Noted food writer Michael Pollan’s advice to the world is to “eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Pollan’s advice has a whole different meaning for members of Overeaters Anonymous, the organization that provides community for people with eating issues, and uses the familiar 12 steps of other dependency-related programs. But nobody needs to drink alcohol or do drugs—everybody needs to eat. SFR talks to three members of the Northern New Mexico Overeaters Anonymous Intergroup about their disease and their recovery.
I was putting up one of our flyers at a local gym and they said, ‘Hey, you can’t advertise your diet group on our bulletin board—that competes with us.’ OA is not a diet, it’s a program of physical, emotional and spiritual recovery.
I was bulimic for 25 years. No one knew I was puking my guts out. When I finally confided in someone and they suggested OA, I thought, ‘That’s going to be a bunch of fat people. I’m going to walk in skinny and be rejected.’ But there were other anorexics and bulimics there. Anyone who has a problem with food can get fellowship with OA.
I was compulsively overeating, and I would be dead today if I hadn’t stopped. When I walked into my first meeting, I heard people speaking honestly about themselves in a way that was totally foreign to me. I met people who genuinely felt OK about themselves, and it reflected to me how uncomfortable I was with myself. One woman told me, ‘We have to face our stuff or we end up stuffing our faces.’
I’m traveling to Houston, Texas, next Saturday, and there are at least five OA meetings I can choose to go to. I already have phone numbers for individuals who can offer me support in person if I need while I’m there.
People who don’t have a meeting location nearby can join in a telephone meeting practically 24/7. The telephone can be a good source to initially explore OA for shy people because a lot of us tend to be isolators. I used to close the curtains in my house and, you know—do not bother me while I’m bingeing!
There are two kinds of hunger: There’s emotional hunger and there’s physical hunger. Sometimes, when you gather with your family, there’s stress and, when I’m emotionally hungry, I really want to eat a whole lot.
When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was pig-out day, the day you eat everything in sight. But support from OA helps me take care of myself on Thanksgiving. The way I eat on Thanksgiving is the way I eat on Thursday.
Food as a Devious Addiction
In AA, the challenge is to ‘put the plug in the jug.’ You just don’t drink alcohol anymore. But we have to let the tiger out of the cage at least three times a day so, in that way, overeating is a more devious disease.
The important thing is choice, not deprivation. I went day after day, puking my guts out, saying, ‘I’ll never do this again; this is the last time,’ and, every day, I did it until I found help. I found choice and I found freedom from the prison I was in.
I don’t have to be on a diet—it’s not one-size-fits-all. We all create a food plan that works for us as individuals. Someone on a diet had cottage cheese and half of a grapefruit this morning. I had posole.
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