What is SOS
Organization from Europe
Your Sobriety Toolkit
Europe Tool box
First 30 Days
SOS Dallas Guide to Starting a Meeting
SOS Behind Bars Guide to Starting a Meeting
Europe How to Start a Meeting
SOS Dallas Opening Meeting
An SOS Approach to eating Disorders
Guide Book for Group Leaders
Behind Bars Posts
Family & Friends
SOS Conference 2000
SOS -AA From SOS Europe
SOS-AA as One Member Sees it
Discussion__ on 12 Steps
Why 12 Steps Work for Some People
Could Your Group be a Cult?
Chartered or Shackled
Scientific & Medical Articles
SOS Links Print Out
Real Time Chat
Most people think of SOS as a secular
organization for alcoholics. I am a compulsive overeater and have
struggled with a severe weight problem most of my adult life. Yet I have
used SOS principles and gone from 196 to 110 pounds in 18 months. Even
more importantly, I've maintained my current weight for a year.
My problems with food started early. For as long as I can remember, it
has been a magical source of comfort and enjoyment for me. As a child, I
eagerly anticipated meats with my favorite dishes, and while eating,
felt transported into a private, wondrous realm. Food gave me a high,
and I turned to it in response to nearly every strong emotion. I ate to
relieve tension, anger, and depression, as well as to celebrate and even
just to break the boredom. Though I overate as a child, I did not
develop a weight problem until adolescence, when I gained many pounds in
a few years.
In college, I went on serious eating binges where I quickly stuffed
myself with junk food. I swung between binge periods and months of
strict dieting, entering the classic weight-loss yo-yo. I would lose
some weight, then put it all back on and gain even more, then shed
further pounds, then regain them. In the five years before joining SOS,
I had yo-yoed up to almost 200 pounds-quite obese for a 5'2" woman.
I felt horribly disgusted with myself for being so fat, but I was even
more frightened by feeling that I was completely out of control. I felt
I could not stop. eating until I was totally stuffed. I often could not
fall asleep unless I had binged before going to bed and was nearly sick
to my stomach.! was going to great lengths to hide my binges from my
family and friends. I often bought bags full of drive-in fast foods and
binged on them in the car. I then threw away the wrappers and
frantically tried to air out the car so my husband wouldn't discover
what I'd done.
My 12-Step Experience
Before SOS, I had achieved my most sustained weight loss in a 12-step
program for overeaters. The program exhilarated me at first. I loved the
group support. For the first time in my life, I was talking with people
who had done the same crazy things with food that I had. It helped
relieve the shame and isolation. I also found that calling group members
when things got bad was very helpful.
However, because I never believed in a higher power who could take
responsibility for my recovery, I grew more and more disenchanted with
the 12-step approach. Yet I was always too frightened to voice my true
feelings, especially when members told me that doubting the higher power
showed vanity, ego, and denial of my problem. I often heard that it
wasn't enough to eat sensibly, lose weight, and rely on group support.
If I didn't somehow complete this mysterious journey through the 12
steps, I would return to overeating. Because I was both frightened and
grateful1 I tried to play along, but after a while, I began to feel
fraudulent and ashamed. I also wearied of the mental calisthenics of
translating 12-step jargon into concepts that I could accept.
Eventually, I stopped attending O.A. meetings and regained all the
weight I had lost.
When I heard about SOS over two years ago, I was desperate. The 12-step
program had aided me temporarily, but I could not imagine pretending
again that a spiritual approach would lead me to recovery. Yet I knew I
needed help. I attended a Los Angeles SOS meeting, and though the other
members were primarily alcoholics or drug abusers, they said a lot that
SOS for Overeaters
Since then, I've used many SOS principles in my own recovery (adjusting
them here and there to address the differences between alcohol and food
problems). For example, I believe that I must acknowledge that I am a
compulsive overeater. I must accept the fact that I have a food problem
- whether genetic, physical, psychological, or some mixture of all of
them - and I must change my eating and lifestyle to keep myself from
bingeing, weight gain, and poor health.
Through hard experience, I've come to believe that my overeating could
threaten my life. I could slowly kill myself with health problems from
the yo-yoing weight gain and pernicious junk-food diet of compulsive
I also separate my eating and behavior program -- my "abstinence"-- from
all other issues in my life. I don't use food to deal with my emotions,
and I don't use problems as an excuse for overeating.
I've also found that the SOS emphasis on rational, critical thinking,
and individual responsibility is especially helpful for overeaters.
Overeaters have a different relation to food than alcoholics do to
alcohol. Alcoholics must make One Big Decision -- not to drink. But
overeaters, like everyone else, must eat to survive. At least three or
four times everyday, we must make decisions about food, and we must
choose when, where, what, and how much to eat. It is therefore crucial
that overeaters learn sound, responsible decision-making. Surrendering
these choices to a higher power may be one of the worst things an
overeater can do.
Instead, to create my program of recovery, I critically assessed the
different approaches to nutrition and behavior modification. I also
looked to my own experience. Overeaters are diverse. For instance, we
often have trouble with different kinds of foods. I usually binged on
greasy, fried food, but others may tend to sugary foods or foods with
white flour. Given the complexities of the situation and the puzzles of
human metabolism, one person's ideal program may be another's iron
I developed an approach that has succeeded for me. It involves: . A low
fat, high complex carbohydrate diet. . Avoidance of foods that triggered
binges in the past. . Behavioral techniques that help me recognize when
I have just satisfied my physiological hunger, and when my desire to eat
is emotional rather than physical. . Planning ahead, so I have time to
prepare meals that fit in with my food program. . Weighing and measuring
my food occasionally, so I know how much I'm eating. . Exercise. Bike
riding, jogging, and weight lifting have been crucial to my recovery.
They not only burn calories, but kilt appetite. They also vaporize the
tensions than can cause binges in the first place.
My program is not "the program". That program does not exist. But the
SOS approach is highly favorable for overeaters to fashion the program
that suits them.
Using the SOS Meeting
I would make the following suggestions for people with food problems -
overeaters as well as bulimics, anorexics, and others - who wish either
to attend SOS meetings with alcoholics and other drug abusers or to
Create your own food and behavior modification program -- your own
abstinence -- but don't impose it on others. Consistent with the SOS
emphasis on individual responsibility for recovery, group members should
retain responsibility for decisions about their abstinence. Too many
times we've been subjected to rigid, prefabricated diets that ignored
our individuality, then been made to feel guilty because and humiliated
if we couldn't stick to them. Therefore, there should be no uniform SOS
food or behavior program no "official" SOS diet. Instead, SOS meetings
can be a forum where individuals with food problems share their
experiences about what works for them, and discuss nutrition and eating
behavior rationally and critically.
Start simply. Part of the appeal of a rigid program is that beginners
can start at once. The drawback is that they can't progress. Since the
SOS approach lacks hard structure, newcomers may have difficulty getting
started. Some may feel they require a preset pattern. These individuals
can consult a doctor or nutrition specialist, or adopt some food program
that has worked for them in the past. But others may simply feel
overwhelmed by the responsibility for making massive and complex changes
in their eating and behavior. These people can begin with simple
changes. A newcomer could decide to stop eating while watching
television, or between meals, or in the car. He or she could swear off
two or three foods that have triggered binges. Once started, the
newcomer can set a time - one month, two months - and at the end of it,
evaluate the effect of the changes and the desirability of further ones.
This reassessment should continue periodically, until the newcomer
develops and fine-tunes a working personal program.
Take advantage of the group support of alcoholics and other drug abusers
at SOS meetings. Despite the different problems, I strongly believe that
people with food problems can benefit from these meetings. I was very
fortunate to be warmly welcomed at the Los Angeles meetings I first
attended, though for a long time I was the only overeater present. I
found discussions on the difficulties of facing life without relying on
my drug of choice to be particularly helpful and I very much empathized
with other people's struggle for recovery.
In areas with too few people for food-oriented SOS meetings, it is
especially important that existing SOS meetings permit overeaters to
attend. Many overeaters are desperate for secular group support, yet
either lack the resources for commercial weight loss programs or dislike
their rigid diets. SOS can help these individuals, and the lack of
overeater SOS meetings need not prevent them from obtaining the support
Since I began a secular approach to recovery, my life has improved
dramatically. I've lost 86 pounds and dropped down through eight dress
sizes. I can now enjoy many kinds of physical activity. Small changes
continue to excite and amaze me. My car doesn't always smell like food.
I can actually stop when I've eaten enough, and leave food on my plate.
In the morning, I don't feel the bizarre mixture of nausea and intense
hunger that comes from bingeing the night before. I've been able to
maintain my self-respect and intellectual honesty throughout my
recovery. I haven't had to surrender my rational, critical faculties to
deal with my eating problems. Instead I've used them as allies. For me,
it's been indispensable.
This article is
reprinted with permission of
THE SOS INTERNATIONAL NEWSLETTER
A quarterly review which informs you of what's happening with SOS in
other parts of the world, plus articles on recovery, relapse prevention,
essays on sobriety, and new research into alcoholism and addiction, and
Subscription rates - 1 year- $18, 2 years -$32, 3 years -$45.
Available from SOS, Box 5, Buffalo, NY 14215-0005
SOS Sobriety :
"The Proven Alternative to 12-Step Programes"
All available for $15.95(plus $2.00 postage and handling) each from
SOS, Box 5, Buffalo, NY 14215.