Life After Weight Loss
“You don’t look like a compulsive overeater,” another OA member told me after one of our first meetings together. He seemed surprised when I revealed that I still struggled with food and had not sustained long-term abstinence. Weight loss is a goal that brings many people to OA and can be one measure of progress, but it doesn’t work that way for everyone.
Clinically obese when I graduated from college, I managed to lose 60 pounds (27 kg) through regular exercise and restrictive eating. Holding steady at my target weight for several years, I was a success story in many people’s eyes, and my compulsive overeating became almost invisible. Except for the sales clerks who noticed the excessive amounts of candy I bought, or the occasional coworker who caught me in the midst of a vending-machine binge, few people knew I was still living primarily on high-fat, sugary foods.
The more I ate (up to 11 days worth of food in a week), the more I exercised (sometimes six hours a day), and the stranger my eating habits became. Exhausted from the relentless struggle to maintain my weight, I could no longer tell myself I was cured just because my “thin” clothes still fit. I finally came to OA more than a year ago, aware my life was out of control.
I am grateful that OA is not a diet club. Physical recovery is more than weight loss. It includes eating nutritious foods in healthy amounts. Following a regular meal plan, I now eat more fruits and vegetables in one day than I consumed in an average week of bingeing. I exercise regularly, but my body no longer aches from the extended late-night workouts that served as a purge. I also rest more. Money I once spent on binge food now goes into an investment account for my future; this is another aspect of physical recovery.
With the help of OA, I am now aware of the ways I used food to block out difficult emotions and divert my attention from important areas of my life—career, friends and family. Coming to terms with the misguided payoffs and consequences of my compulsive overeating has contributed to my emotional and spiritual well-being.
When I attend OA meetings, I seldom talk about the weight I lost—in my case, weight loss was a prelude to the program. But I can discuss the positive steps I continue to take in recovery.
— Reprinted from Lifeline magazine