Celebrating 25 years of food addiction treatment and recovery!

Miraculous Journey

Happy June!!

We are just days away from the beginning of summer…yay! I used to dread summer as for me it meant shame and pain. Shame of my obese body that I wasn’t willing to stuff into summer clothes (tank tops, shorts and bathing suits) and the physical pain of the rashes that showed up on my body from the multiple places where my skin chafed (you know what I mean, between my thighs, under my tummy…etc.). Thanks to recovery, summer means something very different for me now! It also seems like it means something different to Skylar. Skylar is an ACORN alum who joined us at our Primary Intensive just over a year ago. In honor of Men’s Health Month (yes, June is Men’s Health month) we asked Skylar to share a bit of his recovery journey with us…..and WOW what a journey! Keep reading to hear where Skylar was only 12 months ago and where he is now. Truly inspiring.

I would love to hear from our other male alum about their journey too, drop me a line, say hi and give me an update.

We also have some exciting news…TWO new locations for upcoming events!! Click here for the details. Ok, I will give you a hint…one location may possibly be in California and one location may possibly be in New England.

May your June be filled with inner peace, abstinence and growth,

Amanda


I’m a 49-year-old married guy who’s been overweight most all of my life. 

As a reference, just over a year ago I weighed in at around 350 lbs. and this weight was quite normal for me. I’ve had periods of some weight release over the years, with diets, trainers and personal cooks. All of these were things I knew I needed just to get me on track to be able to get on with my life and get some “normal” eating habits. 

I’ve had a lot of experience with drug and alcohol addiction. I’ve been around the rooms of 12  Step fellowships for 24 years at the end of this month. This is something that I hold true and love to celebrate. I’ve worked the steps with a sponsor and have taken a lot of other men through the steps. But I did all this with an obese body; not looking within as my eating became an addiction. 

About nine years ago, I first found the rooms of OA. Realizing that “I knew this stuff”, I did what I knew I needed to do. I got a sponsor, bought some literature and wrote out an abstinence list of foods that were my “alcoholic foods”. I started working on the steps, and I lost some weight. I got some freedom, but for a long time, I felt like it was still just a diet that I was on and there was a bunch of foods that I couldn’t eat. Volume of eating and time of eating were things that were still up to me to decide. When I ate out with friends or went to restaurants; as long as I was mindful about what my decisions were I was good: I still had my abstinence. 

Over time I started to allow more and more foods into my life that weren’t there before. At least I wasn’t bingeing on this or that I told myself. But over time I had my weight back although I believed that I felt good about myself. I was somewhat shamed about going to OA meetings so I just started to skip those. And so I was back to the life that I’ve always known, minus a few things I learned in OA. Some time went by and I really fell back into the food, and my ever expanding wardrobe had to get a few new additions to it in the 4 to 5X size range. 

Just over a year ago an old friend from OA paid me a visit. She said that my time was up and the only way out of the food addiction for me was to go to treatment. This was something I had looked at for months and even years. Within the hour, I was booked into the center. I was terrified but completely willing to do this. Over and over I considered and reconsidered: I wanted this, but I was about to get on a plane and check myself into treatment. Am I that screwed up? I knew that I didn’t know what else I could do. From that moment on I decided to stop the binge eating. I put down the sugar and a few other foods that were obviously not doing me any good, and I just waited out my days until I got on the plane.

On May 2017, I arrived, alone and a bit nervous, but totally willing to start something. I didn’t want to call this a new chapter, but it was definitely something different. 

Day 1. I met the group of people who were in a similar situation as me. We talked about food plans and a whole bunch of other stuff and I committed my food for the first time to someone. That week was kind of like going to summer camp, except by the end of it I was able to have a better understanding what food addiction looks like, and how it had me in its grips. 

Committing my food to a sponsor. Weighing and measuring. I was committing to all the things I said I would do at treatment. It was hard. In fact some days it really sucked, but I had willingness. Where it came from I don’t know, but I had it. The one other thing I knew I needed that nothing else out there offered me was a sense of spirituality.

Spirituality was something that helped me all those years ago in my other 12 Step program. Whatever it was back then, I really needed it now more than ever. So when I got home I checked in with my sponsor and scheduled time to work the steps. I did a bunch of grocery shopping and had to clean my kitchen. But not only with a rag and cleaning products; I got a friend to come over and give it a smudge. Some burning sage and an eagle feather filled my kitchen with smoke from the abalone shell. I placed some crystals around. I sat in the middle of my kitchen floor and started to meditate. I needed all the help I could get. And some sort of connection with the powers that be is where the difference lies. I’ve spiritualized my kitchen. 

I made a commitment to my sponsor that I was going to do this food plan unchanged, weighed and measured for 90 days before reevaluating. My 90 days had come and gone, not always easy, but I did it. With the help of a dietitian, my sponsor and my sponsor’s sponsor, I did make some slight adjustment to my food plan. I definitely now know I can’t do this alone. 

Today I have a great relationship with what I get to eat and with my sponsor. I go to meetings regularly and I really understand more than ever what food addiction means to me. I have admitted that I’m a food addict, powerless over food. One day at a time. I get to be free! I’m now under 200 lbs., somewhere I haven’t been since I’m sure I was a teenager. I’m feeling better than I’ve ever felt, and loving the life I get to live today.


Upcoming ACORN Events


Weekly Teleconference “Nuts & Bolts”

Please join us Wednesday evenings for recovery support.

This no-cost abstinence support group is open to all. Led by Sherri Goodman, professional trainee. thereveals@frontier.com
Wednesdays at 7 pm (EST.)
Conference call in number:
(605) 468-8002
Access Number 1014962#


Women’s Health Month

Happy May!

Today I was thinking of the saying “April showers bring May flowers”. That saying doesn’t really fit for Florida weather (as there really hasn’t been any rain to speak of), which is where I am currently but it definitely fits for Vancouver’s weather. May is a time for new beginnings, the sun is warming, flowers are starting to bloom, birds are chirping and the garden is showing signs of growth. May is also Women’s Health Month. What will you do this month to take care of yourself?

For me, taking care of myself and working my program of recovery are two in the same. I heard someone recently share that recovery is simply taking good care of myself in all areas of my life; physically, emotionally, mentally, socially and spiritually. Am I looking after my physical body? Am I looking after my emotional health? How are my relationships? Do I follow a daily spiritual practice? In order for me to truly look after myself, I need to take care of my whole being. If one pillar of my foundation is shaky then truly my whole being is off kilter. The scary part is that I may not even notice I have a shaky pillar until all four of my pillars are in jeopardy and then I am in a pretty desperate situation. The good news is that it now doesn’t take much for me to get back on track and once again, be in a place of positively moving forward.

It’s vital for me, especially as an addict in recovery, to take a pulse check often of how I’m doing in all areas of my life as it is very easy for me to slip back into poor self-care. Recently, I learned a new tool called a Recovery Grid created by Roland Williams. The details of how to use the grid are a different topic (a great topic but a different newsletter) however I thought the healthy living checklists were brilliant. I have shared them in the box below so you can assess how you are doing with self-care. This is by no means so that we can judge and be critical of ourselves. It’s just a great checkpoint. For me, I need as many tools as I possibly can have in my tool belt to help me be honest and see if I am on track. I lived so much of my life being in dishonesty with myself that I truly often can’t see the truth.

Take a look at the grid below and notice the things you are doing and notice what you’re not doing. Would the things you are not doing be beneficial for your personal recovery and well – being? If so, what commitments are you willing to make around doing these things? Remember that small changes are much more attainable than lofty grandiose commitments that we actually never end up doing and then get to feel bad about ourselves for not doing (I know this one well).

As I have been writing this article, I have taken note of areas that I haven’t been focusing on and I can definitely tell there are several. Under my physical health, I really haven’t been doing any consistent exercise lately. Exercise is something I either seem to do full on or not at all (an addict…you think?). Recently, I have been in the not at all part of the compulsion. So about 2 weeks ago I committed to taking a 30-minute walk every day. I’m pretty sure I haven’t missed a day. My mind can easily tell me all sorts of negative things about this like; 30-minute walk – that’s nothing, you should be running, what about cardio…and the chatter continues.  The important thing here is that I took a look at what I am and what I am not doing to look after myself which allows me to then get honest and make changes that support my long-term health physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. And that my friends is a beautiful piece of recovery…that I actually can take a look, get honest and make commitments (that I actually keep) to move towards recovery and away from relapse or towards health and away from the disease. That is a miracle.

Would love to hear what you will do to look after yourself in the month of May (men too).


Biologicaly – Physically

  •  Do I follow a healthy eating plan
  • Am I getting enough sleep
  • Do I get adequate exercise
  • Heath Care Provider: do you have one, do you go, do you follow what they suggest
  • Do I have good hygiene
  • Do I avoid toxic substances: caffeine, tobacco, sugar…etc 
Psychologically – Thoughts/Feelings

  • Do I regularly see a therapist/coach/counsellor
  • Can I identify and express my feelings
  • What is my stress level
  • Do I have good self – esteem
  • Do I think positively for the most part
  • Do I intellectually challenge myself regularly

Socially – Relationships
 

  • Romantic relationship – can I be in one, am I able to love someone and let them love me back
  • If I am currently in a romantic relationship is it strong in all areas: commitment, intimacy, passion
  • Friends: do I have any, if so what kind – do they lift me up or bring me down
  • Family: do I have healthy relationships with my family members
  • Do I have fun
  • If in recovery do I have a strong sober support system: recovery group, partners in recovery, sponsor
  • How is my relationship with myself: do I enjoy my own company

Spiritually

  • If I belong to an organized religion do I follow the practices
  • Do I believe in a Higher Power and if so do I build that relationship daily
  • Do I live my according to my values: honesty, compassion, tolerance, respect, humility, integrity

 

 

 

 

 

The start of summer is a busy time at ACORN. Today, we start a Primary Intensive in Florida, followed by a week of Living In Recovery and a Step 4-9 Alumni weekend to finish it off. In June we have a Primary Intensive starting June 8th in Vancouver, followed by a Relapse Prevention Alumni Weekend (I think there is waiting room only for this left?) and then a week of Living In Recovery. There are many events that could be part of your self-care plan.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, sober May.

Peace & Abstinence, Amanda


Upcoming ACORN Events

Special Request From Phil

The Food Addiction Institute is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, separate from ACORN, that advocates for abstinence-based food addiction recovery.  Phil, Mary and many in the ACORN network were involved in founding FAI in 2005. FAI is preparing to launch a nationwide campaign, “Just Say It! Addiction to Food is Real! Recovery is Possible!”

As an alumni and/or friend of ACORN, you have a unique perspective on the value of this work with food addicts and understand the importance of spreading the word to others. In order to do this effectively, the FAI campaign needs a paid professional staff to coordinate this project at a minimum of $100,000 per year.

I invite you to consider supporting this campaign by making a contribution in either of two ways:

  1. First: Make a tax-free contribution online to The Community Foundation of Sarasota County’s 24-hour 2018 Giving Challenge beginning at 12:00 p.m. (noon) May 1 and ending 12:00 p.m. (noon) May 2. A live link will be released prior to the start of the Giving Challenge. Every donation will be “MATCHED” up to $100! We will send out a reminder email with details prior to that day and a final reminder email on the morning of May 1. Please see the FAI Newsletter for more information.
  2. Second: Consider becoming a sustaining supporter to the campaign. Either pledge to contribute or raise $1,000 per year for 3 years. If 100 of us do this, the campaign will be financially self-sustaining.

The goals of the campaign include: 

  • Normalize food addiction as a disease.
  • Achieve 10% of doctors and health professionals screening for food addiction.
  • Present a website that both doctors and their patients can consult for the most current resources for treatment.

If you have questions, please contact Elsie Khamis, M. Ed., Campaign Coordinator and Secretary to the Board of Directors, at 773-729-8043 or elsiek@foodaddictioninstitute.org.

Feel free to share this information with others who are interested in improving the recovery climate and services for food addiction. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Phil


Upcoming ACORN Events

Alumni Retreat:  Blocks to Working Steps 4 through 9

For over twenty years, ACORN Primary Intensives have focused on helping food addicts do deeper food First Steps – “We admitted we were powerless over food….”  We have received numerous requests for a workshop focused on blocks to working Steps 4 through 9.  Please join us as we launch this new alumni workshop.

Here are some of the blocks ACORN alumni have shared with us while working Steps 4 through 9:

  1. Some find it difficult to complete a 4th Step inventory; others have difficult starting the process.
  2. Some find that when they get into the substance of 4th Step work, emotional issues arise that they either don’t have the skills to deal with or which trigger prior unresolved trauma.  While the place to actually do the rigorous process of Steps 4 through 9 is in a Twelve Step fellowship, and the place to do long-term work on unresolved trauma is in professional therapy, ACORN staff are skilled at helping people sort these issues out and developing a plan of action.
  3. Some who have relapsed or are chronic relapsers, find that one of the problems is that they have never gone through the Steps rigorously and fully “cleaned house.”  Paradoxically, this is often because they do not believe that they need to do this in-depth inventory work in order to sustain long-term recovery; this means they need to do deeper First Step work to accept they have a substantial brain disease as well as a craving for specific foods.

The workshop will begin in the usual ACORN style with secrets about food and current Twelve Step process. Then we will have an exercise in which everyone will do a piece of writing on Step Four – looking at resentments, fear and relationships (sex conduct). This is followed by a simple process actually doing Steps Five, Six, Seven, Eight and Nine together. Then, in a process group format, we will focus on any difficult emotional and spiritual issues which come up for each person. For those needing instruction in rigorous approaches to the Steps, there will be help similar to that in alcohol and drug addiction treatment. The workshop will conclude with people doing an aftercare plan which incorporates structure for continuing the work begun during the weekend.

The groups will be led by ACORN facilitators who are, themselves, long-time abstinent recovered food addicts, have done all the Steps thoroughly, and who have experience in helping with the deeper emotional and spiritual issues that often come up in the course of serious food addiction recovery.

Please note:  Our assumption is that it remains best to actually do the inventory Steps in a food-related Twelve Step fellowship of your choice, and the workshop is not meant to replace such work.

Upcoming Events

Phil’s musing about World Health Day and Food Addiction

World Health Day and Food Addiction

World Health Day is a global health awareness day celebrated every year on April 7th, under the sponsorship of the World Health Organization, as well as other related organizations http://www.who.int/campaigns/world-health-day/2018/en/. This special attention on issues of world health affords me the opportunity to muse about the critical issue of food addiction.

We don’t have solid data on how many in the world are food addicted. That’s the first problem. However, we do know that the obesity and other problems of overeating now affect more people of the United States and worldwide than the problems of starvation and malnutrition. [1]

The best information we have about food addiction is from a study of one U.S. metropolitan area, reported by Dr. David Kessler (not yet published). From this research, Dr. Kessler estimates there are 70,000,000 adults, in the United States alone, who have the characteristics of food addiction: physical craving and loss of control. [2]

Another significant problem is that most of those with food addiction are misdiagnosed, mistreated or not treated at all. Since food addiction progressively creates a problem of loss of control, this means that millions of those who are overweight or obese are not able to achieve and maintain necessary weight loss. Worse, they also suffer from a brain disease which distorts the mind and causes enormous emotional suffering.

Finally, of course, there is the cost. If we assume that the cost of food addiction is just one third that of obesity, [3] it would mean that food addiction and its associated medical problems are costing $49 billion per year, just in the United States.

The third problem, also related to money, is that Americans below the median income level are almost entirely excluded from short- or long-term residential treatment for food addiction. We talk with self-assessed middle- and late-stage food addicts every month who cannot achieve and maintain abstinence from their binge foods, and who find the cost of a five-day residential ACORN Primary Intensive beyond their grasp financially, even though there is a high likelihood that it could help them get abstinent and save money in the long term. [4]  In the case of ACORN workshops, the cost of services is cut as much as possible, [5] and financial help is only possible when there are donations for this purpose from others who have funds to contribute. At residential treatment centers a major problem is that health insurance frequently does not cover addiction model treatment. This is unlikely to change until the American Psychiatric Association accepts food as a substance use disorder as a formal diagnostic category.

[1] Danielle Dellorto, CNN, 2012.

[2] Kessler’s figure of 70,000,000 adults with food addiction was report in Your Food Is Fooling You: How Your Brain Is Hijacked by Sugar, Fat, and Salt, the follow-up book to his New York Times bestseller, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite. In an NPR interview about the book, Kessler said that the estimates from this study found 50 percent of the obese, 30 percent of the overweight and 20 percent of those at a ”healthy” weight or less to be, at least, at an early stage food addiction.

[3] CDC, annual cost of obesity and its associated health problems in the U.S., $147 billion, 2018

[4] Most of those who become food addiction abstinent spend less on food than on their prior binge foods.  Those in later stages of food addiction are often having difficulty working and maintaining the quality of their work; their earning capacity becomes more stable over time and often increases with abstinence and recovery.

[5] The ACORN residential workshop model offers services at one-quarter to one-half the cost of most food addiction treatment centers. Of course, it is not a licensed treatment center with traditionally certified health professionals.


Space is available for the Men’s 3-Days with Phil – April 6 – 8
Don’t delay registering for this event! You can register online or call the ACORN office at 941-378-2122.


 

Join us in wishing Phil a Happy 77th Birthday, April 2!

 

 


Upcoming Events

National Nutrition Month and message from dietitian David Avram Wolfe

Happy National Nutrition month!

Every March since 1973 the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has run a campaign focused on bringing people nutrition information and education. The campaign’s focus is on the importance of making informed food choices. “Making informed food choices”…hmm, for a food addict like me, this sounds like an oxymoron!

While I was active in my addiction, shoving food down my throat, there was absolutely no way I could make any informed decisions, much less about food!  And unfortunately, once I got that I was addicted to food, it was pretty hard to get any helpful information on what “making informed food choices” would look like for someone with the disease of food addiction.

The many well-meaning, doctors, nutritionists and dietitians I sought out for help simply made it worse, as they had – literally – no idea what I truly needed to treat my food addiction. And, the truth is, there are only a small handful of doctors and nutritionists/dietitians who do have the knowledge that an addict, like me, needs to support her recovery.

We asked one of those “knowledgeable” dietitians, David Avram Wolfe, to write a brief article (see below) on what he believes it takes for a food addict to be successful in their recovery. David is a registered dietitian, sugar addiction coach, food addiction counsellor and the founder of Trigger Free Nutrition, Triggerfreenutrition.com.

Wishing everyone an abstinent, peaceful last week of March,

Amanda


From David Avram Wolfe MS, RD, LDN, CNSC, FAC . . .

Ellen, a food addict from Boston, had this to say about her experience working with dietitians and nutritionists.

I loved my previous dietitian, she was sweet, but she never understood my food addiction. She did not understand that I could not eat my trigger foods in moderation or just once in a while. Now that I have a dietitian that understands food addiction, I have a much better chance of sustaining the recovery that I have established. I have been abstinent for nearly three years. I have never been happier!”

As a dietitian, I believe that it takes a village to raise a child; however, it takes more than that to support a food addict into sustainable recovery. A food addict needs a professional who understands not only food but also the disease of addiction. The truth of the matter is that if you have everything in place in your recovery except a food plan that is working for you in your life, you will fail over and over again. Regardless of your efforts, you will return to the food every time!

The first thing I do with my clients is establish which foods cause them guilt, romance and/or debate. These foods must be eliminated. I believe if consumed, even in microscopic amounts, addictive eating patterns and behaviors will eventually return. I also discuss the concept that addiction is no longer just a brain disease; it affects the entire body! So, we must treat the entire body. We must heal the gut; we must heal the joints; we must heal everything. Maimonides, a 15th century Rabbi once said, “No disease caused by diet should be treated by any other means.” I believe his words ring true today. This is the medicine of the future!

As a dietitian, I know and understand even minor changes can cause huge problems in a food addict’s recovery and life. So, when in search of the right nutritional support, here are some key questions you may want to ask before making a decision.

  1. Does the dietitian/nutritionist believe in abstinence as the primary treatment for food addiction?
  2. Does the dietitian/nutritionist understand what it means to be in recovery?
  3. Does the dietitian/nutritionist understand what powerlessness means in regard to food and eating?
  4. Does the dietitian/nutritionist understand what it means to be willing to go to any lengths to recover?
  5. Does the dietitian/nutritionist understand that you may be a low-bottom, high-maintenance food addict and what that really means?
  6. Does the dietitian/nutritionist understand what kinds of secrets you have kept and lies you have told in reference to your eating?
  7. Does the dietitian/nutritionist understand that once you are triggered you will do nearly anything to fulfill your food cravings?
  8. Does the dietitian/nutritionist understand the role of a food sponsor?  If necessary, is s/he willing to work together with a sponsor to increase your chances for success?

The one thing to always remember is that no matter what you decide, your recovery is your personal responsibility. Do not put it at unnecessary risk. You are worth more than that!

David Avram Wolfe MS, RD, LDN, CNSC, FAC


Space is available for the Men’s 3-Days with Phil – April 6 – 8

Don’t delay registering for this event! You can register online or call the ACORN office at 941-378-2122.


Upcoming Events


Weekly Teleconference “Nuts & Bolts”

Please join us Wednesday evenings for recovery support.

This no-cost abstinence support group is open to all. Led by Sherri Goodman, professional trainee. thereveals@frontier.com
Wednesdays at 7 pm (EST.)
Conference call in number:
(605) 468-8002
Access Number 1014962#