DEAR ABBY: I'd like to tell your readers about a wonderful program I discovered about a year ago. It's called Overeaters Anonymous (OA). The program is similar to AA, but it's for people with an eating problem.
For years, I struggled to lose weight. I tried dozens of diets, pills and saw several doctors. I would lose some weight, but I could never stick with a program, so I gained back more than I lost. I felt like a loser.
I was a food junkie. I ate when I was happy, sad, depressed, bored or lonely. I would buy candy at the checkout counter at the market and eat it on the way home. Then I'd hide the wrapper in the garage so my family wouldn't know I ate it.
I hid candy in the kitchen cabinets so no one would find it, then I'd sneak in and eat it later. I could never have only one serving size of chips or cookies. I would consume half a bag before I stopped.
Since joining OA, I have lost more than 50 pounds and feel like a new person. I have a new outlook on life and no longer have to rely on food. It's good to be able to talk with people who have the same problems I do. It's a daily struggle, but I have a sponsor and others to talk to when I'm tempted to return to my old life.
Compulsive eating is a disease, Abby. And unless people have it, they don't understand. I hope this letter will help someone who is also struggling. -- GRATEFUL O.A. MEMBER IN ILLINOIS
DEAR GRATEFUL: I'm glad you found OA. It's a wonderful organization that has been around for many years. About 20 years ago, I was fortunate to meet the woman who founded it -- and she was a doll -- and I know the program has helped many thousands of people. Often when a person has weight issues, it is less about what he or she is eating than it is what is eating the PERSON.
Readers, OA has about 6,500 groups in more than 75 countries. There are no requirements for membership except a sincere desire to stop eating compulsively. Everyone is there to offer mutual support. I have attended some of the meetings, and there is no weighing and no embarrassment. There is only a fellowship of compassionate people who share a common problem.
There are OA chapters everywhere, but if you have trouble locating one, go to www.oa.org, or send a long, self-addressed stamped envelope to Overeaters Anonymous World Service, P.O. Box 44020, Rio Rancho, NM 87174-4020. The email address is info(at)oa.org.