Per the rules of Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous (FA), the names have been changed to protect the identity of the group members, though their places of residence have stayed the same.
The thought of Turkey Day brings fond memories for most of America, just for the fact that itâ€™s simple: eat, sleep, eat again, eat a third time and then catch up with relatives.
For most, itâ€™s an annual ticket to stuffing oneself to the limit; that one day when families eat until they canâ€™t stand up. Of course, it all ends after the big meal, and most everyone goes back to his or her regular eating habits.
But for some, Thanksgiving eating habits donâ€™t stop at midnight on Nov. 27, but continue on day in and day out. Those who have an addiction to food – a number that is increasingly on the rise – find the holidays a particularly challenging time, let alone every other day.
The addiction to food is a curious one in that it doesnâ€™t get as much attention as other addictions such as alcohol and drugs, but it often works hand-in-hand with those addictions. Too often, it is the true cause and underlying problem leading to the other addictions.
â€Brenda from Revere is a relative newcomer to the FA group – having come to her first meeting 12 years ago.
Karen, now 50, wasnâ€™t out of control, but food dominated her life.
She would hide food.
She would go out â€œfor a drive,â€ and sneak snacks at the fast food drive thru. She was always making excuses as to why she needed to run errands, mostly because errands led to food.
â€œI really was like an alcoholic, but the addiction is to food,â€ she said. â€œI couldnâ€™t stop eating no matter what. I despised myself so much.â€
At 38, Brenda said she had one knee replacement, had anxiety, heart palpitations and very high blood pressure. Besides the physical, she said she was moody and mean – often short-tempered and usually unhappy.
After having lived in Colorado, she moved back to Massachusetts and settled in Revere. Not long after landing here, a cousin told her about the FA program and she decided to give it a try – thinking maybe it might reveal some new â€œmagic key to the kingdom.â€
However, what it revealed was her addiction.
â€œI had never heard people say they couldnâ€™t stop eating and were addicted,â€ she said. â€œIt was a breakthrough because itâ€™s what I was doing. When I put the food down, my life got better. I lost 95 pounds and kept it off with no medications, no surgeries. I have a better relationship with my family. Iâ€™m calm, kind, nice, and Iâ€™m not in debt. I got married and Iâ€™m a size 6 and that hasnâ€™t changed. I donâ€™t miss any of it.â€
The tie that binds these three local women is the FA program, a program that once existed as Overeaters Anonymous (OA) until 1998 when it became FA. With its founding traced back to Chelsea, Everett and Revere, FA broke off from OA after having developed a unique regimen that was different from OA. FAâ€™s 12-step program is patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous. Members say itâ€™s not based on guilt, and itâ€™s not religious, but is spiritually based. Most importantly, itâ€™s a strong network of men and women helping one another with an addiction that often flies under the radar.
FA has the following meetings available in Chelsea, Everett and Charlestown.
- Everett and Chelsea, Monday and Weds. nights at Soldiers Home
- Chelsea, Beth Israel HC on Broadway, Friday mornings
- Everett, Parlin Library, Wednesdays, 10 a.m.
- Whidden Hospital, Saturdays