Are you looking for help to solve an eating disorder? A 12 step program may be just what you need. It is a set of guiding principles mapping out the course of action to take to deal with different types of problems including drug addiction, alcoholism, and compulsion that includes food addiction.
Are you interested in knowing more? Keep reading!
A Brief About The 12 Step Program:
The original proposition for this program came from Alcoholics Anonymous; and in 1939, the original 12 Steps were published in a book called ‘Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism’. After being adopted, this method has become the foundation of other groups that use the 12 step program.
According to the summarization given by the American Psychological Association, the 12 steps that were developed initially involved the following:
- Admitting that one’s alcoholism, drug addiction or compulsion is beyond one’s control
- Recognizing and believing in a higher power that can help in restoring sanity
- Examining past mistakes with a sponsor’s help
- Atoning for these past mistakes
- Learning how to live a new life with a new set of behavioral codes
- Helping other people who suffer from the same addictions or compulsions
As you know, alcohol or drug addiction is not the only type of addiction. This disease can take many forms. There are people all over the world who are addicted to food instead of drugs or alcohol. Food addiction is an extremely difficult condition to treat. It requires treatment that is different from what is provided to alcoholics and drug addicts. Why is this so? It is because food is a necessity. Many people have been able to overcome their addiction to food with the help of the 12 step approach that is offered by Overeaters Anonymous and Food Addicts Anonymous (1).
Although there is a vast difference between overeating and drug and alcohol abuse and the way they are treated, there are certain similarities as well. As mentioned earlier, the 12 step approach was originally developed for the treatment of alcoholism by Alcoholics Anonymous and other groups, including Food Addicts Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous. Slight variations are made to make them more suitable to address the issues managed by each group.
Overeaters Anonymous’ List Of Food Addiction Symptoms:
There are millions of people who want to lose weight; however, being overweight does not mean that the 12 step approach that is offered by Overeaters Anonymous is what you require. This type of program is most beneficial for people who have the tendency to eat compulsively.
The following symptoms are those that Overeaters Anonymous states as the indicators that you or your loved one may be suffering from food addiction:
- Eating even at times that you are not hungry
- Eating although you are already full or eating to the point of feeling sick
- Feeling guilty or embarrassed about the amount of food you eat
- Eating alone so that you do not have to feel embarrassed when you eat with other people
- Eating as a way to deal with different emotions
- Using fasting, diet pills, laxatives or other unhealthy ways of controlling your weight after eating
- Fantasizing about weight loss
- Feeling like you constantly need to chew something
- Eating all types of unappetizing food; including moldy and burnt food, as well as food that has already dumped in the garbage can
- Taking a bite of food and feeling like you should not stop eating until you have finished it all off
- Alternating between periods of control or fasting and binge eating
- Spending a lot of time thinking of what to eat and when you will eat next
If you or someone that you are close to shows the signs mentioned above, it is clear that you need to seek help as quickly as possible.
The Overeaters Anonymous’ 12 Step Program:
Overeaters Anonymous uses a 12 step approach that comprises of 12 steps that are connected to a spiritual ideal. While you work your way through these steps, you will permit yourself to take up ideals that range from honesty to humility.
Overeaters Anonymous’ definition of the 12 steps as well as their spiritual ideal is:
- Honesty: Admitting that you have no power over food
- Hope: Having belief that a higher power can help you in gaining control of your addiction
- Faith: Letting God, or any other higher power you believe in, take over your life
- Courage: Setting up a personal moral inventory
- Integrity: Conceding to God, yourself and those around you that there are errors that you have made and admitting the exact nature of those errors
- Willingness: Readying yourself to ask God to get rid of all the defects you have in your character
- Humility: Humbling yourself to ask God to help you deal with your shortcomings
- Self-Discipline: Making a list of everyone that you have hurt and asking them for forgiveness
- Love: Atoning for all the hurt you have caused to people, except in cases where making amends might do more harm than good
- Perseverance: Continuing with taking personal moral inventories and making necessary life changes as required
- Spiritual Awareness: Making an effort to better your relationship with God and praying to have an understanding of His will for your life
- Service: Spreading this message to other people who are struggling with addiction to food so that they can learn how the 12 step principles may help in changing their entire lives
For decades, the 12 step program has been highly effective in helping people who suffer from food addiction. The steps are a set of psychological or emotional steps that you can take to help yourself in recovering from your addiction. For instance, the first step is to admit that you have a problem (2). The second step is to believe that there is a higher power that can help you overcome the problem that you are going through. Although the groups do not have professionals, they work extremely well as people who have recovered from their food addiction stay to help others in need. Members who are experienced report that when they continue to attend meetings, their lives are more meaningful and better.
Benefits Of A 12 Step Program For Food Addiction:
According to many therapists, 12 step programs are the best when it comes to free therapy. This is a great program for food addicts as there are many benefits that come with them. Here is a look at some of the benefits of a 12 step program for food addicts:
1. They Do Not Cost Anything:
A 12 step program does not require you to spend any money. You do not have to pay exorbitant amounts for therapists or treatment. The best thing is that although they are free, they are highly effective in helping people recover from their addiction.
2. They Are Everywhere:
You do not have to feel alone when you suffer from food addiction. 12 step programs are everywhere, so no matter where you are, you have others just like you who are struggling with addiction. For instance, there are approximately 6,500 Overeaters Anonymous groups in more than 75 countries that meet on a weekly basis. There are many others who have done what you have with food, so you do not have to feel like you are alone.
3. Your Recovery Is In Your Hands:
With 12 step groups such as Food Addicts Anonymous, you are the person who is in charge of your recovery. You make the final decision on the things concerning your addiction that you need to work on. You also have the freedom to progress at a pace that you are comfortable with.
4. They Heal Isolation And Shame:
One of the things that food addicts, and others, have in common is the feeling of isolation and shame. They hide their problem from everyone, including the people that they feel closest to. The 12 step program focuses on healing these feelings so that you can concentrate on recovering without feeling ashamed of what you have gone through. It is only when you open up about your addiction without shame that you can expect to let go of it.
5. They Are Safe:
The guidance and formats of group conduct make 12 step programs a safe place for food addicts. For example, the rule “no cross talk” ensures that other people in the meeting cannot comment upon or interrupt someone’s sharing of their experience. It is not compulsory to share, but when you do, doing it in a place that is safe and free from interruption or judgment can help you in finding your voice.
6. Sponsors Are Always Available:
Lastly, you will always find experienced members, or sponsors, available to help and guide you. Whether you need someone to talk to or someone to inform when you have cravings for food, sponsors are always available for you to call. Unlike with therapists, you do not have to wait to make an appointment first. So, you always have support when you need it.
These programs are not for everyone. For some, they do come with cons. For example, some people do not like the spiritual aspect and others, dislike the abstinence model.
However, when they work, they work amazingly well. According to some therapists, a 12 step group is one of the best ways to help patients with food addictions. This is because they come in contact with others with the same issues, and get a set of principles that not only help them with their addictions, but also help deal with their overall life problems.
12 step programs for food addiction help you deal with the behaviors, emotions and thoughts that play a role in fuelling your addiction. You also get the tools that are needed to deal with all the issues in your life. This is what makes them work so well in helping food addicts recover and lead a healthy lifestyle once more.
[ Read: Guide for Detox Diet Plans ]
Is Recovery From Food Addiction Possible?
Yes, it is definitely possible to recover from food addiction. The treatment required is simple but it is not necessarily easy either. Another important point is that like other chronic diseases and addictions, a permanent cure is not available. However, it is possible to put addiction to food in physical remission, and then, with time, mend the psychological, spiritual, economic and social damage that it has caused.
The food addiction recovery principles are simply to:
- Completely get rid of specific binge foods as well as compulsive eating behaviours
- Develop skills to help you deal with different difficult emotions without the use of food
- Seek help, especially when it comes to the identification and decision-making about chronic irrational thoughts about food, eating and body image
- Effectively break the biochemical denial that involves addiction to food.
The difficulty of what you need to do to overcome food addiction varies as the disease progresses.
In the early stage of food addiction, the recovery process begins with the identification of potentially toxic foods and making sure to abstain from them. To do this, considerable education about addiction to food is often required. The following questions need to be addressed:
- What is the difference between craving and physical hunger?
- Why will taking such a radical step in the early stage prevent problems that are more severe in the long term?
- Why do some people need to abstain completely while others are able to safely eat the same foods in moderation?
In this stage of food addiction, instincts have become distorted and this in turn leads to distortion of conscious thinking. It is extremely important to ask for help. This might mean turning to a friend who is sober, a family member, a minister or a counselor to help you out. You should also consider attending a 12 step meeting that is related to food addiction (3).
As mentioned earlier, one of the advantages of attending such a meeting is that you get to meet others who are facing the same problem with food and are working in unison towards a solution. In these meetings, you may also be able to find someone who is willing to be your sponsor. This means that you can have an experienced person who can give you the guidance and support you need to overcome your addiction.
[ Read: Ways To Make Your Junk Food Healthy ]
In this food addiction stage, more support and structure is often required. This means that you need to attend more 12 step meetings and joining programs that are more structured for food addicts who are at a critical level. You may also want to seek professional help. At this stage, food addicts need a lot of help as the disease that they are suffering from is quite serious. It is not only their addiction that needs addressing, but their health needs to be looked at as well.
In the final stage of food addiction, long-term care is necessary. Food addicts at this stage are in critical need of full-time care. Their disease or compulsion will most likely have taken over their lives. Every day will be a struggle. They require supervision and lots of support from experienced people as well as their loved ones. This is a dangerous stage for food addicts, which is why the utmost care is needed at all times.
How Do You Know If A 12 Step Program For Food Addiction Is For You?
Here are the points that will help you to decide if a food addiction 12 step program is what you need:
- Food Addicts Anonymous or other groups that offer the 12 step approach may be right for you if you are someone who has struggled for many years to eat healthy, nutritious foods as well as to maintain a healthy weight.
- You may find a solution with the help of these groups if you are a person who tends to binge by eating large amounts of sweets or foods that are high in starch content.
- If you purge your body by using extreme measures, such as by an excessive intake of laxatives, vomiting or excessive exercise, you may find the support and comfort you need in these groups. You will also find that you are not the only one who has gone through these problems.
- If you are someone who limits your intake of foods and have people around you who constantly tell you that you need to increase your food intake, a 12 step program may be able to help and give you hope.
A food addict’s life is deeply affected by a lack of an attempt to depend on self-will and a connection to a higher power. Self-obsession as well as a general feeling of despair also takes over their lives. If you are able to identify with these points, a 12 step program may be exactly what you need to gain control of your life and recover from your addiction.
Hundreds of food addicts have testified to the effectiveness of 12 step programs. Every principle included in these programs helped them to overcome the disease that they suffer from. They gain a spiritual connection with God, or a higher power, and this gives them immense strength. Being able to talk openly about their food addiction without fear of being judged or laughed at is another reason why many people join these groups and have found success in their recovery.
Lastly, being able to connect to other food addicts and being able to give and receive support gives many the strength that they did not have in the past. For many, it provides inspiration to get their lives back on a healthy track with healthy eating.
Apart from guidance and support, 12 step programs for food addiction like Food Addicts Anonymous also provide an effective food plan that is of the utmost importance. Food is an essential part of our lives, but when it is abused like drugs or alcohol, the quality of your life can deteriorate very quickly. With a food plan, you gain a guide that helps you eat better and more healthily. It is important to remember that it is not meant to be used as a diet. It is a lifestyle change that provides better eating habits that have a positive effect on your health and body.
Recovered food addicts confirm that the food plan works and needs to be combined with the support and recovery steps provided by 12 step programs.
It is possible to recover from food addiction with a 12 step program. The various benefits and the way these programs work have already been mentioned. As you have learned, there are a lot of factors that make these programs a much better choice than overpriced therapy sessions, etc. Being able to connect with others like you and having a sponsor to always help you when you need support are things that not all recovery programs can offer.
If you have a problem with compulsive eating, you should consider a 12 step program to help you. The recovery success rate is extremely high due to their effectiveness in helping food addicts cope with their issues as well as the support that they provide to their members. You will find that there is no need to face your eating problem alone and that there are those who are struggling just as you are. By being in a group that offers you principles to help you recover from food addiction and guides you to a healthier lifestyle, you can regain control of your life. You can leave your mistakes behind and set out on a path that is filled only with positivity and love.
We hope this post has helped you. You can give us your feedback in the comments section below.
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