Originally for Alcoholics Anonymous, the 12-step programme is suggested to help the person along and stick with their recovery. I think we can use the 12-step programme for food addiction.
By following the steps you move through stages of personal awareness and accountability.
I believe any programme which involves a level of introspection and accountability is going to help someone with an addiction. Though I would recommend if you are suffering with a food addiction, I would recommend that you see a therapist as well, to help you work through your issues.
How can the 12-step programme help with food addiction?
An addiction is an addiction, it doesn’t matter what the substance is, you still are using an outside substance as a coping strategy in life. The only thing with food is that you can’t totally give it up like you can alcohol.
We can’t live on food supplement tablets for the rest of our lives so we have to build a good relationship with food. Food addiction is where you might feel you have no control over food. You can’t stop eating and once you start you just can’t stop eating.
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The 12 steps and how they can help with food addiction. (My version of them)
How to use the 12-step programme for food addiction
Step 1 – Admittance. This is realising that in front of food we end up losing control, we are powerless over food. This is a big step. Admitting that we might be addicted is a huge step forwards. Admitting to ourselves that we are not where we want to be, but even more so recognising that we in some way are contributing to this is huge.
Step 2 – There’s something greater out there willing to help us. Whether we believe in a higher power or not, trusting that there is an energy or something bigger then ourselves helps us to realise we are not on our own. Coming to an awareness that there may be strengths and qualities in others that you do not have yet that you can have to help you manage your relationship with food.
Step 3 – Turning our lives over to this greater energy. Maybe the collective unconscious energy. I don’t mean to give up our personal power. To me, this is being willing and open for energy forces greater than us to help us. Each step whether forwards or backwards is a step closer to healing. Be open to exploring what other resources are out there that could help you.
Step 4 – Doing a behaviour/values inventory of ourselves. I think this is such a toughie, this is looking at ourselves with a mirror to say what are we doing that is causing us harm. What behaviours or thoughts do we have that are sabotaging our success? I don’t like to think of ourselves as flawed or something wrong with us because there is no perfect human that we are striving to. We are not flawed because there is no benchmark for us to compare ourselves to.
Step 5 – Understanding the nature / the causes of how we are. This is going deeper into ourselves to understand why we are the way we are. Why do we have the eating patterns that we do? Why do we go to certain foods? Looking at our childhood, our upbringing, and the behaviours of our parents or others close to us.
It is easy at this stage to beat ourselves up and this is not going to help. We have done nothing wrong. Understanding why we are the way we are helps us to understand our behaviour. It helps to understand our parent’s or others’ motives. Was anything really our fault? Or were we just the ones that others took their behaviours out on us. Understanding this helps us to come to some level of acceptance.
Self-work for Food Addiction begins
Step 6 – We are ready to work on ourselves. This is giving ourselves compassion, listening and love. Being compassionate with ourselves when we do eat too much and when we do reach out for the chocolate. Knowing we are doing it for a reason. It takes time and inner work, but it is so rewarding when you see your life become infinitely better. Doing this work is where we see long-term changes in our eating patterns.
Step 7 – With humility and openness to remove our shortcomings. For me, this is working on our shortcomings. The behaviours that are not serving us well. Learning to be mindful of the cause and effect of our actions. I think this relates to not just what we are eating but the way and why we are eating.
Step 8 – Make a list of all the people we have harmed and make amends to them. This is obviously more so with alcohol where it drastically changes our behaviours and ability to think clearly. However we all have some poor behaviours, ways of reacting, and displaying inappropriate anger. We may inadvertently or on purpose want to hurt others or those close to us.
Writing on paper their names and how we think we have hurt them, allows us to see how our behaviour does hurt others. It can make us more mindful of how we hurt others and maybe we are hurting ourselves.
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Healing Relationships with others
Step 9 – Make direct amends with those who you have hurt. This is people that you want to make amends with. You may want to continue a relationship with someone and want it to be constructive. If you do not want a relationship with others, it can be incredibly healing to say sorry, explain what you did and why you did what you did and in what way you did not want to hurt someone. But do it in your head or write it all down.
It gets rid of your anger and resentment towards others. Getting rid of that anger and resentment or whatever negative feeling you are feeling, is inevitably going to help you with your emotional eating. If you are not feeling (emotion), you are no longer going to turn to food to heal (that emotion), because it has diminished in some way.
Step 10 – Continue to take a personal inventory and take accountability for something we do that affects us or others negatively. This is being mindful of what we eat and also I think this is a good point to continually work on ourselves.
We have this pre-conceived idea that once we work on something, it will go away and for many behaviours they will, but if we have deep-seated issues that are causing us to eat the way they do, it may take time to un programme ourselves. Continually checking where we are with our eating, gives us an indication of where we are emotionally and mentally.
Step 11- Improving your spirituality, and your understanding of the way of life through meditation. I think this is to remind us that life is not static, we are not static and if we do not continue to work on ourselves we will become stuck on old behaviours and continue to be triggered. We will reach a level with our eating and stay there until we work on the next layer of ourselves.
Step 12 – Having a spiritual awakening because of these steps. With food, this is coming to a realisation of our deeper self, how we are connected to others and what we are connected to bigger than ourselves. How our behaviours and thoughts and emotions have such a ripple effect. How can we feel part of a bigger purpose and how can we further explore energy or knowledge outside of us.
Let me know what you think of this 12-step programme for food addiction