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.
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Please, forward to anyone you think may be interested learning more about our programs!
Wow, what a couple of weeks it has been! We had an amazing inaugural Acorn Intensive in San Diego. Beautiful weather, an amazing home, delicious home cooked meals and participants desperate for answers to the age-old questions “what is wrong with me, why can’t I get this?” These questions are so familiar to me as I asked myself the same questions for over 35 years.
Some of the comments we received after the event were:
“You MUST do your best to get involved in SHiFT. It is so different. You will be blessed”
“SHiFT has completely changed how I view my food addiction as a disease and helped me realize it isn’t my fault and allowed me to dive deeper into comprehending my powerlessness. I am leaving abstinent and beyond grateful.”
“Best program and it works!”
“Full of gratitude for everything that happened all week. The process is awesome and I felt totally safe.”
One of the participants said to me that he had “never felt joy in his life as he had for the last 5 days” (keep in mind he said this while giving up sugar and flour, which had become the most important things in his life.) This is the same participant who now has 17 days of following a food plan specifically designed for food addicts and who has never been able to follow any diet in over 20 years. He was pre-diabetic and the doctor had prescribed metphormin for him…he is already off of this drug. Another participant said simply, “thank you for providing me with hope.” My experience with this program it provides HOPE and a SOLUTION that so many of us (me included) never thought was possible. I see over and over people walking through our doors completely hopeless and defeated and literally five days later walking out with a belief that they too have finally found a solution to their devastating food/weight/emotional issues. People please hear me…WE DO NOT HAVE TO LIVE WITH THIS FATAL DISEASE!! There is a solution and we can help.
We can help you whether you are brand new to the idea of food addiction, in and out of abstinence or in a major relapse. You do not have to keep suffering alone. I just don’t believe there is such a thing as a hopeless food addict or a hopeless relapse prone person. I have seen way too many people recover, coming from a huge array of backgrounds and levels of food dependency to believe anything other than all of us can recover from this brutal malady of food dependency.
We get asked this question a lot, or more to the point “how do I know if I’m a food addict?” Unfortunately, there is not a simple blood test we can give that says, “Yup, you are an addict” or “Nope, you just need to eat less and exercise more.”
The questions below are a great place to start…ask yourself honestly if any of these seem like you.
Am I thinking about food or my weight all the time?
Do I eat large amounts of food in a short period of time?
Do I eat differently in front of people than I do when I’m alone?
Have I done serious work in psychotherapy only to find my “food problem” was unaffected?
Do I eat when I’m not hungry or not eat when my body needs nourishment?
Do I go on eating binges for no apparent reason, sometimes eating until I am stuffed or even feel sick?
Do I have feelings of guilt, shame or embarrassment about my weight or the way I eat?
Is my eating affecting my health or the way I live my life?
When my emotions are intense – whether positive or negative – do I find myself reaching for food?
Do my eating behaviors make me or others unhappy?
Have I ever used laxatives, vomiting, diuretics, excessive exercise, diet pills, shots or other medical interventions (including surgery) to try to control my weight?
Do I fast or severely restrict my food intake to control my weight?
Do I fantasize about how much better life would be if I were a different size or weight?
Are there certain foods I can’t stop eating after having the first bite?
Have I lost weight with a diet or “period of control” only to be followed by bouts of uncontrolled eating and/or weight gain?
If you answered yes to any of these, your issue may be related to having a food addiction. For more clarity on this please reach out to me.
For me, the thing that really made me believe that I was an addict was when I realized I had tried everything suggested to me for a “NORMAL” eater struggling with weight issues (diets, exercise, weight loss surgery) and everything suggested to me for someone struggling with “EMOTIONAL” eating (therapy, intuitive eating, eating disorder groups, eating all foods in moderation). NONE of these worked for the long term.
If you are struggling and not sure if you are a food addict, give us a call or join us at one of our upcoming events. We still have space in our Primary Intensive in San Diego, CA – September 21 – 26 and in Bradenton, FL October 9 – 14. Click here to register!