Who Among Us Can Truly Be Said To Be Good?

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

I saw this comic fromThree Panel Soul the other day and it made me cry.

Who Among Us Can Be Truly Said To Be Good from Starling Fitness

It reads:

Owner: Who’s a good dog?

Dog: Whoah, that’s a hell of a question.

Owner: Who’s a good boy?

Dog: Who among us can truly be said to be good? What is goodness?

Owner: You are!

Dog: What?!

Owner: Yes!

Dog: This is amazing!

When I saw this, I felt like I was the dog, contemplating goodness and feeling completely unable to live up to it. When the owner said, “You are!” I felt just like that dog, in denial, yet, hoping it was true. “What?!”

ALL of us are like that dog. We feel that we are not good enough. We feel that true goodness is unattainable with our flawed selves. We just need that owner. We just need to know that someone thinks that we are good. Someone who is better than us thinks we are worth it.

Every one of us has that unseen owner within our own minds. It is the aspect of your mind that you are not able to access at all times, but you see glimpses of it when you are dancing or singing along with the radio. Maybe you can catch it watching you as you meditate or when you are working very hard on a project you care about.

Get in touch with that part of your brain. It thinks you’re good. It wants to tell you that every day, but you can’t hear it because the noise on the television is too loud and the headlines of the newspaper are blocking your vision. If you can teach yourself to listen for it and listen to it, then the appeal of food won’t attract you as much anymore. It will be a dull attraction rather than a siren song.

For more info, I have an entire category of posts to get you in touch with that unused portion of your brain: Starling Fitness – Inner Workouts


Indiana Jones and the Final Crusade Is A Representation of the First Three Steps

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

I don’t know how to express how much this scene from the end of Indiana Jones and the Final Crusade has helped me. If you have never seen the movie, watch it now, or be spoiled.

In this scene, Indy’s father has been shot by the Nazis and the only way he can save his father is by going through the three trials and finding the Holy Grail. Fortunately, his father kept a detailed Grail Diary documenting the three trials.

The Three Trials from Starling Fitness

Here is what happens:

The Breath of God

The first trial is The Breath of God: Only the penitent man shall pass.

I love how Indy and his father repeat it over and over. Penitent, penitent, penitent. At the last minute, Indy realizes he needs to kneel before God or he will be struck down by very real blades.

“The penitent man is humble before God. The penitent man is humble. He kneels before God!”

The Breath of God - Kneel from Starling Fitness

To me, this trial represents the first step in the Twelve Steps. You MUST be humble for this program to work. You MUST admit that you are not as cool as you thought you were. You have to be so defeated by this disease that you bow your head in humility. God, not required. The razor sharp blades of your disease will cut you down whether there is a god or not.

The Word of God

The second trial is The Word of God: Only in the footsteps of God will he proceed.

Indy reads the Grail Diary and realizes he needs to spell out the name of God, which was easy! Jehovah!

The Word of God - Name from Starling Fitness

And then Indy realizes that in Latin, Jehovah starts with an “i.”

This trial represents the second step in the Twelve Steps. You must recognize that only a power greater than yourself can help you. Once again, no God required. In fact, what you think you know about God might be a liability. That power greater than you can be the group, your sponsor, your FitBit or any other guidance outside your own diseased mind. I’ve talked about this quite a bit here:

I like to think that Indy’s dad translated it wrong. The true meditation should be, “Only in the footsteps of one greater than you shall you proceed.”

The Path of God

The final trial is The Path of God: Only in the leap from the lion’s head will he prove his worth.

A quick look at the Grail Diary tells him all he needs to know.

The Path of God - Leap of Faith from Starling Fitness

“It’s a leap of faith. Oh jeez!” “You must believe, boy. You must believe.”

This is the third step in the Twelve Steps. You must believe that a power greater than you can stop you from killing yourself. You have to hand yourself over to it, whatever it may be. You just close your eyes and step onto that delicate bridge. It will be there under your feet as long as you are careful.

Was It Intentional?

I’ve looked all over the Internet and I can’t see any reference to the Twelve Steps with this movie. In fact, Indy’s dad said he found these clues in the Chronicles of St. Anselm. Most believe that to be St. Anselm of Canterbury, but I did a search through all the works of St. Anselm and found nothing written that is even close to the phrases in the three trials.

I must have watched this movie at a very impressionable time in my teens. I can recite this scene almost verbatim and when I have felt too cocky, I repeat to myself, “Only the penitent shall pass.” When I have felt like I could just skip my meetings and do this alone, I repeat, “Only in the footsteps of one greater than you shall you proceed.” Each time my atheism got in the way of my recovery, I thought about that leap of faith and Indiana Jones standing on the slim and cleverly disguised walkway.

Leap of Faith from Starling Fitness

I didn’t need to believe in God. All I needed to do was believe that it could be done with the help of someone else.

Images via:


NOT My HP Anymore: The Scale

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

The best measure of a man’s honesty isn’t his income tax return. It’s the zero adjust on his bathroom scale.

- Arthur C. Clarke

Honestly, my scale was my Higher Power for YEARS. Whether I had a good day or a bad day depended entirely on my weight in the morning. My judgment about the previous day was clouded by what the scale said. If I had done a good job, but the scale didn’t show a drop, then I thought it was time to limit my food and up my exercise. If I had eaten poorly and my scale showed a drop, then I thought I could binge every day or maybe I thought I got away with something.

If my scale WAS a true Higher Power, THIS is what it would say every day:

NOT My HP Anymore - The Scale from Starling Fitness

Even though my scale is no longer my HP, I still weigh myself every day. I want my calorie intake to be accurate, so every day I weigh myself for the data. I log my weight into Lose It! EVERY day, no matter what. If my weight went up, I log it. If my weight stayed the same, I log it. Even if my weight drops and I don’t believe it, I log the lower weight.

After YEARS of this, I have learned that my weight loss follows a very strange pattern. I will lose five pounds in a week and then not lose any more weight for a month. Sometimes, I even go up a pound or two after the big loss. THIS is why my scale is not my Higher Power, because it really isn’t an accurate measurement of my progress. I am losing about a pound a week, but it only shows up on that last week of the month.

The worst part of it all was when I would lose five pounds in a week, I would start fantasizing. If I could lose five pounds EVERY week, how long would it take me to get to goal? My mind would instantly snap to that mindset and I would get INCREDIBLY frustrated when I didn’t lose the next week, or the week after that, or the week after THAT.

Now, I just look at that number as data. Sure, I’m happy when I see the number go down, but it’s just DATA. I show a downward trend in my weight, so that makes me happy, but today’s number doesn’t make or break my day. I keep plodding along, no matter what the scale says, because the scale is no longer my Higher Power.


How To Use A Rosary for OA Meditations

By Laura Moncur @ 8:39 am — Filed under:

Update 12-18-14

Twelve Step Meditations for Atheists by Laura M. at Amazon.comI’ve written a meditation book for atheists that you can see here: Twelve Step Meditations for Atheists by Laura M. at Amazon.com

I like to meditate for fifteen minutes each day. It gives me a hit of those brain chemicals that feel even better than the dopamine response I get from food. I’ve found that using a rosary for my meditations is an easy way to get a fifteen-minute meditation without a timer. It gives me a good tactile sensation from the beads while I do each meditation and helps me keep track of what I’m meditating about.

As a disclaimer, I am not Catholic and appropriating a religion’s tools may be considered blasphemy and I apologize if I have offended you. The truth of the matter is: religions and their tools evolved for a reason. Praying with a rosary has worked for many people for centuries. There is some validity to the practice, so I am modifying it to my needs.

Here’s how you do it:

OA Meditations with a Rosary from Starling Fitness

At the cross, I do the OA Promise Meditation:

I put my hand in yours, and together we can do what we could never do alone. No longer is there a sense of hopelessness, no longer must we each depend upon our own unsteady willpower. We are all together now, reaching out our hands for power and strength greater than ours, and as we join hands, we find love and understanding beyond our wildest dreams.

Then, each time there is a single bead, I do the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the Wisdom to know the difference.

For the three beads, I do the Third Step Prayer:

God, I offer myself to thee-to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always.

For each of the ten bead groupings, I do the Seventh Step Prayer, but I change it slightly. I do one for each character defect I have, replacing “every single defect of character” with the particular defect (i.e. guilt, resentment, anger, etc.) and replacing the word “strength” for the corresponding positive aspect of each defect (i.e. self-acceptance, forgiveness, calm, etc.). I will write more about this technique in the future.

My Creator, I am now willing that You should have all of Me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to You and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do Your bidding.

You may notice that there is an awful lot of god-talk in these meditations. As an atheist, I have rewritten the prayers to help myself with these meditations without rejecting them wholesale. I’ll share them with you later. I’ve written a meditation book for atheists that you can see here: Twelve Step Meditations for Atheists by Laura M. at Amazon.com

I find that when I’m repeating the OA meditations, my mind doesn’t wander like it does with other meditation techniques. It’s a far more powerful meditation for me than trying to “think of nothing.” If you have been having trouble incorporating prayer or meditation into your daily practice, try this and see if it works for you.

For more meditations, try this website:

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


What If You Could Use 100% of Your Brain Capacity?

By Laura Moncur @ 10:40 am — Filed under:

I saw the trailer to this new movie, Lucy, and it really got me to thinking.

I really believe that the spiritual side of weight loss is what I have been missing since the beginning and I REALLY believe that spirituality is merely accessing part of my brain that I have allowed to become dormant my whole life. Watching this preview makes me wonder how my life would be different if I had been able to access the entirety of my spiritual potential.

I especially love this visual image from the movie trailer:

Lucy - I Can Feel Every Living Thing from Starling Fitness

She says,

I can feel every living thing.

What if it were like that? What if I could feel the life-force of every living thing on the planet? Would I be a better person? Would I be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of feelings and emotions? Part of me thinks that this extra input wouldn’t create the superhero that they are showing in the trailer. It would create someone so awash with emotions that she wouldn’t be able to react properly. Perhaps she would retreat into her inner world.

Lucy - All This Knowledge from Starling Fitness

If you could access all of the world’s knowledge at your fingertips, would it make you a better person? From just my daily meditations, trying to access that slim part of my brain that has been left stagnant for my entire life, I have found a peace and calm that I never had before. I only wish I had been able to nurture this part of my mind earlier. I might be a better person today.

Or, I might have retreated into my own mind, never to surface…


My Higher Power: Music

By Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am — Filed under:

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for atheists and twelve-step programs are the first few steps. In particular, the requirement to believe in a Higher Power as you know it. I may not be able to believe in an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent being who actually CARES about my inability to stop eating, but I can lay all my trust in science.

Music Is My Higher Power from Starling FitnessA LONG time ago, before Starling Fitness was ever born, I wrote an entry about being an atheist and my favorite methods of gathering randomness.

Back then, I wrote:

Since music speaks to me louder than words, I have become particularly attached to this form of divination. MusicMatch is a shareware program that will read music from CD’s and store it in any form you wish on your computer’s hard drive. I have almost every piece of music that I own on my computer’s hard drive, now. The Auto-DJ feature will randomly choose music for me for a user-specified amount of time. I can narrow the choice by stipulating a genre or artist, but I like the joy of letting it choose for me almost completely randomly (sometimes I need to hear Sleigh Ride, even if it’s March, because, to me, it’s a song more about friends and fun than about Christmas). The interpretation comes when I assign meaning to particular songs. Many times, I have found that my mind really needed to hear a particular song or even just a particular line in the lyrics and ignored almost everything else that was chosen. The solace comes from hearing the order that the mind needs in the chaos of the Auto-DJ.

MusicMatch has long ago been replaced by iTunes. Auto DJ has been replaced by the Shuffle feature, but all the rest is the same. When I’m feeling bad, I just put my iPod on Shuffle and try to listen for answers.

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


My Higher Power: My Brain

By Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am — Filed under:

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for atheists and twelve-step programs are the first few steps. In particular, the requirement to believe in a Higher Power as you know it. I may not be able to believe in an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent being who actually CARES about my inability to stop eating, but I can lay all my trust in science.

My Higher Power - My Brain from Starling FitnessThe idea that we only use 10% of our brain is actually a myth, but I DO believe there is an untapped portion of my mind that can be called upon as my Higher Power. I imagine it to be quite childlike, but eager to help and please me. I imagine it to know what is the best for me, but at the same time, it can be suppressed and silenced with no more than a cookie. It craves gratitude and appreciation, but it will withdraw if I refuse to acknowledge it.

When Twelve Step programs recommend that I “make a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand Him,” I have a problem with that. I am ok with the idea of turning over my will and life over to that part of my MIND that has been with me my entire life, just desperate to help, but unable to be heard past the din of bad food. Every day in meditation, I can feel the weight of food being passed to that part of my brain and I am far more peaceful.

This part of my brain is very much like the typical god-like figure. It is certainly omni-present. I’ve had this part of my brain with me since I was very young. In fact, the reason I feel that it is like a child is because that is when I first had the feeling that I could never get full. No matter where I go, my brain is there as well. There is no escaping it.

In some respects, this part of my brain is also omniscient. It knows EVERYTHING that has happened to me and EVERYTHING I’ve thought. It’s not truly omniscient, because it doesn’t know what everyone else thinks or knows everything that could possibly be known. In the realm of my experience, however, that part of my brain IS omniscient.

Strangely, I’m even beginning to believe that this particular part of my brain just may be omnipotent as well. I have just handed over the decision-making about food and exercise to it every day, and every day I have been able to follow through. It’s not a struggle like it was before. It has been miraculously serene and livable. As far as control over my seemingly uncontrollable body and hunger, this part of my brain feels pretty damn near to omnipotent.

In Speaker for the Dead, a sci-fi novel written by Orson Scott Card, Ender has a computer AI in a device in his ear called Jane. She has been with him since childhood, but at a critical moment, he turns her off as a sign of good faith to the people in the room. For her, time is not like time is for us and she feels rejected for the equivalence of lifetimes while the device is off.

I feel like that part of my brain that I have been forming a bond with is a little like that computer, Jane. I have turned off that part of my mind for YEARS, squelching it out with food and binges. Its feelings are hurt, but at the same time, it desperately wants my attention. It wants to help me. It doesn’t feel like what I am asking it to do is a burden. It feels as if it should have been there to help me all along, but I just never gave it a chance.

I believe that the concept of God is so real to people because they have hidden from that aspect of their brains for so long that it literally feels FOREIGN to them. Despite the fact that this powerful aspect of our minds has been there all along, it can feel like an other being because we have shut it out for our whole lives.

If you have decided that a Twelve Step program might not be right for you because you can’t believe in God, then there IS hope. You don’t need an imaginary friend living in the sky because you have your own brain that has been there all long and is eagerly willing to help you finally conquer your uncontrollable eating.

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

Image via: Mashable: Obama Unveils Bold Plan to Map the Human Brain


I Eat When The Fitbit Tells Me To Eat

By Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am — Filed under:

The Fitbit Flex on my wrist went off at 10 am, but I was trying to write a blog entry. I ignored it. The irony is that I was trying to write an entry for Starling Fitness. I should have just looked at my wrist and realized that I had forgotten the most important thing to keep me eating healthy: I Eat When The Fitbit Tells Me To Eat.

Eat When The Fitbit Tells You to Eat from Starling Fitness

Fitbit Silent Alarms from Starling FitnessThere should be no question about it. I used to want to eat ALL day long without relief from the hunger. It wasn’t until I set alarms every two and a half hours that I found that I could go any amount of time without thinking about food.

Now, I find myself FORGETTING about food and making the alarm go away without bothering to eat. I went a half hour without eating my apple that was already washed and ready to eat. All I had to do was put it in my piehole.

Why? Why do I let myself forget the torment of constant obsession with food and fall into bad habits? As long as I FEED my poor, abused body, it will give me HOURS of time when I won’t even THINK about food. If I had to feed my cat every two and a half hours, I wouldn’t think twice about abandoning my work and jumping up when the alarm went off. Yet, when it comes time to feed MYSELF, I won’t even bother.

And the worst trick of all, is that if I don’t feed myself healthy food every two and a half hours, I get FATTER!! I end up feeling so hungry that I eat an entire day’s worth of calories in one sitting. It’s a paradoxical practical joke that I have played on my body for years, and yet, I still haven’t learned how to do it properly.

Maybe that’s why it’s so hard. I alternately starved and stuffed my body for YEARS and I’ve only been practicing this type of eating for three months. I’m trying to undo YEARS of bad habits, so I guess it’s going to take some time until this is second nature to me. Until then, I am going to jump when that alarm goes off and stick some food in my piehole!

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


My Higher Power: Fitbit Flex

By Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am — Filed under:

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for atheists and twelve-step programs are the first few steps. In particular, the requirement to believe in a Higher Power as you know it. I may not be able to believe in an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent being who actually CARES about my inability to stop eating, but I can lay all my trust in science.

In the past, I have over-counted my exercise. I talked about that here:

Back then, I said:

Since I followed the program exactly, I was very frustrated that I was only losing minimal amounts of weight. I now know why. I am such a SLUG during the day, that I was over-counting my exercise points. What I would have counted as four points, is only showing up as two points with the ActiveLink because my workday is so sedentary.

Fitbit Flex from Starling FitnessMy solution was to count whatever the ActiveLink said, but now that I’m using the Lose It app, I needed something that worked with calories instead of Weight Watchers Points, so I bought a Fitbit Flex with my Christmas money and decided to faithfully use it as my Higher Power. It is ALWAYS on my wrist.

I’ve run into one problem with the Fitbit. I have not been able to get it to accurately measure riding on the exercise bike. I’ve tried wearing it around my ankle under my sock and putting the Fitbit into a Nike+ pocket on my shoe. Neither one showed any significant workout, even though I worked my butt off. This is one case where I need to trust my heart rate monitor and not worry about the outcome.

Additionally, the silent alarms on the the Fitbit Flex are a godsend. I set them for every two and a half hours and when they go off, I eat. No questions asked. I just do what my Higher Power tells me to do. The reason I do this is because eating tiny meals at such regular intervals has helped me be less hungry. I talked about that here:

Just like an anorexic, my hunger response is broken, so I don’t eat when I’m hungry. I would be eating ALL the time if I did. I eat when the Fitbit alarm silently vibrates on my wrist.

It might be strange to consider a fitness gadget my Higher Power, but it has helped me stay honest about the amount of exercise I’m doing and reminds me to eat at regular intervals. I have humbly put my trust in its evaluation of my activity level and faithfully ate whenever it told me to. This simple faith and humility have helped me stay on my program for longer than I have been able to in years, so I’m not going to stop.

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

Related entries:


My Higher Power: Lose It!

By Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am — Filed under:

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for atheists and twelve-step programs are the first few steps. In particular, the requirement to believe in a Higher Power as you know it. I may not be able to believe in an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent being who actually CARES about my inability to stop eating, but I can lay all my trust in science.

Lose It App from Starling FitnessOne piece of science that has been debated is the Calories In Vs. Calories Out concept. There are those who don’t believe this is the case and that you can eat far more food as long as you tweak the macronutrients. Honestly, I NEVER lost weight when I ate more calories than I burned. I feel fuller when my protein and fat are higher than my carbs, but if I ate more calories than I exercised away, I didn’t lose weight.

So, I decided that one of my atheist Higher Powers was Lose It!. It runs on the web, on an iPhone and an Android phone. I put in my age, gender, weight and height into their system, told them I wanted to lose at least a pound a week and then I have faithfully followed their calorie counts. I just turned over all my food thoughts to Lose It. I can even monitor my carbs, protein and fat percentages, trying to manipulate them to keep me feeling fuller.

Entering food is easy. I can make recipes and find out the calorie counts for our favorite dinners. It even works with my Fitbit.

Most importantly, there is a community aspect to Lose It. If you have friends, you can post on the activity stream, asking for advice. Unlike a prayer to God, my Lose It friends can ANSWER my questions and help me through hard times with words of encouragement and advice. I can set my privacy as much as I want, but I let them see all of my food, exercise and weigh-ins so that they can have the full picture of my food life.

It may sound strange to believe in a web app as one’s Higher Power, but my hunger response is BROKEN. I’m hungry all the time and I can eat until I’m in PAIN and still want to eat more. Using the Lose It app as my Higher Power has relieved me of all those decisions that I used to make about food. Are there calories left in my day? Then I can eat. If not, I’m done. I have just released all of my decisions about food to this Higher Power and my life is more sane because of it.

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

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