I am a garden variety compulsive overeater who has lost about 100 pounds through following the 12 Steps and 9 tools of Overeaters Anonymous. Relapse has been a part of my story, but I haven’t had an eating binge in over 16 years. More amazing to me is the fact that I haven’t wanted or needed to binge in those 16 years. It’s wonderful to wear smaller clothes that fit year after year, but much more important to me is the freedom from gorging on food in secret as quickly as I could, the severe physical discomfort that followed, vows never to binge again, and then as soon as the discomfort eased, starting all over again.
My obsession with food started early in childhood but the weight didn’t pile on until my teens. I tried every remedy I could think of: diet clubs, gyms, fat farms, weight loss doctors, diet pills, fasts, nutritionists, group and individual therapy. Some worked for a short time, but I inevitably returned to compulsive eating, each time bingeing worse than before.
While I was bingeing, my career and personal life suffered. How could I excel at work when I was “hung over” from a huge binge the night before? How could I be a loving family member or friend when I was spending all my energy either fighting food cravings or giving in to them? And romance? I certainly didn’t want a potential romantic partner to see my obese body which I hid in oversized clothing.
My life today is full and spiritual satisfying. I am retired from a successful and fulfilling career. I am blessed with many close friends. I move my body, enjoying walking, dancing, and even going to the gym. I met my amazing husband in OA and had a wonderful, loving 35-year marriage. When he died almost two years ago, I was devastated, but thanks to OA and my Higher Power, never did I turn to eating to deal with the pain. That may be the biggest miracle of all.
“M” – recovering compulsive overeater
From early childhood, I was addicted to sugar. I ate raw sugar and was always looking for money to buy sugar candy and soda. As I got older, I combined eating with drinking alcohol. As a result, I was overweight by 50 to 80 pounds most of my life until I came to OA. I did not realize that eating compulsively was impacting my mood. I went to four or five different therapists. We talked and they told me I was mildly depressed. They never connected my eating and drinking with either my feelings or my behaviors. I no longer could buy my pants at a regular store. I was both glad there was a Big and Tall Store and embarrassed that I needed it because of my weight.
I had lost 80 pounds 3 different times between age 25 and 30. I was very successful at diets, but I always gained the weight back and could not use the same diet successfully twice. I had gained over 80 pounds and knew another diet would not work. I had started to go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for my drinking. I met a woman there who told me about Overeaters Anonymous. I was afraid to go. I thought it might hurt my A.A. program. I asked my A.A. sponsor and he asked me what I had to lose by trying it. When I went to my first meeting, I knew I was home. People there understood me and had the same problems. I was relieved and had hope about my weight for the first time in my adult life.
I have been recovering from compulsive eating through the Twelve Steps for several decades. I am not depressed. I am not addicted to sugar. My weight has stayed stable at about the same weight for two decades and I don’t worry about gaining weight or my clothes not fitting. Emotionally I am able to relate to people at a deeper level and enter into loving relationships with family and friends. Spiritually my faith in a Higher Power grows the more time I devote to prayer and meditation and being of service to others.
To someone thinking of trying OA, I would say what my A.A. sponsor said to me: “What do you have to lose?” If food is making your life messy and at times unbearable, it may be time to try something new. The Twelve Steps are a proven method that millions have used to return to health, joyful living. Why not give OA and the Twelve Steps a try. Like me, many of us think we are different and not that bad. We want to just become a little involved. From my experience and that of others, half-commitments only extends your pain. Join us and give it a try. Come to some meetings, get a temporary sponsor and start learning what life without compulsive eating is like. We are there for you and our recovery depends on sharing our experience with you. Help us and yourself by joining us.
Living Quietly ~ 6.6.2021
This past year I discovered something about myself that has led me to have a quieter, gentler life. My self-righteousness drove many of my decisions to stand at the forefront of making a change in some aspect of the OA program. Whether that change was a decision that was made at World Service, or an idea of something we do in meetings would be “better” done differently, I spoke up, loudly and ego-ly, and put it “out there.” The response I got most frequently was rejection and objection, with a few dissenters, iconoclast, and mavericks, deciding yeah, I had the right idea. How I live today, how I live in meetings and in life, I aim to be quiet, to be one of many. I am an “early adopter”, someone who seeks and finds information before most folks even think there is an issue. That is just the way my brain works, quick and perceptive. Along with my self-righteousness always came rationalizations about why something needed to be done, but ultimately, it was about how something affected me.
Today, I don’t speak up because I’m not impelled from an inner place. I listen and share only when I either have more information, or can say something no one else has mentioned. I don’t have the answers but I am willing to be a vehicle for getting answers. This is so different from my previous stance of “You are going to listen to me because….” I know today that nothing needs to be done in a specific moment, that change is hugely challenging for so many of us, and that when I became just “one of many” my life became a slower, harmonious place in which I dwell.
“S” OA-HOW (Honest, Open-Minded and Willing) 34 years in OA, 2 in HOW abstinence
Food is Now in its Place ~ 5.13.2021
I have been a compulsive overeater all of my life. Even when I was a young child, I over ate and hid my eating of treats. I come from a family that has other compulsive eaters (my mother and my sister) and others with different compulsive behaviors.
As I grew into adulthood, I found that whenever I was experiencing strong emotions (whether happy or sad) or was stressed, I would turn to food. Eventually, I became morbidly obese. I tried all kinds of diets — pay and weigh, programs where the company provides the food, medication, liquid diets, and hypnosis. I eventually got a lap band and lost more than 100 pounds. But, that did not stop my compulsive behaviors. I gained almost 80 of those pounds back. Then I heard about OA.
I had tried everything to lose the weight and keep it off. Nothing had worked. I was miserable and desperate. The doctor who had performed my lap band surgery was recommending another surgery to me. One of the nurses in his office mentioned OA to me.
I came to OA in my mid 50’s in 2014. Since then, I have lost the weight and been able to keep it off. I have lost more than 100 pounds from my all time non-pregnancy high weight. Food is now in its place. I am no longer dominated by thoughts about what I am going to eat and beating myself up over what I have eaten.
Most importantly, I am now present for my loved ones and not hiding myself in the food. I deal with the emotions and the stress of everyday life without turning to food. I am physically able to do things that I could not do 10 years ago. I live each day thankful for OA.
Before I joined, I was concerned that OA was a religious program and that others would proselytize to me. That is not the case. You do not need to believe in God to work the OA program and have success in it.
I am convinced that I would have died from complications from obesity without OA. I am amazed that my body withstood fifty years of abuse due to my overeating. Now, I am grateful that I have quality time to spend with my family and friends.
To newcomers, I say give OA a try!
Grateful for Every Day ~ 5.3.2021
Life before OA was a great deal of discouragement and frustration over not being able to control my weight. I tried diets galore and even Pay and Weigh programs. and was able to lose the weight but was not able to maintain it. I’m sure I figured I just needed more willpower.
I was 12th stepped into OA by a work colleague who had started the program and was eager to share it. She said the best thing for me to do was to go to a meeting because she didn’t know how to explain it. I went and was confused but kept coming back because the people I saw were hopeful and seemed happy to be there.
My life now centers around working the program–the steps, traditions, meetings, and Higher Power plus, of course, the fellowship. Even though I’ve been in program awhile I know the disease of compulsive eating is around the corner ready to take over again. This is a simple program but it’s not easy. We only have to work it one 24-hour period at a time. For example, I only have to be abstinent today–it’s all I have to work with anyway and tomorrow will take care of itself.
For someone new in the program I’d say to just take it easy. There’s no rush. Right now you are on Step One and that’s enough work to admit to oneself the powerlessness over food and owning up to an unmanageable life. Continue to show up for meetings even if you don’t understand. Try to talk to others and ask them how they work their program. Be open. Not everything you hear will apply to you, but you’ll be surprised by how much does.
Today I’ m grateful for a life where food doesn’t control my time, energy and soul. I’ve been able to stay healthy for the most part, do things, travel, and still keep my abstinence. My emotional life is not a series of highs and lows, obsessive thinking, resentment, and anger. I’ve learned how to set boundaries and ask for what I want instead of expecting people to read my mind. One of the things we say is “I came for the vanity but stayed for the sanity.” Most importantly I found a Higher Power who is always there for me and a wonderful fellowship of friends who have enriched my life.
–40 years in program and grateful for every day