Wow, I can’t believe we are in the third week of September already…I was a little shocked when I looked at the calendar today and realized we are only 3 weeks away from Thanksgiving (don’t panic, I am talking about the Canadian Thanksgiving). Fall is certainly evident all around me. I am currently in New Jersey having just participated in the “A Vision 4 You” OA conference – which was truly amazing, inspiring and hopeful – where the leaves are falling and changing colours (that’s Canadian for colors). What a beautiful time of year!!
As we continue to highlight Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, our amazing and brilliant Mary, shares her story (see below) of growing up as an obese child and the lifelong scars that the bullying and oppression she suffered have left. Mary talks about how in the third grade she already weighed more than many of her teachers and that she started praying that she would die as the pain was far too much to bear as a young girl. These blunt statements can be hard to read, however we must face the reality and not turn a blind eye. In Mary’s case we also get to see a miraculous recovery…let’s continue to share our stories of pain and recovery in hopes that young people no longer need to suffer the ugly consequences of compulsive eating and food addiction.
Keep reading to hear Mary’s heart wrenching story of a young girl who missed out on a happy, joyous childhood as no one in her life knew there was a way out, no one knew there was a clear path to recovery…a path to a life that every child on this earth deserves. Let’s make sure kids today aren’t robbed of this life because the adults around them don’t know about food addiction and the proper treatment. I believe that as a recovered food addict it is my obligation to share this message!
I am heading to Florida soon (won’t feel so much like Fall there) as we have a Primary Intensive starting October 6th. It’s a great time to recommit to your program, and I would love to see you there.
Peace & abstinence,
Dear ACORN Family,
I hope you have enjoyed our emphasis on National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Obviously it is a topic that several of your ACORN staff wanted to write on, and I am no exception. I am going to share a little of my personal story growing up with childhood obesity.
As an obese child, life was very hard. In fact, I can honestly say that it was brutal and something that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. I know that many of you can relate.
I was born a healthy weight of just over seven pounds. I was a cute little girl with curly blonde hair and bright blue eyes. I was the second child born in my family and my sister and I were loved and cherished. I was a “normal” weight until around three years old when I became “chubby.”
My first memory of sensing that I was “different” because of my size was when I was five years old. One of my young friends and I sang, “My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean,” at a summer neighborhood talent show. As I stood on the stage singing my little heart out, proud as I could be, I sensed that some people in the audience were laughing at me because I was fat.
By the time I was in third grade I weighed 130 pounds which was more than some of the teachers. Throughout my school years I was subjected to daily teasing, mocking, jokes, stares from people of all ages, bullying on the playground, exclusion from gym teams and being ostracized by my peers. With each passing year my weight increased approximately 30 pounds and my self-esteem and self-worth plummeted. The pain was too great for me to bear and, as a young girl, I prayed many nights that I would die in my sleep. I hated myself. I hated my life. But even more so, I hated having to face yet another day with its painful repetition of the day before.
I felt vulnerable to constant negative attention every time I was out in public. One time, with tears rolling down my chubby cheeks, I told my father that I felt sad and hurt by all the kids teasing me. He told me that he had been a fat kid too and that he knew how I felt. With sadness in his eyes, he offered his young daughter the only comfort that he had known which was to simply tell myself that “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” I believed my daddy and tried his advice. When kids teased me, I told myself what he had said. It didn’t help. I still felt sad and lonely and hurt. That was the last time I remember telling anyone about the pain.
In seventh grade I weighed 270 pounds and by the time I was a junior in high school I weighed 290. The experience of obesity during my teen years was excruciating. I was never asked to a dance or attended a prom. I was kicked, tripped and spat at in the hallway. Every day was a matter of survival until, at the end of each day, I could walk into my home and fill myself with my favorite “comfort foods” which consisted of cookies, chips, and other snack foods that gave me that much-needed sense of relief.
As an adult, people have asked me why my parents allowed me to get so fat. Why didn’t they help me? Why did they let me eat so much? In fact, by today’s standards, I might have been removed from my family home, my parents accused of abusing me.
I am quite clear about one thing: I do not blame my parents. My obesity was not their fault. They had no control over my mental obsession with sugary foods and had little, if any, control over my consumption of them. I hid food. I stole food. I snuck food. I lied about food. I know today that my parents did their absolute best to support a daughter who, without their understanding, was suffering with the disease of food addiction.
Both of my parents were overweight and did not have access to recovery prior to their early deaths. Of my four siblings, one sister and one brother have weight issues but they do not identify with my experience of bingeing on addictive foods. I do not know if they are addicted to food; it is not for me to determine. Even more to the point, however, my other brother and sister – who were raised in the same household, with the same parents, and with access to the very same foods – have never had an eating or weight problem. So, I do not subscribe to the belief that obesity is entirely a problem of family or environment.
I have learned a great deal since growing up as an obese child and adult. I first heard about compulsive eating and food addiction while attending a food-related twelve step fellowship in the mid 80s. I learned that some people have an abnormal reaction to certain foods – for me, primarily sugar, flour and volume – and that those with this addictive disease and/or predisposition cannot safely eat certain foods in any quantity.
About that same time I attended my first inpatient food addiction treatment program. I was 34 years old and weighed 340 pounds. While there I discovered that my obesity was a symptom of the disease of food addiction. I worked hard in treatment and wholeheartedly surrendered to their direction. Upon leaving, I continued a multi-faceted recovery journey that lasted well over a year.
As the weight came off, I began to think that I had somehow overcome this addiction and that I didn’t need to do so many of the actions that had given me a sense of freedom from the weight and from the obsession. This thinking led to four years of relapse where my will to live was of no match for my will to binge. My last binge lasted 42 days and I gained 56 pounds, during which time I decided that I would eat until I died. I knew that I could not stop; and I knew that life would not be worth living without sugar. I was done.
Yet, deep inside of me, there was a little spark of hope, and in January 1990 I recommitted myself to a residential treatment program that used the addictive model. This time I stayed for five weeks followed by three months in a halfway house for food addicts. Pain had become a huge motivator.
I surrendered to their direction and did whatever I was told were the recommendations for treating advanced food addiction: putting my abstinence first, no matter what; weighing and measuring my food without exception; structuring my daily life around what I need to do to be abstinent and in recovery; surrendering to rigorous participation in a food-related, twelve step fellowship; cultivating a spiritual life; building a strong network of support; getting professional counseling as needed; committing to helping others who suffer with this disease.
All of these actions – and more – have enabled me to live free of food bingeing and the mental obsession of addictive foods and for over 27 years maintaining a 195-pound weight loss for over 25 years.
The internal scars of growing up as an obese child are, to some extent, still with me, and I continue to experience ongoing healing as a result of the daily actions that I am guided to take.
In reflecting upon my story, my thoughts turn to the hundreds of thousands of obese children all around us who may be suffering in silence and don’t yet know how to get out of their excruciating pain.
While I am grateful for the heightened awareness of bullying in recent years, I also know that bullying and oppression against fat kids and adults continue. As I perused a few websites specific to Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, I did not come across one article that addressed the possibility of food addiction in our youth and the need for abstinence from addictive foods. I support the work of organizations like the Food Addiction Institute and others who seek to promote education and treatment for food addiction.
My hope and prayer is that every food addict have the strength and courage to continue their abstinence journey such that our voices and our very beings may share a resounding message of hope, of recovery, and of healing from food addiction and obesity.
What will you do this month to share your awareness of childhood obesity and offer hope to those who still suffer? Having an abstinent day today is one positive step. I commit to do that. Will you?
I offer you my love and prayers for ongoing abstinence and recovery,
- September 30 – Eating, eating and more eating…Why can’t I STOP? – East Greenwich, Rhode Island – Space is still available!
- October 6 – 11 – Primary Intensive – Bradenton, Florida
- October 14 – 16 – “3-Days with Phil” – Bradenton, Florida
- November 3 – 5 – Alumni Retreat – Vancouver, Canada (details to follow)
- November 10 – 15 – Primary Intensive – Vancouver, Canada