Narratives: Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous

May 25, 2012
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Every Monday night from 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous holds an open meeting for those fighting food dependency and addiction at Spaulding Hospital on the 8th floor.

It is the preferred meeting place for many Charlestown residents fighting food addiction.

Meetings are open and free to anyone having trouble with the way they eat, with food disease bulimia. It is 12 step program much like AA and it is for men and women who come to recognize they are addicted to food and in particular sugar and flour.

I recently interviewed three women who are members of Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous. Their individual battles with overeating or with consuming the wrong things in large quantities was an eye opener. Their stories are compelling. These women needed much more than a diet or a simple eating regimen. They needed to stop their overeating, which was killing them physically and mentally, but they needed to do it in such a way that they recognized their food addiction. Each in their own way came to understand that their irrational and unstoppable desire to overeat all the time was, like all addictions, a nasty turning and twisting road with no end. With Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous, they were able to finally and forever kick their addiction to food and to gain control over weight and their bodies. Here are their stories.

Lynn is 53. She entered Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous in 1985, when she weighed 286 pounds. She recalls that time in her life as a period when she was profoundly unhappy with herself and uncomfortable with her body. She had very low self esteem – and nearly everything coming out of her towards others came out in anger and rage. Dieting was not working. “I heard about this program from a friend. I heard hope. I attended a few meetings and I heard that same hope from others at those initial meetings. Having to lose over 100 pounds seemed impossible to me but I heard stories about people who had lost that kind of weight and kept the weight off,” she recalled.

“Today I weigh 137 pounds. I am 5’7’. Since I started I have remained abstinent which is the equivalent of someone staying off of alcohol.

What is the abstinence she is referring to?

“I don’t eat sugar or flour. I don’t eat between meals. I weigh and measure my food. Wherever I am I do the same thing,” she said.

“I was addicted to food. I knew everything good to do but I was way beyond doing it. My cravings couldn’t be stopped,” she added.

“Today, I don’t feel like an addict. I feel good about myself. I’m no longer driven by the food.”

What did she used to eat in large quantities?

“Peanut butter, ice cream and greasy fried foods. I wanted quantities. The bigger I got the larger the quantity I wanted.”

………..

Madeline is 65. She weighs 118 pounds. She is 5’3’  and formerly weighed 280 pounds. “I came in here diagnosed as morbidly obese. I was put on medication for depression. I could lose weight but didn’t know how to keep it off. But along the way, I lost the ability to control my eating – like a drunk, I suffered blackouts from food. I ate enormous amounts of bread, pasta, and cheese. No matter what I ate,  it was never enough,” she said.

“I came to a point where I couldn’t put another bite of food in my mouth 1992,” she said.

“That’s when I began at Food Addicts in Recovery.”

She found comfort there – and more importantly – she found hope.

“I’m a drama queen. Everything for me is about the end of the world. They had a sense of calmness at Food Addicts in Recovery,” she said.

“I went to a meeting every night. I was taught how to cook differently – not the way my mother cooked. I was shown how to weigh and measure my food. I found other options when I cam into this program. I found hope here. I was done dieting. This was my last stop. I don’t know what would have happened without this. I’m not crazy anymore. Piling sugar in my body has the same effect on me as alcohol on an alcohol. Today, I eat only protein, vegetables, grains, salad and fruit. My meal to meal diet is well balanced. I had an unnatural relationship with food especially with sugar and flour, which I no longer eat.”

………..

Lisa is 53. She is 5’5”. She entered the program 8 years ago when she weighed about 150 pounds. She wasn’t morbidly obese but she knew because of her unnatural food cravings that she was addicted. She weighs 125 today but the unnatural cravings are no longer corrupting her everyday existence.

“I certainly would not have described myself as a food addict. I was a smoker. I was a workaholic. I knew that I was intense. I changed jobs and relationships. I liked to move. I felt that was the American way,” she recalled.

“I was addicted to politics. I came to Food Addicts in Recovery by accident. I was having dinner with someone I didn’t know that well. We were at a restaurant. I was a secret eater. You have no idea how I ate. I was also an exerciseaholic. I ate privately without anyone watching. I worked our all the time. Eating-working out, eating again. It was a tiring cycle. You don’t have to be obese. It was all about craving for food. I always needed a fix, so to speak. I didn’t want anyone ever to see me eat,” she added.

She said controlling eating addiction controls all other addictions. “I don’t need flour and sugar anymore,” she added.

“Because I learned how to weigh and measure my food, I am able to get through the day now without having to empty bowls of food or drink.

“My addiction is gone.

“I’m thinking beyond the bite. Slowing down.

“I take my time now. I’m happy where I am.”