Wow, it’s already the final week of September!! This brings us to the end of Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. While it may be the end of the month, it’s not the end of the unnecessary suffering and despair that children who are struggling with weight and food dependency face every day. Let’s not turn away from this epidemic in hopes that someone else will take care of it; because no one else is! We, the recovered food addicts who have the knowledge, tools and solution, are responsible for speaking up for and supporting the children in our lives.
I was struck last week by an article on the front page of the New York Times: “How Big Business Got Brazil Hooked on Junk Food.”The article points out that, due to declining growth of sales in the wealthiest countries, multinational food companies like Nestle, PepsiCo and General Mills have been “aggressively” selling their products in developing nations. These are the same nations where only a generation ago their people were suffering from hunger and malnutrition. Now they are struggling with a new epidemic, obesity, which breeds diabetes, heart disease and chronic illness.
The story goes on to say that there are now 108 million obese children worldwide. This statistic is alarming to me for many reasons, but the biggest reason is that obesity is, in the vast majority of cases, preventable! The president of Coca-Cola International, Ahmet Bozer, is quoted as recently stating, “There’s 600 million teenagers who have not had a Coke in the last week. So the opportunity for that is huge.” Basically, these companies are gunning for our kids to up their sales and profit.
Carlos A. Monteiro, Professor of Nutrition and Public Health, at University of Sao Paulo in Brazil goes on to say, “What we have is a war between two food systems, a traditional diet of real food once produced by the farmers around you and the producers of ultra-processed food designed to be over-consumed and which in some cases are addictive.” He goes on to say, “It’s a war, but one food system has disproportionately more power than the other”!
It is shocking to me that food is actually designed to be “over-consumed.” In other words, food is designed to become addictive, so that kids – and adults – are unable to stop eating it. It’s designed so that our kids – and adults – will lose the choice of whether to eat it or not. All designed so that certain food companies can make more money. This is a harsh reality, but it’s one we need to be aware of and be pro-active about.
As Childhood Obesity Awareness Month comes to a close, let’s ensure that we don’t end the attention this epidemic deserves. I don’t want any child to go through what I did as an overweight kid – the bullying, shaming, relentless teasing – and then, ultimately, move from an obese child to an obese, food addicted adult.
Here is a picture of my niece Georgia (yes, I know I will use any excuse to be able to show her off to all of you) sitting at a picnic table this summer eating lunch with me. My commitment for Childhood Obesity Awareness Month was to refrain from buying or providing her (or any child in my life) any “sugary” treats for the month of September. It was tougher than I thought it would be; instead, we went on healthy picnics with delicious food, gorgeous scenery and fun games.
I believe the best thing we can do to support our kids is to continue to focus on our own recovery. Therefore, we have been cooking up several events to continue the amazing recovery we at ACORN witness every day. Here is a list of the life changing events scheduled for the rest of the year:
October 6-11: Primary Intensive, Bradenton Florida $1700 (non – alumni $1950) – ACORN’s 5-day structured residential program to support those struggling with food dependency. Price includes meals; lodging is additional.
October 14-16: 3-Days with Phil, Bradenton Florida $1500 – This workshop will help you work on deep emotional and spiritual blocks that prevent you from maintaining long-term abstinence and recovery.
November 3-5: ACORN Alumni Retreat/Reunion, Vancouver BC, $500 – A weekend of recovery, fellowship and fun. We will focus on relapse prevention, Steps 4-9 and Body Image. Price includes lodging & meals.
November 10-15: Primary Intensive, Vancouver BC $1700 (non-alumni $1950) – ACORN’s 5-day structured residential program to support those struggling with food dependency. Price includes meals; lodging is additional.
November 16-30: Living In Recovery, Vancouver BC, 1 week $1500, 2 weeks $2600 – A 2-week program that will enable participants to take home what they practice during their stay. Participants will be provided with a “real-world” environment: they will stay in a residential home, grocery shop at local markets, prepare their own meals following their individual abstinence based food plans, participate in 12 Step meetings, have a daily practice of journaling and writing as well as attend scheduled daily process groups and educational talks. Price includes lodging; participants pay for their own food.
December 8-13: Primary Intensive, Bradenton Florida – ACORN’s 5-day structured residential program to support those struggling with food dependency. Price includes meals; lodging is additional.
As you can see we are working hard to create events for all people, in many locations, in many price ranges and on many different dates.
I hope to see you sometime in 2017 at one of our events. Book now to save your spot and to ensure your recovery is strong heading into the holidays and New Year.
Hello, Wow, I can’t believe we are in the third week of September already…I was a little shocked when I looked at the calendar today and realized we are only 3 weeks away from Thanksgiving (don’t panic, I am talking about the Canadian Thanksgiving). Fall is certainly evident all around me. I am currently in New Jersey having just participated in the “A Vision 4 You” OA conference – which was truly amazing, inspiring and hopeful – where the leaves are falling and changing colours (that’s Canadian for colors). What a beautiful time of year!! As we continue to highlight Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, our amazing and brilliant Mary, shares her story (see below) of growing up as an obese child and the lifelong scars that the bullying and oppression she suffered have left. Mary talks about how in the third grade she already weighed more than many of her teachers and that she started praying that she would die as the pain was far too much to bear as a young girl. These blunt statements can be hard to read, however we must face the reality and not turn a blind eye. In Mary’s case we also get to see a miraculous recovery…let’s continue to share our stories of pain and recovery in hopes that young people no longer need to suffer the ugly consequences of compulsive eating and food addiction. Keep reading to hear Mary’s heart wrenching story of a young girl who missed out on a happy, joyous childhood as no one in her life knew there was a way out, no one knew there was a clear path to recovery…a path to a life that every child on this earth deserves. Let’s make sure kids today aren’t robbed of this life because the adults around them don’t know about food addiction and the proper treatment. I believe that as a recovered food addict it is my obligation to share this message! I am heading to Florida soon (won’t feel so much like Fall there) as we have a Primary Intensive starting October 6th. It’s a great time to recommit to your program, and I would love to see you there. Peace & abstinence, Amanda
Dear ACORN Family,
I hope you have enjoyed our emphasis on National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Obviously it is a topic that several of your ACORN staff wanted to write on, and I am no exception. I am going to share a little of my personal story growing up with childhood obesity.
As an obese child, life was very hard. In fact, I can honestly say that it was brutal and something that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. I know that many of you can relate.
I was born a healthy weight of just over seven pounds. I was a cute little girl with curly blonde hair and bright blue eyes. I was the second child born in my family and my sister and I were loved and cherished. I was a “normal” weight until around three years old when I became “chubby.”
My first memory of sensing that I was “different” because of my size was when I was five years old. One of my young friends and I sang, “My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean,” at a summer neighborhood talent show. As I stood on the stage singing my little heart out, proud as I could be, I sensed that some people in the audience were laughing at me because I was fat.
By the time I was in third grade I weighed 130 pounds which was more than some of the teachers. Throughout my school years I was subjected to daily teasing, mocking, jokes, stares from people of all ages, bullying on the playground, exclusion from gym teams and being ostracized by my peers. With each passing year my weight increased approximately 30 pounds and my self-esteem and self-worth plummeted. The pain was too great for me to bear and, as a young girl, I prayed many nights that I would die in my sleep. I hated myself. I hated my life. But even more so, I hated having to face yet another day with its painful repetition of the day before.
I felt vulnerable to constant negative attention every time I was out in public. One time, with tears rolling down my chubby cheeks, I told my father that I felt sad and hurt by all the kids teasing me. He told me that he had been a fat kid too and that he knew how I felt. With sadness in his eyes, he offered his young daughter the only comfort that he had known which was to simply tell myself that “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” I believed my daddy and tried his advice. When kids teased me, I told myself what he had said. It didn’t help. I still felt sad and lonely and hurt. That was the last time I remember telling anyone about the pain.
In seventh grade I weighed 270 pounds and by the time I was a junior in high school I weighed 290. The experience of obesity during my teen years was excruciating. I was never asked to a dance or attended a prom. I was kicked, tripped and spat at in the hallway. Every day was a matter of survival until, at the end of each day, I could walk into my home and fill myself with my favorite “comfort foods” which consisted of cookies, chips, and other snack foods that gave me that much-needed sense of relief.
As an adult, people have asked me why my parents allowed me to get so fat. Why didn’t they help me? Why did they let me eat so much? In fact, by today’s standards, I might have been removed from my family home, my parents accused of abusing me.
I am quite clear about one thing: I do not blame my parents. My obesity was not their fault. They had no control over my mental obsession with sugary foods and had little, if any, control over my consumption of them. I hid food. I stole food. I snuck food. I lied about food. I know today that my parents did their absolute best to support a daughter who, without their understanding, was suffering with the disease of food addiction.
Both of my parents were overweight and did not have access to recovery prior to their early deaths. Of my four siblings, one sister and one brother have weight issues but they do not identify with my experience of bingeing on addictive foods. I do not know if they are addicted to food; it is not for me to determine. Even more to the point, however, my other brother and sister – who were raised in the same household, with the same parents, and with access to the very same foods – have never had an eating or weight problem. So, I do not subscribe to the belief that obesity is entirely a problem of family or environment.
I have learned a great deal since growing up as an obese child and adult. I first heard about compulsive eating and food addiction while attending a food-related twelve step fellowship in the mid 80s. I learned that some people have an abnormal reaction to certain foods – for me, primarily sugar, flour and volume – and that those with this addictive disease and/or predisposition cannot safely eat certain foods in any quantity.
About that same time I attended my first inpatient food addiction treatment program. I was 34 years old and weighed 340 pounds. While there I discovered that my obesity was a symptom of the disease of food addiction. I worked hard in treatment and wholeheartedly surrendered to their direction. Upon leaving, I continued a multi-faceted recovery journey that lasted well over a year.
As the weight came off, I began to think that I had somehow overcome this addiction and that I didn’t need to do so many of the actions that had given me a sense of freedom from the weight and from the obsession. This thinking led to four years of relapse where my will to live was of no match for my will to binge. My last binge lasted 42 days and I gained 56 pounds, during which time I decided that I would eat until I died. I knew that I could not stop; and I knew that life would not be worth living without sugar. I was done.
Yet, deep inside of me, there was a little spark of hope, and in January 1990 I recommitted myself to a residential treatment program that used the addictive model. This time I stayed for five weeks followed by three months in a halfway house for food addicts. Pain had become a huge motivator.
I surrendered to their direction and did whatever I was told were the recommendations for treating advanced food addiction: putting my abstinence first, no matter what; weighing and measuring my food without exception; structuring my daily life around what I need to do to be abstinent and in recovery; surrendering to rigorous participation in a food-related, twelve step fellowship; cultivating a spiritual life; building a strong network of support; getting professional counseling as needed; committing to helping others who suffer with this disease.
All of these actions – and more – have enabled me to live free of food bingeing and the mental obsession of addictive foods and for over 27 years maintaining a 195-pound weight loss for over 25 years.
The internal scars of growing up as an obese child are, to some extent, still with me, and I continue to experience ongoing healing as a result of the daily actions that I am guided to take.
In reflecting upon my story, my thoughts turn to the hundreds of thousands of obese children all around us who may be suffering in silence and don’t yet know how to get out of their excruciating pain.
While I am grateful for the heightened awareness of bullying in recent years, I also know that bullying and oppression against fat kids and adults continue. As I perused a few websites specific to Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, I did not come across one article that addressed the possibility of food addiction in our youth and the need for abstinence from addictive foods. I support the work of organizations like the Food Addiction Institute and others who seek to promote education and treatment for food addiction.
My hope and prayer is that every food addict have the strength and courage to continue their abstinence journey such that our voices and our very beings may share a resounding message of hope, of recovery, and of healing from food addiction and obesity. What will you do this month to share your awareness of childhood obesity and offer hope to those who still suffer? Having an abstinent day today is one positive step. I commit to do that. Will you?
I offer you my love and prayers for ongoing abstinence and recovery,
September 30 – Eating, eating and more eating…Why can’t I STOP? – East Greenwich, Rhode Island – Space is still available!
October 6 – 11 – Primary Intensive – Bradenton, Florida
October 14 – 16 – “3-Days with Phil” – Bradenton, Florida
November 3 – 5 – Alumni Retreat – Vancouver, Canada (details to follow)
November 10 – 15 – Primary Intensive – Vancouver, Canada
We have two great events coming to your neck of the woods in September, and we want to give you the opportunity to register, as they will fill up fast.
September 23-25 we have a “3 Days with ACORN” happening in Rhode Island. Join food addiction specialist Amanda Leith (me) and medical doctor Beth Rocchio as we lead a small group of participants into a deeper level of recovery and toward freedom from the shackles of food addiction. Both Dr. Beth and I have been trained in the ACORN Professional Training program.
The following weekend, on Saturday, September 30, Dr. Beth and I will lead a one-day workshop, Eating, Eating & More Eating … Why Can’t I Stop?! This workshop is open to all and is geared towards individuals new to the idea of Food Addiction, answering the big questions: the Whats, the Whys and the Hows of why some of us just simply can’t stop eating no matter what the negative consequences. The workshop will offer solutions to this baffling obsession with food, eating and weight.
I am super excited to be facilitating these two events with the brilliant Dr. Beth. Both of us have personally struggled with food addiction and have therefore experienced an up-close and personal journey with this disease – both in the drudgery of it and in the miracle of recovery.
We look forward to hearing your stories, sharing our personal journey and, ultimately, finding a deeper level of food addiction recovery.
Please see the flyer below for program specifics and registration information. Both events have limited space so connect with us soon to ensure your spot. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me personally if you have questions about whether either of these programs is a right fit for you or someone you love. You can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you in September,
P.S. I hear I am in for a treat being in Rhode Island in September. I can’t wait to be with you all and see the wonder of the Fall leaves changing.
September 22 – 24 – 3-Days with ACORN – Greenwich, RI
October 6 – 11 – Primary Intensive – Bradenton, FL
Weekly Teleconference “Nuts & Bolts”
***NEW NUMBER BELOW***
Please join us Wednesday evenings for recovery support.
This no-cost abstinence support group is open to all. Led by Sherri Goodman, professional trainee. email@example.com Wednesdays at 7 pm (EST.)
Conference call in number:
(605) 468-8002 Access Number 1014962#
“Summer freedom”–I’m not sure if prior to my recovery I would have included those two words in the same sentence and really meant them.
Summer means sunshine, warmth, outdoor fun, beautiful flowers filling the air with exquisite scents, daylight lasting until after 9 p.m., swim suits, shorts and tank tops. For me, beforerecovery, my “summer freedom” equaled profuse sweating, with perspiration rolling down my neck and face and my hair sticking to my forehead–a very sexy look! Added to that was an uncomfortable heat rash, meaning major chafing between my legs and under my stomach roll … painful, and often smelly, not to mention amusing! When I thought no one was looking, I walked as if a beach ball were stuffed between my legs so my thighs wouldn’t rub together and exacerbate the rash. “Summer freedom” also meant avoiding the beach and pools at all costs–or going only when I was basically the only other human being there because if people saw me in my bathing suit, they would know I was overweight (ummm, I think it was pretty obvious fully clothed, Amanda). “Summer freedom” also meant lying to my friends when they invited me places like the beach. It meant camping, which I actually really enjoyed until the sadness crept in, mainly because camping included eating junk food all day and night. As the rest of the world became excited and energized, connecting with others in the picturesque outdoors, I stood on the sidelines watching–sad, lonely, and ashamed–and all the while desperately trying to portray that all was good and that my life was great.
The truth was my life was far from great as I was tethered to my obsession with food, body and weight. No, freedom was not a word I would use to describe my life, and certainly not a word I would use to describe summer.
However, now that I am in stable food addiction recovery, “freedom” is exactly the word I would use to describe the feelings I’ve been experiencing this summer. I have the “freedom” to take my niece, Georgia, hiking up Grouse Mountain and know that when she gets tired and “can’t walk anymore,” as is almost a guarantee with any four-year-old, I have the ability to hoist her onto my shoulders and keep going. (I know Georgia doesn’t look too impressed in this picture, but I promise we had a super fun day–this was just after her dramatic experience of “being cold, wanting to go home, and not being able to take one more step,” which was followed two minutes later by her “having so much fun!”)
I have the freedom to hop on my bike with my Dad and go for a spin around beautiful Vancouver.
And I’ve saved the best for last: I have the freedom to snuggle with my niece and feel the pure contentment, peace and utter joy that this little human being is in my life. Yes, I could have done this before, as well as all the other things listed above. However, they would have been far more physically challenging–I didn’t really have a lap that my niece could sit on! More importantly, I would not have been truly present, as my mind would have been hijacked either by obsessing over how I looked or what I was going to be able to eat next–or even more devastating, how much I hated myself and my life!
Yes, recovery has brought me freedom to live a life beyond my wildest dreams, including all the ups, downs, and in-betweens that make up life in our magnificent world. It has allowed me to show up for my niece and for everyone else in my life in an authentic, integral way.
Today I am truly grateful that I can honestly say “summer” and “freedom” in the same sentence and know they truly fit together.
Wishing the rest of your summer is full of abstinence, fun and freedom!
September 22 – 24 – 3-Days with Phil – Homewood, IL
September 22 – 24 – 3-Days with ACORN – Greenwich, RI
October 6 – 11 – Primary Intensive – Bradenton, FL
Weekly Teleconference “Nuts & Bolts” ***NEW NUMBER BELOW***
Please join us Wednesday evenings for recovery support.
This no-cost abstinence support group is open to all. Led by Sherri Goodman, professional trainee. firstname.lastname@example.org Wednesdays at 7 pm (EST.)
Conference call in number: (605) 468-8002 Access Number 1014962#
In recognition of Men’s Health Awareness Monthhttp://www.menshealthmonth.org/ we are pleased to highlight the story of Sachir “Rocky” from Amman, Jordan. Sachir began his recovery journey in Jordan where he discovered that he was addicted to certain foods. Rocky weighed almost 400 pounds following seemingly endless attempts to lose weight through dieting. To support his ongoing healing process, he came to Florida where he participated in ACORN Primary Intensives. Rocky has lost 190 lbs and, more importantly, is free from the obsession through a deepening understanding of food addiction and the process of the Twelve Steps. Here is his inspiring story.
The Fat & the Furious
From Amman, Jordan
It was one of those perfect days in late spring. The sun was beaming in a bright blue sky and a cool breeze grazed us with a light touch from time to time, ensuring that it would not get too hot. All you heard was the gentle whispering of the leaves, the happy chirping of the birds and the sound of joy and laughter from our kids who were having the time of their lives in and around the pool. I was in my element: Two grills were fired up in front of me and my friends and family were in eager anticipation of what culinary delight I had in store for them today. I loved preparing food for everybody and being creative and working hard to put together an incredible spread made my day complete. All the dishes I had prepared worked out wonderfully, each spice was just right, each combination opened new horizons and when I served food plentifully and beautifully prepared my guests were not surprised but nonetheless in utter awe. We all sat down and enjoyed our meal accompanied by great conversation and lots of laughter. At this time, I was in my 40s, a happy husband, a proud father and a successful professional. Life was good.
But under the surface, it wasn’t good at all. I weighed 370 lbs., took 8 pills a day, had developed bulimia and a dependency on laxatives and compulsive exercising. Nobody suspected the torment that was hiding behind my smiling face, but my 32-year long war with food and weight had exhausted me, frustrated me and worn me down. I had learned to pretend that all this was just fine with me and that I am content with myself, but deep inside it was a different story. After all my battles, I tried to surrender to find some peace of mind. I tried to convince myself that there is no solution other than to accept my weight and my obsession with food and to live with the physical and emotional anguish and confusion that comes with that. There was still the ubiquitous pain nagging inside of me to try again, to change, but it had become quieter because I had trained myself for years to ignore it. I was in complete denial and had reached the desperate point of rationalizing that it is perfectly okay to die 10 or more years before my time. I was convinced that I had tried it all and that there was no hope for me, and my life-story spoke for itself. I didn’t know yet that I was powerless.
Looking back, I believe I was a food addict since my early teenage years, maybe even earlier. At first I was just enjoying food, like everybody else, but after a while the pleasure and the cravings became more extreme and more compulsive. However, since I was athletic and active I was able to maintain a healthy weight and did not realize that there was a problem until senior year. The last year of high school in my country is extremely demanding and exceptionally stressful. Usually, seniors literally do not do anything but go to school in the morning and study the rest of the day and better part of the night. Life stops and all that remains are stress, fear and the pressure to do well because your whole life depends on those grades. Culturally, food is synonymous with love, care and affection and, like any other of my friends’ mothers, mine also lavished me with treats and favorite meals in order to alleviate my suffering. I found comfort and relief in food but soon the normal sized portions became insufficient. I needed more to keep the same level of happiness. The results at the end of that year were formidable: excellent grades – but an extra 60 lbs in only eight months. I weighed 231 lbs and my waistline had increased by 6 inches! I realized that there was a problem and my war against the weight officially began.
I was athletic, competitive and strong-willed and I was able to lose the weight quickly and successfully. But then the weight came back. So I lost it again, and again and again and again…. The problem was not sticking to the diet and losing the weight. It was keeping it off permanently when not on the diet. I quickly entered a vicious cycle of completing a diet and achieving a desirable weight only to gain it all back, and then some. I often felt like Sisyphus, pushing my huge boulder of fat up the hill, only to watch it roll over me and smother me the minute I thought I was home free. Like with Sisyphus, there is nothing more dreadful than futile and hopeless labor and the more times I tried and failed the less motivated I became to try again. My frustration with myself grew exponentially and so did my depression, which consolidated my dependency on the only potent painkiller I knew: Food.
For over 30 years I have lost and gained over 1000 lbs. I relentlessly tried everything possible. I have been on hundreds of different diets, took diet pills and supplements, tried acupuncture and voodoo and spend countless hours in the gym. The more futile my attempts became the more desperate the measures grew. When I had to realize that diets did not seem to be the solution, I had my jaw wired shut in order to make it impossible to consume solid food. The first month was a great success and only taking in liquids resulted in losing 50 lbs. However, the cravings were stronger than the happiness about the enormous weight loss. My raging mental hunger led me to be creative, and I started blending simple vegetables and meat. Yet, that did not satisfy me and after a week I was blending burgers and fried chicken. When blending was not satisfying enough, I learned how to untie the wires on my jaw, eat any food I desired and to then go through great lengths to retie them in a way nobody would notice. I was worried that my father would notice, or the dentist or my friends which would have embarrassed me. But actually, deep inside, I was already ashamed of myself and riddled with self-contempt. Who was I fooling? I was very much aware that these are not the actions of a sane man, yet I was powerless to drive against my cravings.
The rollercoaster of losing and gaining weight continued for decades, wearing me down, hollowing me out and taking a toll on my emotional health. In 1999 I reached new threatening high of 400 lbs. My health was deteriorating rapidly and although strong and athletic, my legs could barely carry me. I suffered from hypertension, gout, high cholesterol and sleep apnea and was on the verge of becoming a diabetic. I was 10 lbs away from dying. Extreme measures had to be taken, and quickly, so I decided to undergo gastric bypass surgery.
Considering my weight the surgery was very risky, including complications when administering general anesthesia and risks to the respiratory and cardiovascular system. The pre-surgery talk with the doctors terrified me and, like a small child, I just wanted to run away and hide. A million thoughts were running through my head, tormenting me and making my brain want to explode. I was thinking of my children and how I wanted to see them grow up, my wife, my parents, my whole life that I still wanted to live…. But I was trapped and I knew it. There was no other way: yes, the surgery was dangerous but if I didn’t do it, my weight would most certainly kill me. I had reached a dead end and there was only utter bleakness and desperation.
As expected, the surgery was complicated and difficult. I had to have both general anesthesia and an epidural, which has left long lasting side effects. The procedure also took much longer than anticipated. Due to the extended time under sedation, it took me almost two full days to properly wake up and I had to spend two weeks in the CCU. I was happy I was alive but watching my family suffer and worry about my health made me vow to make it work this time. I never wanted to subject any of my loved ones to so much pain again and it was agonizing to be the reason for their tears.
I immediately started to lose weight – after all there is not much you can fit into a 1 oz stomach! Within 2 years I had lost over 180 lbs and physically I was feeling much better. My blood pressure had gone down, I could sleep much better and moving around was actually a pleasure rather than a burden again. However, mentally, my relationship to food still hadn’t changed. I still experienced the same anguish and obsession with food and still found it hard to stop eating. The realization made me furious and resentful. It depressed me more than ever that after all I had gone through I was still desperately helpless and powerless vis-a-vis food.
However, the anguish continued. I hated myself for being so weak but simultaneously I was searching for ways to satisfy my raging cravings. This time, the solution was simple and very convenient. Since I could not eat big quantities in a single sitting anymore, I resorted to eat constantly. I became a grazer and slowly but steadily began to regain the weight I had lost.
Back it was on the battlefield again, trying out diets, losing weight, gaining weight, caught in the sticky web of being obsessed with food, struggling to finally break free and be in control. I grasped that I was powerless in front of food, that I could not stop eating and I loathed myself for that. Yet, I always believed that I could gain control by incarcerating the cravings into strict diet plans and that it was normal to sometimes lose control. Therefore, the cycle of diets and bingeing continued and with every failure I spiraled deeper and deeper into feeling despicable and humiliated.
But, by nature, I am a happy person. I love and enjoy life and I suffered from feeling so miserable. This was the point where I gave up. I tried to convince myself that I had tried everything I could, that it was just not in my hand to be thin and that I should just not attempt to lose weight anymore. I wasn’t truly convinced of course and my thoughts would still perpetually revolve around the same two topics: wanting food but craving to control it.
The first step to salvation happened at a Christmas dinner. I was full of joy at the prospect of a beautiful evening, enjoying an endless feast of delicacies when two friends walked in and I hardly recognized them. They had lost around 50 lbs and looked amazing. I was mesmerized by how relaxed and content they seemed, how healthy they looked and how happy they were. They eagerly told me about the new program that had changed their lives, encouraging me to participate as well. Yet, I only pretended to listen out of politeness and respect. In my mind I was convinced that nothing could save me.
My wife was extremely worried about me. She watched me not only almost killed myself with food but also noticed huge changes in my personality. Rather than being my happy and mellow self, I was constantly irritable and short-tempered. Any family plans were no longer made around what would make the kids happy, but always depended on food being included and to my liking. She had done everything to support me in all my diet endeavors and every failure was as painful for her as it was for me. For the first time in decades she had hope and she was determined to defeat my pessimism and stubbornness and to give me hope as well. Photo: Sachir (Rocky) and his sons.
Three months later, I attended the three-day workshop my friends recommended. The lady was talking about her personal life-long struggle with weight and how ACORN finally saved her life. All the participants had to share their stories and every story they told was like watching a movie about my life. And for the first time in my life I learned that there is something like food addiction and compulsive overeating. It was a total revelation and I was deeply intrigued by all I learned. I immediately felt uplifted, hopeful and optimistic; emotions that I had thought had long ceased to exist.
Feeling the need to learn as much as I could about the subject, I traveled to Bradenton, Florida, to take my first intensive workshop with Phil and Mary. Realizing and admitting that I am a food addict and understanding that I was powerless filled me with strength and determination to finally walk on the right road to recovery. I was lucky to have 10 other people in my group and sharing our pain and problems with no hesitation enriched this experience. I have been back several times to strengthen my abstinence and to acquire more knowledge from Phil and Mary, who were paramount in making me acknowledge I had a problem and who played a significant role in my recovery. Photo: Mary Foushi, Rocky Ajlouni and Phil Werdell – Aqaba, Jordan.
I have been abstinent for 2½ years now and I have never felt better. Not only have I lost 190 lbs, but also my fear, hate and anger. No longer do I go through agonizing cycles of self-loathing, resentment, uncontrollable cravings and overwhelming obsession with food. I have finally found peace of mind, tranquility and an equilibrium and, rather than gaining weight, I am now finally free to gain new experiences and to make new memories.
June and July Events
Space is available in the new Living In Recovery Program. Week 2 begins Sunday, June 11th. Call the ACORN office to register. 941-378-2122
Monsey, New York!Bradenton, Florida!Bristol, Vermont!
ACORN is offering several events in the next few weeks in several locations. Start your summer with Abstinence and Recovery. We are registering NOW for the following events:
Women’s Health Month
May is Woman’s Health Month and as it has just ended I have taken a bit of time this morning to reflect on my own health and what I have done to look after myself over the years.
The term “looking after myself” has had very different meanings at different times in my life. For the majority of my life it meant doing what I wanted, how I wanted, when I wanted followed by feelings of guilt, shame and resentment. It meant doing things for other people that I really didn’t want to do and then walking around feeling angry at them and everyone else. It meant cancelling social commitments to stay home and watch TV and eat because I needed to “rest.” It meant feeding my body whatever food I wanted so I wouldn’t feel “deprived.” It meant spending money I didn’t have on things because I wanted them and “deserved” them and then feeling self-pity because I “should” have more money. I thought looking after myself was doing exactly what I wanted and what I thought felt “good.”
This way of thinking didn’t get me very far or, more accurately, it didn’t get me very far in living a meaningful, successful life full of love, gratitude and purpose. But it did get me far into morbid obesity, far into debt, far into depression and anxiety, far into anger and resentment, far into self-pity and far into self-hatred. I think I was a little confused on what the true meaning of “looking after myself” actually meant.
Today I believe “looking after myself” means doing the things that are most in line with who my true self is. What are the things I can do each day that bring me to a place of true joy, true gratitude, true love and true service to others? Many times this includes doing things that I would rather not do. It includes doing things that feel really hard at times. It includes doing things that don’t always come easily or naturally to me. And yet, at the end of most days I now go to bed with feelings of acceptance, peace and gratitude.
Here are the six things I do these days that truly are “looking after myself”:
Be Abstinent – The most important thing I do every single day is to follow my personal food plan that allows me to be free from the bondage of food obsession, allows me to be free from carrying around 150-plus pounds of excess weight, and most of all nourishes my body so I can think and be in the world as I was meant to be. If I stop doing this for any meal, I stop living the life I was put here to live. For me, to stop being abstinent means spiritual, mental, emotional and, eventually, physical death.
Morning Reflection – Every morning when I wake up I take a few minutes before I do anything else to get quiet and present. I pray for a day full of love and peace, I pray that I can be of service to others, and I pray for the willingness to continue to move forward, taking the next right step. Then I set my timer and “meditate” for a few minutes. Meditation, for me, means sitting in a comfortable position, in a quiet place, with my eyes closed and being still, letting thoughts drift into my mind and letting them pass, being aware of any messages that seem to be coming from the universe or something outside of myself, a power greater than me.
Evening Reflection – Before I go to sleep at night I take some time to review my day. What did I do well today? What could I have done differently? I remind myself that this is not time to beat on myself; rather it is a time for me to look at what I did well. If I looked objectively at my waking hours – and I’m sure you are no different – I find that they are filled with many successes, and now is the time to acknowledge them. I also observe the moments when I struggled throughout the day. Again, if look at these objectively, they can be viewed as one of my greatest assets of the day as they are growth opportunities, lessons for ways I can show up differently the following day.
Connection – Every day it is vital for me to connect with others. This connection may come from chatting with an old friend and laughing until we have tears streaming down our cheeks and our belly’s ache, or it may come from spending a sweet moment looking for worms in the dirt with my 4-year-old niece (my FAVORITE person in the world). Or it may come from sitting in a coffee shop and striking up a conversation with the barista and finding out about their life…all of these connections are critical to my health.
Support – I have seen and experienced first-hand that I cannot successfully do “life” alone. It is vital for me to get and give support to others every single day. This support comes in many forms. Today, I get my support from attending 12 Step meetings, attending support groups that allow me to share openly and honestly with others who “get” what I am talking about and daily one-on-one check-ins with people who are my partners in recovery. These support systems are a great reality check for me and are essential to my daily well-being.
Gratitude – There are so many amazing things happening in my life, and it is important for me to stop and recognize these every day. For a lot of my life I fell into that “poor me,” “why is this happening to me” style of thinking, always wanting things to be different than they were. This negative thinking leads me to self pity and negativity and I can’t afford to wallow in those feelings for very long these days. So, before I go to sleep each night, I take a few minutes to write down what I am grateful for at that moment. It may be something as simple as I have a comfy bed to sleep in, or that I saw a beautiful flower on the side of the road, or for the helpful sales clerk at the grocery store or it may be for my beautiful niece, or the rolling-on-the-ground laughter I shared with my mom that afternoon. Or it may be for the tough piece of feedback an honest friend gave to me that morning. There really are so many amazing gifts that I receive every day and, if I don’t stop and notice them, I can once again easily trick myself into believing life is just too hard again…and I definitely don’t want to go back there! Writing down a minimum of 5 things I am grateful for each day requires a tiny amount of effort in relation to the enormous payoff I receive from living with an attitude of gratitude…it is life changing.
Above are practices that are drastically changing my life. Yet there are many other things that are important to looking after myself, such as getting enough sleep, having a work-life balance, spending time with family and friends and getting outside and moving my body…every day.
Let me know what “looking after yourself” means to you.
Wishing you all an abstinent June full of health, fun and gratitude,
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