Sunday, September 5, 2010


My name is Sarah and I'm a compulsive overeater and food addict.

If this was a meeting of Overeaters Anonymous, the other group members would say, "Hi Sarah" in unison. It has a calming effect, and whether or not you believe me, these people know my struggle and they care about me. It's as simple as that: we share an affliction and we share the desire to recover.

Don't worry, I'm not as preachy as I sound right now. I have my doubts about Overeaters Anonymous (heretofore referred to as OA), even though I've been going to meetings for about a month now. Actually, I should rephrase. I have very few doubts about the program itself; I have multitudinous doubts about my ability to follow it and experience serenity, recovery, and a spiritual awakening. I feel daunted and overwhelmed, and I struggle against my own resistance every single day. It's the beginning of a long journey, one that I think will take my whole life. I will never be rid of this disease, but I hope to learn to cope with it. I want to stop letting food run my life.

Now for some background information. I'm 24 years old and I weigh 313 pounds. In July of 2008, shortly after I graduated college, I weighed 338 pounds. How did I lose 25 pounds and keep them off? Exercise, exercise, exercise. In June of 2009 (last summer), I began exercising 5 times per week. That turned out to be too much to sustain for very long, so after a couple of months, I dropped down to 3-4 workouts per week. When I say workout, I mean WORKOUT - these days, a normal gym visit includes 55 minutes of cardio and fat burn, 10+ minutes of weight training, and 5-15 minutes of core-strengthening exercises borrowed from Pilates and such. I sweat buckets. Some days I feel sore. But the truth is, I would lose my mind without exercise. It began as a self-care measure - I wanted my mind and body to be healthier - and some days it's just that. Other days, it's survival. I need those precious minutes of alone time. No one talks to me, I leave my phone at home, and I just withdraw into myself. It's great. Of course, there are days when I have to drag my ass to the gym and I hate every minute of it. Superwoman, I'm not.

I have so much I want to say by way of introduction, but I'll keep it short[-ish] for now. I've always, always been a big girl - I was a 10-pound baby! - so I've struggled with weight and size my entire life. Even when I wasn't heavy, per se, but rather just a broad-shouldered, muscular kid, doctors told me I had to lose weight. My parents told me I had to lose weight. A boy named Craig told me I was fat when I was in third or fourth grade and all I said was, "I know." Because that's the deepest truth I had about myself.

Eventually, these admonitions about fatness and weight loss created a self-fulfilling prophecy: toward the end of high school and the beginning of college, I really did become fat. I gained weight and just kept gaining it. I played basketball in grade school and even made the middle school team in seventh and eighth grades, but after that, I struggled to stay active. I had bouts of weight loss followed by periods of ballooning up to even higher weights. I felt hopeless, and I often still do.

When my weight broke 300, I was in college. I can remember calling my mom and crying, saying, "I can't believe I've let it get this bad." I blame(d) myself for the weight gain and felt like it was one of the worst things that could be happening to me. I continued to gain weight, though, and left college weighing in around 338 (as mentioned above).

I never thought I'd be a 300+ pound woman. I never wanted to be, and there are days when I wonder if I will ever escape the prison that is my body. I want to run, jump, and prance around like the young, vital woman that I am. Exercise and a 25-pound weight loss has helped me to become a lot more active, sure, but I have a long way to go. I don't see myself in my mind's eye as a seriously overweight person. I don't know who it is I'm seeing in the mirror sometimes.

Though I've spent the last several paragraphs talking about weight, this information is only meant to serve as an introduction to my life and my struggle. Weight is the tip of the iceberg for me. Food and my addiction to it are the main issues at stake here, and below those issues lie the deepest, darkest, ugliest things that dwell within me.

For those of you familiar with OA, the concept of living free of food addiction is called "abstinence." This can be likened to "sobriety" in Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, but because people can't live without food the way they can live without alcohol or drugs, the concept is altered slightly. "Abstinence" means eating reasonable portions - abstaining from overeating, basically - and abstaining from foods to which you are addicted. These are different for everyone, and I'll post a list of my "trigger foods" sometime. It's LONG. I had an appointment with a nutritionist last Friday and we discussed the appropriate amount of calories for someone who weighs what I do (and who is as active as I am) to eat in a day, as well as portion sizes and how to spread out the food so that my physical hunger is satisfied all day. I make the distinction here between physical hunger and emotional hunger because those of you who [over]eat emotionally or ever have know that you don't eat an entire pint of Ben & Jerry's in fifteen minutes because you're hungry. At least not usually.

So this visit to the nutritionist was the first step in determining what's called a "plan of eating," or a food plan. OA members generally commit their daily food plans to their sponsors every day; I'm not at that point yet, as I don't have a sponsor or a concrete plan, but I will get there.

That's all for now. There's so much to say; I'll need to keep up with blogging in order to say it all. Thanks for reading!

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