I rammed the lettuce into the measuring cup. Added some cucumbers, radishes, and carrots, and packed it down as far is it would go. Before me and behind me in the line, my fellow inmates were doing the same. Here at the treatment centre we were permitted 2 cups of salad with dinner, and we were all determined to make each cup count.
My first abstinence, twenty some odd years ago, was defined by the eating disorders unit. No sugar, wheat or flour. Three meals and one snack, which we called it a “metablolic”, each day. We were taught to be assertive with restaurant waitresses, to examine food labels closely, and to make our own ketchup and barbecue sauce without sugar.
When I exited the hospital and joined meetings back at home, I found that many others shared the same abstinence definition. Others, who we secretly thought were food slackers, simply did three meals – three plates a day, nothing in between. The only rule was you had to be able to lift the plate after you loaded it up.
After a fifteen year relapse (that’s a whole other blog entry), I re-entered OA. This time in program I wanted to avoid rigidity and perfectionism, but also not be loosey goosey with my food. In the last two years I’ve tried various abstinence definitions, to see which one would work for me. I needed something simple, to combat my tendency to obscure and overcomplicate. I needed something clear and defined, to combat my tendency to slither and slide around the edges, seeing what I could get away with. Often I would “try on” an abstinence definition for a month, giving myself permission to change it if I found it wasn’t helping eliminate the compulsion.
Sugar I know I cannot eat. Period. Wheat and flour are kind of iffy – some things trigger me, some things don’t. I can’t do bagels. Spaghetti makes me sleepy, but thintini style hamburger buns don’t seem to give me problems.
After trial and error, I think I’ve finally got something that is going to work for me. Eliminating the foods that trigger craving. Eliminating the behaviour that is clearly compulsive. I realized that I cannot have second helpings. As soon as I reach for more, I’m not feeding my body anymore but rather attempting to assuage other hungers.
At the treatment centre, they taught me there is no failure, just new information. That’s given me the freedom to fumble my way forward, knowing that everything is win-win for me, and that I will learn as much, if not more, from what doesn’t work, as what does.