I am coming up on thirty-two years of abstinence in OA, maintaining a 180-pound (82-kg) weight loss. Anyone in recovery will know that for me to hold on to my recovery, I’ve had to work hard at passing it on. In ways direct (sponsorship) and indirect (retreats, workshops), I’ve worked with literally hundreds of members over the years, taking them through the Steps. But first came putting down the food, and the opinion I’m expressing here is based on that experience.

There are many OA meetings that prohibit the mention of specific foods. I think this practice hurts us, and here’s why:

“…Any scheme of combating alcoholism which proposes to shield the sick man from temptation is doomed to failure. If the alcoholic tries to shield himself he may succeed for a time, but he usually winds up with a bigger explosion than ever” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., p.101).

I believe not mentioning food in meetings enables denial. It’s a disservice to the people who are still struggling to get honest about specific foods that cause them trouble.

Mentioning specific foods makes it much more easy for these folks to see the truth. It helps them get honest when they hear the shares of other people who have the same problems with these same foods. Seeing the truth puts everyone a step closer to taking the actions suggested by the program.

The idea behind a meeting’s ban is that mentioning a specific food may trigger an obsession in some people. However, since the 2000 World Service Business Conference decided to bring back food plans to OA through our Dignity of Choice pamphlet, a lot of meetings around the world have eliminated their rule about not mentioning food. It seems incongruous not to be able to read Dignity of Choice in a meeting just because it discusses food and food behaviors in detail.

OA meetings have the freedom to allow the mention of food and food plans within the framework of Tradition Six and copyright laws (not endorsing particular plans and not copying commercial plans to distribute in the meeting). Some meetings have revised the rule to say that members can mention a food, but should not dwell on it. There’s quite a difference in saying, “I ate the whole container of _____” versus going into an extensive, almost erotic description of the process.

With the meeting’s ban in place, speakers struggle to describe sweet things that come in packages or celebratory round things or crunchy things that come in bags. These disguised descriptions cause more turbulence in some brains than simply saying what the foods are. Nevertheless, this is an issue subject to group conscience.

The meeting business motion I have proposed many times is the following: “I move we replace the sentence in our meeting format saying we don’t mention food in this meeting to: It’s okay to mention specific foods in this meeting, but we ask that you not dwell on them.” It has passed every time.

— Don C., White Plains, New York USA

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