Compulsive Eating, Addiction, Support

Since posting those beautiful words from the international program of Overeaters Anonymous, I have learned that there is a subset of OA called OA-HOW. This program offers very strong recommendations for foods to eat and foods to abstain from -recommendations which align strikingly with those of the specific carbohydrate diet used to heal the mental, physical, and emotional symptoms associated with gut and psychology syndrome. The HOW eating plan is modified for each person based on any medical requirements or other needs. Each individual develops their own daily menu based on the recommended foods and amounts, while engaging in specific reflections, writings, and other actions.

When a person starts GAPS’ Intro, I recommend eating very often, and in whatever amounts feels good to the body. Early Intro is an incredibly healing stage, and the body thrives with an infusion of nutrition as it detoxes, adjusts to new fuel sources, and repairs itself. I stand by this.

But if you have been on Full GAPS for over six months, are overeating its carbohydrate options or otherwise eating more than is actually helpful to your body or eating as a result of emotional needs, the OA-HOW program is a solid option for experiencing the benefits of an eating plan suitable for:

  • healing gut and psychology syndrome;
  • learning to moderate your food intake so that you are accessing sufficient nutrition without overeating;
  • returning to a reliance on protein, fat, and non-starchy vegetables rather than starches;
  • exploring triggers for poor eating choices;
  • learning new ways to address triggers; and
  • building friendships with other people eating similarly

…all within the context of donation-based meetings held worldwide live, over the phone, and over the internet!

The world renowned Dr Abram Hoffer treated many people who had been diagnosed with severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia. I was one of these people. His recommendation to me twenty years ago was to avoid sugar, wheat, and anything else I came to learn I was allergic to, while also infusing my body with sufficient nutrition. He was spot on. In an Addictions post on this blog, I learned from Gerald that Dr Hoffer was a great friend of Bill W, co-founder of the original 12-Step program. From Dr Hoffer, Bill W learned about the importance of nutrition in people suffering from compulsive drinking and spent his remaining years advocating this path.

This is all linked. Dr Hoffer and Bill W knew this decades ago. Their wisdom is as fitting now as ever before.

If you feel you need more support to stay on your optimal eating program, I propose that OA-HOW is one excellent option, especially for those interested in simultaneously exploring their psychological and emotional experiences in the context of spirituality (as defined by oneself).

To find an OA HOW meeting, click here then choose OA HOW under ‘Special Topics’.


Have a comment, or a question you would like answered? Post a comment anywhere on this website!

15 Replies to “Compulsive Eating, Addiction, Support”

  1. Hello Baden,

    I have a quick question for you. We have implemented the olive oil in our diet and now I read that it is not uncommon for many companies to add oils such as soybean, canola etc. yet still label their product as 100% olive oil!! Yikes!!! Have you heard of this? Google “is your olive oil 100% pure ? Or something like that and see what you think. I just want to stop consuming olive oil for now until I can find a brand I trust. What about just eating olives instead? Any thoughts? Advice? Brand name suggestions? Or maybe some substitutions for olive oil?

    It’s frustrating how labels can be so evasive or just plain false.
    I recently learned that all almonds labeled organic and raw – legally have to be pastureized first. Either by heat, steam or treated with a chemical. But that fact that they have been pasteurized doesn’t legally have to be mentioned on the label. How can it be organic and raw if the almonds are pasteurized ??? I just ordered some almonds from a farm that are ( hopefully) raw organic and unpasteurized .

    I think false or evasive labeling is such a crime and I just don’t know what to do about it !!!

    Anyway – I have vented enough for now. I am very curious about your thoughts and advice about all of this. I hope all is well in your world. Looking forward to hearing back from you!!


    • Hi dear M,

      Yes, this labelling issue I speak to a bit at two points (almonds and raisins, specifically) within GAPS Guide 2nd Edition.

      It is indeed frustrating and exasperating that legislators try to impose their ideas of “healthy” on those of us whose health was recovered by doing the opposite of their ideas, as well as allow sellers to outright lie. Very discouraging, indeed! The good news is that droves of us are finding successful recovery regardless!

      Personally, I wouldn’t worry about a small amount of additive in something like olive oil. I use any marked “100% olive oil” at any store, though I aim for cold-pressed, virgin, etc. However, if you are concerned, you could look for a brand you think seems close -perhaps from a health food store that vouches for it- then contact the producer to ask if there are any additives.

      Definitely go with the olive oil as opposed to whole olives. The extraction provides much more quantity of what we require than we could manage to get in via whole olives.

      Hope this helps!

      All my best,

  2. My name is Melissa and this is my first time on this forum. I have successfully lost a large amount of weight several times, on my own (which means I’ve also gained back that weight several times). I am about 50lbs down now, but have about 40lbs to go to an ideal weight for my body. As a food addict, I am finding it very difficult to get that last 40lbs off and maintain it.

    I have many digestive problems, and a chronic pain problem for which I am on medication that is causing severe constipation which only exacerbates the digestive problems.

    I am looking to use GAPS (or a modified-for-me version of GAPS) to heal not just my digestion, but my back pain and my addiction as well. I am looking for anyone out there who believes they are a food addict and would like to receive and give more focused, one-on-one support in finally getting clean, abstinent and healthy, and staying that way.

    I would prefer that this person be familiar with one of the following books: How to Make Almost Any Diet Work or Anatomy of a Food Addiction (both by Anne Katherine), but if not, that’s okay. I could share some of the information and exercises suggested in these books as requested. I would like to connect with someone who has done some addiction recovery work already and who genuinely wants to build a new life of recovery. Someone who is doing their own work, but is maybe struggling and could use some support.

    I have done a lot of recovery work, but always and only on my own and I find that what I am doing is no longer working, so I am reaching out for support. I am not interested in any groups or 12 Step programs (please don’t suggest these as I have very personal but very serious reasons for not wanting to participate in these). I am basically looking for a recovery partner who would be willing to commit to short but regular contact, meeting online (or in person if possible) weekly and who can be there by text, phone or email for occasional immediate support in times of crisis or craving. I am willing and eager to offer the same.

    I live in Alberta Canada so I understand I may not find someone with whom I can meet face-to-face and that’s okay. As long as this person is genuinely interested in developing a long-term (thought not necessarily permanent) recovery relationship and would be willing to make themselves available on a daily and “crisis intervention” basis.

    We would work together for as long as it continues to be beneficial for each of us, and should it stop being valuable for either party, we would always be open to discuss discontinuing the arrangement.

    I guess those are my basic requests.

    If anyone is interested, or knows someone who is, please feel free to leave me a comment or contact me at

    Thank you.


  3. Hi Baden,
    I really appreciate all your wisdom and knowledge. I’m in this GAPS fight alone (pretty much) within my community, so it is great to have such a responsive forum to turn to.
    I submitted this question to the GAPS helpdesk as well but you are so prompt at responding, I thought I’d try you as well:
    I started full GAPS in mid-January after a failed attempt at the intro (my tendency is constipation and I quickly became constipated on the intro). Generally, I’ve been doing well, but pretty consistently since last Sunday I have been *very* irregular/borderline constipated. What I do produce has generally been dark, hard, and smelly. I have been doing the dairy introduction and started sour cream this week, but after the symptoms had already started (so it doesn’t seem to have either helped or hurt–I am gradually increasing). My only other suspicions are the fact that I’ve increased the fat so much and so quickly recently in my attempt to increase calories (I’ve lost a lot of weight), and though on GAPS fat is supposed to universally be a good thing, it’s new to my body. Also, per my doctor’s recommendation, I’m up to 2 tsp a day of glutamine (equaling 20mg) and am wondering if that could be a factor.
    Regardless, the question remains, how to safely and effectively get out of this “sluggish gut” rut?! I’m doing pretty much everything GAPS suggests short of enemas (since I *am* going a little bit), including just this morning the addition of Betain HCL, which I am proceeding with *very* cautiously since I tried it once before and it made me feel terrible. I just bought a boat load of veggies and dried fruit this morning, too, which I am craving and am wondering if I am still not getting enough fiber despite a pretty balanced (gaps-style) diet.
    Thank you for your suggestions. I would like to be free of this quickly so that I can re-gain an appetite–I absolutely need to gain weight.

    • Hi dear Erin,

      I’m going to break your questions into parts, to help my responses be clearer.

      1. Weight gain – I hear you that your need to gain weight is strong, real, and possibly even desperate. Considering dietary changes when one is underweight can be terrifying. Also, when a person is underweight before starting GAPS, then starts Intro and loses even more weight, this too can be deeply frightening for them. However, the weight loss generally precedes a good gain to a nice, healthy, strong weight. Hopefully, that’s a comfort to you. However, I understand that even if it is, you still seek a way to gain ASAP. For a lot of people, the quickest, most effective way to GAIN is to first allow the LOSS. In early Intro, the body resets itself on many levels. It’s the re-set that allows the body to finally start functioning properly. Allowing the re-set to occur is what allows the gains to come.

      2. Fat – A fair number of people cannot initially tolerate the intake of fat recommended for GAPS. These people will feel unwell with the fat amounts recommended and must treat fat the same way we all need to treat any “powerful” food (such as kefir or coconut oil). That is, you will start with perhaps a teaspoon per day and work up slowly. Now, doing this in Intro would likely leave you feeling quite hungry. One strategy, then, is this: Forgo Intro for now, stay on Full GAPS without bothering to add any extra fat to meals, start adding a teaspoon of fat per day to your diet, and work your fat intake up slowly. When your comfortable fat intake is substantial, start Intro for its full healing effects.

      3. Glutamine – Unfortunately, I have no information/knowledge about glutamine and whether it may or may not relate to any issue you are experiencing. (I’m not a health practitioner; one might be helpful to you around this question, as may folks on the support lists who have used this supplement.)

      4. Fibre/Constipation – As you know, GAPS does not rely on fibre for bowel movements, but rather on bacteria. This said, GAPS can include a lot of fibre if a person chooses. Early in my first GAPS Intro, I ate an estimated 15 cups of vegetables daily (in the soups), so was not short on that element. GAPS need not be short on fibre in any stage. Have you implemented the other ideas I recommend for constipation, such as apple cider vinegar before meals (also excellent for a gut that feels “sluggish”)? This and many other tips for constipation are set out in GAPS Guide 2nd Edition.

      Erin, before starting, did you:

      a. Read GAPS Guide 2nd Edition cover to cover?
      b. Start with the section Preparing for GAPS, and proceed accordingly?

      I, too, wish to see you feeling great as soon as possible!

      All my best,

  4. Hi Baden, I am so glad I got your book before getting the GAPS book by Dr. Natasha Campbell – McBride. I think my gut is really leaky because there are a lot of vegetables I am still not able to eat. The cruciferous vegetables mostly. I am having a hard time finding any Meat- Beef & Chicken bones never mind organic. Any ideas where I could get some. You mentioned in your book there was an Online Support group. Is this where I am at? I am 59 years old and my immune system is pretty weak. I started seeing a Naturopath who introduced me to the GAPS diet. But they were out to the GAPS book, but had yours. It seems the only veggies I can tolerate are Spinach, carrots, green beans Eggplant and Zucchini. My problem is making them taste different each time I cook. I hope I don’t sound like I am complaining, but I am so frustrated and scared. Scared because I am worried, my gut will never heat. I did make some Vegetable soup and you are right ! Not much taste. I may have put too much Coconut oil in because it also feels kind of greasy. Thanks for listening and Thank you SO much for writing your book. 🙂

    • Hi Maureen,

      Meat bones – Don’t worry about organic. Sources include: your local meat counter, local butchers, whole fish, whole chicken, animal parts such as chicken thighs, etc. Aside from these, you can ask your local whole food store to order in bones. Finally, you can order online -perhaps US Wellness Meats offers some.

      This website/blog is separate from the online support groups. Online support groups are email lists/forums of thousands of other people doing GAPS. You register (free), and watch the many posts come in (or have them come into your email inbox), and you can post questions and thoughts then receive responses. They -and other resources- are listed here:

      It’s quite normal -and totally okay- to tolerate only a few vegetables at this point in your journey. Some people can have no vegetables this early on!

      I do understand your fear and anxiety. However, your gut will heal 🙂 It does take a bit of time at the beginning for the gut to heal and symptoms to disappear.

      For an early GAPS soup, I recommend an animal fat -butter or the fat rendered from roasting a chicken, for example- rather than coconut oil. Coconut oil is fine to experiment with in the “Preparing for GAPS” phase, but you’ll want to be relying on a fat other than coconut oil by the time you move from that phase to Intro (coconut oil is too intense for Intro). Butter and/or animal fat, with plenty of salt, will add a nice flavour to the soups.

      One good trick for giving a limited diet variety is to cook each item separately. So, make an eggplant-and-chicken soup one day (with plenty of animal fat and salt), then a carrot-and-beef soup the next, then a green beans-and-salmon soup the next.

      It is so good to receive your thank you for my work in writing the book -doing so was a very labour intensive and expensive process, and its entire purpose was to make the journey lighter, faster, and easier for you, so your words do me a world of good! Thank you!

      Maureen, feel free to post any additional questions or requests for support here -and/or connect in with the amazing support lists for the same!

      All my best,

      • Thank you so much Baden for the encouragement ! And thanks for all of your suggestions about the meat bones and animal fat. And thanks for the support website. I love the way your wrote your book, the 1st Edition, you wrote as if you were talking right with the person and I was there listening to you. It was/is great ! I refer to it a lot. Thanks SO much for all of your hard work. 🙂

  5. HI Baden,
    Really appreciate this article, being a food addict and suffering from many gut infections (parasites and hpylori as well as candida and lyme)
    I usually lean on the side of constipation but lately have been the complete opposite. I started on the gaps intro 2 weeks ago and not much has changed. (Prior I was eating a moderate Paleo with meats and vegetables(raw and cooked) and fruit(raw). so I have cut out the fruit and am on the intro making soups with cruciferous vegetalbles, zucchini. I am not doing nightshades currently either and some fodmaps like onions aren’t good. I am drinking alot of bone broth.

    I am at a normal weight but gaining weight on this diet. I am having alot of cravings…maybe it is die off? I am also taking probiotics, and taking some fermented cabbage juice. I am eating alot plus still having runs, extreme gas and bloating….I am frustrated and afraid I won’t heal. Any suggestions you have would be appreciated.


    • Dear Heather,

      I apologize for responding so late: My website stopped sending me notifications of comments, so I missed a whole bunch!

      You are well past this stage now, but just in case you’re still curious, or your post rings true for any other reader: Cravings are very normal two weeks in. Weight gain is not as common this early in healing. Normally a person loses weight in the first weeks, and is ravenous. Usually about six weeks in, the appetite settles and the weight stabilizes and starts to rebuild. Early in GAPS Intro, the healing is intense: It asks for a lot of nutrition, and implements a lot of changes in the body. Eating a lot is fine and good.

      Runs, gas, and bloating are another matter: My first intuition around this is that you may have been taking too many probiotics. In GAPS Guide 2nd Edition, I recommend a very, very slow, cautious approach to introducing these. Taking “probiotics and some fermented cabbage juice” two weeks in already sounds like a lot, as at that stage I would normally recommend only a teaspoon of cabbage juice OR 1/10th of capsule (or less) of one of the stronger commercial sources. If you were taking more than either of those, I would guess those to be the issue, and recommend cutting way back (to nothing, then following the guidelines in my book).

      All my best,

  6. Hi Baden,

    Thank you for this opportunity to ask questions. I have just downloaded you book today, but still feel overwhelmed as to what is best for me to do. I’ll try to keep it brief.. Diagnosed with Crohn’s 2004, managed without problems through careful diet (also in OA 12 Step Programme since 2001, abstinent for over 14 years partly through weighing & measuring so I eat sufficient [self-honesty & surrender[). About June 2015 started to not be able to tolerate most foods on my food plan..pulses, grains & olive oil. Have seen a GAPS trained nutritionist & homoeopath & tentatively started making chicken broth. still can’t tolerate any fat, have to strain & filter the broth (now also cook the portioned whole chicken in stock pot for 2 hrs max rather than 4/5 hrs to reduce “glutamides”?) any way, been taking Ox Bile to help with fat absorption, taking Probiotics ( stopped & now on 1 Soil type one a day, also Milk Thistle for de-tox (years of poor eating before OA), but diarrhoea daily. All Drs blood & stool test show normal. Now can hardly tolerate any food. I am too muddled to know what is the Intro diet. For example have stopped all vegetables as too much fibre content for me I think? What can I do to be able to tolerate fat & therefore heal my gut lining. Today I am trying to eat a little & often, only managed breakfast & 12.00 broth. I am down to eating chicken (mainly fillet of breast so not too fatty but introducing a few bits of brown chicken meat dried off between pieces of kitchen roll to reduce fat content. Sorry not to have kept it brief & not to be panicked & muddled. Many thanks for any suggestions. Also got some bleeding due to persistent diarrhoea (only after some of my meals & rarely at other times – off to Drs tomorrow – but don’t want top take any drugs they may prescribe.) Thanks again, I realise I’m asking a lot. All the best to you ….Alex (female 61 yrs).

    • Hi Alex,

      A few thoughts…

      1. Many people heal even without being able to take the broth at the beginning of their program. Other aspects of the program will help your gut lining, too. So, take the form and amount of broth you can, and don’t worry about the amount, even if that’s none or a tiny amount for now.

      2. Yes, it is best if a sensitive person start with “meat broth” vs “bone broth” (for brief info on that, see my book).

      3. You said you are taking “one soil type [probiotic] one a day”. As you will read in my book, one capsule may contain very little probiotic or a tremendous amount. If yours has a lot of probiotic content (live cells), even one capsule may be too much for your sensitive system. For people who are really struggling, I strongly recommend starting out with none, and then introducing a miniscule amount (e.g., a capsule diluted in a cup of water, and then from that, just the amount of water that will sit on the tip of a butter knife). This is detailed in my book, too.

      4. Some people have found medication helpful at the beginning of their healing. You can take prescribed medication and do GAPS at the same time. As your body heals, your doctor will be able to progressively reduce the amount of medication needed.

      What I would do is this:

      1. Definitely continue seeing your health practitioners.

      2. Eat anything and everything you can that is comfortable for you.

      3. Read my book from start to finish, highlighting the information for sensitive systems, Crohn’s, diarrhea, and so on.

      4. Then start your program from the beginning of the book’s instructions Preparing For GAPS. This will allow you to approach each step one at a time. For example, as you go along it will tell you when to start a probiotic, at which point you will review the options and instructions just for that.

      Alex, feel free to write again at any time for further clarification.

      I look forward to your experience of wellness! 🙂


      • Hi Baden,

        Thank you so much for your prompt, helpful and supportive reply. I will read it a few times to take in your suggestions. (Have printed your reply off to refer to).

        Yes, since yesterday the 10th I have stopped all supplements – the Probiotic was one with a lot of live content, ( had tried the Bio Kult one before that & stopped).This along with the Ox Bile I needed to take without the capsule encasing them as they were going through undigested!

        I am on such a limited diet as everything seems to upset my bowels, i.e.. it’s always diarrhoea plus I get stomach squirgles/noises after eating & even after just having a drink of bottled Evian water. Yet I am in no pain or discomfort 🙂
        My limited understanding/opinion of what is going on is that my gut wall is so damaged that any fibre/veg irritates it. Yet not being able to absorb any fat hinders gut wall healing?

        So, I do get negative & obsessed about it. If you don’t mind me going in to such detail, my meals are as follows….

        Chicken 4 oz
        1 mug Chicken Broth approx 300 ml
        Couple slivers of raw organic garlic
        Raw egg yolk.

        That’s it, approx every 2/2.5 hrs I am off work this week so can manage this reasonably well. But have been making lots of broth as having about 6 mugs a day.

        Will also send for a hard copy of your book as well as having the Kindle version.

        Will keep in touch.

        • Hi Alex,

          How are you doing currently?

          Your diet sounds good for that stage. I would recommend two adjustments:

          1. Vary your meat. Besides chicken and chicken broth, try salmon and salmon broth, beef and beef broth, etc.
          2. Stop the garlic. Garlic is a strong and effective anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. While a healthy and wonderful food generally, its effects can be too much for a struggling body early in healing.

          Yes, fat helps the body heal, but if you cannot yet absorb fat, that’s really fine. Your body will heal via the other things you’re doing, and will eventually be able to incorporate fat as well. Plenty of people have healed through GAPS without being able to take fat at the beginning.


  7. Hi Baden,

    Thank you for your reply & suggestions, they really do help me.

    I am still up & down emotionally, as I am now just eating 5 small meals of 4 oz of chicken breast fillet daily. Basically I ended up with diarrhoea again & put it down to too much broth & too many raw yolks, the diarrhoea stopped immediately but, I haven’t had a bowel movement now since Wed 13th late afternoon, it is now late Sat pm 16th. While I don’t feel constipated this is so unlike me & the Dr. Is waiting for a stool sample to send for test! (Where has all this food gone inside me?!).

    I had stopped the garlic, great minds think alike. I can get a sense about some foods to avoid, but as to what my body really wants to eat I haven’t a clue. Lost the ability for that years ago when the eating dis-order kicked in.

    Today I have re-introduced to 2 of the 5 small meals a teaspoon of raw yolk & a couple of tablespoons of chicken broth to see if this will help me to be able to go to the bathroom! I am still losing weight which is a concern as far as my eating dis-order goes & my Dr. Is shocked by my weight loss. I know I will be able to put it back on when I am able to eat more/have more variety. I will try other proteins as you suggest but not just yet – it’s years since I cooked fish or beef, just a bit scared of getting the amounts right & how to cook them as daft as that may seem!

    Have started to have de-tox baths, again not every night – feel I need to make all changes slowly even though I thinkl I am running out of time.

    Despite my negativity, I am inspired by your recovery & also by your clarity when replying to someone like me!!

    Again Baden, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my queries.


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