Dave: I’m a male food addict and my problem is Dave!
Reader: Hi, Dave and welcome!

I was just thinking of the lyrics of a Paul Simon song from many years ago, Still Crazy After All These Years, and decided to slightly modify it’s title for the purpose of the subject of this post. When it comes to being imperfect (not to mention crazy), some of us male food addicts have great difficulty accepting ourselves as the flawed individuals we are. The truth was, is and ever shall be: We are “imperfect”, yet we can recover. To some degree (especially when it comes to food and other aspects of self-care) we are definitely “crazy”, yet we can become more sane — one day at a time (I love the concept “going sane” as an alternative to “going crazy/crazier”).

An obsession/addiction to be “perfect” or “the best” has often sabotaged my recovery effort — and still can at times. I would think the most common manifestation of self-defeating perfectionism has to do with those times we eat “a little more” than allowed by our food plan and use that imperfection to say to ourselves, “The heck with it…I might as well eat everything in sight!”  What started out as a fairly insignificant event then becomes a self-destructive excuse to justify a much larger food intake disaster. Some addicts insist they don’t have “a self-esteem problem.” But I insist that someone who really loved themselves (or at least loved themselves more than they love food) wouldn’t use imperfection to beat themselves up and justify self-destructive behavior.

Here’s one way to “turn it (our imperfection) around.” When I eat “a little more” than the optimum amount of food on my food plan, it serves as a reminder than I use this “event” as a time to Pray (to God), Reflect (within myself) and Share (what happened with other addict) so I can LEARN from my imperfection. And yes, I can also love myself — imperfections and all.

I’m glad that I’ve found a flexible food plan that allows for “imperfect moments”. The days of rigid food plans that only encourage self-destructive actions went by the wayside for me back in 2001, when I re-joined Weight Watchers and began following their Points food plan. DISCLAIMER: I am not saying the W.W. Points food plan is the “only” acceptable food plan for addicts. I just know that with it’s help I’ve released around 140 pounds as of this writing. I would like to point out that due to guidance from two health care professionals I work with, I do not follow the current version of the Points plan, instead I follow a previous version where fruits were assigned a Point’s value and not counted as having “0 Points”. As a diabetic I have to count all carbohydrates I consume, so the idea that carb-rich bananas can be valued at 0 Points like 0 carb Green Beans, well that doesn’t work for me. Your results may vary. I do eat bananas since I do not demonize carbohyrdrates.

The W.W. concept of “FlexPoints” gives me a “Plan B” so if I don’t want it to be, imperfect eating doesn’t have to set me up for a disaster known as a “food binge”. If I want an excuse to go on a binge, that’s one thing. But if I want to “get back on track ASAP”, then FlexPoints become a valuable tool for my recovery. The challenge is to be able to “love myself enough” to CHOOSE to not use my imperfection as a ticket for self-sabotage. We male food addicts are powerless over food, but we are NOT powerless over our choices!

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When I use the phrase (as in the subject line of this message) “Carbohydrate-Phobic Food Nazis”, I am NOT (repeat: NOT) — in any way, shape or form — talking about members of the Nazi organization, skinheads or other racist groups. Understood?

Instead the phrase in the subject line of this post refers to food addicts for whom ONLY ONE food plan exists (which is ALWAYS the one they are following — how convenient!) that the rest of us food addicts MUST be following if we are “really serious” about our recovery.  These nut jobs are not above shaming, shunning and degrading anyone who would dare to disagree with them. If they were not so extreme in their tactics and insane in their beliefs I doubt I would feel the level of anger I do about them.  I also realize that FEAR of these people also tiggers my anger toward them. I mostly fear the physical, emotional and spiritual damage they do to newcomers to 12 Step recovery.

These “craziest-of-the-crazies” food addicts can be found within the meetings of Overeaters Anonymous and many other so-called 12 Step fellowships. At least in the case of OA, they do NOT represent the official (let alone the best) thinking of that fellowship. These extremists are (at the most) a “cult” within OA, far removed from the mainstream of OA thought and practice.

Many of these carb-phobic folks identify themselves as being part of the “H.O.W. Movement”, which is an outrageous abuse  of the 12 Step acronym “H.O.W.”, which stands for the three foundations of authentic recovery: Honesty, Openmindedness and Willingness. The inference the control freaks are making is that ONLY THEY are “honest, openminded and willing” and rest of us are just deluding ourselves because we don’t follow their sicko food plan. Talk about elitist nonsense!

Other than the issues identified above, why do these Carbohydrate-Phobic Food Nazis upset me so much? Probably because they prey on the vulnerability of newcomers to OA and other 12 Step fellowships. Newcomers desperate to find answers and hope to overcome their addiction.

They also make me angry because I’ve found out their food plan(s) (it comes in various versions, but virtually all can be traced back to the original Gray Sheet Food Plan that came from an OA member around 1962) is UNhealthy and can even be harmful to one’s physical health if followed for any significant period of time. Their food plan is RIGID and NOT scientifically or medically sound for most individuals. It is based on, at best, superstition. Remember that superstition is “an irrational belief or practice resulting from ignorance”!

Thankfully I’m following a food plan today that has been designed by health care professionals (not irrational addicts determined to control my food intake, who can’t keep their own food intake under control) based on my unique medical history and health concerns. At the same time, I don’t demand any other addict follow my food plan. I know their is a God and it is not me! Thankfully I’m part of Weight Watchers, as imperfect as that organization is, they at least strive to be on top of the latest medical research when it comes to nutrition and weight loss.

The idea that a fellow food addict would attempt to dictate to another adherance to a particular food plan is just plain NUTS! I would trust another food addict to tell me how much and what (and what not) to eat as I would trust a pyromaniac to work as a firefighter! Food addicts in control of other food addicts food intake is dangerous, scary and even has the potential of being deadly!

So yes, I’m going to speak out against the dangerous insanity of Carbohydrate-Phobic Food Nazis! I’m going to proclaim “freedom to those held captive” by the superstition of cabrohydrate phobia and to indiviudals who have been emotinoally and spiritually abused by the people who promote one or another version of the dangerous Gray Sheet Food Plan (regardless of the name it goes by in a particular fellowship or 12 Step group).

Dave: I‘m an addict and my problem is Dave!  My drugs of choice are food addiction and exercise avoidance. I abuse my body with food in order to numb painful emotions (especially fear and rage) and avoid exercise because I lack the discipline to take good care of my body and because I’ve elevated lazyness to an artform. I’m grateful to be experiencing the gift of recovery from both sides of my addiction today — just for today — one day at a time!

Reader Responds: Hi Dave and welcome!!!

spilledicecreamconeAs an addict who has a long history of abusing my body with food, for today I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve done some crazy stuff when it comes to acting out with my drugs of choice — especially food.  My insane behaviors with food include, but are not limited to…

— Picking up food that I’ve dropped on the floor and then eating it.
— Picking up food that I’ve dropped on the sidewalk or even parking lot and then eating it.
— Eating food that is still half-frozen.
— Eating food that is partially stale.
— Eating food so fast that I don’t even hardly taste what I’m  eating.
— Eating food (which includes drinking beverages) so fast that I nearly choke on it.
— Eating so much food that it leaves me over-stuffed and short of breath.
— Eating so much food that it leaves me so lethargic that you would think I was on dope.
— Circa 1984: At one meal eating 19 pieces of Kentucky Fried Chicken, along with all sorts of sides (e.g., mashed potatoes and gravy, slaw, biscuits, baked beans, etc.) while INSISTING on drinking ONLY Diet Coke! My justification was that “real food addicts would have ate 20 pieces of friend chicken, while I _only_ ate 19 pieces!

Other than these things, my behavior with food over the years has been reasonable sane.  HA!!! 😀

So I was on my way to shop at my neighborhood Walgreen’s last night and I noticed a gentleman that I assumed to be a Nicotine Addict toss his cigarette (which he didn’t extinguish) on the SIDEWALK in front of the store, only to emerge from said store a few minutes later and proceed to PICK UP AND PLACE IN HIS MOUTH his still-burning cigarette!  Honest!!!

Before I could cope a totally judgmental attitude toward this smoking stranger, I remembered some of the INSANE things I’d done with food (see my Short List above) and realized that I was in NO position to judge the man who did the SAME behavior with a lit cigarette that I had done with food…even when I’m NOT overeating I have been known to place food in my mouth that has landed on the floor, a sidewalk or parking lot. “There but for the grace of God go I”, eh?

Why be so open about my checkered history with food?  Because I learned a long time ago that I/we addicts are only as sick as our worst secrets. Also, when I share my sickest secrets I am much LESS likely to repeat them! To get them “out in the open” also reduces the weight of my guilt and shame that these sick secrets have caused me.  In recovery I am afforded many opportunities to come out of secrecy and into the light of honesty.

Please excuse me while I bore you with a little personal recovery history (STOP YAWNING ALREADY!!!) 🙂

Connecting Male Food Addicts Via The Internet

One Byte At A Time & One Bite Fellowship: Connecting Male Food Addicts Worldwide Via The Internet

Because of my frustration (and maybe just a little bit of resentment?) that came from having survived a male-bashing, hospital-based eating disorder treatment program, back in the fall of 1996 I established what was probably the first e-mail-based community exclusively for MALE food addicts. Known as One BYte At A Time (a/k/a OBAAT) — yeah, “BYte” spelled with a “Y”. Within a few years OBAAT had nearly 50 members and in 1999 we “gave birth” (in a male-sort-of-way) to our first website for our Internet-based support network, known as One Bite Fellowship (a/k/a OBF) — this time “BIte” was spelled with an “I”.

OBAAT still exists with a Google Groups address, but has been largely inactive for the past few years. My understanding is that most e-mail groups don’t remain terribly active without newcomers joining on a fairly regular basis. This is because “oldtimers” (by the time they become “oldtimers”) are either burned out or have shared all they needed or wanted to share. So with not haven’t tried to spread the word about OBAAT for just over three years, it is more than understable why the group is no longer active (e.g., no newcomers + burned out oldtimers = inactive e-mail group).

Instead of promoting OBAAT, over the past three years I’ve been working at reinvigorating an inactive One Bite Fellowship. While the One Bite website has generated lots of e-mail messages from visitors over the years, the problem is that hardly any of the men who write want to help start a face-to-face One Bite Fellowship group in their corner of the world. I get lots of one word and one sentence messages from guys saying “Help!!!” or “I need help!!!”, yet they don’t usually want to do anything suggested by the OBF concept of recovery. So for the time being OBF exsits only as an online entity with few (maybe two of us?) actual members.

I recently decided to not renew the OBF domain name that we used for several years. As of Monday, August 18, 2008 our website address is www.malefoodaddicts.com. A totally new look and feel for our website will be coming soon.

In the meantime, I know that I *NEED* (and even *WANT*) the support of other MALE food addicts interested in pursuing recovery from their addiction. I’m glad some addicts can recover while playing the role of Lone Ranger, but that approach has never — and will never — work for me. Food addiction is far too cunning, baffling and powerful for me to fight it alone and expect to experience any significant success in overcoming it.

Of course I’ve TRIED MANY TIMES to “go it alone” over the years. Then again, throughout the history of my addiction I’ve PROVEN time and again the 12 Step definition of insanity: “Doing the SAME thing over and over while expecting DIFFERENT results.” This definition reminds me that THERE IS A SOLUTION, which I’ve seen paraphrased over the years by Portia Nelson’s brilliant piece, An Autobiography In Five Short Chapters that goes like this…

Chapter 1:
I walk down the street.
There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost…..I am helpless……it isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.
   
Chapter 2:
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place; but it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
   
Chapter 3:
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in….it’s a habit.
My eyes are open…..I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
   
Chapter 4:
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter 5:
I walk down a different street.

Amen! May all of us addicts take a journey down “Recovery Street”! It sures beats all of the other paths that I’ve tried to take over the years! Recovery Street is a journey that in many ways we must walk with others. Recovery Street doesn’t always look familiar. The pain of traveling down Recovery Street is never as bad as the agony experienced by taken the “Easier, Softer Way”!

A Little DIET COKE Goes Great With A BIG Meal!!!

Persons involved in 12 Step recovery are quick to point out that if we don’t remember all the pain, misery and outright INsanity of the last time we acted out with our “drug(s) of choice” we probably will act out with them again. For me as a food addict, I translate this thought as follows: If I can’t remember my last food binge, I haven’t probably haven’t had it yet. In other words, I probably have at least one more binge inside of me just waiting to pop out and make a train wreck out of my recovery.

While it wasn’t my last binge, one of the most bizarre ones from around 1985, came to mind when I found the picture posted at the top of this entry while recently cruising the Internet.

Drinking a little Diet Coke makes our OVEReating all OK, right? Not hardly.

It certainly didn’t make it “OK” the night that I ate 19 pieces of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Cole Slaw, Baked Beans, Biscuits, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy and who knows whatever other “KFC sides” I inhaled along with the GALLONS of DIET COKE I had with my “dinner”.

BTW, real addicts might eat 20 pieces or more of Kentucky Fried Chicken, but I STOPPED AT ONLY 19!!! Such moderation is something to be truly admired!

No way that OVEReating is a form of INsanity. Right. <blush>

After all, drinking Diet Coke probably IS a little bit healthier than drinking regular sugary soft drinks, right? And drinking DIET Coke is an “incremental step” toward living a healthier lifestyle, right?

Heck I recall one Weight Watchers leader quoting a news article about “lifestyle changes” that claimed it was possible to lose nearly fifteen pounds over the course of one year if you just drink one less 12 ounce cain of sugary soft drinks each day (Do the math: 365 days X one 12 oz. can less per day = 15 pounds weight loss).

We food addicts are sooooo incredibly sane, aren’t we?!?

You see, drinking Diet Coke alone is not the same thing as following a balanced, moderate food plan and moderately exercising, one day at a time.

Just for today, I have a plan of recovery (food plan, exercise plan, support network and life philosphy) which includes/allows Diet Coke (and other sugar-free soft drinks) to be consumed. But Diet Coke alone is not what has allowed me to now lose nearly 81 pounds.

But I have to admit, Diet Coke does taste great with chocolate!!!