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Getting Clear on What We Want Abstinence to Do for Us

It’s always easiest for me to undertake something difficult if I know what I want to accomplish. When I’m vague about where I want to go, I have more trouble really committing. Many people, especially women, come into food recovery wanting to lose weight. They’re tired of carrying the extra pounds, they’re concerned for their health, and they want to look better.

If weight loss is your goal, you don’t need abstinence. All you need is to under-eat, that is, consume fewer calories than your body needs to maintain the weight you have. Almost any diet that restricts food intake will help you lose weight. And as long as you continue to under-eat or eat exactly (usually through trial and error) what your body needs each day, you will stay in a right-sized body.

Abstinence is for something else. Abstinence is a treatment for addiction to food, for those of us who can’t under-eat or eat appropriate portions of healthy foods. It’s for those of us who binge on sugar and flour and fat or salt and fat. It’s for those of us who sneak food, hide food, lie about food. It’s for those of who can’t keep ourselves from eating foods that make us sick or make us miserable.
I had to get clear on what I wanted from abstinence—freedom from obsession with food and the guilt and self-loathing that went with it—before I could embrace it.

What do you want abstinence to do for you?