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