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Before the First Bite

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Just what is compulsive overeating? I’ve not had to wonder about that, because my first sponsor made it very clear, as does the Big Book, that we’re talking about the first compulsive bite: the first bite of “more than planned,” the first bite of “a bit more,” the first bite of a food I do not eat today, and the first bite of a food I’m not sure about. The first bite—that is what we’re watching out for, not the second or tenth. Compulsive overeating starts with the first bite.

These thoughts have arisen in response to two Lifeline articles I’ve read recently. (I’ve been re-reading old Lifelines before donating them to my group to give to newcomers.) Both stories mention incidents of eating more or larger portions than planned or food between meals, but then go on to say this not overeating. To quote one, “I was not compulsively overeating . . . but I was adding more portions to my daily allotments of food. It wasn’t overeating, true, but the daily additions were adding up to weight gain” (“Back on Track”). My response: if that’s not overeating then what is?

I have been abstinent, free from compulsive overeating and the first compulsive bite, since December 8, 1980. As a consequence, my weight has stayed basically the same (except during two pregnancies, when I added more to my daily meal plan). More importantly, my brain has become and usually remains conscious of God (Step Eleven), my past has been cleaned up (Steps Four through Nine, which I completed thirty-seven years ago), and my present gets cleaned up throughout each day (Steps Ten and Eleven). And, I have this amazing recovery to share with others and to practice in all my affairs (Step Twelve).

But it all starts with the first bite. If I were to cross that line, just like an alcoholic with the first sip, I realize that I might never come back from the brink. My first sponsor taught me—and I remember this every day—that my choice is always between that first compulsive bite and gaining 100 pounds (45 kg). I’m a compulsive overeater whether I’m abstinent or overeating, so no half measures. Its always been clear to me, and I hope it always will be.

A couple of items, which are part of my meal plan, help me stay clean and free from compulsive overeating:

  • If in doubt, leave it out
  • (Don’t overeat) no matter what
  • No more, no less (I never under-eat anymore either.)

One of the wonderful things about following my meal plan every day is that when I feel hungry, I know it’s not the food, because I eat the same thing every day. My “I’m hungry” and “I’m full” mechanisms were broken long before I came into OA, and they remain unreliable, so I don’t listen to them. I just stick to the plan, no more and no less, and I’m happy, joyous, and free.

Thanks to OA. Thanks to my first sponsor who helped me get started on this amazing road of recovery. Thanks to my current sponsor who always points me back to the Steps and to God and reminds me “just don’t eat over it, no matter what.” I am abstinent and grateful.

— Anonymous


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