Breaking Up With Food: Season Finale | Healthy Aging Series: S9 E24

Beginnings, Middles, and Ends.

What is your favorite season or series finale? Seinfeld? The Office? Breaking Bad?

I love these series and I hated to see them come to an end. I hate endings.

Sometimes I re-watch series and save the season or series finale for maybe a month or two. I did that with the new Star Trek series: Picard. I knew the series was ending, so I watched it in it’s entirely, except for the last three episodes. And then I savored them over the course of six weeks.

One of my Social Work professors, Dr. Timothy Johnson, explained that life, and really therapy, is made up of beginnings, middles, and ends.You have to attend to each phase,” he would say.

Beginnings: build relationships, introduce new ideas, develop a roadmap.
Middles: revisit the map and goals you have set. Begin the discharge process.
Ends: review progress and develop relapse prevention.

This is the season nine finale, and I wanted to end it with a review, and maybe not relapse prevention, but more looking at excuses for why people fail to break up with food.

First, the Review

I hope I sold you on the idea that you have a relationship with food, and it’s likely that it’s a little dysfunctional. 

We looked at ways of determining if it’s dysfunctional.

I discussed the need for breaking up with food and why it’s so difficult.

Throughout this season, I shared four Obesity Memoirs from people who broke up and stayed broke up with food. These were heroic journeys.

I did an interview with Terri, a healthy ager.

I had six episodes that walked you through strategies for breaking up with food.

I finished up the season, providing you with the importance of hope and self-love for breaking up with food

I ended the season with advice for writing a love letter to yourself.

24 episodes.

Ready But Excuses

I was talking about this season with my wife, and she suggested sharing several excuses that keep people from breaking up with food and developing a new lifestyle.

Before I come up with excuses, I want to first say that some people don’t break up with food because they’re not ready. “The lesson begins when the student is ready.”

It usually takes some kind of crisis or life event to break up with food. It could be a lab report. It could be a book. That’s the case with me. 30 years ago my father gave me, “Turning Back the Clock,” by Dr. Bob Arnot. It changed the way I think about fitness.

It could be the loss of a mentor or friend to a preventable disease. It could be that still small voice that you listen to that’s telling you to do something else or you’re going to die.

OK, so let’s assume you’re ready. These are what I call “Ready But Excuses.” You’re ready but….

Ready But Excuse #1

“I don’t have time.” I get home and it’s dark. The mornings are busy getting ready for work and a long commute. My mornings are taken up with kids. I’m exhausted by the weekend, and I just want to relax.

My Advice: Start slow, 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Tag team child rearing with your partner. Alternate resistance training with cardio training. Put exercise on your calendar.

Ready But Excuse #2

“I don’t know how to start.”

Here’s some suggestions:
Join a fitness gym,
Hire a Trainer,
Read books on exercising and nutrition,
Carve out a physical space in your home to workout,
Buy some basic fitness tools. Dumbbells and a bench are a good start.

Ready But Excuse #3

“I don’t enjoy working out.”

My Advice: Try different gyms, classes, groups, activities. I love hiking. It requires almost no skills or equipment. Read episode 21. My wife loves Jazzercise. I cycle during the warmer months. Find something you love. Gyms can be boring.

Ready But Excuse #4

“I’m embarrassed about my appearance and my lack of athleticism.”

Advice: Everyone started there. Everyone was a little embarrassed, not knowing what to do in a gym or being seen walking in the neighborhood.

Here are my thoughts on this excuse: Do you think people are looking at you and thinking, “What a loser!” Nothing could be further from the truth. 99.9% of people who see you are envious because they wish they were working out. Inside they’re saying, “Go girl!”

My second thought is, project yourself out three or six months. You’ll look better, feel stronger, because you started and stayed with it!

Ready But Excuse #5

“I have (fill in the blank) pain.” Your knee. Your hips. Your feet. Your shoulders.

If you’re significantly overweight, your joints are likely suffering from carrying around that extra weight. It may mean you’ll need to focus on the nutrition side of breaking up with food first. You may need to lose 50 to 100 pounds first to take the pressure off your joints. You might need to invest in footwear. I was experiencing Achilles tendon pain. A friend recommended Hokas. Problem solved.

Spend time stretching. The Internet is full of tutorials for stretching.

Ready But Excuse #6

“I hate working out alone.” 

Fortunately, there are lots of group-fitness opportunities. Have I mentioned Jazzercize?
Unfortunately, working out can be a little lonely, but use this time to “get into your head.” Some of my most creative times are when I’m hiking alone.

Ready But Excuse #6

“I’ve tried breaking up with food before, but I usually end up making up. I keep going back.”

I get this. Really, think of life as a series of break ups. We will likely need to break up with food again, and again, and again.
What’s wrong with that?

I have wrestled with my relationship with food for 60+ years. I love food! I love get-togethers where there is food! I love eating sugar! And since I have continued to wrestle with food, I’m not 50 pounds overweight. I maintain a mostly healthy weight because I regularly have to break up with food over and over again.

Well, that’s it. Season Nine. I have thoroughly loved studying this topic and writing about it. I hope it helped you have a relationship change with food.

Next season is entitled “The Aging Brain.” I hope you join me.

Want to Break Up with Food? Write a Dear John Letter! | Healthy Aging Series: S9 E23

Four days. Five national parks. 1400 miles. Utah.

I shared in an earlier episode that my son and I did a road trip this fall through Utah. 

During our trip, we listened to Edward Abbey’s book, “Desert Solitaire.” After all, it is Abbey’s Country. Abbey can be a little crusty. Sort of a curmudgeon. My son and I were remarking that his suggestion that they limit entrance to the national parks to walkers, bicycles, horses, and pigs was stupid. We got it. He wrote his book in the 60’s when cars were becoming ubiquitous. He worried about the damage that automobiles would cause to the wilderness. Note: Most national parks use Entrance Reservations and shuttle buses to lessen the impact of people on the park. Abbey introduced us to the desert mice, the solitude of Arches National Park, the snakes, the trees, the flowers, and the uranium prospectors of the 50’s and 60’s of southeastern Utah. 

Something jumped out at me in the first chapter that I had missed in previous readings. We had been listening to it on Audible. After a cup of coffee, on one of the cold high desert mornings, Abbey announced that he was going to go into his little ranger trailer and write a letter to himself.

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

When was the last time you wrote a letter? Not an email but a handwritten letter. I wrote and typed a few to my sons for Christmas several years ago. During my time in the Air Force, I was stationed at Ozan Air Base for about two years. It was 1976 to 1978. No cell phones. No email, not yet. I had just gotten married to my first wife; I wrote to her and my parents almost every week. I didn’t speak to them for nearly 2 years. Imagine that. Mom and Dad both wrote. I could hear their voices as I read those letters.

I’ve been reading a book about Herman Hesse, and his relationship with Carl Jung. They maintained their relationship with letters. The author of the book, Miguel Serrano maintained his relationship with Jung and Hesse with letters, mostly hand written. 

Maybe it’s time to resurrect the art of letter writing. And maybe the place to start is writing a letter to yourself, your true self. 

Abbey stepped into the little ranger trailer in the middle of Arches National Park to write a letter to himself, or as Carl Jung would say to his true self. People write letters to stay connected. People write letters to provide advice, help solve problems, and even to give hope and inspiration. They are called epistles in the Christian Scriptures. They are love letters and yes, Dear John letters, for breaking up.

What would a letter to your true self look like? 

Writing a love letter to yourself would include sharing how you’re doing. It would include bearing your soul, sharing your struggles, avoiding the pretension and phoniness that you project out in the world, your persona. Letters to your true self would contain your dreams, your prayers, and also your frustrations, failures, and sorrows. And then your struggles and questions about all of those things. And after you’ve written a letter to your true self, maybe you can answer it by having your true self send you a letter. You open your heart and your mind, your conscious, and let the return letter flow to you from your true self.

We’ve been talking about breaking up with food and staying broke up. For some of you, it’s about learning to maintain a healthy weight, stepping away from alcohol, or like me, you’re trying to prepare for the last 10 years of your life. Breaking up with food is a struggle for you. But for some of you, breaking up with food is a life and death fight to avoid Type 2 Diabetes, the loss of mobility, heart disease, and even premature death. 

Maybe your breakup is with alcohol.
I’ve struggled these past nine or 10 months with breaking up with alcohol. Don’t get me wrong. I follow the National Institute of Health guidelines for drinking 1 to 2 drinks if daily, three drinks, if less than daily. But I’ve looked at the effects of alcohol on my judgment. I haven’t decided to abstain from alcohol, but I am looking into ways of moderating my drinking. I’m in the middle of sober October as I write this. Maybe writing a letter to my true self would help settle it once and for all.

Sample letter to my true self about breaking up with food:

Dear True Self, 

I know it’s been a while since I last wrote. It’s hard to find a time. But now I need your help. Maybe I’ve neglected asking for help because I have this pride that keeps me from asking for help. You know me, I think I can solve my problems by myself, I don’t need anyone. But you know that’s not true. I want to be kind. I want to be wise. I want to be strong. But I do things that I think could threaten my well-being. What are those? Things like alcohol. You know I don’t abuse alcohol. But I think I need to get it completely out of my life or at least learn how to moderate it. I go back-and-forth on and off again, mostly on. I need help. I need clarity. I need strength. I need your help. Hope to hear from you soon.

Yours, 

Mark

Dear Mark,

It was so good to hear from you. I know you struggle. We all struggle. Life is difficult. I know you’ve made mistakes. You’re human, I know you care about the people in your life. And I know you want to be strong, both mentally and physically. Think about a few things when it comes to alcohol. Why do you want to drink. I know you’ve developed a routine around alcohol. You typically drink from 5 to 7 PM. I know. And it’s become a way to relax. You feel bored. You feel anxious. You feel spent. And then you drink. It’s the same with food. Maybe pushing through those times would help. Maybe it’s time to be honest with yourself. Maybe it’s time to love yourself. I wonder what you would say to a friend or family member or client if they came to you with a struggle and wanted to quit drinking alcohol. Wouldn’t you want to know why? I think you would avoid giving advice. I think you would help them sort through the reasons, maybe get to the root of their desire to quit. So, I want you to stop and think. I think you struggle with quitting because alcohol is a much bigger part of your life then you’re willing to admit. I think you struggle because you don’t want to lose the relationship that you have with alcohol. You know what it does for you. And I think you struggle because it embarrasses you to admit that you have a problem with it, that you don’t have the willpower over it. It’s time to admit that you really enjoy something that is potentially harmful to you, both physically and mentally. Maybe that’s the place to start. I have more to say. Respond back with your feedback on my thoughts. 

Take care, 

Your True Self

And now, maybe it’s time to write that Dear John letter.

Maybe it’s time to write that letter to food and break up with it once and for all. Be honest. The relationship that you have with it is killing you or maybe at best leading to some chronic problems that might not be life-threatening but will control your life for the rest of your life.

Go ahead and vent about that relationship with food. Tell food that it’s not your friend. Not anymore. And that you’re not going to depend on it for your emotional well-being. You’re not going to see it as a source of pleasure, because it’s killing you.

Write a letter to food, break up with it, and then find new relationships that will promote health and well-being in your life.

| To read more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.

 

The Real Reason You Can’t Stay Broke Up with Food | Healthy Aging Series: S9 E22

“And now abide faith, hope, and love, but the greatest is love.”

 I Corinthians 13:13 KJV.

My heart breaks as I see or watch people in dysfunctional relationships. 

We had a patio party with some friends this past smoky weekend. Smoke from the Canadian forest fires filled the evening sky.

Here’s the story they told. A friend of theirs is married to a man who has a problem with alcohol. Their friend was explaining something complicated to her partner and her alcoholic partner was trying to interject his ideas, and eventually became so angry and told her to “Shut the fuck up!“

 His wife turned around and walked off in embarrassment, shame, or maybe even fear. I wondered why she stays with him. I was a member of Al-Anon for a number of years, and I remember hearing similar stories. Here’s what Al-Anon taught me: 

You cannot love your partner out of their addiction problems, but what you can do is love yourself out of the dysfunction of the relationship.

People who remain in abusive relationships often do so because they fail to love themselves. 

Don’t misunderstand me, these dysfunctional relationships are mired in all kinds of issues: financial dependence, cultural taboos, and religion, just to name a few.

Al-Anon taught me that I can only help others if I first take care of and love myself.

Cover your ears if you don’t want to hear this next part. If you choose to stay in a dysfunctional relationship, it might indicate that you are having lapses of self-love. It’s love gone awry. 

Love gone awry means that the lack of self-love transports you to a land were choice is extinct. There comes a point in life when you are living in a dysfunctional relationship, to say it’s over! I love myself, and the best way to demonstrate love is to break up.  

If this is true for our dysfunctional relationship with people, it might also be true for a relationship with food. We get into trouble breaking up and staying very broke up with food because we have lapses, at least temporary lapses, of self-love. What else could it be? 

Something has to compete with our appetites and cravings. Something has to compete with our addiction to sugar. Something has to break the chain of overeating and binge eating. And maybe that something is self-love. 

It isn’t self-loathing that keeps us in a dysfunctional relationship with food. It’s love that has gone awry. When we love food more than we love ourselves, we love what it does for us. Food makes us forget about us. Food makes us forget about what it’s doing to us, one calorie at a time. Food makes us strong and powerful and creates a new you. It makes us feel good if only for a moment. But food can also rob you of a future with your children, your family, and your friends by shortening your life. 

In the past blog, I’ve told you that in order to have a breakup with food, you have to start thinking differently about food. But first, you have to start thinking differently about yourself. 

Think this: I love me. I don’t want to hurt me. I want to take care of me. Food doesn’t care about me so I need to care about me.  I want to take care of me. I want to be happy and healthy the last 10 years of my life, so I want to take care of myself now. Giving into those cravings might feel good but I want to take care of me. I love me. Those momentary pleasures are not good for me. Self-love is the only thing that can break the spell that food has over you. Self-love is the only thing that can break you out of the trance that food has over you. Self-love is the magic that will make your cravings and appetites disappear

Where to Start with Self-Love

In the same way that you would protect your family member from harm, protect yourself from harm. Tell yourself that your relationship with food is hurting you, it’s harming you! Cry!! 

Let yourself feel the pain of food addiction and cry because it hurts you.

Pledge to take care of the most important thing in your life, you and your body. Your body is vulnerable to its appetites. It needs you to love it and shepherd it, to take care of it! Be your body’s champion. Be your body’s protector. It needs you to love it and care for it.

Stop now, and look at your hands, your arms, your body. Find a mirror. Look into it. Look at yourself. Decide now whether or not you love the person you’re looking at, or rather, will you love the person you’re looking at? Will you start loving you? 

In my last blog I talked about magic, not magic in the Harry Potter sense, but magic in the ability for you to change from the inside out. 

Once you start loving yourself, you then need to believe that there is magic within you to change you and transform you. 

Breaking up with food is mostly an inside job! 

My next blog will be about writing a Dear John Letter to food.

| To read more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.

Want to Break Up with Food? Learn to Hike!! | Healthy Aging Series: S9 E21

I was sitting in Terminal C at the Denver Airport gate 47 recently. I had a five-hour layover. Time to write and observe people. I’ve been noticing something concerning at airports with the past few years. I’ve noticed more and more people needing wheelchair assistance to get to their gates and to board. I researched it and here’s what I found.

First, let me say that many disabled travelers report nightmares when traveling via the airlines. The Department of Transportation cited a 108% increase in complaints from flyers with disabilities in a three-year period from 2019 to 2022. Complaints range from lost or damaged wheelchairs to embarrassment from poor transfers and even physical injury. Traveling with a disability that requires a wheelchair can be a horrific experience. Thankfully, the Air Carrier Access Act prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. I encourage you to read it and know your rights. It gives flyers with disabilities recourse if their rights are violated. 

Second, I want to ask, “Why has there been an increase in wheelchair use?” Airlines do not keep statistics on wheelchair use, so here are my thoughts. People with physical disabilities and frail older adults are flying more to stay connected with people and places. Boomers are aging. Families are relocating away from their hometowns. Flying helps them stay connected.  But, I also think there has been an increase in people with mobility issues that have resulted from being overweight or obese. Many of those seeking wheelchair assistance can walk short distances, but due to the loss of stability and mobility, they lack the muscle and aerobic endurance to walk through large airports. I don’t want to overgeneralize, and my heart breaks for people with severe mobility issues, but with my Personal Training background, and a specialization in senior fitness, I think it’s fair to make a few assumptions. The real question is, can mobility issues be prevented and improved upon in cases with adults suffering from obesity and physical disabilities?  The answer is yes! Older adults can enlist the help of a professional to regain their mobility. 

I recently read two articles in the New York Times that agree with this conclusion. The first article, “Just Two Minutes of Walking After a Meal is Surprisingly Good for You,” by Rachel Fairbank, looked at walking as a means of managing your blood glucose levels. “In a meta-analysis, recently published in the journal of sports medicine,“ she writes, “researchers looked at the results of seven studies that compare the effects of sitting versus standing or walking on measures of heart health, including insulin and blood sugar levels. They found that light walking after a meal, in increments of as little as 2 to 5 minutes, had a significant impact on moderating blood sugar levels.”
Managing blood glucose is extremely important as a means of reducing the risk of developing type two diabetes. Weight management is extremely important as we age. If we do nothing, it is possible to put on 2 to 3 pounds a year, amounting to 20 or 30 pounds over the period of a decade. We wake up and we’ve gained 30 pounds! It happens. If a 2-to-5-minute walk helps, think about how much more benefit at 20-to-30-minute walk after dinner. 

When the weather permits, my wife and I do three laps in our neighborhood after dinner. That’s about 30 minutes and adds up to 1 mile or 1700 to 1800 steps. Without changing your diet, walking 10,000 steps burns 300 to 800 cal. That adds up to a pound a week. Just walking enhances your mobility.

The second article was about the benefits of hiking. In her article, “Hiking Has all the Benefits of Walking and More. Here’s How to Get Started,“ Danielle Friedman, writes “Hiking offers all the cardiovascular benefits of walking, but the uneven terrain does more to strengthen the legs and core muscles, which in turn, boosts balance and stability. It also burns more calories than walking.”

Because of my Personal Trainer background, I have encouraged aging adults to incorporate instability into their workouts. If you want to be more stable and less prone to falls, you need to activate muscles that do not get activated on even surfaces. I rarely train with trekking poles. I use them as handrails when I’m doing elevation in places like the Smoky Mountains, the Grand Canyon, or hiking in Colorado. Otherwise, I leave them home and allow the terrain to challenge my legs, knees, and ankles. Friedman offered some very good advice for getting started. I’ve got about 30 years of experience hiking, 20+ years of backpacking, and here’s my advice for getting more stable.

These are suggestions and not necessarily in order of importance. Just my random thoughts.

1. Find a park that has trails and maps of those trails. Louisville has lots and lots of parks with trails and maps as well. I hike in the Jefferson Memorial Forest and in the Parklands. Maps are available online or at the visitor center at the Jefferson Memorial Forest. Trail maps for Parklands are typically at the kiosks at the entrances of the park. There is the Bernheim Forest, KY and Hoosier National Forest in Indiana. There’s the Daniel Boone National Forest and the Red River Gorge in the eastern part of the state of Kentucky. I just Googled places to hike in Kentucky and many, many hits. There is no excuse not to hike in Kentucky.

2. Start easy and progress to harder trails. That means, starting with short trails and trails with less elevation. Trails are usually, but not always posted as easy, moderate, or difficult. I would suggest flat or no elevation trails that are 2 miles or less for your first hike. Move at a 30 minute per mile pace. You should finish in one hour.

3. Buy some gear. You’ll need a day pack and some water bottles. Shoes and socks. I always wear smart wool or acrylic socks, and I buy most of my shoes from Quest for the Outdoors. Don’t buy the most expensive shoes but don’t buy the cheapest shoes.

Take with you in your daypack: 

  • Ziploc baggies in case it rains
  • Take an umbrella in case it rains
  • You’ll need insect repellents, mostly for chiggers that you’ll need to put on your ankles
  • You need a map.
  • You’ll need clothing that is determined by the time of year. I buy most of all my clothing at Walmart, Target, and, at Meijer’s. It’s cheaper and good quality wicking material.
  • I use a smart watch to track my hikes. I use a Fitbit because its app works better for me.
  • I take a headlamp, especially if I’m going to be hiking in the evenings.
  • Take some snacks, which typically consist of energy bars.

4. There are lots of hiking groups for hiking and a variety of experience within those groups, so you won’t feel uncomfortable or intimidated. I did a Google search of “hiking groups near me” and found nine groups with links to each group.

5. Get out and enjoy the trails. Hike for your mental and physical health. Some of my most relaxing and creative times have been on the trails. Learn to love the hills. If you hike in Kentucky or Southern Indiana, you will encounter hills. They are your friends. Hills are the HITT experience in the woods.

I am a very even-tempered person, but I find myself getting upset when the weather interferes with my hiking. 

My wife is the same way with Jazzercise. Develop a love for hiking and it will keep you fit, stable, and out of the wheelchair.

To read more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.

2024: Be Your Own Cartographer | Healthy Aging Series: S9 E20

Trevor, Nicole, and Me in the Maze. The Chocolate Drops in the background.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting to The Maze is half the fun.

The Maze is the western district of Canyonlands National Park. The Ranger station at Hans Flat is 50 miles from the nearest paved road. Think about that. Where can you go in this country that is 50 miles from the nearest paved road. Maybe Maine. Maybe North Dakota.

The Hans Flat Ranger Station is basically a small mobile home in the middle of nowhere. If you want to backpack into The Maze, you have to four-wheel it 30 more miles to the Overlook Trailhead. And then, although the trail down into the canyon is only a mile in length, it takes two hours to get to the bottom.

You have to lower your backpack by rope, shimmy down, lower your backpack down, and shimmy until you get to the bottom. It’s a task worth doing because it is beautiful, and remote, and physically challenging, and then there is the Harvest Scene, pictographs which are 3000 years old left by ancient peoples.

They call this district The Maze, well, because it’s about 175 square miles of canyons that form a maze. The first time I backpacked there I got lost. I had a compass and a topographical map. It’s just easy to get turned around. I learned to keep the Chocolate Drops in sight while I was there as a reference point. On a topographical map, these geological features look like chocolate drops. You need a map and a compass in The Maze.

As we face the new year, 2024 could feel a little bit like The Maze. It could be easy to get turned around and maybe even lost. We are standing at the Overlook, looking out over the next 12 months, 12 months of hidden springs and rock art and majestic buttes. We need a map.

Instead of making resolutions for 2024 maybe consider making a map. I love maps. My office is full of maps. What would a map of 2024 look like for you?

Maybe it’s time to consider yourself a Cartographer, or a map maker.

What would be the destination of my map?

My destination would lead to a stronger, kinder, healthier, wiser, fitter, socially more connected me and maybe a me with a better understanding of who I am and how I came to be me. This is a little lofty, but it is a map, or rather, my map. 

On this map, there should be waypoints. These aren’t goals and objectives. Nope. None of that. They are reference points to let you know where you are and where you’re going. These are points on my map that will guide me to a place that I call Clarity. For me Clarity means paying attention in a new way, seeing things differently. 

Clarity is a superpower, and it comes to those who take care of themselves physically, socially, intellectually, and spiritually or existentially.

My Waypoints to Clarity

My first waypoint is the Healthy Body, Healthy Mind Waypoint.
This waypoint on my map is all about taking care of my body. This past year I have walked almost every week and hiked almost every week. I’ve done hills. I’ve tried to do resistance training every year. I’m pretty consistent. But I’ve gotten a little lazy and I’ve avoided higher intensity workouts. So, I’m increasing the intensity of my workouts by adding one or two HIIT sessions each week. For those of you who aren’t familiar with HIIT workouts, these are high intensity interval training sessions. Typically, you schedule a 30-minute workout. Two minutes high intensity, two minutes low intensity. I have a rowing machine and recumbent-exercise bike. In order for me to find the place called Clarity, I’ll schedule a workout on each of these pieces of equipment each week. Also, I need to increase the intensity of my resistance workouts and make them more aerobic. So, with a help of my Garmin fitness watch, I’ll monitor my resistance workouts to ensure that my pulse stays in the aerobic area. 

Clarity comes from a healthy body. What’s good for the heart is good for the brain.

I know I’m on the right trail to Clarity when I hike in the woods. Clarity comes from the trees, and the smells, and the hills, and the rain, and the Tufted Titmouse singing, and the squirrels playing throughout the woods.
I wasn’t able to ride my bike as much this past year, but I’m going to increase my bike rides to increase my clarity. There is something that happens on my rides through Parkland.

My second waypoint, the next reference point that directs me toward Clarity, has to do with food, but not just food, it has to do with eliminating things that create a cloudiness in my clarity. Here, I’m talking about sugar and alcohol.

Ok, if you eat sugar willy-nilly, are you off trail? Are you lost?? Maybe not in the short run but long-term, yes. Sugar amplifies inflammation, leading to cardiovascular disease, which increases your risk of stroke, and eventually dementia. So, ditch the sugar except for special occasions. 

And then, there is alcohol. I have broken-up and made-up with alcohol many, many times this year. You cannot read any serious studies about alcohol, and not be concerned about the negative effects on your health from consuming even a little alcohol. One drink affects my sleep, which affects my clarity. This past year, I was diagnosed with hyperuricemia, which is one of the causes of gout. As one medical professional said to me, “It’s the alcohol, dummy.” On my map to Clarity, I have written in a waypoint, called abstinence, circled it, and decided that it can take me one step closer to being able to see things differently in 2024.

The third waypoint has to do with reading and writing about folk tales. If you’re reading this, you are aware of my blogs on aging. Folk tales have lots of wisdom for aging or clarity. I plan to read and reflect on 30 to 50 folk tales from various sources, mostly Grimms Fairytales, and share them in my blog and eventually in an eBook.

The fourth waypoint is people. There is a proverb in Hebrew Scriptures that says that people can sharpen each other the same way that iron sharpens iron.
Being around people will sharpen me and take me to Clarity. I don’t have lots of friends. Most of them are liberals. It’s probably because I’m a liberal. No-brainer, I’m a social worker. But I have friends and family members that voted for Trump. I love them and if I’m headed to Clarity, I need them to help me when I’ve lost my way

Clarity comes from a diversity of ideas and opinions and not from ideological isolation.

Talk to your friends and family. Listen to your friends and family. Learn from them. Learn to see things differently through them. Find new friends that can guide you to Clarity.

Those are a few the of the waypoints that are on the map that I am drawing. I’m a cartographer. I’ll add a few more as I get into 2024. It’s my map. I can plan some excursions. I can have a layover or two.

When I’m done this year, it’s my hope that I am either closer to or I’ve arrived at a place called Clarity.

I’m excited!

To read more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.

2023: What is Your Self-Care Score? | Healthy Aging Series: S9 E19

My 50th high school reunion is next year. 

It’s another reminder that I wasted most of my high school experience, at least the first two years. I would either sit in the back of the classroom and secretly read books that had nothing to do with school, or sit in the back row of Spanish class, flipping nickels (you flip a nickel and call heads or tails and keep it if you win) with Don Andrews. I’ll shared Don’s life with you in a couple weeks. 

I rarely studied, almost never took work home (you know, homework), and consequently, my grade point average at the end of four years was 2.1. 

Things changed in my junior year. I’m not sure what it was. I just remember sitting in geometry class with Mr. Ewing, and in psychology class with Mr. Chambers, and in English class with Mrs. Miller, and in physics class with Mr. Augsburger, and then in literature class with Mr. Stillwell, and well, I remember saying to myself, “Geez, I think I like learning these things. I think I could make better grades if I just studied a little bit. And who knows, maybe I could go to college.” 

Maybe I just grew up. My relationship with my best friend in high school Jeff Wilson, helped. He was probably the smartest person I’ve known. We were best friends and maybe some of his smartness rubbed off on me. 

I went on to college and graduate school and then to seminary, and then followed up with a post graduate program at Florida Institute of Technology in behavior analysis. It all totaled about nine years of higher education. Mind you it was a lot of hard work, and I was always working at least one job, but in all those years that followed high school, I never made less than a B, and mostly A’s. 

Grades mattered to me.

So, as 2023 comes to close, I’ll give myself a grade on my effort and my growth, and the positive changes I was able to make. Put in another way, how well did I take care of myself in 2023? As much as I hate getting messages from my bank about my credit score changing when I bought my new Jeep, maybe that’s another way of looking at 2023. What was your self-care score for 2023? Not my credit score, but my self-care Score.

Maybe this is something you should consider.

Remember, this is you giving yourself a score. Be easy on yourself. Be gracious with yourself. Grade yourself on the curve if you want, nobody’s looking. Maybe bump your score up a level just for shits and giggles. Maybe an 800+.

But take some time one morning this week, sit by a window, looking out on the world with a hot drink, and reflect on 2023. Forget about all the bullshit you’ve heard about happiness and being the best version of yourself. Ignore all the images of men and women that have been airbrushed and altered. They make you feel like a complete fitness failure. Tell all the people in those commercials about joining a gym, and losing weight, and being richer, and a perfect time manager, to go to Hell. Forget about those little extra sweets you indulged in, and the one extra fancy martini you had, and those late-night snacks. Take a deep, deep breath, and wrap your arms around yourself. Go on, do it right now. Squeeze the person who tried and struggled and fought the good fight every day this past year. 

And then, look at all the wonderful things you did. Maybe you cut back on something. Maybe you walked away from a toxic relationship. Maybe you read more. Maybe you watched less TV. Maybe you stopped buying snack food or maybe even quit eating snack food. Maybe you drank less or worked out more or simply walked more.  I can hear you saying, “Yes,” with that small voice from within. “Yes, I did that. I know I walked more. I lost a little weight. I can see it in the way my clothes fit. I feel stronger.”

My Self-Care Score for 2023

If you read this blog, it wouldn’t surprise you that I spent lots of time in the woods, in canyons, in the desert, on mountains, hiking and backpacking. I read a lot of books this year, probably 100. Maybe more. I’m just guessing. Mostly about aging. Mostly for my blog. I read several memoirs about obesity and about dementia and stroke. Those were life changing. 

I’m thinking I’m at least as strong as I was at the beginning of 2023. No wait, I’m stronger, I’m bumping that score up a little bit.

I renewed a long-time friendship. I spent time with my brothers, backpacking, and with my sons, hiking.

I learned a little bit about being a better business owner <fingers crossed>.

I spent time with good friends and family. Walking. Dinners. Get togethers. Happy hours. Holidays.

I spent the year working at being a better husband. You know, the important stuff.

So what kind of score am I going to give myself? You guessed it. It’s private.

What’s Your Self-Care Score?

How about you? Wait, wait, don’t tell me. But somewhere in the quiet-inner part of you, think about it.
Forget all the background noise from people trying to sell you something, and graciously, kindly, tell yourself you did a pretty damn good job taking care of yourself this past year.

Next week, I’m going to pivot to 2024 and share how to get stronger. I’m going to avoid talking about resolutions and look at it more like a trail map. Like a topographical map. Don’t worry, I’ll teach you to how to be a Cartographer. 

This week is about looking at your assets and your strengths and focusing on what you did well.
Next week will focus on your deficits, and what needs to be improved and what needs to get stronger.

My wife Rommie and I sat down with our Clinical Director this past week and looked over our company and reflected on how well we’ve provided leadership for our staff, our employees, and our clients in 2023.

Maybe it would be good for you and your partner to sit down and reflect on 2023. Nobody’s perfect. We all make mistakes.

Reflecting is all about reliving the past and focusing on what you learned.

Take a deep breath and give yourself a hug.

To read more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.

The Four-Letter Word That Will Help You Stay Broke Up with Food | Healthy Aging Series: S9 E18

Alcoholics Anonymous Step Two: “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.“

I sat in the non-smokers section of the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting and listened to men and women tell their stories. Despite the loud ventilation system, I heard pain, joy, and most important hope. As they spoke about hitting bottom, what their lives were like before, and how they escaped addiction, and now what their lives are like, you hear the word, miracle or miraculous throughout. Many people’s lives have changed through AA. Not all, but many.

Addiction

That’s alcohol and that’s addiction. Most agree. But what about food? And can you be addicted to food? I believe the answer is yes. I’ll be sharing from the book, “Dopamine Nation: Finding balance in an Age of Indulgence,” by Anna Lemke, MD, and her thoughts about breaking up with food. Her book has changed what I think about addiction.

Old Beliefs about Addiction:

You can only become addicted to drugs and alcohol. Addiction is the process of increasing your tolerance of a substance, needing more and more of the substance to get the same effect. You drink or use more to overcome that tolerance.

New Beliefs about Addiction:

Anytime you activate the pleasure pathway, you activate a dopamine response. The regular use of pleasurable substances or engaging in a pleasurable activity, stimulates a dopamine response. Regular releases of dopamine can increase the risk of developing your increased tolerance to dopamine. In other words, because of your increased tolerance to dopamine, you need more and more dopamine to get the same pleasurable response. We become dependent on this activity or substance to sustain your increasing tolerance to dopamine.

You become addicted to dopamine and the activity or substance that activates the release of dopamine.

The food-pleasure pathway. You eat food, sugar, fat, salt and feel good. Do you love that feeling?

My grandmother Louise would make me a birthday cake each year, and I would always request a banana cake with peanut butter icing, and MF, it was good. My wife made one for my 67th birthday. MF it was good! All the memories, all the sugar, all the love I felt in one piece of cake. It was a dopamine high. I ate a piece and froze the rest. It’s in my freezer, and I’m tempted to take out a piece and eat it right now. But I realize the danger of activating my pleasure pathway. I didn’t have any added sugar yesterday. Hopefully, not today. It’s dangerous! Sugar is addictive, don’t doubt it for a second.

Food addiction is no different from any other form of addiction. If you are going to overcome food addiction, you will need to come to believe that there is a power that can restore you to sanity. It’s the power that you have within you. It is greater than you and it is you. It is the magic that you have within.

The Magic Within

It’s the combination of all the positive voices within you. It’s your fifth-grade teacher who told you that you can accomplish anything if you just try and study. It’s the high school English teacher who told you that you were smarter than what you think. It’s the father or mother or grandparent who held your hand and hugged you and told you that you were special, in a good way.

Your power is all those voices within you.

Your power is the dreams that were planted in your soul by many, many, many people who love you and have sewn within you the seeds of growth and possibility. There’s hope within you because there is power within you. As you set out to change your life, know that there is a power greater than yourself. It can be God. It can be the inner power that comes from those “voices” that hoped for your best.

My hope comes from my mother who told me that I could be anything I wanted to be.

My hope comes from all the successes that I’ve had these 60+ years.

My hope comes from seeing others change, and grow, and overcome addiction, and become better.

As you set out to change your life, know that there is a power greater than yourself.

People change because they have hope.

They believe in the power of change. You can and will change if you believe in the power that is greater than yourself, if you believe in that power within you.

If you believe you can change, you can overcome your addiction to food. Hope is not enough, but hope is the miracle part. You will need many tools for change, but hope is the one indispensable tool.

I have given you several tools that you will need to begin that changed, but we will also need hope.

You may not believe in magic, but if you believe in yourself, you will see magic. You will see the power change you from within.

You will finally break up and stay broke up with food!

To read more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.

Healthy Aging Series by Mark Neese of True North Counseling

Want to Break Up with Food? Climb Every Mountain! | Healthy Aging Series: S9 E17

This blog is a second reflection on “It was Me all Along: A Memoir,” by Andie Mitchell.

Colorado has 58 Fourteener’s. For those of you not from Colorado, a Fourteener is a mountain with the elevation of over 14,000 feet. I’ve done 11.Grays Peak. Pikes Peak. Quandary peak. Mount Sherman. Mount Ross. Mount Cameron. Mount Lincoln. Mount Bierstadt. Mount Democrat. Torreys Peak. Mount Massive.

I’ve done Democrat twice and Sherman twice. Each has its own memory. So, I guess that makes 13.

I left a $400 camera on the top of Mount Sherman, the first time. I did Bierstadt on my 60th birthday. Mount Massive was on my 55th birthday.

Mount Quandary was the one I almost quit. The last half mile of every Fourteener sucks. As I approached the summit, I could see people congregating on the top. I was spent and oxygen deprived. I thought about turning around. No one would know but me. Even the people I passed on my descent would think I submitted. What’s a quarter mile. I sat down on the small boulder and pondered my decision. I’m not sure what got me off my ass to summit Quandary. Maybe it was inner shame. Maybe it was inner pride. Did I play a mind game on myself, asking myself why waste all the effort that it took to get here? Regardless of that moment, it was mind over body. Sometimes the spirit is willing, and the flesh is weak. Sometimes the spirit is more than willing, it’s strong. That day, it overcame the weakness of my flesh.

Maintaining your breakup with food is no different. In the midst of our Mount Quandary moments, we want to go back to our old relationship habits and seek the comfort that we got from food.

Earlier in the season, episode two, I shared a little about childhood obesity, the new scourge of our country. Andie Mitchell’s book, “It was Me all Along: A Memoir” was the source that I used to share the trauma and shame that many children experience  growing up with obesity in America.

What helped her climb her Mount Quandry? What helped her break up with food and maintain that breakup for nearly a decade?

I’m going to share Andie’s breakup with food and want to do that through the lens of the Transtheoretical Model of Change.

In a nutshell, the Transtheoretical Model has five stages. 

“The transtheoretical method (TTM) of behavior change is a theoretical model that is based on an integrative theory that is used to assess a person’s readiness to change and adopt new and healthier behavior patterns. Sometimes known as the “stages of change”, it addresses the stages of precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and termination. Used for many types of personal change, this approach is arguably the most dominant model of behavior change in use. Each of these steps is important to the change process”(alleydog.com).

The precontemplation stage really is the stage where you’re not even thinking about your problem. The contemplation stage is “Yeah, it’s a problem, and I think about it a lot.”

These are the thinking stages. In the first two stages, there is little action. No breakup. Maybe you’re thinking “Yeppers, there needs to be break up. I need to break up with food.”

That’s the pre-contemplation and contemplation stage. 

Maybe like Andie Mitchell, the contemplation stage started in your life with an annual physical in the eighth grade

Andie Mitchell writes that she began to think differently about her weight when her doctor said, “Andie, my girl, you’ve got to lose weight, or at this rate, you’ll weigh 300 pounds by the time you’re 25.” 

She was overwhelmed by that thought. Information. People. Experiences. That’s what moves us through the stages; from thinking stages to doing stages.

The Preparation Stage could easily be called the Learning Stage. She learned the healthy eating and exercise guidelines. Do you know them? 

  1. Eight, 8-ounce glasses of water, 
  2. Lots of fruits and vegetables, 
  3. Limited processed food, 
  4. No sugar, 
  5. 30+ minutes of moving a day. 

She later learned about calories. “I learned that most things in life, like cereal and orange juice shouldn’t be limitless.“ Andy moved through the Planning Stage, which is the bridge to the doing stages. 

Maybe this is the breakup stage. I’ll repeat: Information. People. Experiences. These are the things that moved Andie through the stages. I believe the two most important skills for breaking up with food are listening and reading. I do not think you can grow, or change, or overcome addiction to something like food, if you do not listen and read. Maybe reading is not exactly what I mean, but you have to be a learner. 

Andie moves into the doing stage and then back into the planning stage, and then back to the doing stage again; learning and trying out new skills, learning from her mistakes. She got closer and closer to the summit. She could see the crowd congregating at the top. She wanted to quit, but all that she had done, all that she had seen and heard, made her stronger inside. She had broken up with food and stayed broke up.  

She joined Weight Watchers.

“This time around,” she writes,  “I took instantly to the Weight Watchers plan. After the first meeting, my motivation and commitment had been restored. Meticulous by nature, I loved the structure, the planning, the goals. It felt comfortable. Counting points taught me the fundamentals of nutrition and portion size, essentials I’d never known that I should inspect ingredient lists for calories, fat, proteins, and fiber, that quantity matters, and quality, too. I liked being given a framework, a quota of points for the day based upon my weight and height in goals, it was up to me to spend them however I wanted. Because though whole foods are wonderful, and lovable and all manner of virtuous, sometimes I wanted to use my points on a brownie, rather than anything more nutritiously sound.”

She had learned a lot about food, about her environment and the people in her environment. She learned how to distract yourself from food and people. She learned and utilized some self-binding concepts. I’ve written about self-binding or setting up barriers between you and what you are addicted to. As a reminder, the Self-Binding methods are spatial self-binding, temporal self-binding,  categorical self-binding, and social self-binding. Andie would call Kate or Sabrina to talk about anything as a distraction. She spent time outside in nature. She spent time away in Italy, learning and growing.

And yes, she relapsed, but learned from her mistakes, forgave herself, loved herself, and started running.

Running isn’t the secret “pill“ to stay broke up, but it worked for her. It could’ve been walking, hiking, or cycling, or Jazzercise. She filled up her life with exercise, journaling, professional development, and with living. And she stayed broke up with food. Now she writes a blog. She helps others. That’s what helps her stay broke up.

She saw the summit and got off the boulder and finished.

These obesity memoirs have been absolutely inspiring for me. These are people who have set out on a journey to grow and  become the best people they can be, and the healthiest people they can be.

Andie Mitchell broke up with food and stayed broke up. She climbed the mountain.

Postscript: I wrote this blog two days ago. The next day I left my room at the Eagle Fire Lodge, in Woodland Park Colorado, and drove over to Mount Sherman and summited it. It was grueling, 37 degrees, 2027 feet elevation for 2 1/2 miles. And ends at 14,043 feet. There were 50 mile an hour winds at the summit.  Quitting did not cross my mind. It was a little scary. The wind and the narrow trail leading up to the summit, and then the thought of slipping on the scree going down. I did a little self-talk and joined the congregating crowd at the top.

To read more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.

Image of stairs at Red River Gorge

Moderation Management for Eating | Healthy Aging Series: S9 E16

It’s the Halloween season as I write this episode, which means Scary Movie Sunday at our house. The movie “The Nun” caught our eyes so we watched it. Yeah, I know, it’s not High Art, not like the Exorcist.

There is a scene near the end, that somewhat illustrates what kind of person you are when it comes to picking the program that helps you break up with food. The priest and the nun are rushing off to battle Valak, the evil nun. The secular helper, Frenchie, who is feeling a little powerless asked, “Don’t you think we should pray?” And the priest answers, “There’s a time to pray, and a time to act. Now is the time to act!”
Frenchie reluctantly joins them, and they defeat the evil presence.

I don’t think everything can be separated into either pray or act, but there are people, and you know who you are, who have a more “God helps those who help themselves,” attitude about personal change.

There are people who see themselves as having the power within themselves to change. They don’t need a higher power. They see their problem with eating as a problem with eating. Not a disease.

And some of those people see moderation, not absence as an option. If you’re that kind of person, there is a program out there that can help you break up with food the way you want to break up. Maybe you want a total break up with food, never another gram of sugar, never another slice of bread, never another bottle of Pepsi, or Coke, for the rest of your life, or maybe you can partake in these things within reason, once or twice a week, or special occasions, or in small doses.

Then you’re the kind of person that will be interested in Moderation Management for Eating (MMFE).

How does MMFE work?

The starting point.

Although you feel powerless over food, the truth is that you have enough power to start. That will grow into power to sustain your control over food. “As you take each step forward, your belief and confidence in your ability to succeed will grow.“ (Writers of Responsible Drinking.) “Some of us will never obtain a “take it or leave it“ attitude toward our drinking or eating, but we will obtain the power to make the decision to “take or leave the next drink, or next bite of food.” (From the book Moderate Drinkers).

Power begets power. What we practice grows stronger, as Mindfulness Gurus proclaim.

MMFE starts with faith in yourself.  MMFE focuses on all the things you’ve accomplished and change in your life. To see yourself as powerless is to ignore everything that you have battled and overcome. You have solved your problems. You have found your job. You have finished your education. Growth and change are slow, but as you equip yourself with the right tools, you will change and overcome your problem with food.

Next, 30 days and nights of displaying your superpower abstaining from Trigger Foods.

MMFE members make a list of foods that trigger problem eating. The list most likely includes sugar, processed food, and whatever causes you to lose control. The 30-day period is a time to display your superpowers. You show food who’s boss. You make the decision and stick with it.
You tell yourself that it’s only for 30 days. You’ll be able to eat that food again. Maybe you want to eat them again. But it’s your choice. Moderation or abstinence.

You sprinkle 30-day sessions throughout the year. January. The 30 days leading up to your birthday. Mine is in July so that works well. Some of you might want to do it between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’ve done that.

And then, make a support system. Currently, there is a website called Abstar for drinkers who want to moderate their drinking.

You can set days during the month to eat Trigger Foods, and then set goals for the amount of Trigger Foods. You eat on each of your goal days. You record each week the days you succeed. No one is checking to see if you are recording drinks or donuts. You are moderating a substance that has a grip on you. Food? Alcohol? If you’re struggling with obesity. It’s just as serious as problem drinking. 

Or you can make or create a community of MMFE’s. You can find people on social media platforms that would be willing to do web-based support, like zoom meetings.

So far here’s what we’ve covered.
1. MMFE starts with power from within.
2. There’s a 30-day power session
3. Find or make a community for encouragement and emotional support.

Finally, put in place a Skills Plan that will help you succeed in breaking up with food.

“Responsible Drinking: Motivation Management Approach for Problem Drinkers,” written by Rotgers, Kern, and Hoeltzer.

There are books out there that will walk you through all the details about moderation management. Of course, these books have to do with managing or moderating your drinking, but simply replace the drinking with food.

I encourage you to read this book. It’s a gold mine of skills for controlling your eating. Just remember to replace drink with eat.

Chapter 6: General, Drinking, Eating, Control skills.

I’m going to list them and do the “find and replace” function for you.

1. Understand what is “enough.”
For me, sugar and no-bake cookies are my problem food. I have learned that one bite can often satiate me with my sugar fix. I buy a cookie. I take a bite. I put it back in the bakery bag and smash it up. Enough.

2. Think ahead. Put sugar into your schedule, when you will plan on eating it in the week to come.

3. Measure and count. I’m not a big fan of counting calories, but it works for many people. Just remember the Obesity Memoirs that I wrote about. Most of writers used the  “move more/eat less” approach. It helps to count calories.

4. Self-talk. Have a script. Have slogans. Love yourself.

5. Focus on fun. Stay active doing the things you enjoy. Learn to enjoy moderating your food. Make it a game.

6. Think about tomorrow. Someone one said that nothing tastes as good as healthy (she said skinny) feels. Think about how you would feel when you stick with your plan.

Chapter 7: Pinpointing your drinking or eating triggers

This chapter looks at the antecedent strategies for overcoming Trigger foods. The people, places, times, activities, work-related and money-related circumstances, as well as feelings, and major life events that trigger eating Trigger Foods.

And finally, Chapter 8. How to manage your triggers for overcoming problem foods.

I offer an example of urge surfing in a later episode. It helps you know how to manage anxiety, which is often the trigger for consuming Trigger Foods.

I’m Just scratching the surface of MMFE.

If you want to learn more about MMFE you’ll need to Google moderate drinking on Amazon, and it will provide several books on this topic.

MMFE is an approach that has many similarities with Overeaters Anonymous but there are two differences that set them apart: powerlessness and abstinence only.

What kind of person are you?

Do you see miracles or coincidences? Are you a prayer or a doer? I know I’m oversimplifying this, but I think you get what I’m saying. Overeaters Anonymous and MMFE are two choices with lots of overlapping principles. Both can help you break up with food.

Regardless of whether you find the power within, or you find the power outside yourself, you have the power to break up and stay broke up with food for the rest of your life.

It’s time to choose.

To read more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.

Overeaters Anonymous on the healthy aging series by mark neese

Using Overeaters Anonymous to Break Up with Food | Healthy Aging Series: S9 E15

One of my favorite movies is “Signs,” by M. Night Shyamalan. Please don’t judge me :-)

One of my favorite scenes is when Graham, the former Episcopal priest, who had just lost his wife to an accident is having a conversation with his brother Merrell about the appearance of lights in the sky. Merrell is struggling to understand what is happening, how is this going to end? He wants to be comforted by his brother, the former man of faith. Here’s what Graham says to Merrell:

People break down into two groups. When they experience something lucky, group number one sees it as more than luck, more than coincidence. They see it as a sign, evidence, that there is someone up there, watching out for them. Group number two sees it as just pure luck. Just a happy turn of chance. I’m sure the people in group number two are looking at those fourteen lights in a very suspicious way. For them, the situation is fifty-fifty. Could be bad, could be good. But deep down, they feel that whatever happens, they’re on their own. And that fills them with fear. Yeah, there are those people. But there’s a whole lot of people in group number one. When they see those fourteen lights, they’re looking at a miracle. And deep down, they feel that whatever’s going to happen, there will be someone there to help them. And that fills them with hope. See what you have to ask yourself is what kind of person are you? Are you the kind that sees signs, that sees miracles? Or do you believe that people just get lucky? Or look at the question this way: Is it possible that there are no coincidences?

You have to ask yourself, what kind of person are you?

This season I’ve been writing about the very serious struggle that many of you are having with food. For some, it’s a life-or-death struggle because you feel powerless over food and it’s creating a dark cloud over your future much like the lights, threatening Graham, and Merrell‘s future.

I want to share two roads, two ways to help you break up with food once and for all. Which road is for you? It depends. It depends on what type of person you are.

Are you the kind of person that feels a sense of powerlessness over food and you need a higher power to take away your shortcomings?

Or, are you kind of person that sees yourself as powerful and you have the ability to overcome your problems with food?

I know, I know, it’s not quite that simple. Most of us are not one or the other, but sometimes, it helps to see the issue as “one or the other.”

If you mostly see yourself in group one, then Overeaters Anonymous is most likely the road to take in overcoming your compulsive overeating. We will look at group 2 in Episode 16. Both Roads have very similar “hacks” or tools for breaking up with food, but at the heart, the issue is where does the power come for overcoming your problem with food?

First Overeaters Anonymous

How does Overeaters Anonymous work?
It’s a 12-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. There are also 12 Traditions. Think of them as bylaws. They guide members on the day-to-day operations.

The 12 steps are strategies for helping you to think and act differently about food, yourself, others, and God.

Here are the first three steps:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over food, and that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood him.

For many, these steps help them gain a sense of meaning and hope in life. They have unsuccessfully tried to manage their eating or drinking, and finally they are able to see something or someone out there that will remove all of their shortcomings. They get better.

In their literature, they write, “As a result of practicing the steps, the symptoms of compulsive eating and compulsive food behaviors are removed on a daily basis. For most of us, abstinence means freedom from the bondage of compulsive overeating, achieved through the process of surrendering to something greater than ourselves; the more total our surrender, the more fully we realize our freedom from food obsession.”

The other steps involved admitting to God, to ourselves, and to another human being those shortcomings. They involve making amends to people who we have harmed and working on our relationship with God through prayer and meditation. The last two steps encourage us to help others who have an addiction to food, those who are compulsive overeaters. Overeaters Anonymous members see the problem as mental, physical, and spiritual. 

Those are the Steps, but then there is the Program.

As I’ll share in the next episode, this is where the approaches overlap or where the different roads converge at times. Every plan, every program is unique, despite having many similarities. 

Here is the general look at the AA Program. This is what they mean when they say in unison at the end of the meeting, “It works, if you work it!”

  1. Attend meetings regularly. Overeaters Anonymous is a fellowship. It is a fellowship of fellow strugglers and people who are recovering, growing, overcoming their shortcomings. They share what it was like before Overeaters Anonymous, what happened to bring about their change and commitment to change, and what life is like now. You go. You keep your mouth shut and your ears open. You listen to the success stories. You keep coming back. You take what you like and leave the rest.

  2. Get a sponsor. After attending several meetings and listening to the success stories, you approach the member who you think can help you through the steps. This is life or death, and your sponsor will be the life preserver that will help you stay afloat during the years and storms to come. What does a sponsor do? They listen without judgment. They use their experiences as a sponsor to guide you through the steps. They are there to help you follow your plan. You call them when you feel powerless or when you feel like you’re going to relapse. Overeaters Anonymous is a relapse prevention program that helps you break up and stay broke up with food. You will need a sponsor.

    3. Make a Plan of Eating. You make a list, with the help of a sponsor and possibly a nutritionist, of the foods and drinks that you are powerless over, your Trigger Foods. These foods, along with accompanying behaviors, are what’s keeping you in a dysfunctional relationship with food. “An individualized food plan is a tool designed to help you know what and when to eat. It is a flexible, usable worksheet that assists with maintaining absence from compulsive overeating and compulsive foods behaviors” (The Brown Book).
    You develop your food plan with the help of a sponsor. You make a commitment to follow the plan one day at a time. That’s your sobriety date. And with the help of your higher power, your sponsor, and the fellowship, you follow this plan one day at a time. You work the steps. And you work your Eating Plan, and you find sanity, freedom, and strength. 

Overeaters Anonymous will not be for everyone. Allen Zadoff, from the book “Hungry,” found freedom from food using Overeaters Anonymous.

My next episode is for the other kind of person. Moderation Management for Eating (MMFE) is what I call it. 

Do you see yourself as having the power to change within yourself? Then check out my next episode.

To read more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.