naming the beast

Tonight, without any planning, mainly on a whim, I went to an OA meeting. My first in close to a year. Hopefully the first of regular attendance once again (2.5 years since I attended regularly).

Two other people were there, regulars who basically carried on a conversation the whole time about OA and working the program and food addiction and compulsive overeating. I listened. I ate it up. It was so good to be in that environment again.

One thing they brought up is how compulsive eating stems out of stuffing emotions. Something I agree with, for myself. I feel, so I eat. Emotion rears it’s head, good or bad, and I eat. 

Happy, eat. Sad, eat. Angry, eat. Lonely, eat. Eat, eat, eat.

Then they said something that struck home. Identify the emotion, “name the beast.” 



Give it a name.

What a novel concept. What a simple and obvious solution. Naming it identifies it. Identifying it familiarizes it. Familiarizing it shrinks it down to size (kind of like those cartoons that show a huge shadow creeping up on someone, and it turns out the shadow is coming from a mouse).

Naming an emotion strips it of its power.

It’s like in Harry Potter where people fear “He Who Must Not Be Named.” Not naming Voldemort gives him power, it makes him larger than he is. It surrounds him in a mystical, mysterious air of invincibility; something he doesn’t really have.

Emotion is no different. If I can name anger, fear, loneliness – take your pick of emotions – I have a starting place and can work backwards and identify where it’s coming from and what it’s doing in me. 

Once I know those things, I can disarm my desire to binge, to stuff my feelings with food.

Practical application:

  • before any food or drink passes my lips, STOP
  • connect with my higher power, quiet my mind, and examine the what and why (am I genuinely hungry or eating for some other reason?)
  • breathe a prayer of gratitude for the meal before consuming
  • if another reason than genuine hunger is driving me to eat, pray for strength, for guidance, for help

So there’s a rough plan of attack for addressing an impending binge. Name the beast.


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