Struggling With Compulsive Eating? How Overeaters Anonymous Can Help Your Recovery
When someone suffers from compulsive eating disorder or binge eating disorder, it can be a nightmare that seemingly has no end in sight. Getting treatment in a professionally managed program to combat compulsive eating is just the first part of learning how to manage this process addiction.
What happens after the 30-day, 60-day or whatever length rehab program concludes? Who will be there for you to help keep you on the right path, to provide moral support and nonjudgmental encouragement? Maybe, if you’re lucky, and your family members or loved ones have gone through family treatment while you were in rehab, you might have some sort of support at home.
It may not be enough. Does this sound like a harsh statement? It isn’t meant to be. The truth is that recovery from compulsive eating, just like recovery from any eating disorder or addiction to substances, or gambling or workaholism or other process addictions, requires ongoing support from your peers.
You can only get this in a support group that is devoted to this goal.
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Since 2 percent of the population in America is directly affected by binge eating disorder, you are certainly not alone in trying to deal with compulsive eating. There are huge numbers of individuals out there who are share your same struggles. Some have given up. Some have gone into treatment only to relapse time and time again. Some have stumbled upon a support group and found something valuable in their interaction with its members.
Maybe it’s time to look at how a support group such as Overeaters Anonymous can help your recovery along.
The Value of a Strong Support System for Compulsive Eaters
Learning how to manage life following treatment for a compulsive eating disorder requires a strong support system. Just like any other addiction or process disorder, the person in recovery from compulsive eating disorder needs a great deal of help and support.
When you are struggling just to maintain the tenuous hold you have on a new and healthier way of eating, it certainly helps to surround yourself with other like-minded and committed individuals who also know exactly what it is that you are going through.
That’s because every single one of them has been down this road themselves and likely still has situations where they require the constant support and encouragement of fellow support group members.
Think about circumstances in the past that prompted an episode of binge eating. It could have been a disappointment you suffered at work or school, or an argument between you and your loved ones or family members. Maybe you just got tired of trying to battle the urge to binge eat and just capitulated – again and again.
Who was available that knew what shame and depression you felt and could offer any meaningful advice or share tips of effective ways to get past this self-destructive behavior? Going it alone and suffering in silence only compounded the problem and made it more intractable. You likely began to believe that things could never get any better and that you were bound to live forever under the cloud of your eating disorder.
Now, imagine finding a group that, along with education and help provided in a nonjudgmental environment, can give you the hope that you’ve so desperately sought. Wouldn’t this be something that you would welcome? Battling compulsive eating doesn’t seem so formidable when you have the opportunity to interact with others who are doing the same thing. There is power in numbers and strength in solidarity and unity of purpose.
Specifically, here’s what happens in a compulsive eating support group such as Overeaters Anonymous. The group offers hope. This is something that you dearly want to achieve, to be able to lift up your head and know that you have someplace to go where you won’t be judged for past failures, where you’ll receive helpful tips and strategies for combating your compulsive eating, and where the environment will be warm and welcoming.
Another benefit is that the binge eating disorder support group will be there for you long-term. It isn’t time-limited, where you only have 30 days to reach your goal. Going to support meetings can be the lifeline you need to help solidify your recovery foundation so that you can go on to lead a healthy, happy and productive life.
Stumbling Blocks to Recovery
Two of the biggest hurdles that compulsive eaters have in recovery are shame and depression. As you probably already know, it is nearly impossible to look at yourself in the mirror when you know you have given into the urge to binge. Over time and repeated binge eating disorder episodes, not only has your health deteriorated and your life possibly endangered, but your overall appearance is nowhere near what you’d like it to be.
This contributes to massive and crushing depression compounded by shame. You probably tell yourself that you are worthless and unlovable, that you should be able to control your eating habits, and that every time you binge eat you are cementing the feeling of failure and hopelessness.
Nothing could be further from the truth, but it’s not likely that you’d believe this, especially given your current mental state. In other words, you need the support and encouragement of others in order to be able to find the motivation and determination to stick to your goals, to continue to work hard to overcome your compulsive eating behavior and to learn new and healthier ways to live.
Overeaters Anonymous: What It Is
Overeaters Anonymous, often abbreviated to just OA, is a support group organization similar to Compulsive Eaters Anonymous. Both are built around a 12-step program that was derived from the Alcoholics Anonymous model. OA, just like Compulsive Eaters Anonymous, regards compulsive eating as an addiction. The only requirement to attend OA is a sincere desire to stop binge eating.
Like Alcoholics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous (and Compulsive Eaters Anonymous) adhere to the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. These are modified only slightly to take into account the mission and goal of the support groups: which is to help participants recover from compulsive eating.
Here are some encouraging words taken from the OA website: “OA is not just about weight loss, weight gain or maintenance, or obesity or diets. It addresses physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. It is not a religious organization and does not promote any particular diet.”
OA charges no dues and anyone who wants to recover from compulsive eating may attend.
The heart and soul of the OA program are the Twelve Steps of Overeaters Anonymous (again, taken directly from the OA website):
- “We admitted we were powerless over food – that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and out lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”
Are You a Compulsive Eater?
Maybe you secretly fear that you may be a compulsive eater but have not yet gone to a physician to have an examination to confirm the diagnosis. Maybe you already have been diagnosed but, for whatever reason, have not made the decision to go into treatment. Maybe you don’t know that your eating behavior is unhealthy. All you know is that something doesn’t seem right.
Here are some questions to ask yourself that may help you get a better idea of whether or not you have a problem with compulsive eating.
- Do you eat when you are not hungry? Or, do you refrain from eating even when your body requires nourishment?
- Do you sometimes go on eating binges where you eat to the point of stuffing yourself or feeling sick – all with no apparent reason?
- Do you feel guilt, shame and embarrassment about the way you eat or your weight?
- Do you make a show of eating sensibly when in the presence of others, only to start shoving food in your mouth the minute you are alone?
- Is your eating already affecting the way you live or the state of your health?
- Do you find yourself reaching for food whenever and wherever you experience intense emotions, whether positive or negative in nature?
- Are you unhappy about your eating behaviors? Are your eating behaviors making others unhappy?
- Do you ever try to control your weight by using laxatives, by vomiting, taking diuretics, diet pills, shots or other medical interventions (which includes surgery), or by excessive exercise?
- Do you try to control your weight through fasts or severe food intake restriction?
- Do you engage in fantasies about how different your life would be if you had a different weight or size?
- Do you find the need to constantly have something in your mouth or to chew, such as gum, candy, food or beverages?
- Have you even eaten spoiled food, frozen or burned food, out of containers at the grocery or other store or from the garbage?
- Are there some foods that, after your first bite, you cannot stop eating?
- Have you lost a lot of weight on a particular diet, only to be followed by periods of weight gain and/or uncontrolled eating?
- Do you spend a majority of your time thinking about food, counting calories, conjuring up the next diet or exercise “cure” or waging an exhaustive debate with yourself about what to eat or whether to eat?
Here’s the cincher. If you answered honestly to several of these questions, it could very well be that you are a compulsive eater or are well on your way to being one.
Another useful tool is a free and confidential screening for eating disorders provided by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).
If you are considering treatment for your compulsive eating disorder, you might find helpful information from the NEDA’s resources on treatment. This includes information on treatment basics, including evidence on what type of treatment works, treatment settings and levels of care, confidentiality issues, securing and seeking treatment, questions to ask a treatment provider, resources and more.
Act Now to Help Your Recovery
In the end, others may try to convince you that you need to go into a treatment program to control your compulsive eating, but only you can make the decision that you want to change your life by incorporating a healthier lifestyle after rehab. This is a commitment that you make that will give you the opportunity to make profound changes in your life.
It is important to recognize that just going through treatment isn’t enough to end your bad patterns of compulsive eating. You need ongoing help and encouragement in order to be able to continue your newly-learned healthier lifestyle.
This can only be accomplished by attending a support group that shares your goals for living a life without being chained to compulsive eating. Bottom line: if you are struggling with compulsive eating, consider attending Overeaters Anonymous.
At the very least, you will find support in a community of caring individuals who know what it’s like to deal with compulsive eating. If you haven’t gone into treatment, going to OA meetings may help motivate you to do so. If you’ve already completed rehab for compulsive eating, going to regular OA meetings can help you maintain your recovery.