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Clear Definitions

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What is abstinence with respect to food? It’s a good question.

Overeaters Anonymous defines abstinence as “The act of refraining from compulsive eating and compulsive food behaviors while working toward or maintaining a healthy body weight” (Business Conference Policy Manual, 1988b (amended 2002, 2009, 2011, and 2019). This sounds reasonable . . . except it doesn’t define compulsive eating or compulsive food behaviors or healthy body weight. It leaves those definitions in the hands of its members, members who hear and read and say the First Step at every meeting they attend: “We admitted we were powerless over food and that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Insane people are not the folks to go for a definition of sanity, are they?

Addicts can’t be trusted to define what constitutes compulsive eating, compulsive food behaviors, or healthy weight. We are powerless over food. As such, we can’t think rationally when it comes to our food, our food behaviors, or our weight. We need clear definitions given to us by appropriate others. Who are these appropriate others? The OA-HOW two-hour structured meeting format specifies them:

We get our food plan from a doctor, dietician, or nutritionist. It is a weighed and-measured food plan, so there is no guess work. If a food on our plan becomes a problem, we let our nutritionist and our sponsor know, and we avoid it.

Though the meeting format doesn’t spell this out, I think it should also read: ”a healthy weight is a small range, say, a number plus or minus 3 pounds (1.4 kg), given to us by our physician.”

This meeting format erects barriers and supports around my food. It insists I make no food decisions entirely on my own. It tells me how to rely on appropriate others to make these decisions for me.

This, for me, is abstinence.

It is a definition that OA members who follow this format share. And, for me, it is the only relief I have found, the only thing that grants me serenity with food.

— John

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