I was the youngest of 4 children and grew up in an upper middle class home. My physical needs were met. My father’s drinking bothered me and I felt the tension in my home. My mother would criticize my dad and try to control his behavior. My two oldest siblings went to college by the time I was 5 years old and my brother who was 6 years older than me made fun of my weight.I felt shame about my body and my appearance. I had curly hair and was chubby. I snuck food. One particularly shameful memory was biting into salami that was in the refrigerator and hearing my brother coming down the stairs. I hid in the canned good cabinet and my brother found me with the salami and brought me to my parents.
When I was 12 years old, I decided to take control of my weight and appearance. I created a strict diet-using a calorie book, and limited my intake severely and kept track of everything I ate and its calories, and I created and followed a rigorous exercise regime. I remember losing 10 pounds in a short period of time and I was off and running. In high school, I was on a drill team and we got weighed weekly. I prided myself on maintaining a low weight.
In 1st year college, I gained the traditional 10-15 pounds, and from my roommate learned about Bulimia, which at the time I thought was a very good solution. But it didn’t last long because I hated throwing up. It did reemerge 4-5 years later when my boyfriend at the time did it and I started doing it again.
My adult years were ones where I controlled my weight. I went years at a time without eating sugar. I sought out “healthy” ways of eating and practiced them. I would get frustrated and discouraged when my obsessive food behaviors continued and my symptoms progressed…fatigue, gas, bloating. Especially distressing was my low self esteem and progressive obsessing about food, especially what I wasn’t going to eat.
I had already been active in several other 12 step programs and had done thorough step work using the Big Book. Periodically I would call a program friend who was in one of the food programs and cry and share my struggles with food. And then my thoughts would talk me out of going into OA. I would say to myself, “I can’t go to another program. I won’t weigh and measure my food” “I’ll try this other way of eating and then I’ll feel good physically and emotionally.”
And then “God did for me what I couldn’t do myself.”
My program friend had gone into OA about a year before me and I witnessed her, not only losing weight, but changing emotionally- less worried, less anxious. In hindsight- I had a spiritual awakening. One day I wasn’t going to surrender and let God run my life, and the next day I was willing.
While I was getting my haircut, my hairdresser was raving about a “healthy” way of eating that she was following and I remember saying to her, “maybe I’ll try that” and then a spiritual voice within me said, ”Or you can go to OA,” and that’s what I did
The next day I went to an in person OA meeting (turned out to be OA 90) in Newton, MA. I remember feeling great relief in hearing other people share about their food addiction and their recovery and I cried for most of the meeting. I was home! I got a sponsor right after the meeting and she gave me my food plan. My first 90 days were challenging but doable. I made mistakes and I would call my sponsor and talk about them. In the beginning I didn’t understand how to cook food without repeatedly tasting it and she explained that I could look at it, smell it, and touch it. This was revelatory. I remember after a week of abstinence, thinking it was a miracle, and now going on almost 12 years of abstinence, I really feel that “God is doing for me what I can’t do myself”. I wish I had the magic formula for helping other women become and remain abstinent. It is about surrendering- taking the 1st step- “Admitting I’m powerless over food- that my life had become unmanageable.”
I’m now 72 years old. I came into OA at age 60. I have a daily reprieve from compulsive eating and food behaviors. I have a healthy body and increasingly turn to my HP to show me how to be a kind, compassionate, helpful woman each day. I have done thorough step work using the Big Book and attend weekly OA meetings focusing on the steps. I find great joy in helping other women through the steps. I am growing in my spiritual life and I’m very grateful.
Ahava, NM (my spiritual name which means “love”)