Hey friends! I recently shared an IGTV video about my experience in a 12-step program for food addiction recovery (part 2).
This blog post is a bit lengthy, but elaborates on that video. I trust it’ll find its way to those who have been asking for it or who are considering joining a 12-step program.
(See What to Expect from a 12-Step Program for Food Addiction Recovery for part 1 – more on the basic structure and tools of such a program.)
How I found the 12-step program I was in
I found the program through a dear friend. She briefly mentioned it to me when I was pregnant in early 2019, but I didn’t think twice about it then.
After my baby came, and I kept breaking daily commitments to myself to eat better, I reached out to ask her for help.
She told me to attend a meeting, so I did.
Everyone at the meeting was so nice and welcomed me. Most of the attendees appeared to be in their right-sized bodies, however, many of them shared major weight loss numbers.
I mostly identified with the word “unmanageable” they used to describe their lives before finding the program.
I didn’t have to say anything other than stand and introduce myself, “Hi, I’m Amanda. I’m a food addict.” And then someone provided a welcome pamphlet and a list of potential sponsors to officially get started.
I liked what I saw and heard in that meeting. But I called my friend first to discuss it. She kept saying, “We’ve gotta find you a good sponsor.” And in the meantime, she offered to temporarily sponsor me.
A few weeks passed, I hadn’t found a new sponsor. I prayed about it and kept feeling the prompting to ask my friend to sponsor me.
When I told her I felt she was supposed to be my sponsor, she said she had been praying, too, and felt the same way. So we moved forward.
My experience in the program
My experience overall was positive. Here are several reasons why:
Committing to the program
- I knew going in, that the program had strict boundaries and rules, but I was desperate to change and willing to do whatever was necessary.
- I took responsibility for the habits that led me to the program. They were my doing and no one else’s.
- My faith wasn’t what it is now, but I trusted that if I followed the rules and did my best, I would eventually understand their purpose.
- While the program required a lot of my time, I didn’t let it become my religion.
- If the program interfered with family commitments, my family always came first. I also did my best to plan ahead and communicate with my family about the commitments I was making to the program each week.
- Addicts tend to struggle with keeping commitments—to themselves and others. So even though I was still deciding if I really was an “addict,” I understood and respected what the program was trying to accomplish with requiring that I make and keep commitments.
- I recognized early on that this whole experience was like “training wheels.” The Lord brought me to the program to teach me, not to make me dependent on the program. (Btw, I am bursting to share what I’ve learned!)
- Some people like the external accountability of the program as a long-term lifestyle (I’ve met people who have been in the program for 10+ years). They also enjoy the community and service opportunities that the program provides—to become a sponsor and give back to others what was given to them. Pretty cool.
- One of my favorite parts about the program is the meetings. There’s something so freeing about having a safe place to hear people talk about the very things you’ve struggled with, who have found a solution and are doing the work to change and overcome. I don’t know of any other food programs, plans or “diets” that provide this level of honesty within the community.
- Many of the women in the meetings I attended were 20-30 years older than I am. Every one of them had said they wished they had found it sooner. They wished they hadn’t waited so long to seek help for change and that maybe their relationships with family, friends and others would have been better. That always stuck with me.
- Some people are quickly turned off by the tradition of introducing yourself as an “addict” in the meetings. Even though I believe God doesn’t label us, this never bothered me. I was willing to call myself a food addict and admit that I had a problem to obtain that inner peace I was so desperately seeking. And I can say now it was 1000% worth it and I no longer consider myself an addict.
Working with a sponsor
- I was very blessed to have my friend sponsor me in the beginning. She is a huge part of why I even tried this program in the first place and why I had such a good experience with it when others sometimes don’t.
- My friend/sponsor was understanding when I needed to miss a meeting to take care of my newborn (I’ve heard that some sponsors use a letter-of-the-law approach in this kind of situation rather than spirit-of-the-law, which could have been a deal-breaker for me).
- Your sponsor can make or break your experience. If, like me, you’ve struggled with perfectionism (aka, an “all or nothing” mindset), anticipate that you may want to quit at times because of your sponsor and instead make a plan to find a new sponsor if needed. People get new sponsors all the time.
- My friend/sponsor was very understanding when a few weeks into the program I started snacking on dried mangos and nuts (snacking isn’t allowed). I was terrified to tell her because I thought she would “break me” and “shame me” with starting over. But she didn’t break me and it made me want to do better. (Another example of why your sponsor has such an impact on your program experience.)
- I didn’t expect my sponsor or my fellows to give me any special attention for my weight loss or progress in the program so it never felt like a popularity contest to me.
- I confided in my friend/sponsor a lot during our calls. With my second sponsor I wasn’t as vulnerable because I hadn’t known her as long. I think it’s natural to start building a relationship of trust with your sponsor, but remember they are a sponsor, not a licensed therapist. Always ask yourself if your relationship is strong enough to bear the weight of the stories you share with them. They will be imperfect and they may disappoint you.
- Having a sponsor provides a huge opportunity to practice submissiveness. No one likes being told what to do. I believe it’s because we fought for our agency in the pre-existence, but also because it takes true humility to submit our will to God’s every day. Maybe working with a sponsor is just a tangible way to practice submitting for a season (nothing more, nothing less).
A special note on “breaks”
- A “break” in the program means you’ve veered from the food plan in some way and your sponsor makes you “start over” at day 1. (Read more about the purpose of “breaks” and the 90-day milestone in this blog post)
- Some sponsors are very strict and will break you for mixing two kinds of vegetables at lunch (i.e. 3 oz broccoli + 3 oz zucchini, rather than just 6 oz broccoli) or for switching your fruit last-minute (say you committed in your food plan the night before to have a pear at lunch, but then the day of you decided to have an apple instead).
- The program is designed to help people who struggle with honesty. Addiction happens when we begin to deny that we have a problem or that our bad habits are “really that bad.” So while I personally wouldn’t sponsor people that way, I also think experiences like this can really show you how resilient you are. Simply put, practicing the willingness to admit that you didn’t do what you said you would do, can be one of the most character-transforming parts of the program experience.
Why I left the program
- When I first joined the program I was constantly asking if anyone could put me in touch with someone who had successfully left the program. But no one ever spoke of it. I found that a little odd, but didn’t stew over it. Everyone was nice, they would just tell me to focus on today and not think about how long I was “going to have to do this.”
- As shared in my IGTV video, I left after my first and second sponsors let me go because the timing felt right (like a baby bird leaving the nest) and because my trust in the Lord had grown so quickly.
- My spiritual growth accelerated when I left the program because I became completely reliant on the Lord and I was focused on keeping myself in condition to receive further guidance from the Holy Ghost. I knew these boundaries and improved habits with my food were helping me do that. If I had thrown away my new habits the second I left the program, I think my spiritual progress would have been frustrated.
- My goal has always been to elevate my thoughts, beliefs and behaviors. I kept my focus there, and the food slipped into the background of my life, on autopilot, exactly where I want it to be.
My opinion since leaving the program
- Disordered eating, eating disorders, overeating, compulsive eating, weight gain—these are all just symptoms to the problem happening on the inside. I believe that problem for most of us is feeling disconnected.
- We feel disconnected from our:
- Values (maybe we’re not clear on what we value most)
- Strengths (our culture tugs at us to focus on our weaknesses and what we don’t have enough of)
- Purpose and potential
- Savior, Jesus Christ, who sealed our worth with His blood
- Heavenly Father, who knows us better than we know ourselves and is patiently waiting for us to accept His help and instruction
- Pride is the number one reason we don’t progress. Pride isn’t just being puffed up, it’s also shrinking. Only when we are divinely centered can we see ourselves with absolute truth and separate our infinite worth from our human shortcomings and behaviors. (Listen to or read the best talk of all time on pride.)
- Whether or not you decide to try a program like this is a decision that should be made between you, your family, and the Lord. I don’t know your heart, your strengths and your weaknesses like He does. I like to believe anyone can have a good experience in these programs like I did, and many do, but my situation was unique to me. I would just counsel you to go in with an open mind, seek the Lord’s guidance anytime you hit a bump in the road, and trust that He will tell you if you should stay, or if it’s time to leave, and what to do next. Don’t rely solely on the opinions of others to make these decisions for you.
- Addict or not, I don’t believe people have to stay in these programs forever. Maybe there’s some truth in “the harder the crime, the longer the time.” If someone’s bad habits with food and the negative self-beliefs that drove them to such extreme behaviors consumed much of their life, it’s only natural to think it would take some time to unlearn those thoughts and behaviors. But here’s what I’ve noticed with time and distance: the program provides accountability, support and tools to develop self-trust, but little education about our food industry or how to grow spiritually beyond the boundaries of the program. I believe this is something I can teach.
May I sponsor you?
I love sharing what I’ve learned on this journey, and if you couldn’t already tell, the answer is YES. I want to sponsor you and anyone who is interested in taking this approach to change through food.
But I’m seeking the Lord’s guidance right now on whether that direction is His will for me.
I know for the immediate future it is not. (Partially because I need some time to write my own curriculum.)
If you have even the slightest interest in working with me at some point in the future, please let me know by commenting below, emailing me and/or subscribing to my email list.
I may reach out with more questions that would allow me to build something specifically for you, but I’ll keep you updated on my plans either way.
Hope this blog post was worthwhile! Thanks for reading all the way to the bottom. ?
Yes! I’d love to work with you and learn from you!
I’d love it, too! I’ll be in touch!
If you become a sponsor, I definitely am interested!
I’d love to sponsor you, Brittnee! Thank you! I’ll definitely keep you posted.
I would be so excited to walk this journey with you. I have been in a program and left with God’s leading but do miss the connection!
Thank you, Catherine! I loved the connection in program, too. Grateful to have common ground with you. And there’s nothing better than to be led by the Lord, right? XOXO
This sounds like exactly what I need and have been looking for!
So glad it’s helpful! Feel free to reach out with any questions.
Once the Lord makes it clear to you that sponsoring is the next step for you. It would be an honor to be sponsored by you. As I have read your posts only since yesterday. My heart like John the Baptist when Mary entered the room and he in Elizabeth’s womb jumped. My heart just jumped at the possibility of hope. Lasting real hope for freedom that I know Jesus gave His life for me to have. I need direction, guidance and clear boundaries. I’ve written down the food plan you’ve used and have begun that. I will be praying for you as you “press in” to the guidance of the Lord for sponsorship and writing curriculum.
Melissa, your note means so much to me! Thank you. I know that the freedom you seek is possible and that the Lord has a plan to get you there. Don’t give up! I am praying continually for guidance on the steps to take toward coaching and will keep you in my prayers as well!
Here’s a spiritual post I just published today that may be some help in the meantime: https://littlemissfearless.com/spoke-in-church-food-journey-how-savior-jesus-christ-helped-me-overcome-bad-habits/
Amanda, thank you so much for sharing! I have been in FA for a few months and also consider leaving but following the same principles. I am glad to have found your page! It is inspiring and definitely provides a bit of relief in the sense that people have done it successfully. You should start sponsoring!
So glad you’re here, Maria! I remember thinking the same thing when I joined the program–“so when do we graduate?” Haha. I am happy to be proof that we can change and grow and learn the right principles to then govern ourselves. I am praying continually for guidance on my dream of coaching/sponsoring someday. Thanks for your encouragement! XO
I would love to learn from you and have you sponsor me. I’m just learning about FA and there are no meetings near me. I’m ready to commit to this new lifestyle!
Thank you so much, Deena! I would love that, too. I’m working with the Lord to create something and will definitely keep you posted! You’ll be in my prayers in the meantime. XO
Can you give out the name of the 12 step program you attended? Did you mention it in a post and I just missed it by chance?
Hi Aarika! It’s the 3rd bullet in this blog post, which includes a few other program options out there: https://littlemissfearless.com/5-programs-for-food-addiction-recovery/.
Feel free to reach out if I can answer more questions!
Another interested person here in having you for a sponsor.
Thank you, Rebecca! That means so much to me. I’m working toward that same goal now and trusting in the Lord’s timing. Will keep you posted!
Out of all the sites and people on the internet, I know I did not find you by accident or coincidence. I believe it would be a divine appointment to work with you.
Have a great day on purpose and thank you for sharing!
Thank you so much, Brenda! I’m working with the Lord to create something. Feel free to sign up for my email list where I’ll share more details when the time comes. XO
I’d love to work with you, if you’re available and willing. Thanks
Thanks so much, Jasmine! I’m working on building a program and would love to work with you. Feel free to sign up for my email list where I’ll share more details when the time comes. XO
Hi, I would love to work with you in the future. This blog was amazing and I’m so encouraged to keep trying . God’s timing is perfect .
Thank you, Patty! Trust His timing. I’m working hard to create something with the Lord. Feel free to sign up for my email list where I’ll share more details when the time comes. XO
I’m interested if u get to the point of sponsoring others
Thank you, Sonja! You’ll be in my heart as I work on creating a program with the Lord this year. Feel free to sign up for my email list where I’ll share more details when the time comes. XO
If you begin to sponsor I’m definitely interested.
Thank you, Liz! I’m working toward that now and would love to have you. Feel free to sign up for my email list where I’ll share more info when the time comes. XO
I really appreciate this article! I did the 12 step program 10 years ago and everything you describe is so on point!!!! I feel like I ended up with more problems then I started with….. I didn’t have the right sponsors and it is so important to know that they’re still in the struggle and they’re not licensed psychologist therapist and they are still in the struggle as well. I would love to restart the program and I would love to connect with you on how to get started and if you can sponsor me I’m good with that thanks again for your article!!!
I would be very interested in learning more!! ❤️
Yes!! Pick me!! I’ve watched you from afar & attended my one & only food addiction meeting well before covid. But I couldn’t commit bc something inside of me told me being in the 12 step program for food addiction wouldn’t work for the rest of my life & I needed more hope to look forward. I finally looked you back up & see that there can be life after the program. I would love to work with you.
Waiting to connect with you!!♥️
Hi amanda! I’ve been reading through your posts. I’d love to have you as a sponsor if you decide to! I love that you have an approachable view that’s not overly rigid. I have worked through the same church twelve step program you have ? and I have lived it, but I have been looking for a way to find actual abstinence and what you described sounds awesome. Thanks!
I would love to work with you if you are willing and feel led to be a sponsor!
Thank you for continuing to share your story. It has inspired me! I had success with no sugar or flour for 6 months, but I couldn’t keep it up. So I would love your coaching!
Adrienne, that’s amazing! Thank you so much for your kind words. I’ll be in touch soon!
I need help and have been praying for a kind, Christian sponsor. You are correct when you say that a sponsor can make or break your experience. I too had a very bad experience with 2 sponsors and, I never went back. I thought my sponsor would be understanding when I had to change my meal plan for the day because my daughter was in the hospital (she has Crohn’s disease and, I am a single mom with no help) but, I got yelled at and, when it happened again, she dropped me. The same happened with my new sponsor. I still need help though and would love to work with you.
Cece, I am so sorry to hear about these unkind responses while you were doing your best under such difficult circumstances. I’ve been thinking about your daughter and a good friend of mine recently wrote a book you may be interested in called Curing Crohn’s. Her story is pretty miraculous and had everything to do with changing what she eats. Here’s a link to her book: https://www.amazon.com/Curing-Crohns-Closet-Addict-Healed/dp/1735419125/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=curing+crohns&qid=1633547337&sr=8-3. You’ll be in my prayers. I’m doing some coaching research and would love your input. I’ll email you with more details! xo
I too was in the exact program as you in 2015. Thankfully, I had a great sponsor but I didn’t continue as I should have. I’m currently thinking of doing the program again and that’s how I came across your website. I would love to be sponsored by someone who has found freedom and is willing to teach people not to be one dimensional but focus on every aspect without being harsh and showing true kindness
Theia, your feedback is invaluable. I’m so glad you had a good experience in the program and I’m still feeling so called to share the spiritual aspect that has helped me find freedom. I’m sharing more info in a blog post this week about my next steps for 2022 and some options that I hope might be worth your consideration. More soon! Xo
“disconnected”. Exactly how I’ve been feeling. I don’t know why, Amanda, I’d love to work with you. I know all of it is about so much more than my diet.
Thank you, Calli! I couldn’t agree more. It’s not about the food! I’ll be sharing a blog post this week with more info on my plans for 2022 and some options that I hope might be a good fit for you. More soon! xo
Yes, please! Your post really resonated with me. Found your blog today.
Hi Lindsay! Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’ll be sharing a blog post this week with more info on my next steps for 2022 and some exciting things that I hope you’ll be interested in. More soon! xo
Hi Amanda. I know it’s been a while sense this was published and am not sure if you are still entertaining the idea of sponsoring women but if so I would be really really interested!
Hi Emily! I’m still here! Thanks for letting me know. I am working on a blog post this week with some of my next steps in 2022 and I hope there will be something you’ll be interested in joining. More soon! XO
Hi, I also was in a food 12 step program and left. Not sure if I miss it, but Iam trying everyday, to build a better relationship with food. I do believe that only my higher power can help me but would like to have someone sponsor me who was in program and understands concept but no longer in program.
Would like to connect.
Thank you for sharing your experience.
Hi! I apologize for the delay. I have been offline most of the year. I’m happy to connect anytime. You can send me a note on my contact page if this is still relevant for you. XO
I’m so glad I found your website. I too was in the 12 step group for food addicts. My life hasn’t been the same since. Unfortunately I have been yo-yo dieting for the last two-and-a-half years and I’m heavier now than I have ever been. I know in my heart that I’m not letting Jesus in to take over but I don’t know how to let go. Anyway I’m sure you’re a very busy lady. I will keep reading on your website but if you’d like to contact me I will leave my information below. Thank you for your website! You have a great perspective.
Thank you, Kelly! The spiritual transformation takes longer than the physical transformation, doesn’t it? You are doing great and I know the Lord is celebrating every good choice and ounce of progress you’re making, no matter how small. I have found His pure doctrine to be the most healing to my soul. This quote has helped direct me so many times and I hope it will do the same for you… “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.” – Boyd K Packer
I feel like I’ve stumbled upon your blog because He is speaking to me, nudging me…
You’re amazing! Hear Him!
Are you still considering sponsoring? If you are, I’d be ever so grateful to have you as mine ☺️
I am definitely interested in any guidance and advice you have to offer to help me on my journey.
I would love to work with you.