DEAR ABBY: Before her death, I promised my mother that I would not get fat like her. Now I'm finding it hard to keep that promise. Ever since we lost Mama, I have slowly gained a little each year. I have tried to lose, but all I do is look at food and I gain.

If this keeps up I'll become the size my mother was. Does that mean I failed her because I broke my promise? I feel so guilty. Please help me. -- JUST LIKE MY MAMA IN TEXAS

DEAR LIKE MAMA: The answer is no, so stop feeling guilty. Guilt has nothing to do with it. It's common for people to gain weight after 30, and I can confirm from personal experience that it doesn't happen because anyone "looks" at food.

Weight gain is a form of banking. If we deposit more money in our saving account than we spend, we have a large savings account. On the other hand, if we spend more than save, the account dwindles. It's the same with weight. Eat more calories than we burn, the result is a fat we-know-what. To "spend" calories rather than wearing them, a change in diet and a program of regular exercise are necessary.

Also, people don't necessarily eat because they are hungry. Some overindulge for emotional reasons. I recently received a letter that could be of help to you. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I am alive because, in one of your columns, you provided the contact information for Overeaters Anonymous. I wrote to the address listed and, within days, received a friendly note offering support. Like many others with an overeating problem, I waited more than two years before going to my first meeting. But that meeting changed my life. I have been in recovery from compulsive eating for 32 years. My life today is better than I could have ever imagined.

There are about 6,500 Overeaters Anonymous (OA) groups in 75 countries. Patterned after the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, they offer recovery from compulsive eating. Because today obesity, with all its attendant health problems, is acknowledged as an epidemic, I hope you will again mention OA to your readers. Fellow sufferers and their physicians are sometimes resorting to drastic measures to help them lose weight. My life was saved thanks to this program and the fact your mentioned it. Thank you. -- DONNA S. IN TEXAS

DEAR DONNA S.: Thank YOU for the timely reminder that for weight loss, a support group can make the difference between success and failure. Overeaters Anonymous is listed in many telephone books and also on the Internet at � HYPERLINK "http://www.oa.org" ��www.oa.org�. It charges no dues or fees, and no membership lists are kept. There is no shaming, no weighing in and no embarrassment. Everyone meets on common ground and is welcomed with open arms into a fellowship of women and men who all share the same problem. The only requirement for membership is the desire to stop eating compulsively.

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DEAR ABBY: Do you think a person can be taught "common sense," or is it something you are born with? -- CURIOUS

DEAR CURIOUS: Common sense is something a person is born with. I have heard from many people with professional degrees, but no common sense.

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