The Tools of Recovery: Service

By Laura Moncur @ 7:41 am — Filed under:

The Tools of Recovery - ServicePart of the reason I have enjoyed so much success with Overeaters Anonymous is because of their tools of recovery. You can read more about them here:

Service is the final tool of recovery. I have found a lot of solace in it. The Big Book says that when we are feeling bad, we are supposed to talk to someone about it immediately, make amends or meditate about which defect of character has surfaced and then find someone to help. They don’t specify that it needs to be someone in a Twelve Step program, you can help ANYONE. The lady next door who needs her sidewalk shoveled or lawn mowed, the friend who is moving, or even the stranger on the street who dropped his stuff all over the sidewalk.

Somehow, helping other people gets me out of my mind and into a mode that makes food less important. I don’t know if there has been any research on brain chemistry when people are performing service to others, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a release of monoamine neurotransmitters in the brain when people are making themselves useful to other humans. It makes sense that we would receive a “hit” of positive chemicals when we help others because that enables the species to progress as a whole. Especially, when you help someone of the “tribe” because then your own genetic material has a better chance of surviving. It makes sense evolutionarily.

The chemical “hit” from helping others feels better to me than the dopamine “hit” that I get from food. My only problem is finding people to help. Eating disorders are very isolating and it’s easy to find myself alone, without anyone to give service to. I have been working on increasing my sphere of friends, which helps me in other ways as well. For now, I give myself to service whenever the occasion arrives.

Overeaters Anonymous does not endorse anything on this entry or blog.

Image via: Service to Others | Student Affairs Home


The Tools of Recovery: Anonymity

By Laura Moncur @ 11:11 am — Filed under:

Anonymity Is Impossible from Starling FitnessPart of the reason I have enjoyed so much success with Overeaters Anonymous is because of their tools of recovery. You can read more about them here:

Anonymity is one of the tools that I struggle with. I mean STRUGGLE. It’s because I don’t believe that anonymity is possible when you’re fat. Sure, bulimics might be able to hide their disease by clinging to a healthy weight by their fingernails using purging methods, but for us binge eaters and anorexics, it’s impossible to hide the fact that we have a problem. People can LITERALLY SEE that we have a problem. No amount of empire waists and black leggings can hide it. No amount of baggy sweatshirts can hide it. EVERYONE knows that we are struggling with food, either by eating too much or restricting too much.

The truth is, even alcoholics can’t hide it. They might think that they can hide the fact that they have a problem, but they can’t. WE ALL KNOW YOU’RE AN ALCOHOLIC! You’re not hiding it, no matter how much you think you are.

The “Anonymous” in Overeaters Anonymous seems to be the only thing that goes against the program. We have to accept that we have a problem and that our lives are unmanageable. Pretending that we are anonymous seems to go against every bit of that. It seems to hide the fact that we have the problem, when the program tells us that we need to OWN it. We need to FULLY accept the fact that we have a DISEASE of the mind that makes us eat too much, purge, or restrict. Whatever form the disease takes, it is a problem with food and it is impossible to hide it, so why are we pretending we can?

Even when we are in recovery, we can’t hide it. There are scars all over our bodies from it. If you look at that photo above, you can SEE the scars from being overweight, even though my face is blurred. I was at 150 lbs. when that photo was taken and I had lost approximately 80 pounds at that point. If you look at my arms, you can see the extra skin, hanging flaccid over my elbows. Even at an almost healthy weight, I couldn’t hide the fact that I have a problem with food.

I DO understand confidence. When someone shares in a OA meeting, they might say things that are sensitive. It’s no one’s business what is said in our meetings and we expect you to keep our confidence. But being closed-mouth about our shares is a FAR cry from anonymity. Holding each other’s confidence is possible, but true anonymity is NOT.

We live in a computer age, where cameras are everywhere and corporations have access to our Facebook account information for their own perusal. There is no such thing as anonymity in this world and clinging to that idea not only is impossible, but I don’t believe it is helpful for recovery. Maybe I will change my mind in the future, but for now, it’s the tool of recovery I believe should be scraped and replaced with a spiritual practice.

Overeaters Anonymous does not endorse anything on this entry or blog.


The Tools of Recovery: Action Plan

By Laura Moncur @ 10:14 am — Filed under:

Give Yourself A Dopamine Boost With A To-Do List from Starling FitnessPart of the reason I have enjoyed so much success with Overeaters Anonymous is because of their tools of recovery. You can read more about them here:

I have literally only heard ONE person talk about using an Action Plan as part of her recovery, yet I feel it’s one of the most important tools we have in OA. I talked about it before in my entry: Keeping My Dopamine Levels High

Set Tiny, Obtainable Goals and Achieve Them Every Day: Benjamin Franklin worked on this technique and it’s the whole idea behind the Franklin Covey planners. This year, I bought myself a planner and just listing the tiny and seemingly inconsequential things I do every day has brought great joy. I can write more than one entry a day, but setting my goal low gives me the feel-good chemicals I need. I actually read for fun, but putting it on the list forces me to take time for myself. Set a goal, no matter how easy it seems and achieve it. You’ll get a chemical reward from your own physiology.

Additionally, the Action Plan is the ONLY tool which mentions spirituality. Considering how important I believe accessing that part of my brain is to my recovery, I am surprised that prayer and meditation aren’t items on the list of tools all by themselves. Taking time every day to access the spiritual centers of my brain has helped me and gives me a dopamine hit that is WAY better than bingeing ever gave me.

Take the time every day to set TINY and easily obtainable goals every day concerning your eating, exercise, spirituality and emotional well-being (things that will make you happy like reading or playing video games). Checking those goals off your list will not only make you happy, they will give you a tiny dopamine hit that will help you resist food more easily.

Overeaters Anonymous does not endorse anything on this entry or blog.


The Tools of Recovery: Literature

By Laura Moncur @ 2:21 pm — Filed under:

The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous at Amazon.comPart of the reason I have enjoyed so much success with Overeaters Anonymous is because of their tools of recovery. You can read more about them here:

I have to admit that I am VERY pleased with the OA literature. Unlike the Weight Watchers books I bought, which are just celebrity ego-fests “written” by the famous people who have happened to lose weight on the WW plan with the help of personal trainers and multiple chefs, they are written to HELP me. I read something from OA books every day to keep myself focused on what is important.

I especially like that almost ALL of the OA literature is available on Kindle:

  • The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous: This book was the first book I bought because the first meeting I attended was a Twelve and Twelve meeting. My sponsor and I went through it when she took me through the steps. I don’t find it as inspiring as the Big Book, but it is very helpful.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition: This is the most recent edition of the Big Book. It is written for alcoholics, but it’s amazing the similarities between my worst days of bingeing and the worst days of an alcoholic. My sponsor and I went through this book completely and there are many Big Book meetings in OA. I found it incredibly inspiring.
  • Overeaters Anonymous, Second Edition: This is a collection of stories about people with eating disorders and how they came to OA to be helped. Ironically, I don’t find it as inspiring as the Big Book, but it’s still a good read, especially if you’re having trouble getting past Step 1.
  • Abstinence, Second Edition: Members of Overeaters Anonymous Share Their Experience, Strength and Hope: This is a collection of stories about abstinence. Because each person defines their own abstinence, it was helpful to me to feel comfortable with my own definition of abstinence.
  • For Today: This is a GREAT book. It is arranged by date, with an entry to read every day. I find it incredibly inspiring and the daily quotes are lovely. It also has a great index so you can look up words like resentment or guilt and find entries to solve your problems.
  • Voices of Recovery: This is another daily reader, like For Today, that I have loved and read almost every day. Inspiring little stories organized by date.
  • Lifeline Sampler: Another collection of stories gleaned from the OA magazine, Lifeline. Inspiring, but longer stories than For Today or Voices of Recovery.
  • Seeking the Spiritual Path: A Collection from Lifeline: If you are having trouble with Step 2 and Step 3, these stories are quite helpful. Not many of them are written from an atheist point of view. It was NOT helpful to me. I found The God Gene by Dean H. Hamer to be FAR more helpful on my spiritual journey.
  • A New Beginning: Stories of Recovery from Relapse: For those who have found recovery in OA, but “fell off the wagon,” it might be helpful to read these stories about how people found there way back to healthy eating after losing it.
  • Beyond Our Wildest Dreams: A History of Overeaters Anonymous as Seen by the Founder: If you are interested in the history of OA and want more than the initial story written by the founder in the Overeaters Anonymous book, here is an in-depth history.

Only OA approved literature is recommended in the meetings because Tradition 6 states, “An OA group ought never endorse, finance or lend the OA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.” I don’t have that limitation, however, so here are a couple of books that I have found that are also helpful.

Daily reading helps me immensely and I am always a better person when I take the time to read. Set a goal of 10-15 minutes of reading every day and you will have an easier ride on this happy road to destiny.

Overeaters Anonymous does not endorse anything on this entry or blog.


The Tools of Recovery: Writing

By Laura Moncur @ 11:04 am — Filed under:

My journal...Part of the reason I have enjoyed so much success with Overeaters Anonymous is because of their tools of recovery. You can read more about them here:

Writing is something I do every day. I write in my journal. I write here. I write for other blogs. I write fiction. I am literally writing all day long, but writing about my eating problems specifically is the crux of this tool and it has helped me so much.

When I was working through the steps with my sponsor, she would assign writing to me every time we talked. It was amazing to me how much this helped me work through my emotions and the things that drove me to binge. Even now, I write a daily Step 10 and email it to my sponsor and I’m shocked at how answering those questions helps me feel better.

In larger cities, there are even meetings that use the tool of writing. In SLC, I attend one that reads from the big book for a while and then gives us ten minutes to write what we feel about the passage we read and then we share what we wrote. It is an inspirational meeting that never fails to make me feel better and less likely to eat the world.

Because I am a writer, I am particularly partial to this tool of recovery. I do it every day and it’s easy for me. If you haven’t tried it in your recovery, I suggest starting slow by setting a timer for five minutes and write constantly during that time. Don’t let yourself stop writing, even if you just write the words, “I don’t know what to write.” Keep going and you will eventually write something helpful to you. Do that every day for a week and the next week up the time to ten minutes. I personally write until I fill one page in my journal and I’m surprised at how much good comes from it every day.

Try using the writing tool in your recovery and you will find your days are filled with joy instead of constant eating.

Overeaters Anonymous does not endorse anything on this entry or blog.


The Tools of Recovery: Telephone

By Laura Moncur @ 10:39 am — Filed under:

Tools of Recovery - TelephonePart of the reason I have enjoyed so much success with Overeaters Anonymous is because of their tools of recovery. You can read more about them here:

This tool is hard for me. I set a goal of doing two calls a day to other OA members and today, I am procrastinating that very goal. I can text quite regularly, but actually CALLING another person feel intrusive. I feel as if I am invading their lives rather than helping.

It’s even worse when I am feeling like I might eat the world. I’m perfectly willing to text all my OA friends, but to actually CALL them is hard for me. I don’t know when I got so reserved about picking up the phone. I have no idea when texting became more acceptable to me than calling someone on the phone.

With my sponsor, almost all of my contact with her is on the phone. I call her every day at 8 am. Sometimes she can talk, other times, I leave a message on her voice mail. I have to be honest, though. It has taken me months to get to the point where I’m willing to call her every single day.

If there is a tool of recovery that I don’t use as much as I should, it’s the telephone. That’s why I set a goal to use it. I guess I should go make those calls now…

Overeaters Anonymous does not endorse anything on this entry or blog.

Image via: Scream 1996 – Wikipedia


The Tools of Recovery: Meetings

By Laura Moncur @ 8:43 am — Filed under:

The Tools of Recovery - OA MeetingsPart of the reason I have enjoyed so much success with Overeaters Anonymous is because of their tools of recovery. You can read more about them here:

MEETINGS! I was familiar with meetings! I had been going to Weight Watchers meetings for over a decade with little result. They told me to keep coming back and I kept coming back and I still didn’t lose weight. I was perfectly willing to devote myself to OA meetings. I was already in the habit of getting my butt in the door. I merely had been walking through the wrong door for the last ten years.

OA meetings are different than Weight Watchers meetings. OA meetings are even different than each other. Some of them are organized and regimented. Some of them remind me of a disorganized bunch of hippies. Some of them flirt with organization like a coquette. Some of them have leaders who are in charge every week. Some of them have a different leader each week. Some of them wander through the meeting with seemingly no leader until you realize that everyone there is so familiar with their style of meeting that they don’t need a leader at all.

No matter how organized or leadership driven, I have found peace and hope in every meeting. I’ve attended huge meetings in Las Vegas, tiny meetings in rural Utah and more meetings in Salt Lake City than I can count. They are all different, yet they have all helped me in some way.

There is one thing the meetings CAN’T do. They can’t work the steps for you. You have to do that on your own with a sponsor. Even Twelve and Twelve meetings that talk about the steps and traditions of OA don’t work the steps for you. You have to do that work on your own. The meetings will support your work, but they can’t do it for you. They aren’t enough on their own. That’s why they are only ONE tool of recovery.

For most people, their first step into OA happens at a meeting. If you are interested, you can find one here: Find a Meeting – Overeaters Anonymous

Overeaters Anonymous does not endorse anything on this entry or blog.

Image via: INWCC REVEAL14 Planning Meeting | IIDA – International Interior Design Association


The Tools of Recovery: Sponsorship

By Laura Moncur @ 8:28 am — Filed under:

The Tools of Recovery: SponsorshipPart of the reason I have enjoyed so much success with Overeaters Anonymous is because of their tools of recovery. You can read more about them here:

I procrastinated getting a sponsor. I had been relieved of the compulsion to overeat, so I thought I could just work the steps alone. Most of us compulsive eaters have a fierce streak of independence, which keeps us isolated with this disease. I didn’t know it, but I was heading toward failure.

Fortunately, I was able to turn around and continue down the road to recovery.

We were at an abstinence workshop and for the first half of the meeting, we were grouped up. Then, they mixed up the groups halfway through and I was paired with a woman who was confident, thin and calm. When we talked, she had been a binge eater, just like me. We were working on the parts of the workshop that talked about sponsorship and I realized that I hadn’t chosen a sponsor because I was scared.

I was scared that a sponsor would starve me, just like my grandma starved me as a child.

Once I realized this fear, I immediately asked the woman who had been put in my group to be my sponsor. She lived far away from me, but that didn’t matter. She was willing to sponsor me over the telephone and we set aside times when we could be together. About 90% of my sponsorship has been over the phone, text and email. It didn’t matter because sponsorship doesn’t need physical presence to be helpful.

I like to think of sponsorship like this picture.

The Tools of Recovery: Sponsorship

I was a baby in the program and I needed someone STRONG and powerful to help me, like Microsoft and Prudential. Additionally, there are times, no matter how long we have been in recovery, that we ALL feel like babies again, needing someone strong to help us. But there is a flip side to sponsorship. As much as my sponsor helps me, I help her as well. Just like the advertising that Microsoft gets, my sponsor receives benefits from helping me.

We can’t survive this disease without sponsoring other people. We can’t keep our recovery until we give it away to another suffering individual. If you are procrastinating finding a sponsor in OA, STOP IT! Stop it right now. Find someone who is succeeding with the program and ask them to be your sponsor. In fact, I am available to sponsor right now and would be willing to help you if you reach out to me.

Overeaters Anonymous does not endorse anything on this entry or blog.

Image via: Inventor Showcase Sponsorship | DaVinci Institute


The Tools of Recovery: A Plan of Eating

By Laura Moncur @ 12:09 pm — Filed under:

What Should I Eat? by seirenn-d4ce272 at deviant artPart of the reason I have enjoyed so much success with Overeaters Anonymous is because of their tools of recovery. You can read more about them here:

Before I ever came to OA, I had a plan of eating, but the only problem was I couldn’t follow it. Having a plan of eating is essential to recovery, but it’s the one that most of us already have. It’s something that we all have been desperately trying to follow for years until the day when we realize that we just can’t do it.

Ironically, the plan of eating is what so many newcomers to OA are looking for. “What am I supposed to eat?” “What constitutes ‘abstinence?’” I remember when I first attended an OA meeting in the conference room of the physical rehabilitation hospital, I stayed after the meeting expecting the nice lady to tell me exactly what I had to eat and how to measure whether I was abstinent or not. I was very frustrated when she told me that I had to decide.

They’re all a buncha hippies.

That’s what I told Mike. They just let anyone decide what to eat to lose weight. That doesn’t make any sense. But honestly, it was EXACTLY what I needed. We have all starved ourselves. We have all jumped on those strange food bandwagons that promised us svelte figures if we only eat certain foods or swallow magic concoctions. We have been doing this for so long that we KNOW (with a capital K), what we should eat to keep healthy, strong and to lose weight. We know WHAT to do. We just couldn’t do it.

So, I showed up at OA knowing to put my weight into my Lose It! app every day and let it tell me how many calories to eat. I showed up at OA knowing that if I eat every two and a half hours, I was less likely to binge and more able to STOP eating after each tiny meal. I KNEW how to eat to lose weight, but following any program was a struggle. The plan of eating was something I could always follow for a week or two (until the end, when I couldn’t even follow it for a few hours), but I was white-knuckling it. It was sheer will-power that kept me on a plan of eating. The OTHER tools helped me stay on the plan.

Don’t get me wrong. A plan of eating is important. Without it, we would slip into day-long binges just like before. All of us know how we SHOULD be eating. We came to OA because we couldn’t do it.

Overeaters Anonymous does not endorse anything on this entry or blog.

Image via: What should I eat? :33 by Seirenn on deviantART


The Spiritual Awakening: On The Roof

By Laura Moncur @ 8:00 am — Filed under:

The God Gene: How Faith Is Hardwired into Our Genes at Amazon.comAs an atheist, it was difficult for me to come to Overeaters Anonymous. I knew I was a binge-eater, but I also knew that the program was heavy into spirituality and that kept me suffering with my disease for ten long years. After reading The God Gene by Dean H. Hamer, it’s easier to see why OA (and other 12 Step Programs) work, even if you are an atheist.

There is a reward in my brain when I overeat that is triggered by dopamine, but even stronger than that reward is the one triggered by spiritual experiences. One of them is the feeling that I call, “On The Roof.” It is a feeling of lifting up and being able to see the whole world: the past, present and future. This reaction is much less common than the feeling of the other presence and even less common than the feeling of being at one with the universe, but it is also far more powerful. So powerful that it can make you feel like you are going a little crazy.

You are not.

On The Roof from Starling FitnessThat feeling of lifting up and being able to see the whole world is a natural reaction in your brain that can be caused by psychotropic drug use, prayer, meditation and sheer desperation. It is a very rare reaction and highly sought after. Why?


The physical reaction that comes with the feeling of lifting up and being able to see the whole world makes your brain feel good. It feels even better than bingeing on the most sweet, salty or fatty foods you could imagine. If you do it on a regular basis, it can replace your craving for food and you no longer feel the need to overeat.

I have been On The Roof only once in my life, but it was such a powerful experience that it shaped my destiny. It was my first year of college and I was having trouble with Calculus. I just couldn’t understand it. At spring break, I went to my grandparents’ house (because I’m a wild and crazy girl). I brought my Calculus homework with me, hoping my grandpa could help me with it. He was the only one I knew whom I could turn to, but when I asked him to help me, he said, “With Calculus, you just get it or you don’t. I can’t help you.”

I was desperate and in tears. I remember vividly sitting in their kitchen at the round table. I can feel the vinyl tablecloth on the table with its fleece backing making it difficult for me to write on my paper. I had to put my paper on my folder to do my work. I was so desperate, just staring at my Calculus homework and crying when it happened. I felt as if I were lifting up from the kitchen table. Lifting up above all of mathematics. I could see the entire field of mathematics before me. To my left I could see my favorites of the past: Trig, Geometry, Algebra and even simple Arithmetic spanning in the distance to my left.

In front of me, I could FINALLY see it! Calculus and how it fit into the world of Math. It was easy to find the area of a square using Geometry. Once we knew about that pesky Pi, even the area of a circle was easy to calculate. But a curve! A curve was so hard! How could we calculate the area under a curve?! I could see the rectangles under a curve getting smaller and smaller until they reached an infinite number and finally achieving that perfect curvature. I could UNDERSTAND differentials!

Even more elusive, I could see into the future of Mathematics for me. I could see that if we knew the area under a curve that we would want to know the formula for it. I could see the need for integration as clearly as I could understand the need for division after learning multiplication. It was an awe-inspiring moment for me.

After that, Calculus was easy for me. Even the third semester of multi-variate Calculus did not daunt me because of that spiritual experience “On The Roof.” If you are lucky enough to have an experience like this, cling to it. Bring it up in your memory again. That awe-inspiring emotion got me all the way through college and it can keep you from bingeing.

OA depends heavily upon a spiritual awakening within its members for the program to work and the reason why is because that spiritual practice retrains the brain to deliver “feel-good” messages without eating too much food. It is the reason the program can even work for an atheist like me. If you have been avoiding going to OA because of the spiritual aspects of the program, read The God Gene and learn how spirituality is a physiological reaction that you can harness for your own benefit.

Overeaters Anonymous does not approve nor endorse this website or any of the views posted here.

On The Roof image via: Battle for Libya: Nichole Sobecki

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