I Lost It! – 'I am a food addict!'
Editor's note: Members of Overeaters Anonymous are just that – anonymous – so we have agreed to this reader's request to share her story without using her name or showing her face.
Anonymous, 71, Tampa
STARTING WEIGHT: 337
CURRENT WEIGHT: 143
WHY I DID IT: Other people left food on their plate. I didn't. Other people seemed to have enough. I didn't. In early adulthood and after the birth of my three children, overeating became a way of life. When my babies had a feeding, I had a feeding. I began eating entire boxes, sleeves and bags of food and there never seemed to be enough. I began hiding food and eating in secret. I lost and regained hundreds of pounds.
In 2002, when I was at my all-time highest weight of 337, I was scheduled for gastric bypass surgery, but pre-surgery tests revealed I had blockages in five arteries. So instead, I had quadruple coronary bypass surgery. After extended stays in three different hospitals and many serious post-op complications exacerbated by weight and health issues, I attended a cardiac rehab and weight loss program. By 2005 I had taken off another 130 pounds. Two years later, my weight was up to 286 and I knew I was on my way back to 337. More importantly, I had become aware that I could no longer take my then 2½-year-old granddaughter to the zoo and know that she would be safe in my care. That was more than I could bear. During that same time, I happened upon a definition of addiction that read: “Addiction is a chronic, progressive, relapsing disease that is treatable but not curable and it is fatal.” Suddenly, a light came on. I am an addict! I am a food addict! That definition fits me to a T.
HOW I DID IT: I had known about 12 step programs for many years, and I had gone to a few meetings of Overeaters Anonymous. But what I wanted then was a magic wand, a quick fix. In April 2007 I went to an OA meeting ready and willing to do what others before me had done and what I had never done before: maintain a healthy weight.
Overeaters Anonymous is for anyone who has any problem with food. OA is a spiritual program based on “The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous,” and it includes nine tools to help members work the steps. One of the nine tools is a plan of eating. There is no single plan that works for everybody, and members are encouraged to work with a dietician and/or physician to choose a plan that works. My food plan consists of four weighed and measured meals with nothing in between -- no BLTs (bites, licks or tastes). I have identified the foods that are triggers for me and I abstain from them, one day at a time. Without my abstinence, I will not have a life. Of that I am certain.
HURDLES: Early in my recovery I had to make a conscious effort to plan and prepare ahead. I shop with a grocery list and I stick to my list. I have learned to shop the perimeter of grocery stores and avoid those aisles that contain my trigger foods. I prepare and weigh and measure my food in advance. When it is time for a meal, it is important for me that my food is ready to fix and eat without a lot of fuss.
I dine out often, and I have practiced “eyeballing” portions. I try to check the menu online, so I don't even have to look at a menu in the restaurant and I am not tempted. When I am invited to a friend or family member's home, I usually ask what they are planning to serve. When uncertain, I bring my own food as a backup.
GOING THE DISTANCE: OA offers a proven, workable method by which I can arrest my illness and maintain a healthy weight.
I have been abstinent from my binge foods for about six years. In December 2008, I reached what my doctors told me was a healthy weight and I have been maintaining ever since. I am no longer a diabetic and my heart health is excellent. I still have full use of my joints. I am grateful for my 17 years of somewhat sporadic attendance at low impact water aerobics classes and for the support of instructors and friends there.
I am not done. One day at a time, I use OA's tools to help me live and work the program principles. Sponsorship is another valuable tool for me. My sponsor and I have a very close relationship; I speak to her every morning. I read our literature on an almost daily basis and I regularly attend at least three different meetings a week.
I can never express enough gratitude for the solution offered by OA, and for the acceptance, support, love and encouragement of my family and friends throughout the ins and outs and ups and downs of my life
BEST ADVICE: Easy does it -- but do it. As is my life today, the OA program is about “progress not perfection.”
I Lost It is a regular feature highlighting individual weight loss success stories and does not reflect the opinions of 4you, which encourages you to work with a physician or a nutritionist before embarking on a diet. To share your story, visit TBO.com, search Lost It; or email email@example.com; or mail to 4you, The Tampa Tribune, 200 S. Parker St., Tampa FL 33606.