‘Food addicts’ find support in peer recovery group
Editor’s Note: Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous is program in which participant privacy is protected. The names in this article have been changed to protect the identity of participants.
“Mae” found the support she needed to completely stop her obsession with food through a program that has helped her maintain the same size for 24 years.
Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous (FA), which was first formed in Massachusetts, is an international fellowship of men and women who battle with an obsession of food. FA helps individuals overcome obesity, bulimia and anorexia through its program, which is based on the 12 steps and 12 traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The program offers two meetings in Cape Coral on Friday and Sunday night at Cape Christian Fellowship, 2110 Chiquita Blvd from 6:30-8 p.m. The program is free and is open to the public.
Many individuals like Mae had tried various other outlets to stop their food obsession, but found they were not helping them break from their addiction, so they seek out FA meetings.
These individuals are successful with weight loss, along with controlling an addiction to food due to the program believing there are certain foods that should be eliminated from a diet because they are addictive in nature.
The program provides a blueprint for individuals to follow to gain serenity to enjoy living again.
“We look at food like alcoholics look at alcohol and the end result of working with the program is that we live a sane, happy, very full life,” Mae said.
She said at 200 pounds, she found herself in yet another food addiction program that was not providing her with the help she needed to overcome her addiction and take steps toward recovery.
She said she found herself deep in depression due to circumstances that were going on in her life, which led her to teaching herself how to binge and starve herself of food.
“I learned to go all day without eating,” she said. “People asked me if I had cancer because I was so anorexic.”
When Mae began eating, she did not have the power to stop herself from consuming large portions of food in one sitting. Her obsession led to suicidal thoughts and she began to isolate herself from any social gatherings.
“I was miserable with my family, friends and jobs,” Mae said.
Her desperation led her to attend her first FA meeting, which gave her a glimpse of hope when she saw other people giving their testimony of their personal struggles with food obsession.
FA meetings provide individuals with the opportunity to stand up and provide their testimony in front of others, which does not leave the room.
“It was shocking, I could not believe how thin they were,” Mae said about sitting through her first meeting and testimony.
Mae said the food obsession is gone now thanks to the help of FA meetings and she said she has no desire to enter her old lifestyle again.
“At one time I was (size) 18, bursting at the seams and now I am (size) eight and have been that size for all 24 years,” she said.
The United States has experienced a steady increase in obesity for the past 20 years. Obesity is determined by an individual’s body mass index of 30 or higher and it is calculated through weight and height.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2009, a total of 33 states had a prevalence equal to or greater than 25 percent of the body mass index associated with obesity.
In 2009, Florida had an obesity rate of 25.2 percent. Other states that experienced a greater obesity rate was Mississippi with 34 percent, Louisiana with 33 percent, Tennessee with 32.3 percent and Kentucky with 31.5 percent.
“James,” on the other hand struggled with bulimia for 25 years. He searched for guidance to stop his addiction at treatment centers and other food addiction programs, but never gained control over his obsession.
Five years ago he found that guidance he desperately needed at a FA meeting. His recovery began when he joined the program and his bulimic tendencies stopped after he had the chance to work with a sponsor through FA.
According to the 2009 FA Census report, Florida had 25 meetings throughout the state with a total of 177 members, compared to California which had the largest number of meetings at 127 and 1,709 members.
Meetings are also held in Fort Myers on Tuesday and Thursday from 7-8:30 p.m. at Riverside Church located at 8660 Daniels Parkway.
For information visit www.foodaddicts.org or call the hotline at (239) 338-5948.