Saturday, July 11, 2009

Food Support Groups

I recently decided that I wanted to do some research on weight loss support groups. I looked at two of the most popular ones, Overeaters Anonymous (OA) and Food Addicts Anonymous (FAA). First off, I must tell you that I went to one FAA meeting years ago, with a professor who had lost a lot of weight doing it. However, besides that one experience, I can’t speak as a person who’s actually attended regular meetings. This post is based upon some reviews I read (which I’ll talk about later) and the principles on which these programs are based on. This post is meant to encourage discussion on this topic and if lucky, those who’ve participated in any of these or similar programs can comment.

I would like to join a weight loss support group myself, hence why I was doing research. I recently lost 20 pounds and I want to continue with my progress. However, these days things have been hard and I thought perhaps a support group would help me.

Both OA and FAA are 12-step programs that follow the examples of Alcoholic Anonymous. They both use the same 12 steps as AA, substituting food for alcoholic and they both encourage you to obtain a sponsor to help you with your “addiction.” However, there are some difference between OA and FAA. For one OA meets only once a week and does not require a specific diet, but does recommend a menu and strongly advices against sugar and flour. The newcomer platform reads as is:

“Unlike other organizations, OA is not just about weight loss, gain or maintenance; or obesity or diets. It addresses physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. It is not a religious organization and does not promote any particular diet. If you want to stop your compulsive eating, welcome to Overeaters Anonymous.”

From what I understand FAA is a bit stricter. They require you to attend meetings three times a week and to keep constant communication with your sponsor. Once a menu for the day has been determined you must stick to it and any changes must be discussed with your sponsor first. Again, it’s not required to eat a specific way with FAA, but from what I can tell (from posts online), their menu is strongly encouraged and more members follow their diet.

I read many good reviews about both programs, people expressed that they liked having the support. Many specialist have recognized that overeating is often an emotional thing and it seems like both FAA and OA are great environments to explore the reasoning as to why you overeat. However, a couple of complaints I came across are worth noting.

I remember when I went to that one FAA meeting and everyone stood up and said “Hi my name is---and I am a food addict,” and I immediately felt uncomfortable. At that time, I thought it was because I was in fact a food addict, for why else would I feel so out of place? And in a manner of speaking, we are all in some ways food addicts as we continue to eat junky food and Americans become more and more overweight. While I understand that there are in fact many overeaters out there, where’s the thin line between someone who has made really bad decisions and a person who continuously binges?

Some posters commented that both FAA and OA made them feel ashamed for liking food and wanting to eat and if you are not in fact an overeater, that feeling might not be useful. Being big or overweight does not mean a person is eating a box of doughnuts everyday. As one woman expressed, she feels like fat acceptance is very important for progression. I must admit that I agree with that. I believe, before anyone can really lose weight and keep it off, or just be healthy in general they must love and respect their body as is at the moment. No matter what you’re doing to lose weight, you’re not just going to wake up the next morning with your dream body. In the mean while all you can do is respect what you have. Which, I’m sure programs like FAA and OA firmly believe the same thing, but yet people still feel ashamed.

Another complaint was that some felt like the experience was too whiney. People complaining about their lives when others just want to lose weight. This is of course a matter of opinion. The upside is that OA and FAA offers a place that one can be emotional and for many that is a step that needs to be taken before progression can take place. So, in the end perhaps if your only goal is to lose weight, than this might not be for you.

Anyway, I must say that depending where you go, every experience is different. Not all meetings are run the same. It’s very important for people to remember that their main focus is to help one become “sober” from overeating, not necessarily diet to lose weight. Therefore, many types of people attend meetings, from super thin to average to overweight people join meetings. From what I gathered many bulimics attend the meetings as well. Some find the diversity of people to be helpful as overeating comes in all sizes, shapes and forms. While, others that are dealing with being heavy find it irritating to hear a size 2 woman complain about all the food they’ve been eating. Depending on which meeting you go to, some might focus more on dieting, while others focus on bulimia or fat acceptance. I guess one might not like the inconsistency that exists among the different meetings and a good point could be made that all groups should run the same. However, it could also be comforting for another to know that it’s a matter of attending different groups before finding a meeting that is perfect for the individual.

Like most things in life, there are ups and downs to FAA and OA. It seems like whether or not this would be a good idea for you, has to do with your personality. Also, it’s really important to identify if you really are an overeater. Just because you like your daily glass of wine doesn’t necessarily make you an ideal candidate for AA and the same for FAA and OA. While many of us struggle with food, it’s important to understand why. For a lot of people it’s not about how much they eat but what they are eating. If you feel like your eating is out of control and you don’t understand why, then I think OA and FAA might be a good option. If you’re not certain if OA or FAA would be good for you, then it’s worth checking it out, as both are free to attend.

For me, I simply want a place that is full with encouraging people that will help me continue on my path. While I understand certain foods should not be eaten often I’m also adamant about not making food my enemy. I’ll keep you posted on what I decided as I am still doing research on different support groups.

Please feel free to tell us what you think about this subject and/or if you see any incorrect statements that I made about OA and FAA. (Keep in mind that the opinions were based off comments I found on different sites and blogs).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I found your post because I too, am looking for such a meeting after leaving OA some 30 years ago. I do remember that all of the 12 step programs/meetings that I went to usually said at some point, in some way, "Take what you like and leave the rest." These groups were created by fallible human beans and thus they are not perfect. Just as I believe, there is no perfect religion, which have also been created by humanity. My suggestion for myself, because I too am looking for a food support group is to find the group that suits you, your values, and your goals the most, and then "Take what you like and leave the rest."