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Urge Surfing

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“What can I do instead of eating, when the urge arises?” In 1994, if someone had posed this question to me, my response would’ve been, “Don’t eat.” The result would probably have been compulsively eating and bingeing. This was prior to finding OA, and I was in a cycle of dieting, starving, compulsively overeating, restricting, self-loathing, and eating in secret.

Today, things are different. Oh, my response might still be not to eat, but now, on a really good day, it comes more in the form of pausing and asking my Higher Power for help in dealing with the urge. It might sound something like me saying aloud, “HP, I do not want to eat. I am not going to eat this item at this time. Please help me.”

Here are some other things that help me not eat compulsively:

  • If I am feeling a lot of sadness or self-pity, I try to do a good deed for someone, whether they’re an OA member or just a fellow human being. I pick up the phone and say hello, call my sponsor, or reach out to a friend in program and check on them.
  • I do one item I’ve been procrastinating about. Ideally, in a perfect world, it might be a recovery item: I might write a short paragraph on the Step I’m currently studying or do ten to fifteen minutes of meditation. It can also be a non-recovery item: change the pets’ drinking water; fill a bird feeder; put a stack of clothes in my car for donation to a charity.
  • I might listen to a recorded OA meeting.
  • I might drink a cup of hot tea.
  • If the urge to eat keeps hitting me and lingers, sometimes I’ll hear the voice of my sponsor saying, “What feeling is coming up?” Then I write on it, or just notice the feeling in my body and, as it suggests in the AA Big Book, pause, ask for direction, and see what happens.

Sometimes, for me, it’s important to note that the urge to eat is a very real physical one. If my blood sugar is dropping, if it’s been too long between meals or I didn’t eat all my planned food, I need to eat a food item like a piece of fruit. It is important here to distinguish real hunger from the urge to eat. A big hint for me is to notice what I’m wanting to eat: if I don’t want something healthy that is part of my normal food plan, and instead want something salty, fatty, crunchy, or comforting, then the urge is probably compulsive and not signaling a physical need.

— Melissa H., Nashville, Tennessee USA

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