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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.

Check out the support available on

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Forget New Year’s Resolutions: Create a Thinner, Sweeter Life in 2017 Instead

I used to be the queen of New Year’s Resolutions. In tidying up last year, I found a list from when I was 9! Nine years old and I was already trying to fix myself. Changing my relationship with food and my weight wasn’t on that first list, but it was on the list for about 30 years. But it wasn’t on the list last year and it won’t be on the list this year. Here’s why:

In October 2015, I came to a crossroads. In 14 months, I was going to be 70. And I could be 70 and fat or 70 and a lot thinner. I could be a fat old lady dragging the equivalent of twelve (!) 10-pound bags of kitty litter around on my body and experiencing all the complications that went with that. Or I could be an old lady with a thinner, healthier, more energetic body. How? First, by accepting my unhealthy relationship with food for what it was: an addiction to most combinations of sugar, flour, and fat, then by stepping fully into recovery through a healthy eating plan and creating a sweeter life for myself between meals that didn’t have food at its center.

I was willing to say yes. I was willing to get honest about my relationship with food and stay honest. I was also ready to change. I was so tired of the weight and the shame and the guilt and the self-loathing and the fear for my health.

Maybe you’re willing now too and ready to change. While the journey ahead isn’t easy, it is totally doable with support and support is available. Consider one of the 12-Step food programs, such as OA or FA, or check out

And consider joining me on January 7 for a 3-hour workshop at New Renaissance Bookstore in Portland, Oregon. For information: or email me for details.

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Lowering Our Expectations for the Holidays

For quite a few years in my past, I fell into the misery of the myth of the Christmas That Never Was. I’d dredge up some vague memory of warm and fuzzy feelings of getting together with my family and having super good times. Or I’d reminisce about New Year’s Eve with one of my several boyfriends and how romantic and delightful it was.

But the operative word here is myth. While there were some very nice moments sometimes, there were other holidays that were awful, where I drank or ate myself sick, where I was on the outs with the boyfriend, where my family was contentious or just withdrawn as we often were with each other. Plagued by cutesy movies and TV shows, we can build up the holidays into childhood memories of an enormous magical pageant of perfect gifts and perfect behavior that none of us can live up to.

These imagined holidays would be harmless if the discrepancy between what we’ve imagined and what actually happens wasn’t so disappointing. And when active food addicts are disappointed, we medicate ourselves with food and add guilt, shame, and self-loathing to the mix.

This year, I’m working on going with the flow. My birthday party was cancelled because of snow and ice. Our 4-day family get-together was also impacted by the weather. One sister couldn’t come at all; another could only come for a few hours. But it was fine. We had some good times, some okay times, a couple of tense moments. I let them come and go. And I stayed abstinent.

How can you go with the flow over the next few days?

Consider joining me on January 7 for a 3-hour workshop at New Renaissance Bookstore in Portland, Oregon. For information: or email me for details.

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Staying on Our Food Plan through the Stress of the Holidays

The holidays are a time of a high rate of relapse for addicts of all persuasions. We don’t do well with stress at any time of year. As self-medicators, when we feel bad, we eat too much and we eat the wrong things to try to make ourselves feel better. Ratchet up the stress like the holidays tend to do, and we’ll ratchet up our self-medicating consumption.

But there are ways to support ourselves and stick to our commitment to stay off demon foods and out of overeating in the days ahead. Here are some suggestions.

We can be realistic in our emotional expectations. Many of us addicts have problematic families. We can fall into the trap of thinking that this year will be different. That somehow magical healing will have occurred and everyone will get along and be on their best behavior. While that may happen, it may not. If we assume things will be as before, we won’t be disappointed. And if things are better, hurray!

If things get difficult, we can leave. An addict committed to her recovery always has a prearranged escape plan.

  • Drive your own car to the function or family event.
  • Visiting family out of town? Get a rental car so you can get out of the house. It may be some of the best money you ever spend. 
  • Go for a long walk.
  • Go to a 12-Step meeting. Everyone is welcome there and if you call the Central Office of AA or OA in any town, almost always someone will come and give you a ride to a meeting. (Not an alcoholic? AA is still a safe place to go. If you’re abstinent from sugar, chances are good you’re abstinent from alcohol too.)
  • Go to your room or the bathroom and call a recovering friend.

We can limit our exposure to relapse opportunities.

  • Choose wisely when accepting invitations to holiday functions; if eating is the main activity, don’t go. Choose activities like caroling or feeding the homeless or a religious service instead.
  • Ask workmates to keep holiday demon foods in the break room and then stay out of the break room.
  • Give your own party where board games and charades are the focus.
  • Stay on the other side of the room from the buffet table.

We can focus on gratitude for our abstinence. It helps me to remember that sugar and flour foods are a short-term solution to a long-term problem. While eating them may give me a few moments of relief, it won’t get me what I really want: freedom from obsession and peace of mind with food. Instead, I’ll get shame, guilt, and self-loathing. And who wants that for Christmas?

What are some of your best ways to deal with holiday stress?

For more support for your journey to food freedom, visit www.lifebetweenmealscoaching.comv

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Four Ways to Know If You’re Addicted to Sugar and Flour

We throw the addiction word around a lot in our society. I’m addicted to Game of Thrones. I’m addicted to the burgers at Joe’s Grill. And it’s true that we live in a culture of excess and focus on pleasures. But this isn’t the kind of “addicted” I’m talking about. This isn’t the kind of self-destructive addiction that I suffer from.

If you’re concerned that you might be addicted to sugar and other refined carbohydrates (and there’s substantial science to show that some of us are), here are some things to consider.

  1. Once we addicts start eating sugar and flour, we can’t stop. One cookie turns into a dozen. One chocolate turns into most of the box. Even if we eat moderately in front of others for fear of shame and embarrassment, we’ll sneak into the kitchen for more or stop and get sweets on the way home.
  2. We hide our stash and lie about our consumption to others and sometimes to ourselves. We minimize the severity of the problem.
  3. We know we are harming ourselves (weight gain, poor nutrition, exacerbating our anxiety and depression), but we can’t give it up. The thought of abstaining for the long haul makes us agitated and even panicky.
  4. We’ve tried to abstain in the past, sometimes with some success, but we keep relapsing and each time we do, our consumption gets worse.

It is possible to get out of this loop of bingeing and self-loathing and step into a different relationship with food and your better self. If you think you may be ready to get off this merry-go-round, check out the support available at 

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Grocery Shopping and the Overwhelm of Holiday Demon Foods

Yesterday, I went to my local upscale food store where I get my organic vegetables, fruits, and meats. The store was busy with staff creating displays of demon foods (aka sugar-flour-fat). As a recovering food addict, I’ve learned to avert my eyes when passing the bakery section and going straight for the deli where I often find some interesting salads that fit my food program before heading to the meat/fish and produce sections. However, yesterday, I had to run a veritable gauntlet of holiday treats to get what I needed.

I had only a couple of pangs of desire as I went by them, and I didn’t stop to examine anything. That’s playing with fire for me. But the experience nudged me into making a plan for grocery shopping for the next month that would protect my abstinence. You may find these ideas helpful.

  1. Make a list just before we shop. Include specifics so we’re not “getting ideas” as we wander around.
  2. Take that list with us (not always the no-brainer one would think).
  3. Reverse our usual routine: go to vegetables and fruit first (fewer demon foods on that side of the store), then to deli.
  4. Shop once a week right after breakfast. If I need to go to several stores for my usual menu items, I’ll do it all on the same trip.
  5. If we run out of something, make do with what we have. No extra trips to the store, no extra visual exposure to something we don’t eat anymore.

Visual cues are a trigger for us and store owners know that. We see something, we remember how it tastes or how curious how delicious it is, and we buy it. That’s the way humans work. It’s up to us as recovering food addicts to minimize our exposure to those visual cues.

Need more support to get through the holidays and into the New Year? Contact me at for information about the 6-week holiday phone and email coaching special.

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3 Ideas for Food Sanity during the Holidays

With so many holiday food events looming in December, now’s a great time to plan your strategy for staying faithful to your chosen food program. Here are three ideas that can help keep us sane.

  1. Stick to your food schedule. One of the smartest things I’ve done for my food recovery is commit to three meals a day and no snacks. While my meal schedule isn’t rigid, it’s consistent. I eat 3 meals with 4-5 hours between breakfast and lunch and between lunch and dinner. Each morning I check my calendar and set my times for the day. So if I’m going to a holiday event between 5 and 7, that will be my dinner. But if the event is between 3 and 5, that’s not going to work for me and I either don’t go or don’t eat while I’m there. Whatever your meal schedule, make sure events work with it and not against it. Being in charge of when we eat is an important part of our journey.
  2. Bring something you can safely eat to any event. A raw vegetable platter is always a welcome addition, whether it’s a potluck or not. Every dieter there will thank you. Want to put in more effort? Roast a pan of mixed vegetables with a cup of vegetable broth, cumin, and basil. They’re delicious warm or at room temperature. Bring them in a pretty dish you can leave as a gift for your host/hostess (most Goodwill stores have a wonderful selection of quirky pieces) or bring them in something disposable that they can discard.
  3. It’s all right to say no to invitations. Last year when I was new to sane eating, I turned down every invite for holiday gatherings that weren’t from family. I didn’t feel safe around tables full of demon foods. Instead, I invited the person who was inviting me to have tea together after the holidays and catch up then. It was much more fun for this introvert to do that and no food was involved. This year, with 14 months of sane eating under my (smaller) belt, I’m going to a few more gatherings but only the ones at a meal time. And I’m taking something I can eat.

One last thought: I didn’t explain to anyone why I wasn’t coming to their party. I just said I had other plans. I did have other plans. I was planning to stay abstinent! 

More holiday tips for the journey are included in the Support for the Journey program. Check it out at