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Our Stories

By OA Member, Sep 18 2013 11:55AM

Last Sunday, I jogged the Cork Women’s Mini Marathon. That’s a great achievement for anyone, but for me it was a miracle. Just over two years ago, when I went to my first OA meeting, I could not have walked that distance (4 miles). And I would have been much too scared to ask people to sponsor me. (Today, I’ve raised nearly 200 euro for charity!) What changed? Well, since that first meeting, I’ve lost nearly eight stone, and my body is fitter and healthier. But, to me, these are just lovely side effects. The real miracle of OA is that it has given me the serenity and confidence to be happy, free, and useful to others. -- Mags, Cork.

By OA Member, Sep 14 2013 07:23AM

My earliest memory of food was when I was nine years old. I was playing a game in school that required one to run through the hands of the opposite team. I was a broad strong girl so this was no real challenge for me. A boy on the opposite team taunted me with remarks like 'how many dinners do you eat'. Today even as I write this memory the pain of that remark as I felt it then hits me. That evening I resolved within myself that I would loose weight and told my mother that I wanted to prepare my own lunches from now on. This decision to control my weight through controlling my food was to shape my life and my experience of it for the next twenty odd years.


By the time I had left primary school my physical appearance had changed. I was a much slimmer girl though I could never escape the bum that God had given me. I remember for my Confirmation being in tears over trying to buy a pants that didn't highlight it too much. The final choice was not even good enough as again I received those insensitive remarks over the size of my bum that young boys so readily throw out. Even the slimmed down athletic me was not good enough. I totally relied on the opinion of others when it came to my body image and in particular could never let go of negative feedback.


In secondary school my food practices became more extreme, cutting out all sweets, then cutting out particular foods and food groups as a result of doing food allergy tests. The result was my weight loss became more extreme with each new venture so much so that I would not have the energy or strength to play group sports. I inevitably always put on the weight again after a few weeks or months as these crash diets were impossible to keep up. The reality was I loved food and I loved eating food. In the end I would always eat again.


During these years the obsession with my body worsened. If you had asked me what I thought was the ideal figure I would have told you a strong athletic body but for some reason I could not apply this to myself. Now I realise that just as eating was addictive to me so was dieting and loosing weight. I loved the feeling of my clothes getting looser to the point that I could swim in them. This pattern of eating and being a normal weight but not being normal with food, and dieting and loosing weight was my second job to being a student for the remainder of my academic career.


During this long eating career of mine two more features were to be added to the pattern the first of which was bingeing. My god what a phenomenon and what a reality to find oneself in. I remember the first episode so well. It scared the life out of me and shocked me to the core. It was my Junior Cert year and I had been diagnosed with Depression which was getting progressively harder to manage. One evening I just needed a release. At the time I wasn't eating sweets or dairy so I binged on cornflakes with water and rice cakes with ground seeds. I ate and ate until I looked physically pregnant. I then had to try and sleep with my belly facing up because I couldn't turn on my side. As shocking as this behaviour was to me it was only the first of many episodes to follow.


Another feature of my eating career was the absolute obsession with health foods and healthy eating. My diets became more and more extreme to the point where I was eating only a few food items and of course eating them constantly and in excess. These diets always resulted in dramatic weight loss and inevitably were always impossible for me to sustain both because they were impossible and because in the end I loved and increasingly needed to eat in order to cope with life.


Now in OA my relationship with both food and my body is very different. I follow a food plan that gives me huge freedom from food. Like many recovering food addicts it took a bit of time to find out what really works for me. What is most important for me is learning about portion sizes as this protects me from both the undereater and overeater in me. I have a couple of mini weighing scales in my cupboard which ironically serve me better than the body weighing scales I previously had before OA.


As for my body there is much more peace, acceptance and love there too. I now can look in the mirror and say this is me. More and more I am embracing the body that God gave me and making the most of it to the point of actually enjoying it. I am sincerely grateful that through my time in OA, following a food plan and working the program I am finally growing into and becoming the woman - both physically and mentally - that I was always meant to be.

By OA Member, Aug 14 2013 04:01PM

I spent my first three years in OA thinking that by diligently going to meetings, doing service, working with a sponsor and going through the 12 Steps, I would be able to stick to my food plan at the time which was three moderate meals a day and two snacks in between.


Without a doubt my life improved dramatically in these 3 years, but I couldn't stay abstinent for longer than a few weeks or months at a time. When I returned to my old ways with food the mental torture was worse than ever and I was worried that I was a hopeless case that would never find freedom.


After a particularly uncomfortable binge, while on holidays, I felt utterly at a loss as to what to do next. I met a lady at a meeting and she gave me some good advice... PRAY. A few days later I came across a group of OA members who seemed very 'sober'. Several of them hadn't eaten off their food plan in over 20 years. This was definitely something I wanted so I asked one of the members what they were doing.


This lady had an understanding of abstinence that I hadn't come across before. She didn't believe in trigger foods but rather believed that any food was a trigger if it wasn't on her food plan. Furthermore, her food plan didn't allow for any grey areas as it was all weighed and measured. She also believed that a compulsive overeater is absolutely powerless over the first bite and that no amount of will power is sufficient to prevent picking up the first bite, therefore a SURRENDER to the fact that she was completely powerless over food was essential.


Her food plan seemed dramatic and I didn't think I would be able to do what she had done to find abstinence. my spirit, however, had different plans as something happened to me that day 5 ½ years ago and I haven't had to take a bite off my weighed and measured food plan since.


This new found freedom from food allowed me to see clearly that I had little freedom from fear and resentment. I was at odds with almost everyone I came into contact with. I learned that the solution to this lay in the 12 steps, which promised, amongst other things, 'happiness' and 'freedom'. By surrendering to a Higher Power's will not mine the steps are slowly taking me to a place where I can give more and more without expecting anything in return. This new focus and way to live has given me a life better than anything I could have imagined.


Fiona

Cork, Ireland

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.



By OA Member, May 25 2013 03:42PM

For years I have believed I was the fattest person in the world, I hated myself, hated looking in the mirror, hated being in photos, hated going clothes shopping, hated having to dress up, hated going swimming, I never wanted to go to teenage discos, I didn’t want to go on school trips, I thought that everyone thought that I was disgusting, fat and ugly because that is what I believed myself to be.

I was full of fear, full of self hatred, my self esteem was nil, I didn’t know anything about myself; what I liked or didn’t like, I went along with whatever everybody else wanted to do, I was so scared of not being liked, I was afraid that the friends I did have wouldn’t like me if I didn’t do what they wanted to do, if they ever found out who I truly was.

To everyone else I was a happy go lucky kind of girl, always smiling, always happy to help anyone, I was seen as a person who got on with everyone, not caring what I did or where I went, real easy going....but I always felt so out of place, that I was different from everyone else, an odd ball, never quite fitting in.

Inside I was dying; this pretence was getting harder and harder to continue. I was so unhappy but I didn’t know what was wrong with me, I thought though if I could just be thin surely everything else would fall into place, I wanted the skinny body, I dreamt of cutting off my fat with a knife, I thought if I could get pregnant then maybe once I’d have the baby I could lose the weight after that; All these ideas and more seemed like genuine ways to become happy!

When I wasn’t obsessing about my body I was thinking about food, whether I should or shouldn’t eat, whether I would eat now or in an hour’s time or two hours time and so on, once I did eat something the cycle would start all over again, it was a constant voice in my head. I prided myself that I didn’t eat breakfast and wanted people to know that because ‘thin’ people didn’t eat breakfast or so my head used tell me.

I didn’t like to eat in front of people, I thought that if people were watching me eat, even if it was normal portions they would be thinking...well that’s why she is the size she is, She’s huge and no wonder since she’s forever eating or eating too much. When I went to the shop to buy chocolate I would talk out loud about the people I was buying for or take a while to chose as if I was buying for someone else so the person in the shop wouldn’t think I was eating it myself.

I hit rock bottom, I couldn’t go on the way I was going any longer. It was suggested to me that maybe I had a problem where food was concerned and that I could try going to OA meetings. Even though I was overweight I never thought that I had a problem with food, I could give up chocolate for months on end and be ok with it, I couldn’t associate my pain and utter misery with food, However since I was told it’d be good for me to go and I was such a people pleaser at the time I went.

My life has changed so much for the better in the past six years since being in Overeaters anonymous, My life no longer revolves around what and when I’m going to eat or what weight I am or whether I am thin enough. I love myself exactly as I am. I am good enough. I believe in myself, I have good self esteem; I live my life and live it well. I look in the mirror and love what I see, I value myself and my opinions, I have peace in my head and in my heart. All this is thanks to the 12 step programme, it’s a simple programme, not always easy, but it most definitely works!