This one’s for all of you OA peeps out there…

I was at a meeting recently talking to another member (love you, J!) about the intersection of Abstinence and Food Plan, which I’ve written about on this blog before. Some member of OA follow a weighed and measured or very specific food plan to the letter, and that is how they define their abstinence.  They need to have black-and-white boundaries around their food. But for many OA members (including myself), they are not the same at all. Eat To Live/nutritarianism is my food plan, but it is not my abstinence. I’m less Grey Sheet, more Grey Area. And if you don’t know what I mean, check out this link:

I was also thinking about how all of my sponsors have told me that my concept of  a Higher Power will change the longer I stay in recovery (they were 100% correct, as usual. Thanks sponsors!). So if my concept of HP can change, then why not my concept of abstinence? Since we get to “choose” our own definition of abstinence, that definition could change for each of us. At first, “the action of abstaining from compulsive eating and compulsive food behaviors while moving toward or maintaining a healthy body weight” looked like this:

In other words, a diet. Right now, abstinence for me means abstaining from bingeing and purging, animal products, compulsive exercise, diet pills, restricting my food/skipping meals (AKA dieting) and eating to oblivion. Eating to oblivion can happen on ANY food plan I choose. It can happen with so-called “healthy food”. I can eat to oblivion with no oil, air-popped popcorn, it just takes a loooooong time. Eating to oblivion is an extremely dangerous (and unfortunately seductive) behavior for me.  As I am in recovery longer, I am seeing the subtlety of the actual behaviors more and more. Mostly now it’s not as much about what I eat. It’s how I eat it. Mind you, there are some foods that I avoid because they just have an immediate drug-like effect once they are in my mouth (hello, vegan donuts). It’s not because those foods are bad (joking pictures aside), they just are drugs for me, like alcohol or cocaine. Before I went vegan, regular cow or goat’s milk cheese was like this for me, too.  I am glad that I can be more flexible with my personal concepts of both abstinence and a HP as I continue to trudge down the Yellow Brick Road of recovery. There’s room for all of us.



  1. This is a really interesting post that got me thinking. I actually read it earlier today, but am now coming back to comment on it, because I needed time to think on it. I need more time still, but I do want to share some initial thoughts:

    At first, I thought, “ETL does define my abstinence.” But then, thinking more throughout the day, I realized that’s not true. That would mean, in order to remain abstinent, I could never have certain foods from certain restaurants here in town, that I could never have the occassional pita crisp cracker thing that Husband eats with his soup at night, that I could never do all kinds of things. And the truth is, while I don’t get food from out often at all (when I’m not bingeing), I do know that some meals at some restaurants (while not ETL but still healthy, vegan choices) are completely safe for me. I also know that having one pita crisp cracker with my own soup at dinner is also completely safe for me. Neither is ETL, yet I’m still remaining (my version of) abstinent.

    So my version of abstinence is something other than ETL, which really did kind of surprise me when I realized it. My abstinence first and forement is abstinence from any and all foods that come from animals. Close behind, my abstinence is from foods that I binge on (a very specific list). My abstinence is also from intermittent fasting (something I’ve not done a whole lot of, but even my short experimentation with it was NOT good; it just leads to bingeing for me). My abstinence is from doing any sort of cleanse (again, leads to bingeing for me. I did a juice/smoothie cleanse in November of 2012. . which, incidentally, is when I began sliding fast from the previous 7 months of complete ETL. No more cleansing for me). What else is my abstinence. . . hmmmm. . . I need to think more on it! Thank you for prompting this incredibly helpful line of thinking, my friend!


  2. Like R said, this post made me consider my own abstinence, and I’m still considering it. I would say my abstinence is from animal products, restriction, and trigger foods. My abstinence is loosely defined by ETL, with a little wiggle room, like R mentioned, for foods outside the plan that are safe for me. I’m also with you on the eating to oblivion thing. I’ve made myself oh-so-sick from baby carrots in the past because I just kept eating and eating and eating. Moderation, even with healthy foods, is a big part of my recovery from food addiction.

    In terms of the bigger picture, I support the idea that abstinence is an individual concept, with each person having their own definition based on needs, triggers, and experiences. I’m glad you brought this up. I also agree with the idea of abstinence evolving over time. I would love to think that I will heal enough to be able to have one slice of delicious gf/v pizza in the future. 🙂

  3. You both have some great thoughts about this! Even though there is a definition of abstinence in OA, I really love the fact that it is up to each individual member to figure out what this looks like with them (hopefully with the guidance of a good sponsor, other experienced members and their dietitian or doctor). The idea of someone “telling me what to do” just makes me want to rebel. And that’s no bueno. Love you, Nute chicas!

  4. I am really liking your blog! I signed up for a blog just so I could leave a comment. Just started OA and like having something to mentally chew on between meetings. 🙂

    • Hi there! I am so glad that you like my blog, and I hope my, um, mistakes and experiences can be even slightly helpful to you as a newcomer. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of OA-themed blogs out there–I was really hesitant to write about my experience in recovery, even anonymously like this, but it makes me feel good that it could help even one other member of OA. You made my day! XOXO QOD

      • Hey thanks for the response! I only just now saw it as it took me awhile to figure this place out. And I actually figured how to post something on my blog. Woot!

        Have a great day! 🙂

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