Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous (FA) is dedicated to helping guide folks to a healthy lifestyle.
So if your New Year’s resolutions included getting control of your weight, the organization offers a program for guidance on the journey to slimming down.
Meetings run in Lacombe on Saturdays at 10 a.m. at the Lacombe Memorial Centre and in Red Deer on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. at the Kentwood Alliance Church and Fridays at 9 a.m. at the West Park Church of the Nazarene.
Essentially, FA members follow the Canadian Food Guide while taking the extra step of cutting out sugar and flour. Members also follow a 12-step format adapted from the Alcoholics Anonymous program.
A sponsor is assigned to each member — someone who has gone through the program and who can provide support as the lifestyle changes are implemented.
“I came into the program eight years ago weighing 300 pounds,” said Rose (not her real name). After years of dieting, she found herself unable to stick with a plan over the long-term.
“When I would get to the end of a diet, I would gain all the weight back. I was also having some huge health issues. I had circulation problems, blood pressure problems and joint issues. Every year I would lie to my doctor, saying this year I would be losing the weight. And I’d be back the next year with the same old empty promises.”
In joining Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous, Rose learned that she was indeed addicted to eating.
“I also learned that if I eat certain foods, I can’t stop eating them.”
That includes anything that includes flour and sugar, which she said only trigger an irresistible hunger response a little while later. As she adopted the new style of eating through FA, she found her weight quickly dropping and a new life beginning.
“Once I got the flour and sugar out of my system, my thinking around food became so much clearer.”
The cravings for the wrong kinds of foods also began to fade. Ultimately, she lost 150 lbs.
Rose also points to the supportive nature of the meetings as critical to her success.
“We’re all in this together, and that helps a lot. I also know that I have to remember what it was like before so I don’t go back there.”
And even though she’s maintained a healthy weight for several years now, she still attends meetings.
“I have to go — they are my medicine.”
Having a sponsor to turn to is also extremely beneficial, she said. These days, she’s sharing her experience with those new to FA.
“I have the opportunity and privilege to sponsor others now as well.”
Today’s healthy, simple diet includes fruits, vegetables, milk, whole grains like oatmeal, plain yogurt and meats.
“I feel 20 years younger,” she explained. “If I had gone on eating for the last eight years like I was, if I was still alive I know I would be bound to a wheelchair because my legs couldn’t carry me.”
Another local FA member, Barb, said the group was also life-changing for her.
She was about 200 pounds when she joined FA, and has lost about 60 pounds.
“I believe I was a food addict ever since I was born,” she explained, adding she was very heavy by the time she was just five years old.
“I just loved food. I remember sneaking it and wanting more than everybody else. It was just way too important to me. Food was my best friend.”
Barb managed to drop weight prior to adolescence thanks to help from her parents. In her later teen years, she also exercised aggressively and managed to control her weight. But the battle wasn’t over.
She started to gain weight again in her 20s, and she found herself drawn to foods with flour and sugar plus all kinds of sweets and snacks including ice cream and nachos.
She remembers mulling over which chocolate bars to buy at the nearby 7-11 when they offered three for a dollar.
“I would stand there trying to decide which ones were the biggest. What would I get my best ‘hit’ from?”
Barb went on to try several expensive diet programs, but to no avail. “I couldn’t diet between meetings, because the food owned me so much,” she recalled. “I hated myself that I couldn’t control my eating. Depression also goes hand in hand with food addiction.”
She discovered FA and knew that at last she had found the answer to her fixation with food.
Meanwhile, as is the case with Rose, Barb isn’t about to stop attending meetings.
“My disease continues to grow, even when I’m moving in a positive direction. It’s still waiting for me to let down my guard, so I can’t stop going to meetings because I’m at a normal weight now. I still talk to my sponsor and I still study the 12 steps in an organized setting. I have to use all the tools.
“It’s a mental, spiritual and physical program. That’s why diets don’t work, because they just look at the physical.”
For more information about Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous, visit www.foodaddicts.org or call Joan at 403-748-2433.