HOW TO DEVELOP EAT A HEALTHY BALANCED FOOD PLAN
Please note: This is not to be considered medical advice. I am merely passing on information that I have accumulated over the years. Everyone is unique and has their own personal experience. For any questions or concerns, I recommend consulting your health care provider. So, I am posting this information for educational purposes only.
I am posting here one way of creating an abstinent plan of eating, We all need to eat a healthy balanced diet, consume appropriate amounts, eat healthy, good real food and engage in moderate amounts of exercise. Intellectually, anyone can learn about how to eat a healthy balanced diet. However, until I joined program, I was never able to follow any diet, on my own. Gradually, over time, I lost my ability to follow “a diet.” I would start out every morning, “today is the day.” Then, sooner or later, and usually it was sooner, I would break “my diet.” All would be well, except it really isn’t normal to be a size 20.
In my experience, recovery from compulsive eating/food behaviors must be done in conjunction with a sponsor and by practicing all of the tools, daily. Program is not supportive dieting club.
Assuming we are basically healthy, we all must get to the place where we recognize that our problem is not the food. It is not about finding the “right diet.” Our problem is our relationship with food and ultimately, life itself.
In essence: “it is not what we are eating, it is what is eating us.”
So, if you are truly a COE/food addict, I strongly suggest that that you do not attempt to use this food plan without a personal sponsor who has experience following a food plan and working a 12 step program for compulsive overeating/food addiction.
As we say in the rooms: “This is a WE program, not a ME program.”
Food Plans and Recovery
The goal of this post is to demystify how to surrender to a food plan and work this program, one day at a time. As food addicts and compulsive overeaters, it is very important that we have a precise and honest plan of eating.
The 12 step community for compulsive eating and food behaviors has – not unexpectedly — a very conflicted and troublesome relationship with food and what constitutes a food plan.
Food Addiction/Compulsive Eating is a difficult addiction to identify and address. Addiction in general, and food addiction in particular is a disease of denial. This is one of the few conditions that a person has to diagnose themselves.
In addition, I also find that this is a disease of control. Unless you are willing to surrender to a food plan, and admit that you are powerless over your behaviors around food, you will resist and refuse to submit to a food plan.
Another issue is that I find that I can only help people in this area if their disease is similar to mine. When I have sponsored anorexics or bulimics, it has always been a disaster. I believe that the dynamics of each eating disorder are slightly different. And, this is a peer led model of recovery. We can only share our personal story and our experience strength and hope based on our own journey.
One definition of abstinence is “the action of refraining from compulsive eating and compulsive food behaviours while working towards or maintaining a healthy body weight.”
True abstinence, however, is so much more than following our food plan. After all, this program is not a supportive dieting club. We are seeking a spiritual transformation which is the byproduct of practicing physical abstinence, self-examination, prayer and meditation and living according to the principles of the program in all our affairs, one day at a time.
A plan of eating is only one of many other tools that we need to use in order to abstain from compulsive eating. It guides our dietary decisions, and defines what, when, how, where and why we eat.
Here are my general rules for surrendering to a food plan, and working a plan of recovery:
For someone who is a compulsive over-eater/food addict, I believe that healthy eating includes:
- Balancing intake in all food groups
- NO flours, refined flours, wheat, or refined sugars.
- Eat only whole grains
- NO natural or artificial sweeteners
- If you are sensitive to caffeine: NO caffeine.
- NO alcohol
- ABSTAINING from any trigger foods or behaviors
When I first began program, I was told:
- Use a digital scale and a notebook.
- Allow 4-6 hours between each meal.
- Each meal should last no more than 1.5 hours.
- Weigh all food and liquids precisely.
- When in doubt, leave it out.
- Write down and commit your food plan daily
- Do not skip any meals.
- Weigh yourself only once a month.
- Avoid your individual binge foods.
- Call before you take that first bite.
How To Determine Your Trigger Foods:
How To Lose Weight
The first step is to determine: What is a healthy body weight, for my height, gender and build?
Then, the next question is: how much do I need to eat to lose weight at a healthy rate?
Once we have reached goal weight, the question is: how much do I need to eat to maintain my weight, given my age, height, and level of activity?
There are mathematical formulas that one can use to calculate the above information. However, I find that the simplest thing to do is to go to this website, put in the necessary information and follow the responses generated.
If however, you would like to know how to do it the old fashioned way, this document, Healthy Eating A Practical Guide is the document which I used to create the charts below. It also describes how to calculate the above information. (I originally only linked to the original site which is at Concordia University. Since the Canadian Food Guide has changed, that document is no longer available. The original link is posted below, in the hope that it will be fixed.)
Creating A Food Plan: Servings Sizes and Food Exchanges
The original exchange plan was developed for diabetics, and is used by many weight loss programs. I find it to be the easiest and healthiest food plan method to use. It is based on individual food categories, which include Grain/Starch, Protein, Fruit, Vegetables, Milk, Fat and Other Carbohydrates (includes sweets and alcohol). Within each category, one may substitute or exchange one portion of food for another.
Using this method, one can create an individualized food plan to accommodate one’s specific needs and lifestyle. Menu planning is flexible, easy and still nutritious.
In order to develop a balanced plan of eating, I adapted the Canadian Food Guide according to total calories per day and created what I consider to be a less confusing method of calculating food exchanges.
The serving sizes and food exchanges chart below are adapted from this document and from a site from fairview.org. Unfortunately, the original link is no longer available. I just found a new site that also outlines how to eat a healthy balanced diet using the food exchange method.
Once you know approximately how many calories you need to eat in order to lose weight safely and/or maintain your weight, look at the amount of servings that you require and go from there.
In order to maintain one’s abstinence, it is highly recommended that your food plan incorporate green light foods, omit red light foods, and only carefully permit yellow light foods.
As mentioned above, the information posted here is for educational purposes only. Everyone is unique and has their own personal experience. It is not to be considered medical advice. For any questions or concerns, please consult your health care provider.
I hope that this information is helpful!
Other Practical Information
I thought I would share on the blog how I measure my food portions:
Protein portion measurements:
4 oz meat/chicken/fish = 6 oz beans (including tofu) = 2 oz hard cheese = 2 oz nuts = 2 eggs = 8 oz milk or yogurt = 4 oz cottage cheese or farmer cheese
2 oz dried fruit = 6 oz fruit
I also use the following guidelines for portion guidelines:
1 oz uncooked grain = 4 oz cooked grain
For dry or uncooked protein:
1.5 oz raw beans = 6 oz cooked
5 oz raw chicken or meat = 4 oz cooked meat/chicken
1/2 oz nuts = 1 fat = 1/2 oz fat
10 oz. raw veggies = 8 oz cooked veggies
I know we are not a diet and calories club, but I did calculate the calories per ounce of various food groups.
These are average measures. I will try to attach more specific measures for those who might be interested in a future post.
Fruit: 16 Calories per oz
Animal protein: 50
This is one of my older food plans:
This is a link to the original Weight Watchers Diet from the 1970’s.
Here is a link to the weight watcher exchange booklet from the 1970s & 1980s. The link is to a google drive which it not always accessible. It came from this site. The author of the site provides a lot of valuable information on the original Weight Watchers Diet, which used the exchange plan. I personally think that it is a simple and very effective “diet.” The problem is, if you are a food addict, certain foods, which are permitted on this food plan can be triggers and set off a craving. That is why a 12 Step program for compulsive eaters/food addicts is not a supportive dieting club.
Here is a link to the OA Dignity Of Choice Food Plans. OA no longer recommends a particular food plan. Since doing the research for this page, I understand why. The politics surrounding all the various food plans is intense and frequently confusing.
Here is a great link to FAA’s food plan. I highly recommend that you go to this site if you would like to know more about their food plan and how they work their program of recovery.
Full of Faith is a Christian 12 Step recovery group. Here is a link to their food plan.
Hopefully, you have begun to notice the similarities between all of the various food plans. This is because, although it starts with the food, our problem is really not the food. A plan of eating is just one of the tools necessary to recover from compulsive overeating/food addiction.
For professional help, one of my favorite sites is foodaddiction.com. Please go to their site and check them out.
Some people also find it beneficial to go to a nutritionist rather than follow a food plan given to them by a sponsor. However, if you go to a nutritionist, I suggest that you go to one who is familiar with food addiction.
This is the most comprehensive article that I have found on creating a food plan for weight loss.
Here is a link to the DASH diet, which I consider to be one of the healthiest, with each food exchange adjusted for various calorie levels.
As with everything, take what you want and leave the rest behind.
In love and service,
References: Unfortunately, many of the original links are no longer active. Although I used many more resources, in the interest of “keeping it simple,” the inactive links have been removed. Since I wrote this, the Canadian Food Guide and the US Food Guide were also changed. The above information does not reflect the new changes.
Disclaimer: This is not to be considered medical advice. I am merely passing on information that I have accumulated over the years. Everyone is unique and has their own personal experience. For any questions or concerns, I recommend consulting your health care provider.