December 2007


I’m an addict — excessive amounts of food and avoidance of physical exercise are my “drugs of choice” — and my problem is Dave!

<<< Group Responds: “Hi, Dave and welcome!!!” >>>

Several days ago I received a call from a friend who shares my struggle with food addiction and exercise avoidance. She called to inform me that SHE DECIDED…

— that WE were going to be “Weight Loss Buddies” beginning the first week of January 2008.

— that WE would be attending TOGETHER the Monday Weight Watchers meeting in my neighborhood that takes place barely one block from where I live.

…that WE were pretty much going to eat and exercise ALIKE.

…It even sounded as if she expected US to even think ALIKE (or, more like I would think JUST LIKE HER!).

Weight Loss Buddies Shold AVOID Screaming At Each Other!This ain’t a healthy relationship, people! What she proposes is more like a “codependent clingfest” where she is my Drill Sergeant! With a “friend” like her offering me “support” (as well meaning as she certainly is), I probably could easily cultivate TONS of resentments to lead me back to OVEReatomg and enough DEPRESSION to make me want to be even more lethargic than I already am! 🙂

I know: NO excuse will do for bad choices. I also know that my friend’s prouncements about this “weight loss buddy” thing sounds extremely co-dependent as evidenced by her DISrespect for my boundaries/choices.

If you read any of my other journal entries, you know that I believe it is a BIG NO NO for one addict to dictate to another addict about the choice of a food plan or exercise plan! I’ve found it best to leave to PROFESSIONALS (or at least Weight Watchers) decisions that should NEVER be made by a “fellow crazy person” (e.g., fellow addict — “When it comes to food, we are stragely INsane” = Don’t hire a pyromaniac to work as a fire fighter!).

The concept of a “weight loss buddy” is fine. In fact, it is a GOOD thing to have a friend in recovery to share experience, strength and hope with on a regular (if not daily basis).

But make decisions for their buddy?  Nope. Each addict is responsible for his own decisions. Smart decisions and dumb decisions. Healthy decisions and toxic decisions. Each of us addicts even have a right to make NO decision(s) — which is/are decision(s) in themselves!

In 12 Step recovery the concept that comes closest to what my friend calls a “weight loss buddy” is what is known as a “sponsor”. A sponsor is someone who usually has a longer term of recovery than their sponsee. My experience is that most people who work with a “buddy” usually have nearly the same length of recovery as the person they are working with (i.e., for overeaters this means that they both usually began their dieting effort at the same time).

Thanks, but I don’t “do diets” these days! I love the newest Weight Watchers slogan: “Stop dieting. Start living.” Amen!

For me, speaking as an addict, diets never really did work for me, don’t work for me now and NEVER will work for me. They make work for my friend and they may work for you (More power to y’all!), but they do NOT work for me.

What DOES work for me is experiencing a “spiritual awakening” followed by a “lifestyle change” and change of life philosophy — that, with God’s help and the support of other addicts — I work just ONE DAY AT A TIME. This is what is working for me NOW and what I’ve wittnessed working for countless other addicts over the years (regarless of their “drug of choice”).

I love the concept of sponsorship as it is taught and practiced within Narcotics Anonymous. My approach to working with my “Weight Loss Buddy” (Yes, I’m going to work with her — one meeting and one day at a time!) is influenced by the following quotes from N.A. literature…

“Over time, being a sponsor can help us learn how to listen without judgment, accept without conditions, and love without expectations. In many ways, sponsorship teaches us how to develop and maintain healthy relationships.”

Wow! “Listen withOUT judgment”, “accept withOUT conditions and love withOUT expectations — what concepts! Not only can this approach help me “develop and maintain healthy relationships” (with my Weight Loss Buddy and others), it also goes a long way to helping me overcome tendencies to become a “control freak” — Hey, I’m an Adult Child of an Alcoholic, so I learned how to be a “control freak” at an early age (at least I got these tendencies “honestly”, huh?).

When I first laid eyes on a checklist of common characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics back in the mid-1980’s), I thought it was a PERFECT description of myself as well as MOST of the folks I’d met in the meeting of Overeaters Anonymous. Hence to this day I believe that the “primary addiction” most of us addicts have is the addiction to CONTROL others (which sounds a like codependency to moi!) and our “drug(s) of choice” is more of a “secondary issue”.

Back to Narcotics Anonymous literature as it discusses the concept of sponorship…

“A sponsor is a recovering addict in the program of Narcotics Anonymous; someone we can trust to share our life experiences with (both good and bad); a person to whom we can go with our problems that may be too personal to share with the group. It is suggested that a sponsor be someone who has practice in working the Twelve Steps and is involved in the program. Primarily, a sponsor is a guide through the Twelve Steps of recovery.”

It sounds like to me that a sponsor must have a gentle spirit — one that allows their sponsee to be honest/real/transparent.  without fear of recrimination. Could it be that a sponsee should never fear being scolded,  nagged or screamed at by their sponsor? Me thinks so.

Sponsors (and even Weight Loss Buddies) must keep their own recovery as their primary focus. Sponsors have a right to maintain their own boundaries (“We carry the message, not the addict.”) Sponsor then “are not reformers, preachers of the gospel, welfare workers, part-time social workers, marriage counselors, money lenders, employment counselors, or parole officers.”

I have this knot in the pit of my stomach accompanied by the intutitive sense that tells me that that sooner (rather than later) I’ll need to gently confront my Weight Loss Buddy about my boundaries and about what IS MY business and where she needs to let go of control.

I’ll let you know how this relationship works out.

I’m an addict — excessive amounts of food and avoidance of physical exercise are my “drugs of choice” — and my problem is Dave!

<<< Group Responds: “Hi, Dave and welcome!!!” >>>

Tow Truck

Back on Thursday, December 13 (yes the “13th” — and I’m NOT usually supersticious, btw) my car started leaking gasoline. Gasoline managed to get into the motor oil and my mechanic informed me that the engine of my 1986 (yes, 1986) Oldsmobile Cutlass station wagon is ruined!

As I was waiting for a cab the evening that my car broke down, I recalled an unfortunately oh-so-true saying I first heard many years ago in the rooms of Overeaters Anonymous: “When ‘normal’ people have car trouble, they call a mechanic. When we food addicts have car trouble (or anything else stressful going on) we call our local 24 hour crisis hotline (or at least some restaurant that DELIVERS!!!).”

I always feel “STRESS!!!” when I have car trouble. The sensation that my surroundings are “out of control” isn’t whatcha’ call “pleasant”! To prove that a “logical connection” exists between stress and overeating, consider that “stressed” spelled backwards spells “DESSERT”! 🙂

Nearly two weeks after my car crapped out, I’m still driving a rental (can we say this is getting a little bit EXPENSIVE!!!) as I continue to search for another used vehicle.  I’m still “stressed”, but thankfully NOT overeating in response to the feelings.

Despite my nearly 80 pound weight loss, I’m still too obese to comfortably fit behind the steering wheels of most sedans (which is is embarraassing to say the least). So SUV’s and full size pick-up trucks appear to be my best options for my next vehicle. I have a couple of possibilities (my offer was accepted for a 1995 Ford SUV and — shock!!! — my credit appication has been APPROVED by a local used car dealer.

What’s my solution to worry/fear/stress? An “Al-Anonism” seems to apply here: “Why pray when you can worry?  Why worry when you can pray?” Or, as a sign I saw in a priest’s office many years ago said, “Worry less. Pray more.”

As if I didn’t already have enough excellent reasons to work toward weight loss, another logical reason for me is to loose more weight is that it makes finding an appropriately-sized car much easier! <blush>

Who would have thought that lyrics of a popular song could have held such insight?

Many years ago I attended an Overeaters Anonymous retreat where a recording of Bette Midler’s song The Rose was used as a meditation. The Rose is also featured as a on one of Richard Simmons’ Sweatin’ To The Oldies videos.

Why The Rose? What is it’s connection to food addiction/exercise avoidance?

“Some Say LOVE It Is A HUNGER…”One line from that song speaks volumes to me: “Some say love, it is a hunger an endless aching need…” Ain’t that the truth!

“What the world needs now” (and our “addict within” can use daily) is to feel loved. A Co-Dependents Anonymous affirmation Feeding The Hungry Heartaddresses this very basic of human needs with the reminder that: “I am lovable, loving and loved.”

So easy to affirm, yet so much harder for me to feel!

What happens when I don’t “feel the love”? What happens when I feel rejection (a/k/a the “withdrawal of love”)? I grab for the food! I attempt to fill my “inner hunger” with something that might taste delicious — but still can’t fill the hole that I want -desperately need – it to fill.

Yet when I use food to be the “lover of my soul” my self-esteem is ultimately decreased and what self-love I have disappears. What a painful paradox: trying to (over)fill the hole in my soul leaves me only more empty.

Ultimately, I believe only God can fill the emptiness (which includes the feeling/belief that deep down we are “UNlovable”) that fills our soul. I also believe that God created me (and all of us) to be “social creatures” who also need the love and acceptance of others, to some degree, in order to be truly happy.

What in the wide, wide world of sports makes me bring up the “hunger for love” topic? Probably because I’ve recently (again) come to the realization that I “don’t handle rejection” all that well. Then again, WHO DOES “handle it well”? While rejection doesn’t have to totally devistate me, when it happens I nonetheless feel a great deal of pain.

I’ve been working on healing from rejection — two wounds, or occasions, in particular. One rejection took place in 1995 and the other around 1981/1982. I can usually “make sense” of “why” someone rejects me. But when it is out-of-the-blue, when it (from my point of view) appears to be totally UNprovoked, then I don’t handle it terribly well.

Maybe the best I can do is to “feel my feelings” — including the massive amount of pain that rejection causes. “Stuffing it down” with excess amounts of food certainly hasn’t healed it. I’m hoping that writing about it here and in my 12 Step work and talking it through with my therapist can also help bring about healing.

As an addict who’s drug of choice is excess food and exercise avoidance, today I’m making a choice to “love myself enough” to eat healthy and exercise appropriately so that maybe some of the emotional pain will subside.

According to Wikipedia, “A la carte” is a French expression meaning “from the (restaurant) menu”. Leave it to a food addict like moi to start a journal entry with a reference to restaurants! <blush> 🙂

A La Carte

The meaning of this phrase has been extended beyond the scope of dining to encompass the general option of purchasing only select items instead of a merchant’s entire list of offerings.

And so it is with my approach to recovery from food addiction and exercise avoidance: I am very selective about where my help comes from. This approach was probably influenced by my membership in various 12 Step fellowships over the years. That’s where I learned that I had a right to “Take what you like and leave the rest.”

So while I’m following the Weight Watchers POINTS food plan (also known these days as the Flex plan), that does not mean that all of my direction, inspiration and support comes from that organization. 

Yes, without reservation, I recommend Weight Watchers to men looking for group support to help them lose weight (not to mention maintain their weight loss once they achieve it). But I would never pressure a fellow addict to join W.W. or tell them that they should limit themselves to participation in Weight Watchers.

Why am I even mentioning my “a la carte approach” to recovery in the first place? Because I’ve discovered what I consider to be a very disturbing habit in the weight loss industry whereby a particular company, author of a particular weight loss book or even fellow addicts have an unhealthy expectation that ONLY individuals working on recovery should get guidance from them. Nothing like “taking hostages”, eh? Nothing like thinking one has all the answers for the whole universe of obese persons!

So while I’m following the Weight Watchers POINTS food plan (BTW, why does W.W. almost always print that name of that food plan in ALL CAPS? That bugs me, since I don’t think it’s an acronym), it is just one item on my “recovery menu”.

One of the most wonderful things I’ve found to taking an a al carte approach to recovery is that it frees my up to support other addicts — regardless of what they do to make their recovery work. That doesn’t mean I’m going to rush out and do what others do (I’m me and they’re them — and the wisdom to know the difference!), but I can offer and receive support from fellow addicts (and not the ones who think EXACTLY like me).

I probably will never be a fan of Nutri System, Richard Simmons’ food plan or any form of bariatric (e.g., weight loss) surgery. It just ain’t gonna’ happen. But I can offer support to addicts who have chosen to incorporate those approaches. Whatever our individual approach to recovery, we all can benefit from encouragement to stay true to the path we’ve chosen.

This approach doesn’t also applies to my relationship with physical exercise. I don’t have to follow a particular exercise plan someone else follows in order to accept their encouragement to stick to the particular plan designed to work best for me.

Several years ago I listened to a nationally syndicated radio talk show (I think the host’s name was Leigh Meribaugh — I’m not sure of that spelling) who regularly helped her callers “let go” of toxic persons that they had a hard time “detaching from”.

The show host would hold a pair of scissors near her microphone as she would  “cut the (imaginary, but very real) chord” between a caller and some person(s) who had caused them pain…and then she would pronounce them “detached” and declare a new found freedom for the caller.

How many times I’ve felt the need to “cut the chord” when it comes to other food addicts who just didn’t know when to detach from my stuff and work their own program of recovery! (Not that I’ve ever had this same struggle of “letting go” from other’s issues…HA!!!)

Yes indeed, the mouths (and other body parts as well) of food addicts are really not interconnected with each other after all!

For the longest time the “people pleaser” (a/k/a flaming codependent) in me was willing to do whatever other people wanted me to do — as if I needed their permission to make me an OK person. So if another addict said, “This ONE food plan is the ONLY one you should follow….that  you MUST follow!” I would do what they ordered, even if it was against my better judgment.

As a recovering addict I work hard to remain open-minded and teachable. At the same time I still have the right to think for myself and be responsible for my choices. It’s great to know that I can make new and different choices as needed — but not because it’s my job to make other persons happy (or, if they are selling weight loss books or other merchandise) richer. 🙂