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Giving up Food as Something to Do

I was travelling recently with a friend. We got to the airport early and had breakfast together. Our flight was delayed an hour and we walked and talked and read. Finally, we got on the flight and took off. About a half-hour into the flight, my friend pulled out a bag of almonds and started eating them. We share the same food plan and it had only been about 3 hours since a big breakfast.

I asked her if she was hungry and she said no. So I asked her why she was eating and she said, “It’s something to do.” I so understood what she meant. That used to be me.

My abstinent life now requires me to give up food as something to do. I can’t afford to have a recreational relationship with food. I can enjoy it and enjoy it immensely, but I have had to learn to experience it as fuel, delicious fuel, but just fuel. Not as entertainment. Not as reward. Not as soother. Not as treat.

In my life, food is only something to do if it’s time for a meal. I’m just safer that way.

How often has food been something to do when you’re bored or restless? offers a variety of support programs.

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One of the Quickest Ways to Strengthen Your Recovery

At a workshop recently, I was reminded of the power of our word, more specifically, of giving our word and keeping it. And I recognized that this is one of the key ways to stay abstinent: do what we say we are going to do—every time.

  • If you tell your family you’re not going to eat sweets, don’t eat them.
  • If you tell yourself you’re not going to snack, don’t snack.
  • If you tell a friend you’ll call if you get into trouble with food, call your friend.

It’s that simple.

And yes, it’s not easy. We have to go against our addict brain that says it won’t matter. Not this one time. Or that we don’t really need help. But it does matter and we do need help.

Our brains are malleable. They can change. We can create new automatic habits, and keeping our word, to ourselves and others, is a tremendous step in the right direction.

It’s that powerful.

What is your relationship with keeping your word around food? offers a variety of support programs.

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Getting off the Fence

I met last week with a new coaching client. She wanted to talk about getting into a better relationship with food because she has been diagnosed with pre-diabetes. We chatted for a while and discovered we shared similar addiction histories: we’re both recovering alcoholics who returned to food after we got sober, particularly sugar. Then I asked what kind of relationship she wanted with food and I began to see that she is still on the fence.

She wants to give up sugar but not honey in her tea or kombucha, which she has just learned to make. She was okay with giving up bread (she might be gluten-intolerant) but not pasta. I reassured her that she didn’t have to give up any of these things if she didn’t want to. No one has to choose abstinence and, in fact, there are many kinds of abstinence and I can’t say what will work for her, only what works for me.

And so I moved to talking about being on the fence. It takes tremendous energy to stay on the fence, to live in indecision. And we can’t move forward while we’re there. I sat on the fence about sugar for two decades. I knew it was killing me and I just didn’t want to give up that comfort. I knew what she was going through.

So I encouraged her to make a decision. She could continue eating as she was and see what happens, and she didn’t need my help to do that. Or she could give up all sugar and flour and see what happens, and I could support her in doing that. Either way she would free up energy by getting off the fence and moving forward.

Where are you sitting on the fence? What energy would get freed up if you made a decision and moved in one direction or the other?  

Know someone who struggles with food? Invite them to sign up for this free conversation.

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Powerless Is Not Helpless

A friend in my food recovery support group is floundering. She’s been floundering for the last year, getting a day or two of abstinence and then picking up demon foods again. Of course, this is the nature of addiction: a seemingly irresistible siren song to self-medicate anything that ails us. And a lot ails my friend.

However, we aren’t helpless. Our powerlessness over sugar and flour (or alcohol or drugs) can be managed if we don’t consume them. Is it easy? No, not if we’re in the grip of the cravings. But those cravings fade and disappear. It can take several weeks and those weeks are hard. But they do fade. And from there, we have choice. We can choose to stay away from those foods or we can choose to consume them.

Powerlessness is a not a choice. By the time we’ve wired our brains through repeated self-medication, we can’t control how much we eat of those foods. But helplessness is a choice. For my food group buddy, it’s a choice to stay in a boring job, stay with an abusive boyfriend, refuse to create a life and an environment that can support her recovery. Would it be easy? No. Is it possible? Yes.

Powerless is not helpless. But we have to be willing to seek help and accept help. We have to be willing to do whatever it takes to get through the cravings and then make the life changes that will help us stay abstinent.

What distinction between powerless and helpless can you see for yourself?

Know someone who struggles with food? Invite them to sign up for this free conversation.

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Choosing Freedom over Pleasure

We’ve had an unusual number of snow days this winter so far. At first, I like it. Home with no place to go and a chance to get some things done or play more in the studio or read a good book. But when it goes on more than a day or two, I get restless. And restlessness is one of the triggers for me to eat. I want something good and food is still my first thought. Fortunately, it is no longer my first response.

When I committed in 2015 to a sweeter life between meals, it meant giving up the immediate pleasure of snacking. In my active addiction, I didn’t have just a snack once in a while. Snacking for me meant eating all day long. Whenever I felt the urge. Whenever I had any room. So there are long periods now each day when I don’t eat (I go five hours between meals and 13-14 hours between dinner and breakfast).
The choice I have made is for freedom, freedom from compulsion, freedom from obsessions, freedom from the grip sugar and flour and fat had on my life. Yes, I have given up some of the pleasure I got from food and I do miss it, especially on a snow day. But the freedom I feel from weight and guilt and worry and shame is so much more important to me.

What freedoms might you experience if you gave up eating between meals?

If you find these blogs helpful, consider subscribing to the 52 Conversations program where you’ll get extended discussion, great food for thought, and helpful tools for change.

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Five Books That Are Supporting My Sweeter Life

I’m a big reader. I usually have a couple of books going at a time (a novel and a nonfiction book or two). In the nonfiction realm, I am drawn to books with an accessible, friendly style and suggestions for living a more peaceful, generous life. Such books have long supported my recovery from alcoholism and now my recovery from food addiction. Here are a few I’m fond of:

The Rhythm of Life and Perfectly Yourself, both by Matthew Kelly (no relation that I know of). Kelly is a youngish (40s) Australian writer and speaker. He has a genius for phrasing his ideas in a most memorable way and of encouraging us to be our very best selves. His books have had a profound impact on my thinking and my behavior.

Help! Thanks! Wow! by Anne Lamott is a wonderfully unconventional book about prayer. Lamott is known for her quirky, intimate style. This book helped me look at praying in a whole new way.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown has helped me simplify my life and keep more clearly in mind what is most important to me. In our land of overwhelming opportunity and possibility, his ideas are counter-cultural and compelling.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo finally helped me figure out what to toss and what to keep. It all has to do with joy. I’d bought a half-dozen decluttering books and used some of the ideas but always fell back into acquisition and keeping. Kondo’s ideas, if you embrace them, will save you from your stuff.

Courage by Debbie Ford helped me rethink all the reasons why I wanted to be free of food addiction, not just weight loss. Ford’s work is marked by her long-time association with 12-Step programs and with Landmark Education, a personal transformation program I participated in around the turn of the millennium.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’m not really a Gilbert fan and I resisted reading yet another book on creativity for quite a while, but this book is brilliant and has so much to tell us about creating a life we really want to live.

What books are supporting you in creating a sweeter life between meals?

If you find these blogs helpful, consider subscribing to the 52 Conversations program where you’ll get extended discussion, great food for thought, and helpful tools for change.

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Creating an Environment That Supports Our Recovery: Our Stuff

When I ask people struggling with food addiction about the #1 things that keep them self-medicating, they’ll say anxiety and overwhelm. I can so understand that, for those are the things that I had to address when I got serious about being in recovery.

As I discuss in my book, Candy Girl: How I gave up sugar and created a sweeter life between meals, I believe that discovering Marie Kondo’s ideas on tidying up and decluttering, or dejunking as Matthew Kelly calls it, helped get me ready to let go of my compulsive relationship with food. Kondo’s work asks us to focus on the joy we get from our possessions and ridding ourselves of anything that doesn’t bring us joy.

Following her instructions, I made two passes through my stuff. In the first, I discarded just about everything that didn’t bring me pleasure. In the second, I discarded a bit more and then found places for everything so my stuff could all get put away arfter I used them. Doing this made me feel lighter, freer, happier. And I wanted more of that same feeling. I wanted to be light and happy and free in my body as well as in my home and my office. Then I was ready to let go of the weight and guilt and shame I had been carrying for more than two decades.

What changes can you consider for your environment that might help you let go of food compulsion and feel freer, lighter, happier?

Consider joining the 52 Support Conversations at for help in making the changes you need for a thinner, sweeter life.

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Getting the Support We Need to Make Changes

We addicts can be dangerously independent. I never spoke to a soul about my problems with food or alcohol, not my family, not my friends, not my doctor, not my therapist. I suffered a great deal but I suffered in silence. In recovery, we can’t afford to do that anymore. We have to spill our secrets and even more importantly we have to ask for help.

It may be time in your journey to find some group support. 12-Step groups, like Overeaters Anonymous and Food Addicts Anonymous, are wonderfully easy to join (the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop eating compulsively) and they are free. However, unlike Weight Watchers and other commercial programs, which have a controlled agenda, 12-Step groups are more loosely organized and bear the stamp of the individual members. It may take visiting several different groups to find one that feels like home.

It may be time to find a partner for the journey, someone else who really understands the struggle and who wants recovery as much as you do. You may already have a friend or work colleague who is interested and needing your support as much as you need hers. You may identify someone in your 12-Step group who wants to email or talk on the phone every day to stay abstinent.

It may also be time for some experienced help. There are counselors and therapists who can help you resolve the emotional issues you struggle with that keep you self-medicating. 12-Step groups offer sponsors, experienced members who will help you work through the steps of the program. And there are life coaches, like me, who can offer listening, encouragement, and suggestions.

What’s most important here is that you get support. That you give up feeling that you’re in this all by yourself. We have to help each other get into recovery and to stay there.

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