In Compulsive Anonymous Canteens are members with very varied characteristics, from people who are overweight or obese, to people with an average weight and even below their weight; Members who still maintain periodic control over their eating behavior or who are totally unable to control their compulsive eating habits.
OA members experience many different patterns of behavior with respect to food. These “symptoms” are as varied as we are. These include:
- obsession with weight, height and body shape
- binge eating or eating constantly
- concern about reducing diets
- abuse of laxatives or diuretics
- excessive exercise
- induction of vomiting after meals
- chewing and spitting food
- use of slimming pills, punctures or other medical interventions for weight control
- inability to stop eating certain foods after taking the first bite
- fantasies about food
- vulnerability to rapid weight loss programs
- constant concern for food
- use of food as a reward or as a comfort.
Our symptoms may vary, but we share a common bond: we are powerless over food and our lives are unmanageable. This common problem has led OA members to seek and find a common solution in the Twelve Steps, the Twelve Traditions and the nine tools of Anonymous Compulsive Eaters.
The different ways of manifesting the compulsion for food
The following paragraphs describe how compulsive eaters experience different forms of compulsion for food. The paragraph is taken from the book of 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, and is presented here for professionals, newcomers, and others interested in knowing more about us and our behavior.
A view from the inside
When we examine our lives with complete honesty, we see that as far as food is concerned we have acted in an irrational and self-destructive way. Under the compulsion to eat, many of us have done things that no one in their right mind would think to do. We drove miles in the middle of the night to satisfy our craving for food. We have eaten frozen, burnt, stale, or even dangerously spoiled food. We have eaten from the dishes of other people, from the soil, from the earth. We took food out of the trash and ate it.
We have often lied about what we have eaten-lied to others because we did not want to face the truth ourselves. We have stolen food from our friends, family and patrons, as well as from the store. We have also stolen money to buy food. We continued eating after being full, until after the point of feeling sick from eating. We continued eating, knowing that we were disfiguring and damaging our bodies. We have isolated ourselves to eat, hurting people with whom we relate and denying ourselves a complete social life. Because of our compulsion we have become objects of ridicule and have destroyed our health.
Then, frightened by what we were doing to ourselves with food, we became obsessed with diets. We spent a lot of money on weight loss programs, we bought all sorts of appetite control pills, we became partners in diets and spas clubs, we hypnotized and analyzed, they did major surgery on our digestive system, they pierced our ears Or tied our jaws. We did all this very voluntarily, hoping that at some point we could “be in mass and pealing”, that is, bingeing and not getting fat.
Some of us went from doctor to doctor looking for a cure. The doctors gave us diets, but we did not get much more with them than with the others we had already done. They gave us injections and pills. For a while they worked, but inevitably we lost control and we ate again, gaining again the weight that it had cost us so much to lose.
Many of us try to fast, with or without medical supervision. Usually we lost weight, but as soon as we started eating again, compulsive eating behavior returned, along with weight. Some of us learned to purge ourselves by vomiting, using laxatives, or by exercising. We stuffed food through our mouths until we physically felt pain, then “we got rid of it.” We damaged our digestive tract and our teeth while depriving our bodies of the nutrients needed to live.
Those who were overweight received lots of advice on how to reach our “ideal” weight, but nothing solved our problem permanently. We discovered that no matter what we did to lessen that confusion, our compulsion for food came back at some other time. In the long run, our weight increased and our self-esteem went down. After a while we got tired of that fight and we got discouraged. However, we could not accept our impotence. The prospect of being obese, sick, and out of control the rest of our lives led some to conclude that life was not worth living. Many think of suicide. Some of us try.
Most, however, do not reach a suicidal despair. Instead, we consoled ourselves by feeling that everything would be all right as long as we had enough to eat. The only problem was that as our compulsion progressed it was harder for us to get enough food. Instead of providing relief, compulsive eating had the opposite effect. The more we ate the more we suffered, but we still continued to eat. Our lack of common sense was evident in the fact that we continued to seek relief from food, long after it began to make us suffer.
Once we examined our lives honestly, it was easy to admit that we had acted irrationally in terms of weight and food. Many of us could limit our compulsive eating to when we were alone and lead relatively normal lives. We worked a lot during the day and ate a lot at night. Surely we were healthy in most aspects of our lives.
A closer examination of ourselves found that many areas of our lives were out of control. We had to admit that we had not acted very strongly when we responded to our children’s attention needs by screaming at them, or when we felt jealously possessive of our partner. Most of the time we had lived with fear and anxiety. More comfortable with food than with people, we sometimes limited our social life. We ran the curtains, picked up the phone, and hid at home.
When we were with other people, we would smile and say yes when we really wanted to say no. Some of us were unable to defend our rights in a relationship of abuse. Or we focused on the faults of others and spent hours thinking about what they should do to solve their problems, while ours were left unresolved.
Compulsive eaters are often people of extremes. We react exaggeratedly to petty provocations while ignoring the truly important problems of our lives. We were obsessively occupied, then we were stale and unable to do anything. We were highly excited then deeply depressed. We saw everything in black and white. If we could not have it all, we wanted nothing; If we could not be the best, we did not want to participate in the game.
Little by little, we saw how much pain was causing in our lives this way of living. Gradually we came to believe that we had to change.
There is help
If you can identify yourself with the description on these sheets, we want to welcome you. If you know someone who could benefit from this program, suggest that you contact Overeaters Anonymous (CCA) or Overeaters Anonymous (OA).
How to Find Compulsive Eating Anonymous – OA