the life”, I mean one of peace and freedom from my food addiction. At least once a day, I am stopped dead in my tracks with overwhelming gratitude for what it feels like to live in recovery.

It would be impossible for me to pinpoint an exact moment when the miracle occurred. My recovery has been (and continues to be) an ongoing process. Just like my life, my recovery has had ups and downs and gone through significant changes over time. But if someone would ask me how my recovery began, I’d say it began with the first decision I made to step out of willfulness and into willingness.

I’d spent my whole life trying to solve a problem for which I never found the answer. Until one day, I heard about a possible solution through an inpatient treatment program. I considered the possibility that I just might have a shot at recovery and as a result, I became willing to learn more.

With nothing but hope, I made a decision to take a leave from work, go into substantial debt and attend inpatient treatment. It had taken a tremendous amount of willingness and sacrifice to do this.

When I arrived, not only was I suffering the physical consequences of my food addiction but I was dying a slow and agonizing spiritual death. Here I was, utterly defeated, admitting that I was powerless over food and my life had become unmanageable. After a lifetime of painful searching, I was finally being offered a solution…. a solution which I rejected the very idea of. This so-called solution did not appeal to me at all. I wanted ease and comfort. I wanted to do things my way. I wanted what I wanted and would only accept the help that I decided on.

I clung to my old ideas. Unwilling to give up control, I was afraid to let go of the only thing I’d ever known, my self will. My (false) belief was that my self-will was what gave me power and kept me in control. Today, I know the truth about a life run on self will. My self will kept me imprisoned for years in behaviours with deadly consequences. It kept me in victimhood so that I didn’t have to take responsibility. It kept me trapped in the belief that if only the external world were different, my inner world would finally be at peace.

My years of willfulness robbed me of so much but thankfully, I finally recognized that. By accepting the truth of where my self will had gotten me, I was able to continue on the path toward willingness. If you’re wondering how I did that, it didn’t happen in one giant leap, it took many steps, each

requiring some degree of willingness. With the hope that what worked for others might also work for me, I became willing to do what others had done.

If you struggle with letting go of self will, try getting curious about possibilities and ask yourself the questions that can lead to willingness.

Is it possible that taking new actions might bring new results?

Is it possible that you can doubt the process and do it anyway?

Is it possible that as addicts, we aren’t so different… and what worked for me, might also work for you?

Acknowledge your shift from willful to willing every time you don’t want to do something but you do it anyway. Continue to ask yourself two things, “What am I willing to do, to increase the manageability of my life?” and “What am I willing to do, to increase my spirituality?”. For example, you might start to follow a food plan as well as begin a consistent meditation practice.

As you begin to experience the miracle of recovery, ask yourself, “What am I willing to do, to align my will with that of my higher power?”.

You just might say you’re willing to go any lengths.