Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: The rules for dieting during the holidays you printed prompts this letter. I want to tell you and your readers about my weight loss and recovery from compulsive overeating through Overeaters Anonymous.

Before I found OA at age 19, I had failed at every diet I tried. I wasn't able to stop shoving food down my throat. Back then, I could easily consume eight candy bars, a pint of ice cream and half a pizza in one sitting -- then wait for the food to digest so I could go back for more. My emotional state, as you might imagine, was equally tortured. I had suicidal thoughts.

Luckily I found OA which, as many know, is based on Alcoholics Anonymous and has a spiritual component. I walked into my first meeting a confirmed atheist, but I was so desperate that I was ready to try anything. And it worked!

I lost 45 pounds, Abby, but more important, I have kept it off for more than 18 years. One of my closest friends lost 102 pounds through OA and has kept it off for nearly two years. My sponsor, who guides me through the program, lost 250 pounds and has kept it off for 27 years. I'm not making that up.

Incredibly, I don't miss the foods I used to wolf down. I eat nothing sweeter than fresh fruit, and I haven't been plagued by the relentless cravings I used to suffer. OA changed the way I relate emotionally to food. I love life now, and often can't wait to get up in the morning.

Please tell your readers they can find OA in the phone book under Overeaters Anonymous or through directory assistance. -- GRATEFUL IN L.A.

DEAR GRATEFUL: I'm delighted to do it. I hope your letter will inspire others who are waging the battle against compulsive overeating and who are unaware that help is available.

Overeaters Anonymous has more than 8,000 groups in 58 countries. Local chapters are listed in the telephone directory. There are no dues or fees, and no membership lists are kept. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop eating compulsively. There is no shaming, no weighing and no embarrassment. You will be welcomed with open arms into a fellowship of compassionate women and men who share a common problem.

There are chapters in almost every city, but if you have difficulty finding one near you, visit the Web site:, or send a long, stamped, self-addressed envelope to OA World Service Office, P.O. Box 44020, Rio Rancho, NM 87124-4020.

CONFIDENTIAL TO "IMPATIENT TEEN": Although it may seem to you that time is standing still, before you know it, you'll be old enough to date. Henry Van Dyke summed it up nicely in the poem "Time Is":

"Too slow for those who wait,

"Too swift for those who fear,

"Too long for those who grieve,

"Too short for those who rejoice,

"But for those who love,

"Time is eternity."

Abby shares her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "Abby's More Favorite Recipes." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 per booklet ($4.50 each in Canada) to: Dear Abby Cookbooklets I and II, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600