April 2008


Overeaters AnonymousYesterday I returned to Overeaters Anonymous after a seven year absence…which was preceeded by some 23 years of fairly continuous participation.

Please note that during my extended absence from OA that I never stopped working the 12 Steps. Between my involvement with One Bite Fellowship (a group I started especially for MALE food addicts) and participation in a couple of other 12 Step communities (in person and online), I continued working on my recovery.

I stopped attending face-to-face OA meetings for a number of reasons. In 20/20 hindsight, I now believe that most of the problems I left over involved important issues. Seven years ago I believed that ALL of the reasons I left over involved “serious issues”.  Having attended OA meetings in many cities around the US (in Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Missouri, Kansas and Kentucky), I still believe that most of the reasons I left the OA fellowship had to do with problems that are unique to the fellowship here in Louisville, Kentucky.

When I write about OA, I’d like to believe that I know a lot about this organization, having spent over half my life in this particular 12 Step fellowship. Yeah…I’m 50 years old and attended my first OA meeting when I was a wee lad of 20 years old. Where did my youth go? It was spent in 12 Step meetings! 😀

The meeting that I attended yesterday wasn’t what I’d call “terrible”. In fact, it was pretty good for an OA meeting here in Louisville. Then again, I’ve attended some truly AWFUL OA meetings in this town over the years! Meetings where men were bashed. Meetings where the 12 Traditions were repeatedly violated. Meetings where I could have sworn that the fellowship should have been re-named “Excuses Anonymous” (due to the lack of recovery being shared by those in attendance).

Some of the things about Louisville OA meetings that used to drive me NuTs were present in yesterday’s meeting. My Short List: 20 – 25 minutes worth of readings being read at the start of the meeting  (Why can’t these people in Louisville simply follow the SUGGESTED MEETING FORMAT offered by OA’s World Service Office? YAWN!!!), a request to “NOT mention foods” by their ACTUAL names (for fear we would trigger another member to OVEReat compulsively — PLEASE!!!) and sharing about food plans and physical recovery (both during and after the meeting) that DISTORTS the OA message on these matters.

I plan on continuing to attend OA meetings for the time being (One Meeting At A Time), while remembering to “Take what I like and leave the rest” — or ar least “NOT OVEReat compulsively over the rest”.

Instead of the “larded-up” meetings here in Louisville, I much prefer just NO NONSENSE OA where the REAL message of this wonderful fellowship is CLEARLY and CONCISELY expressed! The OA meesage is NOT one that encourages FEAR and/or RIGIDITY about “sugar and flour”. It is NOT (and NEVER has been) a message of promoting rigid food plans. And the Suggested Meeting Format from OA World Service Office has PLENTY of essential readings that do not distort how recovery works.

Some positive things I experienced at yesterday’s meeting include…

I appreciated the warm welcome I received at yesterday’s OA meeting! The degree of warmth I experienced is a BIG improvement over the ice cold welcome I’ve observed being extended to newcomers at many an OA meeting I had attended in previous years. I hope that I extend an equally friendly welcome to newcomers that I experienced yesterday!

The topic (actually FOUR topics to choose from) were based on topics found in actual OA-approved literature! And what members shared was actually ON TOPIC! This is a BIG improvement over MANY meetings I’d attended previously.

If you read my previous journal entry about how I view my recovery journey as an “A La Carte Experience”, then you’ll hopefully understand why I wont (I did at one time, but wont just for today) put “all of my eggs” in the “OA basket”. Some OA members may believe that OA is ALL they need to recover or that they have (and follow?) the ONE food plan that I “should” be following (Please don’t “should all over me or others” — Just for today!). They are free to believe what they believe to be true…Just as I am free to believe what I believe to be true.

My recovery journey is influenced by numerous sources and OA is just one of them. My Christian faith guides my spiritual recovery. Weight Watchers offers a positive, sane influence in dealing with food and emotional issues that trigger overeating (At least at Weight Watchers meetings we CAN mention foods by their SPECIFIC names! and NEVER get lectured about the EVIL of “sugar and flour”. The philosphy that guides my One Bite Fellowship has been heavily influenced by my OA, AA, Al-Anon and Narcotics Anonymous recovery. And I can’t emphasize how important it is for me to TRUST the “earth people” who help guide my physical recovery, including my doctors, physical therapists, diabetes educators and dieticians.

Many years ago I had a pastor who impressed me with both his great wisdom and delightful sense of humor. He would often quip that he had been known to “cry at supermarket grand openings”!

I can relate to his comment — at least at times. Sometimes I cry with little or no provocation. At other times I do a pretty good job at “stuffing down” my feelings — ALL feelings — including feelings that lead to tears.

\I’ve heard it said of food addicts that if we don’t “Face Our Stuff” we’ll (eventually) “Stuff Our Face”. I’ve found this is VERY true in the sense that some of my most painful feelings have surfaced during periods of sane eating.

How vividly the lyrics of Simon And Garfunkel’s song I Am A Rock captures the emotional pain that many of us addicts have tried to stuff down…

“I am a rock.
I am an island.
I’ve built walls —
A fortress deep and mighty
That none may penetrate…
I have no need of friendship;
friendship causes pain.
Its laughter and its loving I disdain….
I touch no one and no one touches me…
And a rock feels no pain.
And an island never cries.”

As a recovering co-dependent, feeling MY feelings should NOT be too difficult a task to handle since (in active co-dependency) I had NO problem feeling EVERYone else’s feelings. But the reality has been that running from, denying and stuffing down (“stuffing” comes about with my ingesting EXCESS amounts of food) MY OWN feelings has been my pattern.

Many years ago I heard it explained that feelings, also referred to as “emotions” , are “energy-in-motion” (think “e-motions”). My understanding is that ingesting any any mood-or-mind-altering substance can (and does) “block” the processing of emotions. Hence the state of “emotional constipation” that many of us addicts experienced during out days of active addiction.

I don’t know why, but feeling MY feelings CAN seem overwhelming. At times I’ve found myself wondering if I was going to “e-mote to death” by allowing myself to feel my feelings!

The Overeaters Anonymous brochure entitled, A Plan Of Eating: A Tool for Living – One Day at a Time (Copyright 1988, 2001, 2005 Overeaters Anonymous, Incorporated. All rights reserved.), addresses the connection between food and emotions with these words:

“For a compulsive overeater, eating is attached to emotions. We are never fully satisfied, no matter how much we eat, because we are eating for emotional reasons rather than physical reasons. We eat for excitement, love celebration, loneliness, escape, pleasure and comfort. We devour food to anesthetize ourselves. We eat out of anger, resentment, envy, jealousy, fear, pride, guilt and grief.”

The good news is that, through working the 12 Steps, I’ve actually been able to discover/uncover whatever feelings I’ve been stuffing down with excess food. Through working the 12 Steps while working with other addicts I’ve found the strength to NOT act out with food in an addictve, compulsive or impulsive manner, despite feeling some intense and pretty crappy emotions!

Recovery doesn’t magically protect me from feeling painful feelings. Recovery gives me the strength and courage to discover, feel and then move beyond my feelings without the need to swallow excessive amounts of food or avoid physical exercise. How does all of this work? One Day, One Step and One Feeling at a time!

Since I stated in a previous post that I do NOT believe that food is something to be “feared” by us addicts  (either in terms of seeing it, smelling it or (gasp!) even thinking about it), I’d like to discuss the issue of when and if it is ever approriate for a food addict to avoid food.

What I’m sharing about this (like hopefully most everything I discuss on OveractiveFork) is based on my experience, strength and hope. This means that what I’m about to share is based on real life experience and is not some sort of intellectual theory that has not been tested in my own life.

Fact 1: We DO have to deal with food in the “real world”. It surrounds us everyday and everywhere. 

Fact 2: We really SHOULD have to eat some food each in order to survive. So “avoiding” food entirely isn’t a sane option.

The plate may be empty, but the head is oh so full!!!Considering the two facts presented above, why is it that some food addicts expect 12 Step recovery — recovery intended to help us overcome our addiction, One Day At A Time — to play into, encourage or enable the fear of facing food?  Authentic recovery, IMHO, recogizes that food is not our problem!!! Our “problem” is the addiction to overeating (and, for many us, we also have an addiction that leads us to avoid physical exercise at all costs). Treating our addiction — not devising schemes to avoid food — is the proper focus of my recovery efforts.

Yes, Step 1 of Alcoholics Anonymous begins, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol…”, but it does NOT state that we are powerless over our elbows, our mouths or making choices that will ultimately enhance our recovery. We addicts ARE powerless, to be sure, but we are NOT hopeless!

Does that mean I go out of my way to “test my recovery”?  Not at all. My recovery from my addiction is a precious gift. My recovery is not a game to be played with. So I do not go out of my way to tempt myself to overeat (or underexercise). Likewise I would never encourage any other addict to play games with their recovery, nor would I encourage them to fear food or take “heroic measures” to avoid it.

My experience in meetings of Overeaters Anonymous over the years has given me exposure to some fellowship members who need to avoid even the thought of food. IMHO, this is more about trying to control the behavior of other members than it is about working their own program of recovery. So if attend an OA meeting where someone states that the mere mention of food is NOT allowed, please find a DIFFERENT meeting to attend!!!!  Telling a member that they can’t mention food by it’s actual, specific name is nothing less than flamingly co-dependent behavior!

I’ve personally checked (on a number of occasions over the years) with Overeaters Anonymous World Service Office (www.oa.org), OA’s Regional Trustees and other trusted servants of the OA fellowship and ALL of them have stated to me that NO official (or even suggested) rule exists about prohibiting (or even discouraging) the mention of food during meetings. To the best of my investigating, it appears that this is yet another crock of crap that has come about thanks to the anti-carbohydrate fanaticists known as the dreded “H.O.W. Movement”. To says the least, these “sugar-and-flour-phobics” do not represent the besting thinking found within the Overeaters Anonymous fellowship!

Find me a H.O.W. Movement devotee who has long-term recovery from weight loss — I just dare you to find even one!  Yes, you can find some who have lost lots of excess weight, but find me one who has been at goal weight for more than a year or two?  They just can’t be found! NObody can follow their food plan (rigid, perfectionistic and unbalanced as it is).  That food plan is one of the most extremely dangerous forms of a diet (NOT a “food plan” in the healthy sense, but a “diet” in the worst sense of that word) that has ever existed.

If you know about the history of Overeaters Anonymous, then you know that the original writer of the “Grey Sheet food plan” (which has been mal-adapted by numorous H.O.W. cultists over the years) was written by an OA member who wasn’t even a dieticician! I don’t know about y’all, but I’d trust another addict to write my food plan as much as I’d trust a pyromaniac to be a fireman! –> In other words, It is NOT a good idea!!!

Now that I’ve warned y’all about the H.O.W. Movement, I want to share that — based on my experience, strength and hope — that working and living the 12 Steps (O.D.A.A.T.) is the best way I’ve found to rob food of it’s power to control my thinking, let alone my choices when it comes to what and how much I eat.

Working and living the 12 Steps — over and over, O.D.A.A.T. — relieves me of guilt, shame, fear and a whole host of other negativity that kept me both in bondage to food and yet also fearful of it. The 12 Steps have allowed me to overcome (O.D.A.A.T. — it doesn’t usually happen overnight!) my co-dependency issues that kept tangled in UNhealthy relationships with toxic individuals. I no longer have to stay involved in (or stuck in woundedness from) UNhealthy relationships that only fed into my addiction to OVEReat.

Do I ever “avoid” persons, places and/or situations where I would likely find it only too easy to overeat?  Yes, from time to time (even as recently as this past Sunday) I do avoid such situations…BUT NOT because they can “magically force” me to overeat. Rather I stay away from this persons, places and/or situations because I (stated positively) make choices today that enhance the quality of my life and my recovery. Hanging out around “food pushers” only adds to my stress level. They can’t “force” me to overeat, but why hang out with people who almost certainly get on my nerves? It just doesn’t make sense.

Just for today, I don’t choose to keep certain foods near me (in my kitchen) because I know “my history” with those foods. Why place myself in constant temptation to overeat? Thankfully I’m following a nutritionally-sane food plan that allows me to choose from a wide variety of foods, so I don’t get bored just because I choose to stay away from certain foods. But I’m NOT staying away from any food because I’m afraid of it. I simply respect my history with it and don’t choose to repeat it. I seem to recall that someone once said“Those who can’t remember the past are destined to repeat it”.

Care For Some Fast Food?

Before anyone sends me hate mail because I’ve posted yet another picture of REAL FOOD on my blog (yes, I actually got a message from some guy recently who was all shook up over seeing the picture of a man holding a fork — NO food on the fork, just a fork — in the masthead at the top of this page!), allow me to explain why, when I deem them appropriate, I choose to post such photographs.

Allow me to do a reality check: Just SEEING a picture of food canNOT force any food addict to overeat compulsively!!! If I posted a picture of dog poop would you HAVE TO eat it?  Nope!  The same is true when you see, smell or (gasp!) even think about food.  We addicts are powerLESS over food, but NOT over our elbows!

I used to fear the sight, smell and thoughts of food. But my atttitude toward food has been radically changed by a couple of passages found in Alcoholics Anonymous, the basic text of that fellowship. One of those passages (pages 84 and 85) reads:

“”We have ceased fighting anything or anyone — even alcohol (food). For by this time sanity will have returned. We will seldom be interested in (food). If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame. We can now react sanely and normally, and we will find that this has happened automatically. We will see that this new attitude toward liquor (food) is really a gift of God.

That is the miracle of it.  We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation.  We feel as though we had been placed in a position of neutrality – safe and protected.  We have not even sworn off.  Instead, the problem has been removed.  It does not exist for us.  We are neither cocky nor are we afraid.  That is our experience.  That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition.” (pages 84-85)

So you might as well get used to seeing pictures of FOOD within the entries of OVERACTIVE FORK, because I’ll continue to post them when/if they fit the topic I’m writing about! Oh yeah…you might want to consider working the 12 Steps so when you do see “recovery-threatening pictures” you wont CHOOSE to eat whatever food is pictured on my blog! 😀 Working the 12 Steps, not just mentally masturbating about them, is how one gets to the “position of neutrality” discussed in the AA Big Book passage listed above. Hiding from food is NO substitute for working the 12 Steps. Being afraid of food is, in an of itself, NOT a hallmark of authentic 12 Step recovery from food addiction. On the other hand, being afraid of what acting out with our addiction can do our health and physical well-being IS something to fear, IMHO.

We now return to the subject of this entry…

I’m pleased to report that this week, my second week of back-to-back food sobriety and exercise sanity this time around, is going very well. Thank you, God!!! Thank you, fellow addicts and others!!!

Occasionally I hope to write about “little but important experiences” I have along this “journey known as recovery”. This is the first such entry.

* To help remind himself that he really is NOT the center of the universe, a good friend of mine in the AA and OA fellowships is fond of saying, “I may not be much but I am ALL that I think about!” What? An addict with an OVERinflated ego? Say it ain’t so! 😀 I don’t know about you, but I can certainly relate this  line (at least occasionally). <blush>

One of the ways that I’ve finally figured out that my ego is getting OVERinflated is when I find myself REALLY ANGRY (then ultimately resentful) for the seemingly smallest things that other people “do to me” To paraphrase another AA member , “The bigger the target, the easier it is to hit”. So true!

One of the things that would (normally) send my anger level into the stratosphere is when fast food drive-thru workers would get my WRONG. I just knew that they “were out to sabotage my excellent recovery efforts”. If you go thru many a fast food drive-thru lane you know how (if you are lucky) one in ten of your orders comes out wrong. So I’ve had LOTS of occasions to get pretty mad over the years — Once last year I even managed to use the terrible “F Bomb” when a fast food worker tried to INSIST on giving back to me the WRONG food ALONG WITH the food that I (finally!) had actually ordered (“Just give me the f—ing food that I ordered!” I yelled). <still blushing>

FINALLY, earlier this week, I “got it”!!!

At last I realized that NObody was trying to mess with my recovery (REALLY!!!) when I was handed a food item that I had NOT ordered.  When I went back to thru the lane I was given the CORRECT item that I ordered and was told to KEEP the item that was given to me INcorrectly…And yet I did NOT explode! It may not sound like a big deal, but for me this IS progress!!!

I’m so very thankful that someone finally told me that Health Department regulations PREVENT restaurant employees from serving food that (for any reason) has been returned to them. So when they say, “Go ahead and keep it (the WRONG food item)…” they probably would rather I eat it (or that I give it to someone else to eat) because the only other option is to throw it away.

Even if I feel “terribly weak” in my ability to NOT eat something that I was given in error, it is MY responsibility to take care of myself and NOT eat it. This really is NOT about what other people are doing to mess with me and sabotage my recovery efforts!  I (yes, me) CAN choose to throw away something BEFORE it enters into my mouth (“I may be powerLESS over food, but I’m NOT powerLESS over my elbows!!!). <amazed look>

And really, NO food is my “problem”…My “problem” is the DISEASE OF ADDICTION living INside of my body…NOT an INantimate piece of food that exists OUTside of my body. I have a program of recovery with LOTS of tools that CAN (and HAVE) help(ed) me defuse tense interactions with food.

I’m sincerely very appreciative of all of the FEmale food addicts who have extended their support to me over the years! Many of them are shining examples of the recovery I am working to achieve, with the help of God and support of other addicts, one day at a time.

So with all due respect for the many WOmen who read this humble blog of mine…Over the years I’ve found that many a meeting of Overeaters Anonymous provide something less than appropriate emotional support for us MEN who struggle with this addiciton. This problem isn’t limited to OA. Indeed at times it feels to me like the whole friggin’ weight loss culture in our society is stacked AGAINST men who struggle with food addiction. Except when pictured with a WOman, when was the last time that Weight Watchers magazine featured a MAN on it’s cover?

So to help bolster the chances for MEN to find an emotionally safe place to find recovery, over a decade ago I establshed ONE BITE FELLOWSHIP (www.OneBite.net) as a support network exclusively for MEN who seek help to stop the insanity of food addiction.

While i do respond to inquiries from FEmale food addicts, frankly most of my efforts are devoted to helping MEN who struggle with my addiction. Nothing against the WOmen who share my addiction, but for any number of reasons, female-to-female and male-to-male support seems to work best when it comes to food addiction recovery.

And just like WOmen in Alcoholics Anonymous (and other 12 Step fellowships) have a right to seek out meetings, retreats and other fellowship events JUST for WOmen (Yes, they refuse to admit MEN), ONE BITE FELLOWSHIP very much has a right to offer help to ONLY MEN who struggle with food addiction.

Not only are support groups often hostile to men who struggle with food addiction, but so are many so-called “eating disorder” treatment programs.  My own experience in one such anti-male treatment center is the focus of this journal entry.

CONSIDER  YOURSELF  CAUTIONED
While by no means it’s only focus, the text that follows includes a discussion of sexual matters,  sexual abuse and anti-male sexism. So please respect your own boundaries and do NOT read any further if you find such a discussion offensive!

The Day Soft, Plain Yogurt Became A Body Fluid
by Dave P. – Founder, One Bite Fellowship

Soft Plain Yogurt = Sexual Abuse Diagnostic Tool?  NOT!!!

During the fall of 1995 I was a patient for fifteen days in a hospital-based eating disorder unit in Saint Louis, Missouri. This particular facility claimed to offer a “12 Step-based” treatment regime for compulsive overeating, bulimia and anorexia. Once admitted to this facility what I found instead was that didn’t seem to have a clue about the 12 Step approach to dealing with eating disorders. And instead of focusing on food addiction issues, this treatment center offered little more than controversial, idiotic psychobabble about a whole host of outside issues that always lead to finding an excuse to bash men!

Thankfully this particular eating disorder treatment facility (which will remain anonymous in this discussion) went out of business several years ago. However the same company that owned the facility where I was patient still operates other eating disorder units around the country (although under a slightly different corporate name).

Despite their claims to the contrary, this hospital unit was not 12 Step-focused. In fact, during my stay, I was allowed to attend only ONE 12 Step meeting. Real 12 Step-based treatment units (regardless of the addiction they are treating) allow — or even require — their patients to attend a minimum of three to five 12 Step meetings per week. Attendance at just one 12 Step meeting in a fifteen day period is simply unheard of, despite the fact that no less than three Overeaters Anonymous meetings were available EACH day of the week in the Saint Louis metropolitan area, many within just five-to-ten miles of the facility! So “lack of availability” of OA meetings was not the problem.

The real issue behind allowing patients to attend OA meetings, IMHO, was that the treatment program simply did NOT place a high value on helping their patients work through the 12 Steps (i.e., 12 Steps of Overeaters Anonymous or those of any other fellowship). This is a critcal flaw in the approach used by this treatment facility since the 12 Steps are the very heart any legitimate “12 Step recovery process”.

Equally troubling is the fact that the first writing assignment given to patients is a type of Step 4 inventory – yet no real study or opportunity to work Steps 1, 2 and 3 was offered. Anyone who know how legitimate 12 Step recovery is structured will tell you that the Steps are to be worked in order (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.), especially within a professional treatment setting.

I’ve come to realize that the treatment facility in question exploits its relationship with Overeaters Anonymous for marketing purposes. Doing so is a sleazy way to “borrow some credibility” from the OA fellowship. Please note that from my first day in treatment the staff pressured me to “share” about the treatment program with our OA friends. All of us patients were repeatedly encouraged by the staff to share the facility’s promotional brochures with our OA friends. To share “outside literature” during an OA meeting with other members is a violation of that fellowship’s Traditions that prohibit it from endorsing (or opposing) any outside entity (including treatment centers).

So if this unit did not have a 12 Step-focused approach to treat eating disorders, just what did they offer their patients? Once I arrived at the hospital, I was exposed to numerous brochures which were used to promote the eating disorder unit and a separate program for “survivors of sexual abuse“.  Upon closer examination of two of these pamphlets, it appeared that BOTH programs contained virtually identical elements (from group therapy to consultation with a nutritionist). Indeed, when I asked a staff member my suspicion was confirmed: only one program actually existed, but that program was being marketed under two names each with its own unique name. To further blur the nature and scope of the two very different treatment programs, both were identified with the same corporate name and the same toll-free phone number was printed on both treatment program’s brochures.

One program was marketed to persons struggling with eating disorders, while the other treatment program was pitched to survivors of sexual abuse. Marketing one program as two distinct ones: is this honest? No.

Are “most” persons who struggle with eating disorders victims of childhood sexual abuse? No. Do all survivors of childhood sexual abuse struggle with eating disorders? Not according to any research that I’ve looked at.

It is probably safe to assume that a fairly high percentage of food addicts (when compared to the general population) have experienced some for of abuse, including sexual abuse. At least this appears to be the opinion of many researchers wh’s work I’ve studied since my bizarre eating disorder treatment experience. The research I’ve read indicates that that just over half of compulsive overeaters, bulimics and anorexics have suffered from childhood sexual abuse. But I’ve never seen any research suggest that anywhere close to “95 percent” (which is the statistic touted by at least one employee of the treatment center in question) of compulsive eaters have been victimized.

Legitimate 12 Step-focused treatment centers rarely probe deeply into issues like sexual abuse. This is because it is widely believed that long-term sobriety is needed before addicts can face such trauma without endangering their newly found recovery. Stopping an addiction (to food or any other substance) is more than enough of an “issue” for most of us addicts to deal with in early recovery!

What about the quality of care patients who, like myself, received who are NOT victims of sexual abuse (which is anywhere from five to 50 percent, depending on who’s statistics you believe)? Why waste our time looking for issues that don’t exist?

From day one of my treatment experience the primary focus was on uncovering repressed memories of sexual abuse. This despite the fact that I was told by the unit’s “admissions consultants” that their program was SOLELY FOCUSED on eating disorders. At best, their treatment program was “dually focused” on sexual abuse AND eating disorders.

Was I the only patient who felt that s/he had been lied to? No! During the fifteen days I was in treatment two of the three patients who signed themselves out (against medical advice) did so because they also felt that the facilities “admission consultants” had been blatantly dishonest with them about the nature of the treatment program. Interestingly, all three of the patients who left for the same reason I did were males.

If the treatment I received was not “12 Step-focused”, then just what was the “psychotherapeutic approach” utilized by this facility?

Let me begin to answer this important question by sharing about an interesting conversation I had with a friend who visited me while I was in treatment. She was a recent “alumnus” of this facility who had just moved to the city where I reside. While it was wonderful to have a visitor from home my first weekend in Saint Louis, I was hopeful that she could shed some light on why this particular treatment unit did some of the bizarre things it did. My friend provided me with some important insights — and what she told me was absolutely disgusting!

One of the first questions I asked my friend was “Why do they serve us so much gross food . . . like soft, plain Yogurt?” “Didn’t they tell you about that when you were first admitted?” she asked. “Nope,” I answered.

You see it made little sense to me that soft, plain yogurt was served since many delicious flavors of fat-free and sugar-free soft Yogurt were available. Plain Yogurt, at best, is pretty much taste-less. (Before I continue, please be aware that soft plain yogurt is smooth and creamy in texture and white in appearance.) “Well, that’s because the treatment center believes that most of their patients have REPRESSED MEMORIES of sexual abuse . . . and that certain foods bring up (to one’s consciousness) those memories!” my friend explained. “And,” she continued “soft, plain Yogurt is supposed to remind you of (male) SEMEN.”

Be assured that I did NOT want to believe what my friend’s explanation of the soft, plain Yogurt! So almost immediately after I concluded my visit with my friend, I asked a staff member if the treatment program “really believed” in this “plain Yogurt = male semen” equation. The staff member just smiled and said, “Well all I’ll admit is that some of the food you are served here is intended to bring up repressed memories of abuse.”

Oh great! I’m in a treatment center that has as one of its core beliefs the nonsense (which, as best, is highly controversial among mental health professionals) that certain foods can trigger repressed memories! This made me wonder if the treatment staff might have been actually “sicker” than we patients might have been?!?

As to other examples of what I call the “anti-male sexism” of the treatment program in question, it should be noted that none of the treatment center staff were men. I asked a nurse why they didn’t have any male therapists on staff, let alone any other male treatment providers (e.g., nurses, dieticians, unit technicians, etc.). I was told that “if we allowed men to work here, the female patients would be in constant danger of once again becoming victims of sexual abuse.” This employee’s highly inflammatory comments made me wonder if some male job applicants might have been discriminated against on the basis of their gender?!? Oh and I guess women are NEVER sexual abuse perpetrators, huh? Not quite.

I also experienced a great deal of anti-male sexism in group therapy. When I didn’t cry as expected during or following my sharing of a particular written assignment, my female therapist accused me in front of my fellow patients of being “too afraid to be emotionally vulnerable.” I was accused of allowing my “machismo” to get in the way of my “need to cry.” PLEASE! Good grief, even I joke that I had been known to “cry at supermarket grand openings”! Maybe I didn’t cry as the therapist expected me to because to do so would not have been an appropriate emotional response, given the nature of the information I had shared? Is it fair for a therapist to expect (let alone demand) that male clients emote just like females are expected to emote?.

Another issue had to do with the treatment of the husbands and boyfriends of the female patients who attended the “family therapy” sessions at this particular treatment facility. The therapists (again, these were always women) showed great hostility toward these men in front of the group! Whatever wrong they were accused of by their female counterpart, it just had to be so. I guess women are always right and men are always wrong? Hmmm.

Whenever sexual abuse was brought up by therapists, it was presented in such a way to infer that MEN were ALWAYS the perpetrators. Please understand I am not saying that men “never” violate women (or men) sexually. I simply wish to point out that BOTH women and men have the potential to be sexual abusers. Which begs me to ask, since when is the promotion of stereotypes, on the basis of gender, ever “therapeutically appropriate”?

I have never been a fan of the health insurance industry. But after experiencing “12 Step-focused eating disorder treatment”, which really was neither 12 Step-oriented nor eating disorder-focused, I can definitely understand why it is extremely hard to convince insurance companies to pay for this type of hospitalization!

During the intake process I was actually encouraged to embellish my symptoms (i.e., particularly depression and anxiety) in order to persuade my provider to pay for my treatment. It seems to me that being coerced to exaggerate symptoms clearly constitutes an attempt to incite a potential patient to lie, let alone commit insurance fraud. It is truly a shame for a treatment facility to engage in dishonest and even illegal behavior in order to for them to remain in business!

Do I have any good things to say about my “treatment experience?” Not much. But here’s t he short list.

— One therapist actually seemed to be less anti-male than the others were. I recall that she engaged in men-bashing at only HALF of the sessions she facilitated!
— I bonded well with many of the other patients. We all came to treatment looking for 12 Step solution for our food addiction and it is a shame that what we got was NOT what was promised to us.

I sincerely wish I could share many more positive things (let alone none of the negative things) that I’ve shared about my treatment experience in Saint Louis. After all, eating disorders kill over 300,000 American’s each year (that is an average of 34 deaths every hour of every day!) which is why I firmly believe in the very legitimate need for 12 Step-focused, hospital-based treatment and various forms of legitimate psychotherapy to treat eating disorders, including food addiction. It should be noted that authentic 12 Step-centered treatment has a well-established reputation of helping multitudes of alcoholics and many other types of addicts to experience long-term recovery.

I think it is particularly pathetic, at best, that one of the largest “chains” of eating disorder treatment units has deceived thousands of compulsive eaters into it’s sub-standard treatment programs. Interestingly I’ve heard of at least one other national chain of eating disorder treatment centers was forced to close all of its hospital-based units after it was charged with numorous charges of insurance fraud.

I believe our food-obsessed/thin-obsessed society urgently needs 12 Step-oriented mental health therapists and medical practitioners to come forward to fill the void for legitimate eating disorder treatment. While 12 Step fellowships offer a tremendous amount of experience, strength and hope, much more support is often needed to help the still-suffering addict break free from their addiction.

If you’re a MALE overeater, bulimic or anorexic who believes you need to be hospitalized to overcome your problem, rest assured that a few extremely ethical and male-friendly 12 Step-focused eating disorder units still exist! Some of the best treatment programs (like the one I experienced in 1986 at the former DePaul Rehabilitation Hospital in Milwaukee) were non-profit and have long ago closed due to the elimination of government funding that was previously available.

I’m always glad to hear from MALE food addicts who have experienced anti-male sexism in support groups, professional treatment programs, or in any other setting where they’ve sought help for their addiction. If you care to leave your e-mail address in your comment I’ll be glad to respond to you directly. I’m also careful to DELETE e-mail addresses from comments so as to protect the anonymity thos who wish to leave a comment on this website.

In a previous journal entry I shared about how IMPULSIVE I can be when it comes to food — not just “compulsive”, but also IMPULSIVE (e.g., On many occasions I’ve been known to grab food and insert it into my mouth withOUT eve consciously thinking about what I’m doing). Can anything STOP our IMPULSIVE behavior with food? Yes. But it definitely takes some work! It requires that we:
1. Think.
2. Write.
3. Share.

Many years ago I raad a suggestion that has, on many occasions, helped me stay sober (“stay sober” means that this suggestion is intended for ONLY those addicts who are already following a medically-approved food plan WHILE working the 12 Steps). The suggestion is simply: “THINK BEFORE you overeat…” (or, in my case, I can add “THINK BEFORE you avoid physical exercise”).

Before I share with you what it is that I “think” about, let me assure you that NO amount of thinking ONLY can keep a true addict from overeating and/or underexercising!!! Rather taking the time to think, write and share will help MUCH more than “only thinking” about the following questions and issues.

So whatever comes to you as you think on issues making you want to act out, PLEASE ALSO write these thoughts down AND share them with another addict (overeater or otherwise)!  Recovering addicts can help most, but even “drunk” addicts have even been known to help me (and in the process of my sharing, sometime I’m even able to help them).

To take the time to think, write and share  certainly takes discipline and effort, but it is well worth it! And remember what a wise gentleman once observed, “The only place where ‘success’ comes before ‘work’ is in the dictionary.” And I’ve yet to meet an addict who had long-term recovery who didn’t have to work, One Day At A Time, at his recovery process!

Some things that help me to THINK about BEFORE I act out with my addiction…

Thinking About . . . FEELINGS
Many years ago one of my therapists stated that ALL of our feelings could be distilled down into just six catergories: mad, sad, glad, ashamed, afraid and hurt. So take the time to ask, “What am I FEELING at THIS moment? What FEELINGS would I like to stuff down with overeating and/or underexcising?”

If words or phrases come up that don’t fit “neatly” into the six feelings listed above, then match them up (as best you can) with those six feelings anyway.

Thinking About . . . RELATIONSHIPS
Is any person, place or thing “pushing your buttons” at this moment? Who? Why? Is it best/wisest to (using the Serenity Prayer as a guide here) to seek “the serenity to accept” OR “the courage to change” your role in this relationiship concern? Have you prayed about this relationship?

 Thinking About . . . H,A.L.T.
Are you currently feeling “too…” Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired? Note that I’m NOT asking if you feel “a little” of any of these things — The issue is feeling “too much” of any of these four things.  And if you are Hungry, is it because you don’t have a healthy food plan to follow? Are you Hungry because maybe you REALLY DO NEED to eat?

Other things that I need to be careful to be feeling “too much” of: Stress, Fear, Confusion, Guilt, Rejection, Saddness and/or Shame. All of these items (H.A.L.T. plus the items in this additional list) are potentially triggers for active addiction.  Actually, IMHO, “too much” of ANYthing (including “too much unresolved horniness” — Yup!) can lead an addict to relapse.

Facing The \

As of today, I’ve released a total of 84 1/2 pounds from my top-known weight of 510 pounds (my top weight was reached in 1986). My weight release for this past week was four pounds. My weight release for the previous week was three pounds. As of today I weigh 425 1/2 pounds. My next weight release goal is 335 pounds.

For the record, I release my excess weight JUST ONE POUND at a time. The “rate” (e.g., how fast or slow) I release my excess weight is NONE of my business, nor is it your business. Instead, it is the business of God and health care professionals. These folks are a whole lot saner about matters of nutrition, physical exercise and medical issues unique to my own situation than I (or any other addict I can think of) would ever hope to be. To paraphrase the A.A. Big Book, “When it comes to [weight loss] we were strangely insane.”

And now a word about getting weighed: It ain’t my favorite thing to do!  Since I was an obese child, I have loathed weighing-in (especially if it involved having another human being being present when I stepped on the scales!!!).

In a previous entry on this blog, I referred to the scale as the “Scale Monster”. The reality is the scale is NOT the monster, what IS of monsterous proportions is the tons of toxic shame I’ve experienced from my various scale experiences over the years.

The state of merely “being obese” has obviously also been quite shaming. The connection between my weight, the scale, my body image and self-esteem (or lack-of-self-esteem) has been a source for MUCH frustration, embarrassment and disgust for as long as I can remember!

So for me to feel fear, stress, shame and downright TERROR when I approach the scale is totally understandable! Thankfully in my recovery from addiction these negative and painful feelings and thoughts are changing.

To start with, I don’t use the numbers that the Scale Monster spits back at me to shame myself (I can, but I have a choice and [one weigh-in-at-a-time] I choose to see the “numbers” as but one measure of my physical recovery. I don’t choose to compare my numbers (or rate of weight loss/gain) with anyone else’s number. I realize that LOTS of other numbers, along with the number on the scale, can help me get a more accurate measure of the quality and quantity of my recovery.

Above all, my value has a precious child of God is not determined by my body weight — Just for today!

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