Step One...Admit That I Am Powerless Over...

By Pamela Sonnenmoser © 2011
Hello, my name is Pamela and I am addicted to food.

No, seriously, after months of watching for triggers that knock me off track and charting my habits with total honesty, I can honestly say I am addicted to foods that are destructive to my body. It always sounded like insanity when people talked about food addiction. It’s not like being addicted to drugs, tobacco, or alcohol, right? Everyone has to eat, right?

Most experts say that the key to health is to eat a nutritious diet, with a treat that’s not so healthy once in a while. It’s the all-things-in-moderation theory. I know for a fact that works, for some people. However, I have known for years that this methodology does not work for me. I am an all or nothing person when it comes to eating. I can do very well eating healthy, losing weight, staying in the mindset that I will not eat things that are not good for me. That is, until I am in a situation where the only thing available is what is not good for me…or if the thing that is healthy is something I don’t like. Then, I am off and running headlong into a junk food binge. I see it happening; I know what I am doing; I know I should not. I understand the results of the behavior, but I want it so badly at that moment that I begin to justify immediately. I say things like, “Okay, I’ll start again tomorrow.” “I’ll just have one.” “Next time I’ll be more prepared for the limited menu.” On and on it goes, but I don’t stop at one, and sometimes it takes months before my new “start tomorrow” actually happens.

It is like an alcoholic who has been sober for a year, who suddenly finds himself toasting at a wedding, thinking one drink of champagne won’t hurt, then hits the liquor store on the way home and binges on Crown Royal for the next six weeks. Yes, an addiction to food is just like that. At least it is for me.

I began looking back over all of the times I have started to take better care of my health through proper nutrition and exercise and all the times I have failed. I have lost tons of weight over the years, been extremely excited about my progress and completely committed to living the rest of my life with those healthy habits. And then, I take my nephew through a drive through, smell the fragrance of grease, salt and low quality meat…and there I go…I find myself ordering a super-sized value meal, knowing the whole time I don’t need it, and worse than that, I don’t even like it. Yes, that is what made me look more closely at the possibility of an addiction. I don’t like the way most of those foods taste; I don’t like the way they feel in my mouth; I don’t like the guilt I feel after I eat them, yet I am drawn to them in the largest possible packaging. It is truly unexplainable, even to me.

While I was looking at my strange food behaviors, I started to think back to the days when I attended some NA (Narcotics Anonymous) and AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings with a friend to support her in her recovery. I was not addicted to those things, and I truly didn’t understand how they could sit there and say how much drugs or alcohol had ruined their lives, how much damage it had done to their bodies and how much they didn’t even like the taste or the out of control feelings; yet they couldn’t stop going back to it. Why would anyone keep doing something so harmful if they didn’t enjoy every part of the experience?

Looking at my food addiction, I still don’t understand the why, but I do understand the how. I have a lot more research to do into food addiction. I wonder if it has something to do with the preservatives in the foods we eat? I know fast food is loaded with preservatives to give it a longer shelf life. Have you seen those experiments where they take a burger, donut, or similar foods and put them on a shelf for a few weeks? They dry up, get hard, and sit there looking very similar to the way they did when they were fresh. They don’t even mold. One time, I pulled a fast food bag from under the seat of my car. I don’t know how many months it had been there. I am sure I stuffed it there to keep anyone from seeing I had been through the chain’s drive through. I opened it out of curiosity, and there it was: a partially eaten hamburger, still intact. I was shocked. Again, I didn’t give it too much thought until recently. Is it the preservatives I am addicted to? A few weeks ago, as I shoved a guilt ridden, filled sponge cake into my mouth, I thought Wow, this doesn’t even taste good. But I ate it anyway, and then ate the other two that were waiting in the bonus pack. Even typing it now sounds absurd to me. I thought I was insane, but suddenly a light came on, and I realized it must be something in these foods that keeps me coming back, almost mindlessly, to eat them over and over again. If I stay completely away from anything processed or “fast” food, I don’t have the same problem. I can eat things I cook myself in moderation. I can order fresh foods from larger restaurants and be satisfied with a small serving, even taking a to-go box many times. It is only the processed, fast-food products that cause me to fall off the food-wagon.

I made a list of the foods I like the taste of from fast food restaurants.

Berry Smoothie
Apple dippers

But those are not the foods I order. 

Then I made a list of the processed foods I like. Things like processed frozen entrees, boxed dinners and snack cakes.

Hmmm…there was nothing I could put on that list except dark chocolate bars…which are technically not an extremely processed food…and if I eat one, I can eat it over a day, and when it’s gone I don’t NEED another right away. Yet, I purchase and consume other products regularly if I am not forcing myself to avoid them.

Yep…a short list indeed. I honestly don’t like the taste of fast food. But, if I go to a fast food restaurant with a friend, or because it’s more fun for my nieces and nephews to get a toy with their meal, I will order and I will eat it all…even as I am thinking about how much I don’t like the taste. Then, for the next several weeks, I will crave that food, and am likely to make several stops to get it. Unless I absolutely force myself to avoid it, I will not. Once I have not eaten it for a few weeks, I don’t even want it…until the next time circumstances take me there. It is a vicious cycle that looks so much like those I met in NA and AA that I cannot explain it in any way other than to call it an addiction.

I still have a lot of research to do about this issue…but for today, I am taking care of my body. I am choosing to live and not to eat things I know are not good for me. Today I am back to my healthy habits and creating a lifestyle that will help me avoid the triggers of this addiction.

If you are struggling with this too, I invite you to join me in this journey.

Step one: Admit that I am powerless over this addiction.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Pamela Sonnenmoser is a Christian author, international speaker and certified personality trainer. She is the founder and director of Fresh Cup Ministries and Grace & Girlfriends Conferences. Pamela is featured weekly on ABC affiliate KQTV in Northwest Missouri with healthy, delicious recipes from her own kitchen. Pamela’s passion for people is evident in her ministry, and in her life. She lives on a farm near the tiny town of Rushville, MO with her husband of 20 years, John. Visit and    

To purchase any of Pamela's books, visit her bookstore 


  1. Hey Pam there is a good book you might like called "Addiction and Grace" by Gerald G May. Check it out.