“You can’t stop all foods!” This is the first response of the food addict who is searching for a healthy way to eat. What kind of diet must I follow? What is the menu plan? Is it a nutritious healthy food schedule?
To begin with, semantics are important. We are not recommending a diet which is simply a restriction in calories. Eating in recovery certainly involves a change in foods, but more importantly, it involves a change in attitude. We are calling ours a healthy nutritious food plan. The difference between a diet and a food plan is not simply semantic. There is a deep philosophical difference underpinning between these two attempts to control food intake.
A diet has as its premise the idea of transience. It is a temporary solution to the problem of being overweight. There are literally thousands of diets and they are, for the most part, finite programs of caloric restriction. Typically there are several stages: Stage 1 involves the extreme reduction typically of high fat / high carb meals. Stage 11 resembles a gradual introduction towards eating the ‘problematic’ foods, and Stage 111 involves a restricted but even more permissive consumption of most foods – including the trigger foods that can stimulate compulsive eating.
The concept of harm reduction, familiar in the addiction field, is analogous to the typical ‘diet’. The overeater follows a restricted plan for a certain amount of time, and then is encouraged to reintroduce trigger foods with the idea that these foods are not dangerous in small quantities. After all, how harmful can one cookie a day be? The little harm it may cause is minimal in exchange for the benefit of living ‘normally’, and eating the foods that everyone else can eat.
In these diets there does not seem to be any understanding of the frenetic compulsive nature of food addiction. Indeed the very term ‘addiction’ is lacking in this diet literature. Thus the notion of abstinence is considered excessive, even pathological.
A food plan, conversely, replaces the notion of moderation with abstinence. It implies a permanent rather than a temporary staged solution. The food plan for the food addict is essentially a recipe for living one’s life. The food addict ‘surrenders’ to the understanding that they are indeed addicted to certain foods. This act of surrendering believes a change in attitude towards food and even more important, to life. It is this change of focus that brings the addict a sense of peace. The food addict is acknowledging that they live within a dynamic of addiction, which will involve behavioural prescriptions of change beyond the food behaviour.
And least we forget to say: the food addict still enjoys comfort, even, succour in their chosen ‘safe’ food plans. Freedom does taste good!
The food plans listed below all have a common thread of abstinence. They differ slightly but all are based on the premise that sugar and flour are the ‘trigger’ foods that must be avoided for lasting success. Some of these diets recommend further restrictions, such as avoiding sweeteners or weighing and measuring food intake. One of these plans may be the first crucial step towards a life free of food obsessions and the real possibility of serenity.
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