Twenty Questions about Food Addiction

When I wandered into my first Twelve Step meeting in January 1999, I was 19 years old, weighed 185 pounds, and had been bulimic for five and a half years. I was nervous about going to the meeting–I always wanted to present the image that everything was fine–but as soon as it started, I knew that I was in the right place. These people spoke about food addiction, and I felt as though—after years of trying to play tennis with a ping pong ball—someone had finally pointed out to me my mistake:

I was an addict.

What was wrong with me finally had a name.

It was an incredible relief.

What really got me, though, was one of the pamphlets. It had (and still has) a list of 20 questions to help people determine if they’re food addicts:

  1. Have you ever wanted to stop eating and found you just couldn’t?
  2. Do you think about food or your weight constantly?
  3. Do you find yourself attempting one diet or food plan after another, with no lasting success?
  4. Do you binge and then “get rid of the binge” through vomiting, exercise, laxatives, or other forms of purging?
  5. Do you eat differently in private than you do in front of other people?
  6. Has a doctor or family member ever approached you with concern about your eating habits or weight?
  7. Do you eat large quantities of food at one time (binge)?
  8. Is your weight problem due to your “nibbling” all day long?
  9. Do you eat to escape from your feelings?
  10. Do you eat when you’re not hungry?
  11. Have you ever discarded food, only to retrieve and eat it later?
  12. Do you eat in secret?
  13. Do you fast or severely restrict your food intake?
  14. Have you ever stolen other people’s food?
  15. Have you ever hidden food to make sure you have “enough?”
  16. Do you feel driven to exercise excessively to control your weight?
  17. Do you obsessively calculate the calories you’ve burned against the calories you’ve eaten?
  18. Do you frequently feel guilty or ashamed about what you’ve eaten?
  19. Are you waiting for your life to begin “when you lose the weight?”
  20. Do you feel hopeless about your relationship with food?

The pamphlet said that if you answered yes to any of the questions, you might be a food addict. I answered yes to 19*.

I joined the program back in 1999. I lost 55 pounds and have weighed 130 pounds ever since. I haven’t binged or purged in nearly 11 years, and I’m no longer obsessed with food. It’s a rigorous program–some people think it is much too strict–but man-oh-man, has it worked for me!

*I couldn’t relate to #8. I didn’t nibble; I binged.

as soon as it started, I knew that I was in the right place. These people spoke about food addiction, and I felt as though—after years of trying to play tennis with a ping pong ball—someone had finally pointed out to me my mistake:

I was an addict.

What was wrong with me finally had a name.

It was an incredible relief.

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One Response to Twenty Questions about Food Addiction

  1. [...] invited us to check out her writings about food addiction, and we found a piece called “Twenty Questions About Food Addiction.” Whistler didn’t formulate the Twenty Questions, but was given them at a 12-step [...]

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