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Our Stories

A Double Life

By OA Member, May 25 2013 03:43PM

I am a compulsive overeater. I have always loved food – the buying, eating, baking, reading recipes, watching cookery programmes, going to restaurants – all of it. As a child I’d bake on a Saturday at home. I would make twice or three times the volume suggested in the recipe. As an adult, going out for meals was a pleasure and an easy way for me to socialise. I’d a double life though. I’d eat a certain way in front of people and at times another way when on my own. I started to binge eat in my late teens. I’d eat an extra breakfast or have a lunch that went on and on switching between sweet and savoury foods. I’d hope that the family would be off out so that I could eat unnoticed. Not that they ever criticised what I ate but I knew I didn’t want to be seen to be having another slice of cake or going back again for yet another sandwich/bag of crisps/ ice-cream – whatever was in the house. If I thought someone was on their way back into the house I’d scurry to put the packaging in the bin, tie it and put it outside. I’d feel so awkward if I was ‘almost caught’, afraid that it might be written all over me what I was up to. How could I explain that I’d just want another piece or a bit more but that when I’d have that I’d want still more?

Over the years the binges got more frequent and larger and I had the physical consequences of eating more food than I needed. I tried to control the effect of the food by exercising, going to weight loss clubs, only buying low fat foods, watching calories, only eating certain foods if I was out, only buying certain foods and lots of other schemes. I tried to slow my eating by using a small spoon or chopsticks! I had various ‘success’ with these measures but in reality I wasn’t able to manage my weight or the food. My weight went up and down but mainly up and my obsession with food took over more of my head space. My excuses that I once had – I’ve to study, I’m tired, I’m getting used to a new job were no longer relevant. My outside world was largely what I’d hoped for but I still couldn’t manage to stay away from the food. I wanted to lose weight and eat.

As things got worse I’d swear to myself (again) that I wasn’t going to eat like that tomorrow, that I’d start again and eat normally, eat like other people, that I’d get home without pulling into the shops but my promises just faded the next day. The obsession to have something was greater than my resolve to ‘be good’. I was desperate to stop what I was at because I hated the physical effects of the food; not being able to get the clothes I wanted and being embarrassed about how I looked. In addition feeling miserable, hopeless and that I was self-destructing after the binges was awful. Just knowing I’d a problem and promising to do better were not enough to bring about a change. In the end I felt hungry all the time, I couldn’t be satisfied and I couldn’t not eat.

Somewhere in me I realised that I was beaten, that I couldn’t go on like this and yet I’d no idea how to do anything any different. I’d seen a notice that said “Is food a problem for you?” with a contact number for Overeaters Anonymous. I got the courage to ring the number. Although I was nervous within seconds I had the feeling that the woman knew what it is like. I met up with a member of OA and she shared her story of what it had been like for her. It was a relief to hear her share about her previous food life. Meeting her gave me hope that things could change that I wouldn’t have to live the way I was. In time I experienced the programme of OA which is a 12 step fellowship based on that of Alcoholics Anonymous. I have found a way of life that works for me today. Just for today I don’t have to self destruct. There is a solution, a way out.