Originally for Alcoholics Anonymous, the 12 step programme is suggested to help the person along and stick with their recovery. Even though it was originally meant for alcoholics, I think we can use the 12 steps as a process for food addiction. By following the steps you move through stages of personal awareness and accountability. I believe any programme which involves a level of introspection and accountability is going to help someone with an addiction. Though I would recommend if you are suffering with a food addiction, I would recommend that you see a therapist as well, to help you work through your deep seated issues.
How can it help with food addiction?
An addiction is an addiction, it doesn’t matter what the substance is, you still are using an outside substance as a coping strategy in life. The only thing with food is that you can’t totally give it up. We can’t live on food supplement tablets for the rest of our lives so we have to build a good relationship with it. Food addiction is where you might feel you have no control around food, you can’t stop eating once you start or there might be a particular food that you just can’t stop eating.
So here is my version of the steps and how they can help with food addiction.
Step 1 – Admittance. This is realising that in front of food we end up losing control, we are powerless over food. This is a big step. Admitting that we might be addicted is a huge step forwards. Admitting to ourselves that we are not where we want to be, but even more so recognising that we in some way are contributing to this is huge.
Step 2 – There’s something greater out there willing to help us. Whether we believe in a higher power or not, trusting that there is an energy or something bigger then ourselves helps us to realise we are not on our own. Coming to an awareness that there may be strengths and qualities in others that you do not have yet that you can have to help you manage your relationship with food.
Step 3 – Turning our lives over to this greater energy. Maybe the collective unconscious energy. I don’t mean give up our personal power. To me this is being willing and open for energy forces greater than us to help us. Each step whether forwards or backwards is a step closer to healing. Being open to explore what other resources are out there that could help you.
Step 4 – Doing a behaviour/values inventory of ourselves. I think this is such a toughie, this is looking at ourselves with a mirror to say what are we doing that is causing us harm. What behaviours or thoughts do we have that are sabotaging our success. I don’t like to think of ourselves as flawed or something wrong with us because there is no perfect human that we are striving to. We are not flawed because there is no benchmark for us to compare ourselves to. So instead, it is looking at our behaviours to know what is causing us how we do not want to be. Are we overeating, eating too much of the wrong foods, eating to supress our emotions.
Step 5 – Understanding the nature / the causes of how we are. Ooh this is going deeper into ourselves to understand why we are the way we are. Why do we have the eating patterns that we do? Why do we go to certain foods? Looking at our childhood, our upbringing, the behaviours of our parents or others close to us. It is easy at this stage to beat ourselves up and this is not going to help. We have done nothing wrong. Understanding why we are the way we are, helps us to understand our behaviour now, understand our parents or others motives. What was happening for them? Was anything really our fault? Or were we just the one’s that others took their behaviours out on us. Understanding this, helps us to come to some level of acceptance.
Step 6 – We are ready to work on ourselves. This is giving ourselves compassion, listening and love. Really reparenting ourselves as to how we would have wanted to be parented. Being compassionate with ourselves when we do eat too much, when we do reach out for the chocolate. Knowing we are doing it for a reason. It takes time and inner work, but it is so rewarding when you see your life become infinitely better. Doing this work is where we see long term changes in our eating patterns.
Step 7 – With humility and openness to remove our shortcomings. For me this is working on our shortcomings. The behaviours that are not serving us well. Learning to be mindful around the cause and effect of our actions. I think this relates to not just what we are eating but the way and why we are eating. Not just to others but the consequence of our behaviours to us. Learning what we want to be like, how we want to treat ourselves for a better life for us.
Step 8 – Make a list of all the people we have harmed and make amends to them. This is obviously more so with alcohol where it drastically changes our behaviours and ability to think clearly. However we all have some poor behaviours, ways of reacting, displaying inappropriate anger. We may inadvertently or on purpose want to hurt others or those close to us. By first writing on paper their names and how we think we have hurt them, allows us to see how our behaviour does hurt others. It can make us more mindful of how we hurt others and maybe we are hurting ourselves.
Step 9 – Make direct amends with those who you have hurt. This is Those that you want to make amends with. You may want to continue a relationship with someone and want it to be constructive. If you do not want a relationship with others, it can be incredibly healing to say sorry, explain what you did and why you did what you did and in what way you did not want to hurt someone, but do it in your head or write it all down. It gets rid of your anger and resentment towards others. Getting rid of that anger and resentment or whatever negative feeling you are feeling, is inevitably going to help you with your emotional eating. If you are not feeling (emotion), you are no longer going to turn to food to heal (that emotion), because it has diminished in some way.
Step 10 – Continue to take a personal inventory and take accountability for something we do that affects us or others negatively. This is being mindful of what we eat and also I think this is a good point to continually work on ourselves. We have this pre-conceived idea that once we work on something, it will go away and for many behaviours they will, but if we have deep seated issues that are causing us to eat the way they do and the way we are brought up, sometimes we could be working on it and it may take years to un programme ourselves. Continually checking where we are with our eating, gives us an indication of where we are emotionally and mentally.
Step 11- Improving your spirituality, your understanding of the way of life through meditation. I think this is to remind us that life is not static, we are not static and if we do not continue to work on ourselves we will become stuck on old behaviours and continue to be triggered. We will reach a level with our eating and stay there until we work on the next layer of ourselves.
Step 12 – Having a spiritual awakening because of these steps. With food, this is coming to a realisation of our deeper self, how we are connected to others and what we are connected to bigger then ourselves. How our behaviours and thoughts and emotions have such a ripple effect. How can we feel part of a bigger purpose and how can we further explore energy or knowledge outside of us.