Try to figure out the success rate of a twelve step program for any compulsive disorder, be it drugs, alcohol, sex, gambing, eating. Alcoholics Anonymous, for instance, keeps no records of who is a member, for their privacy of course, therefore it is hard to document the actual rate of backsliding by 12 step program participants. When it has been done, the numbers are not what you might expect. Less than ten percent of participants are successful, the great majority do backslide.
In typical ‘blame the victim’ fashion, all of the failure in a system that generates mostly failure, is put on the shoulders of the patient. When it works, all of the credit will be accrued by the program. Without any scientific reason that the program works or fails, the 12 step programs claim great success. Actually they claim one hundred percent success with all of the patients that “really try”.
Of course my concern here is with eating. Eating is one of the hardest things to ‘control’. It is hard to control because it is perfectly legal to eat, and to eat as often or as much as you want. Triggers for eating are visible in every direction, in your home, on your television, on the radio. You have to do it to live. When someone can’t control their weight, they are blamed for not being able to control their appetite, as though they are one and the same. 12 step meetings for eating feature people blaming themselves for moments of weakness, where they ate instead of continuing to starve. They are supposed to be starving themselves to ‘gain’ normal weight. This is fundamentally different than not drinking or not gambling. All of the impetus to eat is provided by the body, naturally. Not eating is not a natural thing to do. No other animal in the universe (probably) voluntarily starves itself.
What if the problem with controlling your weight actually has zero to do with controlling your appetite? What if not eating enough to stave off hunger is the problem? There is a way to eat enough energy-bearing food to avoid being hungry at all during the day. You just can’t follow the normal eating advice. You can’t eat low fat foods. You have to eat something that contains energy your body needs. There are three kinds:fat, protein, and carbohydrate. If you eat low fat, you must eat either more carbs or more protein. Eating more protein is hard to do without eating more fat, so people are encouraged to eat more carbs. This is really bad advice, because carbs lead to fat production. Sucrose, and fructose in sweet foods are metabolized into fat. The insulin to deal with blood sugar also serves to store the other sources of energy immediately into fat while the blood sugar is high. It makes you hungry soon after eating a meal high in carbohydrates. The sugar crash you get after a starchy meal is followed by hunger. Think of your experience eating a chinese meal, about an hour after you eat, no matter how ‘full’ you got, you will feel hunger pangs.
Hunger pangs are the mortal enemy of appetite control. Everyone gets them, everyone has trouble resisting them. A person in a 12 step eating program though has another thing to think about. Failing to resist hunger for them also has to be ‘confessed’ to in a group of people only looking for successful starvation. When I succumb to my hunger, by eating a handful of potato chips, all I have to do is eat something with zero carbs sooner tomorrow, before my hunger leads me to stray. I don’t have to feel guilty, ashamed, like a failure, too.
The for profit treatment of compulsive behavior is not staffed or run with the idea that you can be ‘cured’. Surely the rehab industry knows that you will be back if you follow their advice. Now that we all have insurance that will pay the bill I expect this industry that thrives by failing to succeed will flourish, just like diabetes ‘treatment’, high blood pressure ‘treatment’ and all of the other treatments of western diet diseases. Your doctor will give you a pill and encourage you to ‘lose weight’, like it never crossed your mind that you would be healthier if you were one hundred pounds lighter. They might even tell you that you should eat less, they might offer to surgically change you so that you have no choice but to eat less. They won’t tell you that it doesn’t matter how much you eat, but what you eat. They might even tell you that eating nothing but fat and protein will harm you. Best just keep eating like you do, just ‘control yourself’ and take this pill.
When it doesn’t work, it’s all your fault–even though two out of every three people you know are overweight. One out of three are obese and ill from eating. Apparently 66 percent of all Americans just don’t know the precise moment when to stop eating. That is just nuts. When I was a kid every other person wasn’t overweight. It’s not because now we all have air conditioning and play inside all the time. Its because of what we eat.
If you can’t starve yourself its not your fault. That is natures plan. Nature just didn’t plan on fruit or fruit juice every day, nature planned on that a couple of months a year. Nature didn’t plan for you to eat foods raised on chemicals, foods devoid of anything natural, concentrated processed sugars.
If you want to read more about the defects of reliance on a twelve step program to get you over the hump on your addictive behavior, read this article in The Atlantic. It describes some alternatives that have been clinically proven to be more successful than AA type programs. I won’t go into them here, because I just want to concentrate on telling you that your inability to control yourself in the face of hunger is the most natural thing in the world. Try a diet that does not require hunger to be a central pillar, because its not required to be hungry to lose weight.
Read up on why people gain weight and how weight is lost. Read “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes. Read “The Big Fat Surprise” by Nina Teicholz. Read through this blog, looking for articles on carbs.
Give yourself some credit for changing. Change one small thing at a time. This week, give up sweetened drinks and beer. Next week, pick something else to change, headed for the day when you don’t eat processed foods, and are living mostly carbohydrate free. Love yourself. Give yourself a chance to succeed, don’t take the blame for not being able to live half hungry all the time.