Fat and Not Afraid

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Power, Control, and Overeater's Anonymous

October 20, 2011

Who's awesome? Carolyn is, that's who. Not only has she written this great post for us today but she's helping me back up my entire blog in preparation of moving it to somewhere free, since Jigsy has gotten rid of that option on thier hosting. Shame! (More on the big move coming Monday!) For now, a trigger warning for diet and restriction talk.  Have a great weekend, folks! Check back for something from me on how 'broken cookies don't have calories'.

 

Today I want to talk about my experience in Over Eaters Anonymous and Food Addicts Anonymous.  I’d like to preface this by saying that I know there are people out there who have found solace in OA & FAA, and this post is not meant to take anything away from that, it is simply regarding my experience.  If you have a positive experience of OA and FAA, I think that’s great for you. ((Jen here: But we don’t want to hear about how we should totally try it! in comments))  My experience with OA and FAA was not great.

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” – Alice Walker

There were two things that happened today that coincided with my desire to write about OA & FAA.  The first, while sitting in the waiting room at my therapist’s office, I found myself staring at a bright yellow flyer for FAA that asked “Tired of not being able to control what you eat?”  I want to first say that it is a credit to all of my work with Michelle at the Fat Nutritionist, that my first gut response to that was “Pfffftttttt NO!!”  And then my more rational side kicked in and started ruminating on the idea of food & control, until I had to go into my therapy appointment.  Later that day, I came across the above quote from Alice Walker, and it got me thinking about the idea of food and control, and specifically what my experience in OA was like.

I went to OA on the suggestion of a counselor I was seeing at the time.  At my first Over Eaters Anonymous meeting, I met a woman who was “In recovery” from anorexia/bulimia, and I asked her to be my sponsor.  As my sponsor, she basically became my higher moral authority for food.  We set up a “food plan” (because OA doesn’t have diets of course!) and I would be responsible for planning out and writing down every ounce of my food, and would call her with it every morning to report it to her.  If I deviated even in the slightest (piece of gum or something) I was to call and report it to my sponsor.  This began what is considered “abstinence”.  Abstinence is basically the strict adherence to a food plan – thus proving that you are in “recovery” from your “addiction to food”.  My abstinence looked like this (while this is a common form of abstinence in OA not everyone has exactly the same meal plan):

Breakfast:

1 cup fruit

1 cup dairy

1 tsp fat

 

Lunch:

4 oz protein

2 cups or 16 oz Vegetables (whichever you were hungry for)

1 tbsp dressing

Dinner:

4 oz protein

2 cups or 16 oz vegetables

1 tsp fat

This plan was often referred to as the 3-0-1 plan, meaning: three meals per day (weighed and measured) nothing in between no matter what, one day at a time.  The other restrictions of this plan were that you were forbidden from: wheat, sugar, flour and any items that contained those as ingredients listed higher than #5. Have you ever tried to buy ketchup that doesn’t have sugar? It can be a challenging list of requirements that’s for sure.

So I faithfully followed this plan for about 15 days the first time, before I was ravenous with hunger.  I was obsessed with getting an oatmeal cookie with peanut butter on it. This memory later surfaced when I was watching a documentary about a child who was put on a diet for being too fat and listening to her beg her mother for peanut butter.  I knew exactly how she felt. Nowadays, I believe that it was my body’s way of telling me that I was starving. I needed fatty, nutrient dense food like peanut butter.  I eventually ate the peanut butter and oatmeal cookie.  I ate only one, and then felt utterly deflated. I had just ruined 15 days of “abstinence” and I had to call my sponsor, like an insolent child, and confess to my misdeed.  My “punishment” was that I had several essay questions to answer regarding reading in the “big book” about how addiction will ruin my life. Then I started again on day one of abstinence.  It was a demoralizing and utterly humiliating experience.  I stayed with this program for more than 3 years; often traveling 47 miles one way to go to the required meetings once or twice per week.  I would sit in this meeting for an hour, listen to others confess their eating sins, and then confess my own, before climbing in the car and driving home.

When I finally quit OA (much to the utter horror of the other group members – who like to say you, will “Die” if you leave) it was because I had decided to work with Michelle at the Fat Nutritionist.  Michelle doesn’t do diagnoses, but she was very candid when she told me that my eating competence scores were some of the lowest she had ever seen, and that my thinking put my quite squarely in the Anorexic category. I spent the next 2 years working diligently with Michelle, until I finally established a level of eating competence that I felt comfortable with.

So when I sit waiting for my counselor, and I see the sign for Food Addicts Anonymous, it brings up a range of mixed feelings.  One that I am so happy that groups like that no longer appeal to me because I feel comfortable and confidant making decisions for myself. Two, I wonder what my life would have been like if I had never gotten involved with OA.  Would my thyroid have failed if I hadn’t put it under such severe stress when dieting?  Would I have fibromyalgia? Those are haunting questions. What exactly did I do to my body in the name of “health”?  Lastly, I am grateful that I have regained my own power and that I trust myself to feed me and take care of me.  That I no longer need to subordinate myself to a group of people who are likely just as disordered and food incompetent as I was. I use to think I didn’t have any power - - -now I KNOW that I do.

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