Hi, I'm Jon O and I'm a compulsive overeater. What the fuck does that mean? I don't entirely know, but here's where I'm starting:
"We admitted we were powerless over food — that our lives had become unmanageable."
Those of you with any experience of this sort of thing will recognize that as The First Step in any of the Anonymous families, starting with AA and on down through the list of addiction recovery 12 step programs. The first step is admitting we were powerless. That's what I'm doing. I've joined Overeaters Anonymous.
It's not just the weight. I do have a lot of weight. In 2003, when I started a different sort of struggle to lose weight, I started somewhere around 392 pounds. Three Hundred Ninety Two Pounds. I lost over 70 pounds that next year.
In May 2008, when I went in for my sleep apnea study, I weighed 406. four fucking hundred and six FUCKING pounds. (I assumed I'd only gained weight since then but when I went to a dietician recently I was actually at 396, but whatever). That is one fifth of a ton. Twenty percent of a ton. Five of me could safely ride in an elevator made for twelve.
For those of you scoring at home, that means I'd started in 2003 at 392, lost seventy-ish, and then over the next few years gained 84. I know adults for whom 84 pounds gained would be like half or 2/3 their body weight.
This has happened before. Lost 30, gained 45. Lost 45 gained 60. Lost my mind...stayed lost. This is just one of the specific ways in which my life had become unmanageable. I've made a list of twenty. I'm not going to share that list with you in its entirety, but it involves things like getting sick, gaining weight, being depressed, lower back problems, not fitting in seats, embarrassment, going to my other addiction (smoking), and many more.
That's just a tiny fraction of work on step one. There's eleven to go.
Here's a series of questions I looked at. They're written by OA and I looked through them before I went to a meeting: Do you eat when you’re not hungry? Do you go on eating binges for no apparent reason? Do you have feelings of guilt and remorse after overeating? Do you give too much time and thought to food? Do you look forward with pleasure and anticipation to the time when you can eat alone? Do you plan these secret binges ahead of time? Do you eat sensibly before others and make up for it alone? Is your weight affecting the way you live your life? Have you tried to diet for a week (or longer), only to fall short of your goal? Do you resent others telling you to “use a little willpower” to stop overeating? Despite evidence to the contrary, have you continued to assert that you can diet “on your own” whenever you wish? Do you crave to eat at a definite time, day or night, other than mealtime? Do you eat to escape from worries or trouble? Have you ever been treated for obesity or a food-related condition? Does your eating behavior make you or others unhappy?Those are just questions that MIGHT indicate you're a compulsive overeater. They ultimately leave it to the person to figure that out.
I answered yes to a lot of those. You don't know about some of those things, because I keep them secret. Someone recently said, "yeah, but I eat until I'm sick sometimes." That was what opened my eyes a little more. Yes. We all do that! We all can eat cake until we're sick of cake. When you eat cake until you're sick of cake, you put it down and say, "maybe I won't eat any more of that for a couple days." When I eat cake until I'm sick of cake (which takes a lot of cake), I say "maybe I won't eat anymore of that for a couple hours. I shouldn't have eaten all that cake. I fucking hate myself for eating all that cake until I'm sick. I need ice cream." After quickly snapping up a pint of ice cream, I don't feel so bad about the cake. But I think I'll have some sausage to silence the voice screaming at me about the ice cream. The next day, I'm feeling like chicken. Do you see? It's not the eating to sickness, it's using eating to overcome the shame of eating and then eating more for no reason at all. This is not rational. This is unmanageable. And most of the time, I don't exactly know how it started. Do you know anybody like that? Like maybe a drunk? Yeah, a drunk. I'm a compulsive overeater the way alcoholics are with booze.
You don't know about the weight—perhaps you've just seen the waistline expand and have been concerned about my health—but I've kept the numbers from you. This is because I have a disease that makes me isolated and ashamed. And I need to recover from that disease.
I have lost a lot of joy from this, joy sucked out of eating by the eating itself. I ate a heavenly meal last year that ran to about ten courses. I even wrote beautifully about some of it (I stopped as once again depression stole over me and I abandoned yet another project). But do you know that no matter how much pleasure I took from that, I still wanted some chocolate milk and ice cream afterward? I had a cigarette instead. This was pretty risky, since I gave up smoking eight years ago this May (and gained about 30 pounds from it at the time tralala!).
I've been to several meetings. I have a sponsor. I have friends I call a lot. I eat on a food plan overseen by a dietician. I talk to my doctor (my doctor suggested OA in the first place, that wise fucker). AA uses "sober." OA uses "abstinence." Today, I have been living and eating abstinently for 23 days. I have a 24 hour "chip" I got at a meeting that I keep on my keychain. yeah I know, just like on tv! It has the serenity prayer on it. I pray that all the time. I have been abstinent for 23 days. I am on my first step. I have been relieved of at least 13 pounds. It's probably going to get harder before it gets easier, and there may be "relapses" as I figure out what foods I need to stay away from and what situations put me at risk of eating compulsively. But I am not going to think about those today. Today I'm going to live another day admitting I can't manage the food myself and that I am powerless. If I do that, I will make it through this day. Then tomorrow will come and I can do it again.
I am JUST starting this. I have been made promises by the people in OA, promises that I'm going to recover. Promises that sure, we'll lose weight if we need to, and promises that we will find hope and joy. They—we—actually say that. We actually say "we find love and understanding beyond our wildest dreams." Isn't that corny? Isn't that cheesy? I do not fucking care. I want that. I'm going to go get that by any means necessary, because I'm unable to live the other way any more.
So, now you know.