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To the Man Who Wants to Stop Overeating

The following are excerpts from the pamphlet “To the Man Who Wants to Stop Overeating, Welcome” © 1979, 1995. Overeaters Anonymous, Inc.

People without the compulsion, even doctors, do not understand, but there are plenty of people who do. I found them in OA.

To the man who wants to stop compulsive overeating, welcome.

There are many men like you, who have stood where perhaps you do now, wondering if OA really works. They too know about "willpower" and good intentions, diets and pills. They too have made resolutions -- vowed to keep them -- only to struggle and lose over and over again. And they know about rationalizations:

"I put in a good day's work -- I've got to eat to keep up my energy."

"After the kind of day I've put in, why shouldn't I have a reward?"

"Everyone in my family is big-boned."

"I retain water, have dysfunctioning glands, peculiar fat cells, low thyroid. I look at food and gain weight."

These men, through the Fellowship of OA, have learned to see their compulsive overeating as a disease, as clear-cut -- according to the American Medical Association -- as diabetes, TB, arthritis, and heart disease.

There's Ray, a construction worker who says:
I've been a compulsive overeater as far back as I can remember.... if my dad yelled at me for something, I'd head straight for the refrigerator. Eating helped me feel better....
One day after I'd been working for about four months, I was on my way up the ladder to install a roof when a foreman yelled, "Hey, you're too fat to be climbing ladders. Get down before you kill yourself." That minute I wished I were dead....

There's Jim, whose big problem was alcohol, until he went to AA -- then he discovered he had another:
I was a functioning drunk for 27 years, an attorney with a prominent practice. A symptom of alcoholism is denial, and until a doctor told me I was an alcoholic, I did not know it. At first I was angry. Me -- an alcoholic! Then I felt relief. I went to AA and I've been sober ever since -- sober from alcoholism, I should say. At meetings I talked a lot and ate a lot. At first my eating didn't bother me.

I rationalized, "At least I'm not drinking. I promised I'd taper off as soon as I had more sobriety." On my first AA birthday, I was so happy to have a year free from alcohol I didn't care that I had gained 63 pounds. My friends gave me a party with all the good things to eat. That night when my wife and I were getting ready for bed, I looked at myself in the mirror.... I had traded one addiction for another….

Mike says:
Until I quit smoking, I didn't know I was a compulsive overeater....
Once I started eating, sometimes I couldn't stop. Some times after a binge, I would wake up in the middle of the night, hot and sweaty, my throat burning from indigestion. I didn't need to gain a lot of weight to know that I was caught in the chains of compulsive overeating. I didn’t know what to do…

It took a heart attack to bring Richard to his knees:
Part of the disease of compulsive overeating is denial. I am 5'10" and weighed 320 pounds. I didn't think I was an overeater. My wife pleaded with me to go on a diet. She fixed low-calorie foods and I all but threw them on the floor demanding that she give "a decent meal to a hardworking man." Hardworking --ha! I was a bus driver. Although it was hard work, it hardly used up the calories I ate. Often after dinner I would go out to buy junk food and eat it in front of her -- just to show her who was boss….

On evening I collapsed...This time my doctor didn't say, as he had for years "I think it would be a good idea if you lost weight." He said, "Lose weight or die. I suggest you call Overeaters Anonymous."

In the hospital I had a long time to think about his words. Overeaters Anonymous --the name had a forbidding sound. I wasn't one of those people. But I knew I could not control my eating. That had been proven to me over and over again. I would intend to eat one portion and end up eating many times that amount. I had no willpower, that was for sure.
When I got out of the hospital I called OA and went to a meeting. I was unprepared for what I saw. The people were smiling. They seemed happy. They looked relaxed. They didn't look like they were fighting food. During the meeting I heard words like "turning it over," "willingness," "one day at a time," and "letting go."

I've lost 134 pounds but, best of all, the compulsion has been lifted. I no longer have cravings. My doctor said, "You see, you did it."

I shook my head, "No, OA and I did it." People without the compulsion, even doctors, do not understand, but there are plenty of people who do. I found them in OA.

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"When to Say When"

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