Overeaters Anonymous (OA) Meetings – An Inside Look
Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Jenny Clark. She primarily blogs about teaching and education related issues. She teaches 2nd grade in an urban Midwest school. You can see her blog at http://doinitjensway.blogspot.com.
First I’d like to say that I’m no expert on this. Please see the Overeaters Anonymous (OA) website www.OA.org for official information. Okay, now that that’s out of the way, I’d like to share my story. I’ve struggled with my weight, and had body issues for as long as I can remember. I remember thinking that I was fat as early as 1st grade. I went on the grapefruit diet when I was in third grade. I’ve since tried: the egg-banana-hotdog diet, anything a magazine told me to do, bulimia, Atkins, South Beach, medical research programs, poopy pills (they blocked the fat, but gave you the poops), and almost any other diet program you can think of. Regardless, my weight just kept increasing. I’ve had a few short lived periods of success, but in general, I’ve always failed. It didn’t make sense. I’m an over-achiever. I’m successful, why is it I couldn’t manage this?
Several years ago, I heard about Overeaters Anonymous meetings. I attended a couple of meetings… cried, listened, read, and decided that it wasn’t for me. I wasn’t ready yet. Finally, this summer, I’d had enough. My doctor had started mentioning my weight at every visit. I was constantly worrying that I would have a heart attack, and felt terrible. I decided that things had to change. I decided to approach this from all my angles. I went to my doctor and got some blood work done. I started seeing a therapist, I’ve met a couple of times with a nutritionist, I started reading, exercising, and I began attending OA
It started out rather uncomfortable. Overeaters Anonymous was definitely the hardest. It was hard just to get to the meeting. At the meeting it was hard to speak. It was hard to believe that I was in the right spot. I spent a lot of my time at those initial meetings judging the other people. I sort of knew I was in the right place, but I didn’t want to admit that I was the same as the people I was judging. Then, at about my 5th meeting, a person made a comment about stealing food from the families they were babysitting for. I flashed back to my babysitting years. I totally did that. I would eat little bits of lots of their food and try to put it back in just the same spot so it wouldn’t be noticed. Other people in the room also admitted to doing the same thing. It was then that it clicked. I was among people who, for whatever reason, shared my story. We don’t, and probably never have responded to food like most people. Many of them have overcome their weight problems by working the OA program (not just short term- these folks have been successful for years, and they keep coming back to sustain their success, and to help us newcomers).
After that I got “abstinent.” In Overeaters Anonymous (OA), abstinent, means that you pick a food/life plan, and stick to it. They don’t tell you what to pick, you know your trigger foods better than anyone else. Just like in AA, you keep track of your abstinence. I’ve now been abstinent for 26 days. I thought it would be terrible. I thought I’d constantly be feeling sorry for myself. Honestly, there have been hard parts, but overall, it’s been the most freeing thing of my life. I’m not constantly thinking about food. I’m finally free to be me. I’ve spent my whole life eating to deal with a painful experiences, now, I’m finally dealing with life without eating. I’m finally finding my spiritual path. I’m finally finding my voice, and letting it shine. After a year of abstinence, a person celebrates their “birthday,” now I understand why.
The things I hear in OA, the people I meet, the literature I’ve read, has all been amazing (once I got over the initial discomfort). I feel like a new person. I know that I’ll always have people right there to support me when things are tough. There are no fees, there’s nothing commercial, just people in all different stages of recovery to support each other.
*Image Courtesy OA.org