Fat and Not Afraid

Respect and love are for EVERY body.

header photo

Fat Abstinence and Over-Eaters Anonymous

November 18, 2011

**Trigger Warning for Diet and Weight Loss Talk**

Guest Post by FatFox

When I was involved with OA (over-eater's anonymous) there was an interesting divide within most of the meetings I went to.  In one camp were those who were considered abstinent, and on the other side were those who had what was called fat abstinence.  In hindsight, it's a rather interesting situation to evaluate, now that I have been exposed to the HAES and body acceptance concepts.

In a previous post, I discussed how I felt that OA had become a safe-haven for extreme dieting behavior under the guise of "recovery" and "control".  Since most people who come to OA are worried about bingeing and feeling "out of control" with food, it was very common to hear people within a meeting talk about how they just needed to "get strict" and "get clean" with their food.  Many of the  normal dieting tropes were alive and well in OA.  Bad food equals bad body. Clean food equals clean body.  Bad foods were things such as carbs, processed foods or refined foods, fast foods, sugary foods; you get the idea.  As with most of our current culture, people in OA often felt that these unclean foods made their bodies toxic and sick; often equating it with the illness an alcoholic or drug addict would get from using their substance of choice.  In this sense, the concept of "getting clean" was two fold: on one hand it meant restriction and purity of food choice on the other hand it was a mindset that food is a drug that we must carefully dose our bodies with.  It's not hard to imagine why this thinking has lead to many people leaving OA with an eating disorder that required treatment or therapy.

And here is where the two camps come into play.  There is judgement and  even some subtle hostility between the two groups within a meeting.  When I was in OA, I happened to be sponsored by someone who felt that abstinence came through the careful moderation and dosing of food, and to treat it as an addict would treat a drug.  She warned me right away that there were people that I should "stay away from" within the group because they really weren't "working the program". These people were the ones who considered themselves to be fat abstinent.  Those who considered themselves fat abstinent felt that as long as they ate competently, and removed the compulsion around food, then they were abstinent and their body would naturally level at a healthy place for them.  It was easy to tell the difference in a meeting; those who were fat abstinent sounded different.  They talked about serenity, about freedom from obsessive thoughts, and about a connection to their higher power. In hind-sight, I think they had finally gotten off of the dieting merry-go-round, and had in their own way found body acceptance.  They wanted relief from the pain of obsessing about food.  On the other hand, those of us who practiced "clean abstinence" were easily identified by our opening statements that included how much weight we'd lost, how long we'd kept it off, how many days since our last "slip" with food, etc etc. It was generally this camp who was so often vowing to "get clean" and "get strict" and if they just "pulled up their boot straps" they could get it done and lose the weight. To them, fat was an obvious sign of addiction.

To the clean abstinent group, you couldn't possibly be abstinent and fat. It was impossible and the very idea of it went against the most basic belief we held sacred: if I am strict and clean with my food I will lose weight.  How utterly terrifying to see someone who is relaxed and enjoys their food, embraces their "recovery", accepts their body, and refuses to flaggelate themselves publicly for not being thinner.  I remember being in meetings and thinking how dangerous this idea was. . .people who were okay with being fat!?! <pearl clutching ensues>

Now I'm not saying that every person who was fat-abstinent was a happy, healthy person. Or that every clean-abstinent person was a neurotic and diet obsessed.  I am making some pretty broad generalizations about my experience within OA.  But I do remember on several occasions after talking with my sponsor, where I literally pleaded with her; there must be a better way. It can't all be about food.  I came to OA to be free of my obsession with food. And yet here I was, weighing, measuring, documenting, counting, obsessing. . . and it hurt.

It took me another 4 years before I found that "other way".  I started working with Michelle @ the Fat Nutritionist, I read the HAES books, and I learned to find my own "Fat abstinence".

Next week: I will blog about my test results from when I started working with Michelle to when I recently graduated and re-took those tests and some about the experience. Stay Tuned!

Go Back

Comments for this post have been disabled.