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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


  • 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

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.



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 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,

Wishing everyone an abstinent, peaceful last week of March,


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.
Wednesdays at 7 pm (EST.)
Conference call in number:
(605) 468-8002
Access Number 1014962#

A Note from Phil and Men’s 3-Days with Phil – April 6 – 8

Men’s 3-Days with Phil – April 6 – 8

“I feel so blessed to have found ACORN and to have the support I needed to do my work. The intensives and 3-Days have moved me further along in my recovery journey at a deeper level. “

ACORN has a lively history of men’s workshops. Personally, I did not meet another man who was food abstinent until I was in stable recovery for over a year. I was delighted when I heard about a men’s Twelve Step group for overeaters in Los Angeles that had been meeting for over two decades.

They began each meeting by saying, “There are some things that men find it very difficult to say in a female-majority meeting. This is the place where we can say it all.”  With that in mind, that’s how we have begun every men’s retreat or workshop that I have led for ACORN.

I remember when we announced at an early Philadelphia retreat that one of the breakout groups would be all male.  There was some loud whooping – and not just by the men.  That’s when I learned that this work was even more important than I had thought.

At a men’s “3-day” at a motel in New Jersey, several men started taking turns doing tantrums.  When the police knocked on the door and inquired if something was wrong, we told them, “We are practicing for the performance of a play.”  It was not entirely a deception; we were practicing being truthful about our feelings in the play of life!

Another men’s gathering, this one in New Hampshire, was a bit more subdued.  Group feedback regularly began with the phrase, “This is another thing I have never said at a meeting.”  Men have a unique box of secrets; and it is not just their feelings about intimacy and sex. Men have been especially grateful for the opportunity to work on their recovery in groups set aside for men only.

So, we have another men’s workshop coming up in New England, this one in Charlton(outside of Boston) outside of Boston on April 6th to 8th, 2018. Men, bring your secrets and the issues about which you have hesitated being vulnerable. As with all ACORN events, we will focus on abstinence first, absolutely, and move to emotional and spiritual work in a male voice.

“I came to ACORN somewhat blind, having hit my rock bottom. I did not want to die before I tried these resources. I came in blind and I’m now getting enlightened and “ABSTINENT.”

More from Phil…

As food addicts, many of us have special awareness of eating disorders. Personally, I spent over a decade doing serious work in therapy on my ‘underlying issues’ and, while I developed some serious emotional coping skills, my problems with food just got worse.
So, many of us have had to give up the belief that we are “just emotional eaters.”  Eating disorders originate in families who don’t deal with feelings well and from traumas which are pushed down; we find that foods, often special ‘comfort foods’, take away or minimize the pain.  Food addiction is an entirely different disease. It is caused by specific toxic foods which change the brain biochemically and turn it into being chemically dependent on these very same foods.
With eating disorders, “It is not what you are eating, but what’s eating you.”  The solution is to work towards being able to eat all foods in moderation by using emotion skills to deal with difficulty feelings and resolve prior traumas.
On the other hand, with food addiction, “It’s not the food – unless it is the food. Then it is the food – until it is not the food.  Then, it is not the food.”  Whew!  Got it?  The solution is to begin by eliminating all your binge foods completely, and then work on the deep emotional and spiritual issues.
Many people come to ACORN workshops pretty certain that they are emotional eaters, that is, bingeing, purging and/or restricting out of control because they have an eating disorder.  They are confused as to whether or not they are food addicted. In fact, many are surprised to find that they would rather have an eating disorder than a food addiction.  They really do not want to abstain from their ‘favorite’ foods, much less have to work with another food addict to be accountable. It is often seen as too much work.  Moreover, they want to be able to eat what they want to eat, as much of it as they want, and when they want to.
The ACORN Primary Intensive is a way to learn about eating disorders and food addiction intellectually, and then match it to your own experience.
There is no better way to do so than to act as if you are food addicted with a group of other people.  Do you resist surrendering toxic foods?  Could it be a sign of physical craving?  Do you experience symptoms of withdrawal when you abstain?  Does the craving diminish or go away after a few days of abstinence?  What do you learn from looking at ways you are secretive or manipulative about food?  Has dieting and other ways of controlling your weight worked?  Can you identify specific incidents when you were powerless over food?  What do you learn as you discover the emotional, mental and spiritual distortions with these physical attempts to control?
That’s what the work of the ACORN Primary Intensive is all about.  By actually doing the work of food addiction recovery, you don’t try to think your way into recovery actions; rather, if you are food addicted, you act your way into accurate thinking!
For many, there is a second important learning.  When abstinent, difficult feelings often come to the surface and the old coping mechanisms of food are no longer of any help.  Personally, that’s what happened for me in early recovery.  When I was abstinent, feelings of fear, anger, sadness and willfulness arose that I never learned to deal with while in therapy and still active with the food. 
So, some of us are both food addicted and eating disordered.  I had to learn how to deal with both of these brain diseases through abstinence first.  That is exactly what we work to help people learn to do at the ACORN Primary Intensive.  Please join us.  I would love to see you!