Posted by: innerpilgrimage | December 4, 2009

Fifty Days of Abstinence . . . Holy Cats, How Did A Lifelong Binge Eater Like Me Even Get Here?

Days until my 40th Birthday: 11
Abstinence from Compulsive Eating: 1 Month, 19 days (50 days)

Holiday Eating Season Countdown: 29 days

      Every time I write a journal, I go to the previous one, copy and paste the journal header, subtract a day from the 40th Birthday Counter, add a day to the abstinence counter (yes, I am actually 100% eating within my food plan, despite the close calls), and subtract a day from the holiday eating countdown. It was bizarre to see that 50 there in the abstinence counter. Fifty days. I rarely do anything for fifty days. I never have, on my own steam (well, and my Higher Power’s, to be honest), ever kept an eating plan going. Heck, I didn’t keep consistent to Weight Watchers for more than the four weeks of camp–I binged the day I got back to civilization.

      I mean, I repeat the “Works if You Work it” mantra a lot, but it’s really hit home in that moment of reaching 50 days. One day at a time, I was able to eat in a reasonable manner (for me) for fifty days. With strength from the plan, from trying to be humble, I remind myself that it’s out of my hands, and I can’t have that extra cookie or more than that serving or anything outside that set yet generous plan. Sometimes it’s more food than I can eat in a day. Sometimes I want so much more food, it’s not funny. But somehow I was able to get through each day on my food plan.
      A couple of times in recent memory, it came down to a “Well, eat it tomorrow, if I want it so much). And I definitely have had to work with calorie sites, have done breakdowns based on what was served at restaurants by eyeballing, and I searched menus for smarter food choices. Last night, for instance, we went to a franchise Mexican eatery to celebrate my husband, M—, getting off call and being free to drink a margarita. (He forgot his ID, so no margarita anyway–not that it bothered him; he’s not an addictive personality at all.)
      Before we went, I checked the menu on the website, went to calorie counting sites (I use several, including The Daily Plate), and got a sense of the caloric value of the components of a meal. I found precisely what I wanted once I got to the restaurant–grilled fish with rice and grilled vegetables. M— and J— got guacamole and chips, and I didn’t have any, save for about a quarter to an eighth of a teaspoon worth of guacamole, just to taste it. Seriously, it was a tiny bit on a spoon, almost not enough to get any texture. I mean, airsoft pellets are bigger than the amount I ate. I didn’t even get near the end of my discretionary calories (I had about half left over), and I did not use up all of my daily servings for yesterday. I wasn’t hungry until bedtime, and, by that time, I really did not want to eat anything else for the day.
      They went through one bowl of chips without me and had guacamole left over. They ate half of the first, and they ate half of the second, and we took home half of a bowl of chips and about a half-cup of guacamole, which are currently in the refrigerator. Usually, the table has two bowls of chips before entrees arrive, and a third bowl or basket is brought to eat with the entree. Maybe I ate so compulsively, everyone else did as well to get their fair share. They could eat leisurely, because I wasn’t standing over their meals like a fat raven, waiting for my chance to swoop in and pick at what was left on their plates and pressuring them to hurry up with my pseudo-sneaky eyeballing of their food.
      I worry that I’ve made the people in my life compulsive by my own behavior. Pressure to eat with me, pressure to finish what they got, pressure to eat desserts or appetizers, pressure to fight me for their fair portions. Yuck. All that effort to hoard food I had. No wonder it feels true that I have more time. For all intents and purposes, I do have more free time. I’m not focused on whether I should spend the gas to go buy candy, on whether I should get chips and salsa and if I can wait for my family to get home to eat them, whether or not I should buy the big bag (with the excuse it’s cheaper per ounce–I buy the smallest containers of everything, now, because that way I don’t have to face off with leftovers temptation). Should I bake cookies–knowing I will eat a pan’s worth unintentionally, feel guilty, and bake more to hide my sneak-eating? (That tends to be a no these days). Same goes for cake.
      My birthday is coming up, and I’m at an impasse. M— wants to make a special dessert, and I’m faced with an inability to eat most of what I would be given because it would be out of my plan calorically. However, I think I can figure something out that will make everyone happy. I’d like to be able to expand my plan for my birthday, but my plan is not a restrictive plan at all. It’s a generous plan that allows for me to lose just over a pound a week just sitting on my fanny (I really need to get more active so I can raise that to 2 or 3 pounds per week).
      Oh, gosh, I don’t know. But I think that because my plan is one which limits my family’s ability to have celebratory sweets, it’s my responsibility to make sure I fit my plan into their lives, too. (*I just looked up what they can do with low fat frozen yogurt, and I think it will work well*)
      Well, I’ve got to get ready for the Newborns in Need meeting this morning. I am really tired, but I want to get the skeins of yarn to them. The local JoAnn’s Fabrics, by the way, honored a sale sign left up in the yarn section a few days after that yarn sale was over. So, thank you JoAnn’s, for honoring the sale sign even though I didn’t read the dates clearly. That was extra-extra cool, and the Newborns in Need will have extra yarn because of you (I could afford the extra yarn with the sale, not so much without it). I also got a bunch of the basic worsted weight yarn (on sale!) in dark brown, black, dark blue, and a dark blue-gray color. My husband found a really nice brown striped pure wool that I’ll make into hats, too. I think I am going to try for a one-men’s-hat-per-day goal in January, and I think I’m going to have myself a marathon on Christmas Day. Hopefully I can make 12 hats on Christmas day. I’ll see how that goes. It’ll definitely be better than grazing and haunting the kitchen for comfort food all day (like the last 30 or so years). Also, M— is the master lasagna-maker, so I get a cooking day off.
      Well, off to get ready for the Newborns in Need meeting!


      What an emotionally satisfying day. The Newborns in Need women in the area are such nice ladies. There were bags and bags of donations, and I just felt so uplifted by what they’re doing for the greater metro community. There were lots of Christmas-themed items. The baby hats one woman got from another woman who makes pom-pom baby hats were adorable. And the loomed hat and booties were darling–little Santa-boot like booties and a velvety red hat. Dozens of quilts, so many blankets and burp cloths and hats and . . . oh, it was wonderful. I know it seems silly, and I probably sound a little deliriously nutty. I’m fired up, excited about what comes next, and I am really feeling happy. Yes, I’m probably feeling giddy, but that will even out and be a nice comfortable pleasant feeling of contentment again once life goes back to its even flow again. Right now, however, I am riding on a high of things just falling into place and going my way in those wonderful little ways that I usually ignore. But right now I am seeing these small moments of emotional enlightenment.
      In the last two days, it’s like I finally found the onramp to the life I want to be living. I’ve identified the monsters under the bed (complete rejection) and in the closet (fear), and they’re just not so awful as I worried they were. Yesterday, people were happy to see me; today, people were happy to see me. What I offered yesterday (a commitment and some office experience) seems to have value; what I offered today (four skeins of yarn) had value. People were nice down to their cores to me. A few people seemed shocked I am turning 40 in just over a week (yes, I do like being told I look younger than I am . . . and I prefer the shock to the kind, “Oh, yeah, you don’t look it,” because the first means they weren’t expecting to compliment me).
      Today, I felt awful because I am having trouble with my project. But I saw one woman start a project with the yarn that M— picked out (it’s a denim blue, and it’s a great color), and she loved the color and was already starting the project after we lunched. Two other women ended up with the cotton candy pink yarns. At the luncheon, I was able to find food I could eat, and I had no problem telling people that I am part of Overeaters Anonymous. And I was able to stay away from the dessert table (though I did get a couple of cookies for J—-). I met the woman who organizes the borough chapter I live near/in, and they meet at the church where my home group meets. If I have Friday mornings off from Saint Vincent de Paul, I will definitely go to the morning meetings they have monthly. There is also a “field trip” to a quiltmaker’s studio to learn about making quilts, and I am so excited about that. I hope to be able to go to the local meetings.
      I’m going to get established with these two charities before I consider adding anything more. I am sure, between the two, they can find enough to occupy my time so I am not at home with nothing but me, a refrigerator, and cabinets filled with food. I expect and want to be challenged. I expect a few times I may end up wondering why I even wanted to do it at all. I’ve ripped enough rows out of my crocheted blanket (I over-added stitches and had to pull them out; now, it seems like it’s getting smaller) to make me wonder what I’m doing wrong. As long as I am diligent, a solution will come. I want to do it because I want to make a difference.
      In the community and in me.

      I’m Jess, and I am a compulsive overeater. I know I’ve been ending with the promise a lot recently, but it applies to so many more things than OA. And a big thanks goes out to Rozanne S, whose OA Promise reminds us that it’s not just OA which benefits when we make a chain of hope out of hearts and hands:

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 depend upon
our own unsteady willpower.
We are all together now,
reaching out for power and strength
greater than ours.
And as we join together,
We find love and understanding
Beyond our wildest dreams.



  1. congrats on 50 days!!! since i am on the outside looking in, i can tell you that i see such growth in you by what you have written. it’s amazing how honest you can become with yourself and you are facing up to your past demons. you are to be SO commended for that, it’s very impressive. most people cannot get honest with themselves and look how far you have come! you deserve all the good things that are happening to you.

  2. Well, thank you so much for the congratulations! Abstinence is really hard some days and really easy others (like everyone who’s been abstinent in OA knows . . .).

    I am looking forward to hearing next month about your 24 months! I know it wouldn’t be as easy if I didn’t have the chips to look forward at my home meeting. It gives me a tangible goal to achieve.

  3. you are lucky you have chips at your meetings. my meeting didn’t have them, so for my 1-y acknowledgement, i purchased my own 1 yr medallion from the oawebsite. hopefully i will have to buy a 2-yr one soon.

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