Making Appropriate Choices

by Kay Sheppard, LMHC, CEDS

Recovery is a choice; no other person can do it for us or to us. The foundation of recovery from food addiction is built on making appropriate food choices on a daily basis. Since we have to eat everyday, we have an ongoing need to check the contents of the food that we eat with the goal to use only food that is free of sugar, flour, wheat and other identified trigger foods. This constitutes our personal commitment to recovery and can be achieved by planning, reading labels, and asking questions.

The result of good choices is a body free of all substances which will trigger an addictive response. Recovery is a continual effort. In order to ensure ongoing recovery it is essential to identify all substances which will trigger the disease process. Food addiction is a progressive disease, therefore the identification of appropriate and effective food choices is highly subjective and perpetual — it is a lifetime endeavor. As the disease progresses it is likely that we become more carbohydrate sensitive, not less. It is for this reason that food choices must be reviewed for current appropriateness. All food plans are guidelines to physical recovery. Not only do our bodies change, but manufacturers change recipes and ingredients. Checking for these factors by examining labels is quality control for the food addict.


Abstinence is the foundation of recovery upon which a successful life is built. Abstinence is freedom from all types and amounts of food substances which will trigger the disease of food addiction at the physiological level.

Abstinence is achieved by the elimination of compulsive eating, overeating (volume eating), undereating, addictive eating and substances which will trigger an addictive response, including:

  • Sugar (all forms)
  • Alcoholic Beverages and Extracts
  • Wheat (including refined and unrefined types)
  • Flour (including whole grain)
  • High Fat Foods (including fried food, nuts, snack foods, foods
  • naturally high in animal fat)
  • Highly Refined and Processed Carbohydrate Foods
  • Personal Trigger Foods
  • Chocolate
  • Dried Fruit
  • Specific fruits including bananas, cherries, grapes and exotic fruit

Abstinence is planning what to eat and eating what is planned.

An abstinence-based plan which is appropriate for the most carbohydrate sensitiveindividuals is:

  1. Four weighed, measured and scheduled meals a day.
  2. Meals which are free from all types and quantities of food that trigger an addictive response.
  3. Nothing in between meals but zero calorie, zero carbohydrate drinks.

Ways to Achieve Abstinence

Some ideas that will help you maintain physical recovery based on most frequently asked questions include:

Order food in restaurants without sauces or dressing of any kind. Ask for dry broiled meat or fish, plain oil and vinegar for salad (no croutons), and plain baked potato for risk-free restaurant eating! Give clear directions and expect to be served exactly that which you ordered. Send it back if it is not to your specifications. It is not necessary to be disagreeable, just be firm and assertive. Better yet, do it with humor!

Don’t assume that because the product you have at home is appropriate for recovery, that the restaurant version is acceptable. Ask to read the label or order simple food which cannot contain hidden ingredients. Be careful of any dishes which contain a mixture of ingredients. It is impossible without seeing the recipe to determine if these products are suitable for recovering food addicts. The safest decision is to never eat anything another person has mixed up unless you know the recipe for all of the elements of the dish.

Your body will notice if you eat an addictive substance and will react in an addictive manner.

Abstain from artificial sweeteners in packets (pink, blue, yellow); the first ingredient is dextrose which is a nutritive sweetener. For many years sweetener in the packets was non-nutritive and these products were useful for recovering food addicts. When dextrose was added, they became unacceptable for our needs.

Forget the so called ‘sugar-free’ frozen yogurts, flavored gelatin mixes and desserts. None of them is truly sugar-free since they contain polydextrose, and maltodextrose and other forms of nutritive sweetener which will trigger the disease.

Make ‘Zero Sugar’ your goal. Work toward eliminating ALL forms of sugar, including sugar in salad dressing and any other product you may be using.