Hello, My Name is Karen

In November last year, I found myself once again trying to get a jump on my New Year’s resolutions. I started Pilates. I started trying to eat better. It was really hard and slow and I was depressed about how often I’ve started over. Succeeded. Gone off track. Started again.

Exhausting. I thought of my counselor and dear friend Rebecca and wished she were nearby. I thought of going back to Green Mountain for a week. Or a year.

In my search for inspiration, I stumbled across this online test at the Overeaters Anonymous site. There are 15 questions.

  1. Do I eat when I’m not hungry, or not eat when my body needs nourishment?
  2. Do I go on eating binges for no apparent reason, sometimes eating until I’m stuffed or even feel sick?
  3. Do I have feelings of guilt, shame, or embarrassment about my weight or the way I eat?
  4. Do I eat sensibly in front of others and then make up for it when I am alone?
  5. Is my eating affecting my health or the way I live my life?
  6. When my emotions are intense — whether positive or negative — do I find myself reaching for food?
  7. Do my eating behaviors make me or others unhappy?
  8. Have I ever used laxatives, vomiting, diuretics, excessive exercise, diet pills, shots or other medical interventions (including surgery) to try to control my weight?
  9. Do I fast or severely restrict my food intake to control my weight?
  10. Do I fantasize about how much better life would be if I were a different size or weight?
  11. Do I need to chew or have something in my mouth all the time: food, gum, mints, candies or beverages?
  12. Have I ever eaten food that is burned, frozen or spoiled; from containers in the grocery store; or out of the garbage?
  13. Are there certain foods I can’t stop eating after having the first bite?
  14. Have I lost weight with a diet or “period of control” only to be followed by bouts of uncontrolled eating and/or weight gain?
  15. Do I spend too much time thinking about food, arguing with myself about whether or what to eat, planning the next diet or exercise cure, or counting calories?

If you answer yes to “several” you might have a problem. Several is formally defined as more than 2 but not many.

I answered yes to 12 out of 15 and in the distant past (more than 20 years I’m happy to say) I could have answered yes to all 15.

I found this to be depressing, initially. I’m not sure why. It could be that I had major surgery to rearrange my digestive system to lose weight, then gained most of it back.

But deep down, I think it is because I’ve spent so much time in my life working on my issues with food and I just want to be done with it. I keep thinking I AM done with it. But I’m not and after taking this test, I was ALMOST ready to admit that I might never be done with it.

So what do you do when you have a problem that may be life long, definitely impacts your health and the lives of your family? If I was an alcoholic, I’d immediately think of of AA. Since my problem is food, OA is the reasonable answer. Crap.

This is not the first time I’ve  considered OA. Part of my resistance has been an unwillingness to believe that I have a disease and that a big old dose of willpower won’t cure.

Then there’s the God thing. I tried an OA meeting once but after listening, decided it wouldn’t work for me because I don’t believe in God and so I have never had faith in God as a Higher Power that could save me from myself.  As an entity at all interested in me and what I was doing or not doing. I’ve tried various religions and we have finally, as a family, settled on what I like to call Social Judaism. We light the candles, say the prayers and drink the wine on Friday nights. Occasionally we go to Temple. Our son was bar mitzvah’d.

I live in a rural area, so the other compulsive eating programs I found were not available. There are OA meetings almost every day of the week in the wider Carson City area. More if I drive to Reno.

Still I resisted. How can God help me if I don’t believe in him. (And I know, my Christian friends will say, He believes in me. Thanks. Still doesn’t help.)

So I did what I always do and I Googled it. “How to be part of OA without believing in God”. 896,000 results in .65 seconds. I started reading and found a lot of reassuring articles that says OA will not reject you. You won’t be a freak. And, yes, you have to hear the word God a lot, but that’s okay. It doesn’t bother me. I just didn’t want to be a hypocrite and a lot of the steps in the list of 12 have to do with God and a higher power. Then I found this:

There are many acronyms for the letters G, O, and D, including: Good Orderly Direction or Guidance on Demand or Get Out Devil or Go On Dreaming or Group Of Divas or Gift of Delight or Gone off Destruction.

So I went to my first meeting. I listened to the invitation and the Twelve Steps. We took turns reading from the OA literature. I listened to their stories and I shared mine. I went to another meeting in the area, with some of the same people and some different people. I discovered that the meetings are formulaic and repetitive and I felt frustrated. I wasn’t seeing anyone that seemed to be successful. By that, I meant thin. But I kept going. There was something there. I bought the Just for Today book and started reading a page a day. (It’s online, too.)

About a month into meetings, one of the members said “this is an emotional problem, with a physical symptom that has a spiritual solution.” I cried. I started to listen more carefully to what everyone was saying.

One day another member talked about how the program had helped to bring peace, even if it didn’t bring thin thighs. My mean girl brain thought that was crazy. But then my sane brain asked if I wasn’t losing any weight, (a few pounds since November was not what I call success) then what if my goal, for once, wasn’t about losing weight?

WHOA, NELLY! I’ve had this crazy thought for the last few years and been making resolutions that had nothing to do with losing weight. Well, at least the public ones.  I could do with some peace.

So that’s what I’m doing. To paraphrase today’s Just for Today thought: I’ve begun working a spiritual program. I can’t imagine that I will ever become a spiritual giant. But if I look at myself realistically, I realize that I’ve been doing better than I thought I was.

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