Addiction and recovery
By Bob Gaydos
Are you a compulsive overeater?
` It’s not a question most people want to ask themselves, but given the virtual epidemic of obesity in this country as well as the prevalence of eating disorders, it’s a question more people should be considering. Food may be necessary for survival, but the manner and amount in which it is consumed can become dangerously addictive.
As with other addictions, there are a variety of groups and approaches available to try to change the behavior. Also, as with all addictions, the solution begins with recognizing the problem. A self-assessment test is a good way to start. The following is one used by Overeaters Anonymous. It is not the only test available on compulsive eating, but it will definitely let you know if you have a problem.
As always, of course, be honest or this is a big waste of time and possibly hazardous to your health.
OA’s Fifteen Questions
- Do I eat when I’m not hungry, or not eat when my body needs nourishment? Yes No
- Do I go on eating binges for no apparent reason, sometimes eating until I’m stuffed or even feel sick? Yes No
- Do I have feelings of guilt, shame, or embarrassment about my weight or the way I eat? Yes No
- Do I eat sensibly in front of others and then make up for it when I am alone? Yes No
- Is my eating affecting my health or the way I live my life? Yes No
- When my emotions are intense — whether positive or negative — do I find myself reaching for food? Yes No
- Do my eating behaviors make me or others unhappy? Yes No
- Have I ever used laxatives, vomiting, diuretics, excessive exercise, diet pills, shots or other medical interventions (including surgery) to try to control my weight? Yes No
- Do I fast or severely restrict my food intake to control my weight? Yes No
- Do I fantasize about how much better life would be if I were a different size or weight? Yes No
- Do I need to chew or have something in my mouth all the time: food, gum, mints, candies or beverages? Yes No
- Have I ever eaten food that is burned, frozen or spoiled; from containers in the grocery store; or out of the garbage? Yes No
13. Are there certain foods I can’t stop eating after having the first bite? Yes No
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? Yes No
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? Yes No
If you answered yes to several questions, OA says it is possible you have or “are well on your way to having, a compulsive eating or overeating problem.”
If you choose to try OA, you should know that it is based on abstinence and is a 12-step program of spiritual recovery. It does not provide diets or weight-loss plans. The so-called “GreySheet,” with its recommended daily meals, is no longer part of the OA program, having been eliminated decades ago, as have other diet plans. OA’s web site states: “For weight loss, any medically approved eating plan is acceptable. OA members interested in learning about nutrition or who seek professional advice are encouraged to consult qualified professionals.”
There are, however, some Greysheeters Anonymous groups active, which also follow the 12-step model and still use the diet plan. In addition, Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous offers a 20-question assessment, which is available online. There is also a 12-step group called Food Addicts Anonymous and others based on the 12-step model. Each has a slightly different focus on dealing with food addiction. If there are no convenient face-to-face meetings for some of the groups, they all have phone and online meetings available and all are anonymous. (It should also be noted that alcoholism and other substance abuse disorders are more common among persons with food addictions than among the general population.)
Of course, none of these groups is a substitute for professional medical care, counseling or dietary advice, which are necessary to deal with serious eating disorders. The groups do provide a source of support and sense of purpose, however, and a relief from the shame and stigma that often accompany efforts to recover from compulsive overeating.
They also avoid the risk of isolation, a threat to recovery from all addictions. If you're taking this test, know this: You're not alone; help is available.
Binge-eating disorder is characterized by recurrent binge-eating episodes during which a person feels a loss of control over his or her eating. Unlike bulimia, binge-eating episodes are not followed by purging, excessive exercise or fasting. As a result, people with binge-eating disorder often are overweight or obese. They also experience guilt, shame and/or distress about the binge-eating, which can lead to more binge-eating. The average age of onset is 25 years old.
-- National Institute of Mental Health