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Our Stories

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, Nov 20 2011 10:04AM

I don’t know where to begin. How do you tell a story that goes from complete despair and unhappiness to hope and contentment in a few lines? My addiction to food and obsession with weight and size started when I was very young. The first time I remember it affecting me was is when I was about five years old and I had an earache. My parents didn’t believe I was sick until I wouldn’t eat my ice-cream. Then they knew something was seriously wrong! I know it’s not unusual for a child to love sweet foods but my addiction seemed to progress from there, getting worse as the years went on.

I came from a home where there was a lot of fighting. I used the food to comfort me and block out the constant raised voices. I developed strange rituals around food. I would buy junk food – usually chocolate and crisps, but anything would do – on the way home from school and go up to my room, close my door and lay all the food out on my bed, then eat it while reading a book. Because of these binges, I started to put on weight, I was never huge when I was young but I felt as if I was. I was bullied when I was in school. For a full year, my friends barely spoke to me and I didn’t know what I had done wrong. The only thing I could think of was that it was because I was fat. They didn’t like me because I was fat. And who could blame them? I despised myself so how could anyone else like me?

At that time I started to diet. I starved myself for days on end and eventually I lost weight and had some freedom from the bingeing. But not from the obsession with my body and its size. I look back on the photos from that time and I realise that I was a normal size, maybe even slim. But that’s not what I saw in the mirror. I was astounded when a guy showed any interest in me, thinking there must be something wrong with him. Even though I was a normal weight, I still wasn’t happy. The disease hadn’t gone away.

Even when I went to college, the overeating began again and it got worse and worse until my daily routine was: get out of bed at 2pm, have a shower (sometimes), go to several different shops to get all the food I needed – even stealing some of it because I was too ashamed to buy it, going home hoping there would be no one there to whom I would have to explain my purchases, going up to my room and eating all around me. Then I would sleep so that I didn’t have to feel the pain of how disgusting I felt. Before long I was eighteen stone and unable to stop. I could hardly even leave the house for fear that people would laugh at me or even despise me.

I still can’t believe how lucky I was or maybe even how blessed I was to have a family who saw my pain and wanted to help me. Thanks to them I found Overeaters Anonymous and my life has changed completely since then. OA is teaching me how to accept myself as I am, how to live my life in a way that makes me happy and able to enjoy myself. I have so many real friends with whom I can share the thoughts that I had previously thought were wrong and crazy, only to find that they have them too! I don’t hate myself anymore and I am happy. That’s what Overeaters Anonymous has given to me.

Caroline, 22

By OA Member, Oct 20 2011 08:00AM

There are many reasons and sometimes no particular reason why people end up with eating disorders. I am pretty much aware of why I became addicted to food after having two years of counselling, but the good news is that you don’t have to go to the depths of understanding it all to benefit from the fellowship of Overeaters Anonymous. Let me tell you the long and winding story of how I ended up in the fellowship and how it has undoubtedly saved my life. I am one of nine children and my first distinct memory is of the morning of my sixth birthday and of course it relates to food. My mother made me a “grown up” breakfast of rashers and sausages and the feeling that I was special in that moment has stayed with me to this day. As you might imagine, despite having two parents who loved us all very much, coming from a large family it was hard to feel that sense of being special with any regularity. There were a lot of difficult things happening when I was young and I learned to turn to food for comfort and support. Sometimes I felt it was my only friend and I could always rely on it being there for me. I steadily started putting up the pounds in pre-adolescence and by my mid-teens was quite overweight. It was then that I came to the notice of my PE teacher who put me on a diet and then started the cycle of yo-yo dieting. I was miserable all the way through my teens until I reached about seventeen. Then from somewhere I got the willpower and determination to loose the weight and got within a normal weight range. This gave me the confidence to go out and enjoy my first year of college and I felt that life was going great. I was enjoying myself for the first time ever, I was making new friends and even dating. At the end of my first year my life became more stressful and instinctively I turned to food. I was completely horrified that I was gaining weight again and felt that my life wouldn’t be worth living if I did. I continued to eat and my weight continued to rise. It was about this time that I discovered what I believed was a totally new concept in dieting; I started to make myself sick after bingeing. Of course, anybody who has been through this experience will understand what a vicious cycle this is. I thought I had the perfect solution to all my weight worries. This was the beginning of ten year battle with bingeing, weight gain, weight loss, purging and then back to binging. I went through months where I made myself sick everyday and then was completely disgusted with myself and felt overwhelmed with shame. I somehow managed to stop, but the eating never stopped. I think that I stopped purging for periods when I was too depressed to care about how I looked. For many of these years I was obese. I hated myself more than I thought possible, I felt I was worthless and disgusting and these terrible feelings kept me in the cycle of food addiction and obsession. I had many failed attempts at dieting. I joined slimming clubs countless times, I tried diet pills, diet specialists and I tried going it alone. There was one summer that I lost three stone as a result of purging. When I stopped purging the weight mounted again. My waking hours were consumed with thoughts of food, I was extremely overweight, and I had isolated myself from my friends and family and stopped socialising. I felt that my life wasn’t worth living. I couldn’t see any future ahead that didn’t contain the mind numbing misery that my present existence was. I had lost all hope. I felt that people were looking at me and asking themselves why I just didn’t stop eating as any normal, sane, person would do if food was making them that miserable. Believe me, I asked myself this same question day after day. What was wrong with me that I couldn’t stop. I wondered why I couldn’t get that willpower back that helped me to loose weight in my teens. I saw successful dieters and constantly wondered WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? It is only since I’ve come into OA that I finally understand what is wrong with me. I am a compulsive eater. I am addicted to food just as an alcoholic is addicted to alcohol and there is nothing I can do about that simple fact. In other words, I am powerless over my eating. I have no control when it comes to food. It has been such a relief to actually find out what is wrong with me and to find others who feel exactly as I do. OA shows you a way of living without excess food. After all the miserable years I have spent in addiction, I have finally come out of the fog and am beginning on a wonderful life journey. I am at last aware that it’s the journey that counts and not the destination.

Lisa, 30