What was it like?

A reader asked me, “What was it like when you first gave up sugar and grains?” For me, as a food addict, I stopped putting poison in my system. I didn’t completely understand what was happening, but it certainly was very disruptive to my physical being and my life. I’d say I was detoxing which can be both emotionally and physically painful. I was (sometimes still am) an instant gratification person so the desire to stop the pain was intense. All my life I’d used sugar and grains to numb myself from pain. The people I now had to turn to for guidance said, “you are very, very vulnerable right now. Take good care. Protect yourself.” I really didn’t want to be living in hell anymore so I said ‘No’ to most invitations. I wanted the support and encouragement of my friends but, truthfully, it’s very difficult to understand why anyone would go to the lengths I was going unless they also were a food addict and had lived in the hell I had lived in.

It was not so different from learning a new language and the best way to do that is total immersion. I didn’t have the money to put myself into a treatment center and, in the end, it was me who was responsible for my own health and sanity. I had to create a similar atmosphere of immersion so that most of my days would be surrounded by the love and encouragement of the people who had gone before me. That included meetings, phone calls, walks with other recovering food addicts, going to others’ homes and weighing my food with them. Being around others who would love me until I learned to love myself.

Being around beings who love you exactly as you are.

Each thing I contemplated doing outside of this initial time of detoxing and learning the ins and outs of eating healthily without sugar and grains, I had to consider carefully. It wasn’t in my nature to think ahead and to be totally honest how I would respond to certain situations. An example of this was a cruise I had signed up for. A group of friends and I were going to fly to Russia and take a cruise up the Volga to St. Petersburg. It was fun planning it and I was looking forward to it. Then my sponsor asked me how I was going to deal with the food. Well, I hadn’t even thought about it. Not one member of our group was in a Twelve Step program. No one was sure if we would have any WiFi and I probably couldn’t make any phone calls so it was certain I would be out of contact with all my support. Because it was a Russian cruise line, it took me almost two months to get through to someone who could tell me about the food. By that time, there was only about three weeks until we were to leave. I was told that there was one seating an evening and only one choice for a meal. If I cancelled I’d lose my deposit. I started going back and forth in my head. On the one hand, I was trying to rationalise why it would be ok if I went, I’d be fine–even though left alone without support, it had never been fine before. My GSA program was urging caution and “when in doubt, leave it out.” No one said ‘Don’t go’. I made myself crazy trying to fit something I really wanted to do into a hole that it wouldn’t fit in. I didn’t want to lose the deposit. Finally my sponsor said, “What if you lost your abstinence and ate sugar and grains. You likely would binge because that is your history. How much money do you think you would spend on bingeing before you were able to get home?” That was pretty convincing. I could easily see myself terrified and desolate and paying top dollar for an early flight back to California. In the end, it would cost many times more than the $500 deposit. So I cancelled and have never regretted that decision.

My friends didn’t really understand. The average person thinks it’s a matter of will power and knowledge. I had tons of knowledge about food, nutrition, psychology, behavior and I was very wilful. None of that helped me deal with my food addiction.

I have a spiritual disease, an emptiness, that only a spiritual solution can heal. What I had to do during those first days and months of abstaining from sugar and grains, my friends in recovery call Radical Self-Care. Many people grow into adulthood knowing these caretaking things. Addicts don’t. In the quest to feed the habit, many important skills do not develop.

Next week: What are these new friends like, the people I had to depend on for my life and sanity?

Have a great week and plan ahead,

Sara

Am I a food addict if I can’t stop eating?

In new memoir, Sara Somers reflects on her hard-won battle with food addiction

Steven Winn July 8, 2020Updated: July 8, 2020, 8:24 pm

Friday was her favorite day when Sara Somers worked at the American Red Cross in Alameda. It had nothing to do with the weekend coming up and everything to do with sugar and grains.

When the weekly donation from Mother’s Cookies arrived, Somers would help herself to a plateful. And then another. And another after that. Finally, as she writes in “Saving Sara: A Memoir of Food Addiction,” she’d steal the cookies that were left and smuggle them home for more bingeing.

Today, 43 years later and 11 years “abstinent” from the addiction that dominated her life for decades, Somers regards herself as a “walking miracle.”

“The percentage of the food addicted who can stay abstinent over the years is pretty small,” she told The Chronicle by phone. “It’s very hard.”

Scores of books, a dizzying array of therapies and diets that propose everything from the Christian faith to a potato-only regimen testify to the extent — and difficulty — of the problem and sufferers’ desperate search for help. Somers, 72, a longtime Bay Area resident who now lives in Paris, tried one approach after another: hypnosis, encounter groups, Weight Watchers, amphetamines, promises to friends, the Atkins diet, a macrobiotic diet, SlimFast and many more.

Even when she was introduced to a system that would ultimately work for her — GreySheeters Anonymous, which involves weighing everything one eats — it took Somers another 14 years before her recovery took hold.

“Saving Sara” was released in May, and Somers is scheduled to have an online conversation about the book with Jacquelyn Ekern, founder of the organization Eating Disorders Hope, on Saturday, July 11. In her frank and forthright memoir, Somers recounts not only the dashed hopes and doomed follies along the way, but also what she sees as the tormenting question behind them. “What,” she kept asking herself, “is wrong with me?”

Twenty pounds overweight at age 9, she was an angry, quick-tempered child and young adult. “I always wanted more,” she writes. And when she didn’t get something she craved, whether it was food or clothing, her longing was intense. It could be ice cream or a pair of Frye boots worn by a svelte stranger. “Deep in the recesses of my crazy mind, I thought if I had those boots, I would be attractive like her.”

The daughter of a caring but doctrinaire father and a “perfectionist” mother, Somers had attended 13 schools by the time she graduated from high school. (Her father’s hopscotch career as a college professor accounted for the moves.) After her own college years, Somers traveled in Europe, moved to Berkeley in 1971 and eventually found her way to graduate school at Cal State Hayward (now East Bay) and became a therapist.

“Saving Sara: A Memoir of Food Addiction” by Sara Somers.Photo: She Writes Press

Through it all, her relationships with men kept imploding. Related in unsparing detail, the stories of boyfriends coming and going from her life are touchstones of flailing need and self-sabotage. There’s Eddie, the earnest Dutchman who has another girlfriend. And Dmitri, a handsome Greek who “changed his mind.” For Coop, an unrequited college crush she met again in Berkeley, Somers fell hard. But even as she got control of her eating for a while and started grad school, Somers flirted with other men, took drugs and failed to recognize her partner’s depression. The unhappy end was inevitable.

“I was mostly interested in being loved,” Somers said. “That’s why I wanted a boyfriend. But that I was to be a good girlfriend — that never occurred to me.” What’s true about addicts of all sorts, she believes, is that “we are self-centered, self-pitying, and we blame other people for our problems.”

Somers assesses her own experience, both in the book and in conversation, with honesty, modesty and a sense of purpose. Her own story isn’t important, she said. Her goal in writing the book was to demonstrate by example that recovery is possible and to help others find the way.

While Somers found professional fulfillment as a therapist and enjoyed the work, she has some cautionary notes about therapy and addiction: “I think therapy can be a good companion to 12-step programs, but that can be limited.”

Treating addiction is about behavior modification, she explained, “and then the feelings will follow. Often in therapy, you have the insight first and then make the changes. That can end up discouraging addiction recovery. People think, ‘If the therapy didn’t work, what am I going to do now? It’s all about addressing the behavior first.’”

Somers, whose life never lacked for drama, lost her home in the 1991 Oakland hills firestorm. She rebuilt a house she loved but spent the next six-plus years addicted to alcohol. It led to a bottoming-out, including a stay at the Hazelden recovery center in Minnesota. A chance meeting with an old friend from Overeaters Anonymous reopened the door to GreySheeters Anonymous, the program Somers has followed ever since.

Somers retired from therapy in 2008. Struck with the idea of learning French, she started making periodic visits to Paris and moved there full time in 2014. While the French think it’s “sad” that she can’t enjoy alcohol or the bounty of a boulangerie, Somers says Parisian waiters don’t bat an eye when she pulls out a scale to weigh her portions.

Another discovery is public transportation, which Somers rarely used in the Bay Area. In Paris she rides the Metro all the time.

“I think I’m a more interesting person over here,” she said with a laugh. “Who knew a subway could be so much fun?”

“Saving Sara: A Memoir of Food Addiction”
By Sara Somers
She Writes Press
(235 pages; $16.95)

Sara Somers: Read the author’s blog at www.savingsara.home.blog.

GreySheeters Anonymous: Learn more about the weight-loss therapy program by visiting www.greysheet.org

More reviews for Saving Sara: A memoir of food addiction

If you would like to hear more about Food Addiction and the book, Saving Sara A memoir of Food Addiction, please join us at a webinar sponsored by EatingDisorderHope.com: https://eatingdisorderhope.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_XFz58w39S266Qhjyq_WL8A

When: Jul 11, 2020 12:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada) (3pm ET)
Topic: Sara Somers, author of  Saving Sara A Memoir of Food Addiction in conversation with Jacquelyn Ekern of Eating Disorders Hope 

Register in advance for this webinar:
https://eatingdisorderhope.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_XFz58w39S266Qhjyq_WL8A

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

“This is a riveting and deeply human memoir about one woman’s crazily disordered eating, and the path to freedom she discovered. But it is also the story of Sara Somers’s fight to save her soul, spirit and life.”
―Anne Lamott, New York Times best-selling author and past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship

“Read Saving Sara to see how bad it can get before it gets great―and find out just how [Sara Somers] did, so you can do it too.”
―Judy Collins, New York Times best-selling author of Cravings, Grammy-nominated singer, and Academy Award-nominated director

Saving Sara is a mental anguish page turner, depicting the relentless drive to eat that can dominate and destroy life’s opportunities, just like any other addiction . . . ideal reading for someone who is struggling with compulsive eating or who is suffering with complications from obesity. It is essential reading for someone working in the addiction field. A critical book for anyone who really wants to walk in the shoes of a food addict, who lives in the disease, and finally finds her recovery.”
―Dr. Vera Tarman, MD, FCFP, ABAM, medical specialist in food addiction, author of Food Junkies: Recovery from Food Addiction

“When it comes to eating disorders, both professionals and the public have a great deal of understanding of anorexia and bulimia. There is very little understanding, however, of Binge Eating Disorder. In this wrenching book, Sara describes in detail―sometimes painful detail―what her disease of food addiction was like and the depths to which it took her. But this is also a volume about hope. Her journey to finding her solution is only one person’s story, but as we know from the long history of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs, one person telling their story can transform lives. I hope that mental health providers will read this, learn from it, and share it with those who might benefit from knowing they’re not alone with their eating behaviors.”
―Dr. Kristi Webb, PsyD, Licensed Psychologist, Raleigh, North Carolina

Yvonne Spence  https://yvonnespence.com/book-reviews/review-of-saving-sara-a-memoir-of-food-addiction-by-sara-somers/

  • “I found Saving Sara to be well written and an interesting and compelling read. I appreciated its honesty and Somers’s willingness to take responsibility for her part in conflict… Somers’s honesty and compassion for all involved is clear throughout…. even for someone without an eating disorder, Saving Sara: A Memoir of Food Addiction is a compelling read in its own right.”

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3329682832?book_show_action=false

Thank you EatingDisorderHope.com

Author Sara Somers on Writing Her Story of Food Addiction

Sara Somers: A former food addict

In December of 2005, I walked into the rooms of Greysheeters Anonymous, and this time I stayed. I was fifty-eight years old. My life, up to that point, had been one of a food addict, abusing food and my body by bingeing uncontrollably, going on diets both sensible and crazy, having ‘who knows what’ shot into my butt, losing and gaining hundreds of pounds.

I made obtaining sugar and grains the focal point of my life. Then I’d do an about-face by denying myself food altogether. I had stolen food from friends, from families that I babysat for, and from grocery stores – and I lied if I was caught.

In complete sincerity, I had made countless promises to myself in the morning, throwing out binge foods, covering them with coffee grounds. By mid-afternoon, I was diving into the garbage to retrieve and eat it.

I called myself names for being so weak. I felt deep shame. I thought I was the only one who did these things. There was little doubt in my mind that I was a down and dirty, compulsive bottom of the barrel eater.

But I didn’t have the words to say that. In my view, I was despicable, defective, and only when I lost weight, could I show my face to the world.

I knew about GreySheeters Anonymous, but I didn’t want to go to their meetings. I didn’t want to be the kind of food addict that needed GSA. I refused to accept that I was exactly the kind of food addict that needed their ‘no matter what’ structure. I had been in AA for years and knew that message of ‘you either are, or you aren’t’ worked for me.

In 2005, I was at the crossroads of desperation and hope. I shut my mouth and opened my ears. I learned there is no easy fix for someone who is a true food addict. I heard people describing the insane things they did in the pursuit of beauty and normalcy. I learned I was not alone. People said to me, “raise your hand and share whenever you can. Your story is your most valuable asset.”

After I moved to Paris, I started taking writing classes. I found myself remembering specific incidents of food abuse. I wrote vignettes. After three years, it occurred to me that I could write down my story.

I was told over and over that, as a person abstaining from sugar, grains, and refined carbs, my primary purpose is to stay abstinent and help the suffering compulsive eater who didn’t know there is a solution. I wrote it all down, and it became the book, Saving Sara.

Writing my story showed me in black and white that I had a progressive disease that could only end in insanity, death, or recovery. By the grace of a Higher Power, I chose recovery.

Do I have any insights about food addiction? What I know is that it is real, and it is deadly. It only gets worse as a person ages. It is a disease that tells me I don’t have a disease. It is a disease that tells me, “go ahead, have one bite, it’s okay.” It is a disease that tells me I don’t need the black and white structure even though I’ve seen it work in AA. I’ve learned to recognize the voice of the disease.

I wrote my story so that food addicts who identify with my journey might find hope. Addicts of my type do not want to be told what to do by anyone. Addicts of my type only listen if they know someone else has experienced the exact same thing. My hope is that food addicts will recognize themselves and say, “if she can do it, I can too.” That they will come to a GSA meeting with an open mind.

I hope that families, educators, and medical professionals read Saving Sara and rethink their attitudes about this disease. I have written my story in the hope that it will shine a little more light on the very serious problems of obesity and loneliness as a result of food addiction.


About the Author:

Sara Somers suffered from food addiction from age nine to age fifty-eight; she has been in food recovery since 2005. In a double life of sorts, Somers worked as a licensed psychotherapist in the San Francisco Bay Area for thirty-four years. After finding recovery, Somers moved to Paris, France, where she currently lives. She writes a blog called Out My Window: My Life in Paris. When she’s not writing, Somers volunteers at the American Library in Paris, enjoys the cinema, reads prolifically and follows her favorite baseball team, the Oakland Athletics. Most importantly, Somers devotes time each day to getting the word out about food addiction and helping other food addicts. “Saving Sara” is her first book. To learn more about Sara and her work, visit www.saving-sara.org.


Saving Sara Book Cover

Personal stories of food addiction in ‘Saving Sara’ help readers better understand addiction

A riveting and deeply human memoir.”

– Anne Lamott, California Hall of Fame inductee, novelist, and nonfiction writer

PARIS – For nearly fifty years, Sara Somers suffered from untreated food addiction. In “Saving Sara” (She Writes Press, May 12, 2020) Somers’ intimate memoir, she offers readers an inside view of a food addict’s mind, showcasing her experiences with obsessive cravings, compulsivity, and powerlessness regarding food, with the hopes of educating her readers and promoting life-saving conversations between loved ones and those suffering with addiction.

“Saving Sara” chronicles Somers’s addiction from childhood to adulthood, beginning with abnormal eating as a nine-year-old. As her addiction progresses in young adulthood, she becomes isolated, masking her shame and self-hatred with drugs and alcohol. Time and again, she rationalizes why this time will be different, only to have her physical cravings lead to ever-worse binges, to see her promises of doing things differently next time broken, and to experience the amnesia that she –like every addict– experiences when her obsession sets in again. 

Even after Somers is introduced to the solution that will eventually end up saving her, the strength of her addiction won’t allow her to accept her disease. Twenty-six more years pass until she finally finds her way back to that solution. 

A raw account of Somers’ decades-long journey, “Saving Sara” underscores the challenges faced by food addicts of any age – and the hope that exists for them all.

“Read Saving Sara to see how bad [addiction] can get before it gets great – and find out just how she did it, so you can do it too. What a great read!”

– Judy Collins, New York Times bestselling author of Cravings


Dear Reader,

Thank you for traveling with me. I am taking the next two weeks off for a much needed vacation. Stay safe and stay prudent. We aren’t out of the woods yet.

A bientôt

Sara

Bedroom Slippers

“My first sponsor told me that food and eating addiction is the strongest of all the addictions yet other addicts are hospitalized to sit around in their bedroom slippers for thirty days before they graduate to a half-way house. New (Greysheeters) think they can continue doing their (usually) crazy lives while detoxing, learning to be abstinent from sugar, grains and refined carbos, and establishing a new way of living. Wear your figurative bedroom slippers for at least the first thirty days” —-member of GSA

I asked this woman if I could share what her sponsor told her with my readers. It underscores what I want to tell everyone who is detoxing from sugar and grains. As a population, we do not take seriously enough the deadly power of those substances on food addicts. We have grown up thinking that we can just make up our minds to lose weight, find a diet that we think we can stick to and then go on with our lives changing nothing. Even after years of losing and gaining wight over and over, it still doesn’t occur to most of us that in order to kick the dependency on these substances, we have to do what every other addict has to do: cut out everything that isn’t absolutely necessary for our daily life and focus on getting through the detox and withdrawal time.

There are those in the substance abuse field who think that sugar is as hard or harder to kick than heroin. Just the fact that they think this should be important information for us. My own experience is that for me to get through this difficult part of recovery, I had to find a group of other food addicts and place myself right in the middle. I had to call on them for help and advice and just to talk to me on a daily basis. I had to commit out loud to another person (in my case, my sponsor) exactly what I was going to eat that day. Experience and my history showed that unless I did that, I could not be trusted to follow through on my intention even though it was helping ME that I was doing this for. I joined them in group meetings as often as I could. I had a friend at the time who told me “you need your brain washed! Everything you thought you knew about weight, food and how to deal with the accompanying shame is wrong. You are a food addict, you need to start thinking like a food addict.”

There are care units for compulsive eaters and food addicts. They are expensive. I didn’t have health insurance that would cover that kind of treatment. I had to create the CARE unit myself. I capitalized the word CARE because self-care is not something I was familiar with. I focused on others and assumed they would do the same—care for me. Then someone said ‘You have to do this for yourself, no one else is going to do it for you. YOU are your own responsibility.’

After many, many years of trying to breeze through withdrawal, of not being willing to go 100% in total acceptance that I had a disease that would kill me, that wanted me dead, I let go of all my preconceived notions and followed the examples of those that went before me. Now 15 years later and 11 years of back to back uninterrupted abstinence from sugar and grains and MORE, I believe these words more than ever. The further I am from that last binge, the clearer my head gets on how insanely I binged, how crazily I tried to run my life, how distorted my thinking was in order to rationalize eating foods I thought nurtured me (and, in fact, were killing me). They say the disease of addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful. I say ‘and sneaky, and cruel and viscous and always just one bite away from jumping back into your thinking and doing.’

Most of us cannot kick this addiction alone but together, helping each other, reminding each other, we can move on and have lives worth living.

What is your story?

Sara

Withdrawal

“Withdrawal occurs once a person stops eating any addictive food. Though abstaining from foods is a contentious subject in the scientific literature, there is no question that it will cause a level of discomfort that often drives addicts back to eating… Feelings of deprivation, obsessions about food, and anxiety arising from unresolved trauma that was being ‘medicated’ by the addictive foods may appear like spectres that linger, worsening before they get better… It may seem that life without one’s comfort foods is simply not worth living. Even problematic eating is seen as better than feeling bereft to the point of suicidal thoughts. But others might find the symptoms so common they are not even recognizable as withdrawal… The good news is that detoxification is not a long process; it only lasts for a relatively short period – between one week and four weeks… Cheating by having a bite here or a spoonful there is also an excellent way to suffer withdrawal in perpetuity. Withdrawal will not end if the substance is constantly being reintroduced back into the brain reward pathway.” 
― Vera Tarman, Food Junkies: Recovery from Food Addiction

Some people who believe they are food addicts and let go of the substances that make us sick: sugar, grains and refined carbos, are completely surprised and shocked by how bad the detoxing and withdrawal process is. Even smart, well educated people with knowledge of food addiction, seem taken by surprise at the discomfort. The discomfort can be great. The physical detoxing can last anywhere from three to twenty-one days. But the emotional withdrawal can last a long time. We know that drug addicts and alcoholics go through bad times. Withdrawal symptoms can include severe anxiety, headaches, sadness, anger, sweating, shaking, disorientation and depression. Why are we so surprised that sugar and grains do the same thing. I think it’s because most of us come from a diet mentality. It’s just food and we go without until we reach our goal weight. Then we are told we can have all those foods back. After all, we’ve earned it! So clearly, they aren’t bad, just give them up for awhile until we get down to a weight we like.

WRONG! That might be true for non-food addicts. They can give up those sugary foods, using willpower, and then not abuse them once they lose the weight. But not us food addicts. Those ingredients are like putting poison in our system. Enough of it for a long time and they will kill us. Strong words I know. The truth is it’s so much easier never to eat those substances than give them up, take them back, give them up, take them back. As Dr. Tarman says “Withdrawal will not end if the substance is constantly being re-introduced back into the brain reward pathway.”

I believe this is why addicts cannot get sober or abstinent on their own. The opposite of addiction is connection. We take away something from our bodies that it is habituated to and it leaves a big hole. We have to fill it with something or we won’t last through the withdrawal. The best (and cheapest) way to fill that hole is to find other recovering food addicts. Talk to them, find out how they got through painful times. They will tell you. They will also tell you to make wonderful meals, to love your food. There is no deprivation in letting go of sugar and grains. When was the last time you felt joyously happy after bingeing on sugar? What’s left without those foods? An abundance of fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, fish, chicken, beef or, if you are vegan, other proteins.

Look into the Twelve-Step programs. There are a number of food programs. The worse the food addiction, the more structure one needs. Find out what the community of people are like. Are they happy, in recovery and can tell you about it? Do they reach out to you because they know how you are suffering? Because they’ve been there and know what you are going through? Those are the people you want to surround yourself with. People who can say “I did and you can to.” Yes, sometimes the pain gets worse before it gets better. Do you remember pulling a splinter out of your foot? It always hurts more for a short time. There is a hole there and the air is getting in. Soon it will close up and the body, our magnificent bodies, will heal the wound.

Getting rid of the poison we put in our bodies is worth the short time pain. Then you have the possibility for a life full of other things than obsessing about food. And you get to have different problems just like normal people and not the same problem over and over and over–how to stop eating?

Have you been through withdrawal? Write me and let me know how it was for you.

Sara

What Exactly is Withdrawal: https://foodaddictionresearch.org/question-and-answer/what-is-withdrawal/

Is Food withdrawal a real thing?: https://health.usnews.com/wellness/articles/2017-01-03/is-food-withdrawal-a-real-thing

Food Addiction: Consideration of Detox & Withdrawal Symptoms: https://www.addictionhope.com/blog/food-addiction-withdrawal-detox/

One person’s story

In the April issue of Recovery Today magazine, p.46 “Confessions of a down and dirty, rock bottom food addict.” Their title not mine. But it says what it needs to say.

I got sober on June 1, 1998. I was an alcoholic, but alcohol wasn’t my bottom line addiction. Food was. I was a down and dirty, rock bottom food addict who couldn’t ingest sugar and grains in either liquid or hard form. I first went to AA in an effort to learn what the 12-step programs were all about, after coming from Overeaters Anonymous where I had been dazed and confused.

I was so ashamed of my food addiction that I never spoke of it to my sponsor or friends. In private,I tried to make AA solve my food issues. Such an irony: I knew that AA was a WE program, that connectedness was the antithesis to addiction. I knew that telling like-minded people how I’d used and abused my drugs of choice brought it all out in the open, gave me another 24 hours to keep the disease at bay. But my shame of eating, of my body, was so huge that I found it impossible to share with others. In my memoir, Saving Sara: A Memoir of Food AddictionI once and for all detail how my food addiction progressed and became more unmanageable over the years. I found OA in 1979 but was too arrogant to let go and try it someone else’s way. Then I was introduced to  GreySheeters Anonymous in 1983. I knew immediately it was the solution I had been looking for. But being a hard core addict, hard- wired to do self-destructive things, I felt sure that I could fix myself on my own.

It took me another twenty-six years to crawl back to a GSA meeting, broken and beaten up.I was seven years sober at that time. I had been sitting in AA meetings wondering why I wasn’t happy, joyous and free. I had done the steps a number of times. But I always kept my dirty secret to myself: I couldn’t stop binge eating. Now, fifteen years later, I have been abstaining from sugar, grains and refined carbs. It helped to accept that I could only deal with food addiction with other food addicts. No matter how much my AA friends loved me, since they didn’t eat like I did, I felt they couldn’t understand. On top of community, what GreySheeters Anonymous gave to me was structure. If I did what my sponsor said, I had a good chance of arresting the bingeing. I weighed my food at every meal and ate the same amounts as the day before. GSA knew I had a life and death disease and that was what the GSA boundaries treated. Since food addiction isn’t discussed as often in our society, I hope Saving Sara will open the door for much needed conversations to arise.

To pre-order the book: https://www.amazon.com/Saving-Sara-Memoir-Food-Addiction-ebook/dp/B07VBKZK3Y/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3NEQDD6UPIVF4&dchild=1&keywords=sara+somers&qid=1587045620&sprefix=Sara+Somers%2Caps%2C337&sr=8-1&fbclid=IwAR0tQzP3fs3RkgrH4LbL3TuNg-lqaUiuSLzWV-qK319S8PvCjZmziSNV9_U

As always, ask your questions, make comments, this is a blog for all of us

Sara

Education is always a good idea

Someone e-mailed me at the beginning of the week and told me, “It’s a good thing I’m not compulsively eating. I’d eat everything I had stored for the entire time we are in lockdown. I wouldn’t be able to get away from myself. It would really truly be living hell.” I’ve had similar thoughts of deep gratitude that my disease is not active. Many people are frightened. For food addicts, being frightened or not knowing what is coming around the corner is a reason for bingeing. Bingeing eventually numbs us, pushes the fear and anxiety way down under temporarily. It can seem like a solution. In fact, it is part of the problem. We food addicts do not know how to live with discomfort, any kind of discomfort. So we try to escape into the food. It didn’t work for me. Does it work for you?

My friend I haven’t met yet, Dr. Vera Tarman, wrote to remind me that there is a second edition of her wonderful book: Food Junkies, Recovery from Food Addiction. Dr. Tarman has been a huge supporter of Saving Sara the book. She read it cover to cover and pointed out some inaccuracies. So I need to amend what I have posted. Her first book is the Food Addiction: Truth about Food Addiction. Dr. Tarman works with food addicts on a daily basis. “As founder and spokesperson for Addictions Unplugged, she’s has focused her medical practice over the past 7 years on addiction treatment and recovery. Along with serving the addiction community through her own private practice, she has been the Medical Director at Renascent since 2006 and the Staff physician with Salvation Army Homestead since 2004.”–Linkd In. Of course I want you to buy my book Saving Sara when it comes out May 12, 2020, but educating yourself about food addiction is always a good idea. My book is my story. My story is one of hundreds of stories, all very similar. My story ends with hope and recovery. Dr. Tarman’s book gives you facts from the medical perspective, from her experience of working in the field. Dr. Tarman’s book is a good read.

Last week, I had the honour of being interviewed by Public Radio in Santa, Fe, New Mexico. http://healthywoman.libsyn.com/healthy-woman-march-28-2020-sara-somers-on-food-addiction

Stay inside. Wash your hands and don’t touch your face,

Obesity

The other night, the channel OCS in France, showed the February 28th episode of Real Time with Bill Maher. One of his guests was Nicholas Kristof who is one of my favorite columnists at the NYTimes and anywhere. I subscribe to his column and pay attention to the issues he writes about. I find that he is thoughtful, kind and extremely intelligent. He and Bill were talking about drugs, alcohol and obesity. Maher said “The Chan School of Public Health at Harvard says that in 10 years, half the country will be obese, 1/4 of the country will be severely obese and 40,000 people will die of obesity every week”. Kristof didn’t disagree with him. He said that it was all “part of the miasma of depression.” When things feel hopeless, “people self-medicate with soda and potato chips”. I could have jumped through the TV screen and kissed the man. I don’t think I have ever heard a public figure as famous and as well-respected as Kristof is talking about self-medicating with food.

One of the comments on the show in YouTube read: “Obesity is on the rise due to stress we have to deal with.” Kristof says much of this is the lack of education made available to people. I could hear Melinda Gates, in my head, saying that much of the inequality in the world is due to lack of education. I wrote my book Saving Sara in part to educate people. In my opinion to say that one is obese because of the stress we have to deal with is a lack of education. In this day and age, we have to learn to deal with stress without turning to soda and potato chips. Sugar and grains, the ingredients in alcohol and many of the foods we binge on, are depressants when taken in vast quantities. In our world where so much is unfair, where hopelessness is on the rise and depression seems to be a companion to many people, those ingredients only make a bad situation worse. There is so much we cannot control in our lives. We are in the midst of a pandemic and the majority of us are self-isolating in our apartments or homes. What happens tomorrow is out of our control. Speaking personally, what is within my control is what I put in my mouth, how I prepare to spend maybe up to two months alone in my apartment and how I chose to face my small world each morning.

I was obese. I am 5’6″ tall and weighed almost 200 hundred pounds. One of the ways I stayed in denial about that figure is by only looking in the mirror from my neck up. The rest of my body was deep in the sand just as if I was an ostrich. I was miserable, I felt hopeless, abandoned by the world and very, very sorry for myself. When I finally asked for help, the solution was not what I wanted it to be. It was not easy. I was told I would be unable to do it alone, that I needed all the support I could get and the best support would be from recovering food addicts. I was ashamed and didn’t want other people to see me so I resisted the group idea. Sure enough, I couldn’t do it alone. My solution was joining a 12 step group that treated food addiction like alcoholics treat alcoholism: it is a serious disease and you can’t be half-way committed. In order for me to turn my life around, I had to change my behaviors 180o, accept the black and white nature of the solution, the no matter what of the solution. Then I could learn how to live in the grey areas of life.

I thought depression was in my DNA. By the time I found the 12 step program, I had accepted that I would be on anti-depressants for the rest of my life (I am one of the fortunates who has health insurance). I can honestly say that since I have stopped putting sugar, grains and refined carbohydrates, in liquid or hard form, into my body, I have not had a long depression. I have felt blue. I have felt down when something didn’t go my way. When my Aunt died, whom I was very close to, in 2011, I got depressed for 4 days. It was NOT the depression that used to send me under the covers for days on end, praying that I would die but too scared to kill myself. I felt really, really awful. My friends in recovery said “You don’t have to binge over this. You can feel your feelings and grieve your loss and in two weeks, a month, you will still be abstaining from sugar and grains. If you use this as an excuse to binge, you will be back facing the only problem you have ever known–How to stop bingeing. You’ll have no room to find solutions for your everyday problems.

Today, here in France, we are on Day 10 of Lockdown or as the French so quaintly call it “our confinement.” I used every tool I learned in my recovery program to plan ahead, to make sure I had enough food in my apartment to last two months if needed. I started a Zoom meditation group in the morning of every single day of our confinement. This gave me a reason to get out of bed and to get dressed. I have reached out to my friends and started using Zoom to connect. I even threw a birthday party on Zoom. Someone said to me “we shouldn’t be calling this social distancing. In reality, it is physical distancing and doing whatever we can to socially reach out to each other.” We need each other now more than ever. We will get through this. Yes, it is stressful but it is not a reason to drink, take drugs or binge.

Thank you for your precious time in reading this. If you go to http://www.sarasomers.com, I have put up a long and, I hope, comprehensive list of things to do at home right now.

Until next week,

Sara