In today’s world, many people find themselves struggling with compulsive and disordered eating behaviors. Just like any addiction, it can be overwhelming for people to overcome food addiction alone. The South Sound Intergroup of Overeaters Anonymous (OA) is here to help. They provide anonymous support to individuals suffering from the full range of compulsive eating behaviors including overeating, undereating, bulimia, and anorexia. “It is truly an organization of one person helping another who has an addiction to food,” explains one member.
For some people, when they start with one bite of something they cannot stop eating. They may feel the need to binge on specific foods and can develop obsessive thoughts about these foods (referred to as “trigger foods”) or just be obsessed with craving food in general. Others feel they should not eat out of fear of gaining weight, and will either starve themselves or binge and throw up later. All of these behaviors are extremely disruptive to normal daily life and can lead to serious health issues, both mentally and physically.
No matter what the behavior is, the members of OA all have the same thing in common. “Once we begin eating certain foods or meals, we cannot stop,” shares one member. Most times, this behavior is not simply for the love of the food itself, but is a symptom of other issues or problems. Food becomes a comfort (or numbing) to help mask some of the hurt a person is going through.
Even when people realize this behavior is doing them harm, it can be very difficult to stop. “We have all realized that we can’t battle this alone,” shares one member. With OA, people suffering from compulsive eating behaviors have a safe place to get the help they need to overcome their food addiction.
OA offers regular meetings and provides guidance through the 12 step framework similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. This approach is made up of helpful literature and human connection and abides by 12 traditions to create structure amongst the chaos compulsive eating can cause. These meetings also give people the chance to come together anonymously and listen to each other’s stories of struggle and triumph. For many of the OA members, simply knowing they are not alone in this battle is hugely comforting. “It is motivating and inspiring hearing others’ experiences and seeing the success they have achieved. And it’s critical to know we can’t overcome our food addiction alone,” one member says.
If a member hears a story from someone that really resonates with them, they can talk to them one-on-one or ask them to be their sponsor. A sponsor helps other members, particularly newer members, practice abstinence from their specific compulsive food behavior by being available to them on a regular basis and especially through rough patches. If a member is feeling tempted to return to their compulsive food behavior or is worried about an opportunity to indulge in a trigger food, they can reach out to each other for guidance and support. “There is safety in having another person to reach out to when I need it,” shares one member. In OA, the members know that they can count on each other to help refrain from their compulsive food behaviors, one day at a time.
When it comes to compulsive eating behaviors, the reality is that the compulsion may never truly go away. Many addicts often face temptation daily and have to make conscious choices to abstain from old behaviors. In OA, they strongly emphasize approaching this struggle day by day. “If we project from today forward it can be too overwhelming,” one member shares. “Instead, we put the food down and abstain for just one day.” By living one day at a time, the struggle becomes much more manageable.
The South Sound Intergroup of OA is currently hosting most meetings online via Zoom, though they do have a few meetings in the area happening in-person. Due to the shift to virtual meetings, OA worldwide hosts a range of meetings that are happening all over the world in all time zones, so no matter where you are or what time it is you can always find an OA meeting to attend. There is never any pressure to speak at meetings, though you are always welcome to share your story if you need a safe place to talk. “It is always anonymous,” shares one member. “No matter your age, religion, or where you’re at with your addiction, everybody is equal and everybody is welcome.” Overcoming compulsive eating behaviors isn’t easy, but with OA, you can get the support you need to be successful.
If you feel stuck in your food addiction, OA is here to help. Visit their website to see their upcoming meeting schedule and learn more about how their program can help you overcome compulsive eating behaviors and live a happy, healthy life free of food addiction.