DEAR ABBY: I am about 70 pounds overweight. When I try to diet I just give up. I feel like crying every night because of the way I look. The older I get, the more concerned I am about my weight problem, but I can't help myself.
I'm not dating anyone, and my so-called "friend" said it's because I am so ugly.
I am also kind of scared that I'll wind up dead because of my weight, but I can't stop eating. I eat because I'm sad and I eat because I'm happy. I joined an athletic program at school. All it did was help me lose a little bit of weight -- not much.
What can I do to feel better about myself and become more healthy? I don't want to die. -- SCARED AND SAD FAT GIRL
DEAR SCARED AND FAT: Stop beating yourself up. You have a weight problem, but you're not alone. So do millions of other people. Give yourself a pat on the back. You have already taken the first important step in overcoming your problem. You joined an athletic program, which is important to your long-term health. An added bonus is that it helps to burn calories.
Now it's time to make an appointment with your physician so he or she can recommend a sensible weight-loss program. Once that's established, go to your phone directory and check the listings for Overeaters Anonymous. OA is a self-help group that has been around for more than 40 years, with more than 8,000 chapters in 50 countries. You will be welcomed with open arms into a fellowship of compassionate women, men and young people who share a common problem. It charges no dues or fees, and the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop eating compulsively.
Allow me to quote from a letter I printed in 1999 from a member of 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. ... My emotional state was equally tortured.
"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 it 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."
"Sad and Scared," jump-start your diet by jettisoning the so-called "friend" you mentioned in your letter. With that kind of negative influence in your life, it's no wonder you turned to food for comfort. If you have trouble locating an OA chapter near you, visit the Web site, www.overeatersanonymous.org, or send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to OA World Service Office, P.O. Box 44020, Rio Rancho, NM 87174-4020. You'll be glad you did.