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Recovery Thinking

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When I first came into recovery, I was told that I’d have to completely change how I think about food and dieting. That baffled me: How do I change thoughts that just come into my head? And what do I change them to?

Five years later and 50 pounds (23 kg) lighter, I understand. Today I know I’m not responsible for every first thought that pops into my head, but I am responsible for my second thoughts and whether they take me forward into recovery or back into addiction.

I was a compulsive dieter for forty years. I lost weight only to gain it all back and then go on another diet. I didn’t know what else to do or how else to think. I focused on food, numbers, calories, weight, “good days,” and “bad days.” My solution was to restrict the food, but the food always called me back—sometimes sooner, sometimes later—and the cycle would begin again. Diet thinking kept me in a deadly, despairing cycle and in spiritual, emotional, and physical bankruptcy.

What is diet thinking? It is focused on food and weight and sounds like:

  • If I could just lose weight, I’d be fine.
  • If I eat 500 calories a day, I can lose the weight by my birthday.
  • This time, I’ll keep it off.
  • I’ve been good all week. I can have just a bite.
  • I exercised today. I can have a little more.

Diet thinking still pops up for me. My mind thinks, “I’ve been abstinent for five years, so maybe I can attend fewer meetings, read a little less, not work my Steps as often.” I no longer believe diet thinking. As soon as I notice it, I turn to recovery thinking. What is recovery thinking? It’s a new way of living my life. It acknowledges that I am an addict, and food and excess weight are merely symptoms of not knowing how to handle life and my feelings.

Recovery thinking reminds me that if I spend an hour or two on my program today, I will stay free of food thoughts and go to bed feeling free and proud. For me, recovery thinking sounds like:

  • I’m having a craving. I have Tools to sort out and process the feelings that are causing it: I can write, talk to someone, pray, go to a meeting, read our literature, or turn to my Steps.
  • I am going to enjoy a healthy abstinent meal now, and then move on with my day.
  • Alone, I am powerless over food. I am not powerless over how I eat today if I work my program.
  • Nothing tastes as good as abstinence feels.
  • I’ve been given a precious gift. I will take good care of it.

OA changed my thinking, even after those forty years. Now, each day, I can choose a way of thinking that frees me of the compulsion to overeat, and the numbers take care of themselves.

— Leslie O., Windsorville, Connecticut USA

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