Mae was approaching 300 pounds two decades ago.
“Some of us food addicts wear our disease,” she said.
Others, she said, will use a variety of methods to mitigate the signs of frequent food binging including purging and unhealthful fasts and exercise.
“I knew all this overeating was slow suicide,” Mae said. “I became isolated. I wanted to be alone with my addiction.”
Mae – whose name is withheld for privacy – is the local public information representative for Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous. The 12-step program will have a community information session on Saturday, April 14, at High Point of Fort Pierce, 3266 U.S. 1, from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. All are welcome to attend. Encouraged to attend are those with, or who suspect they have, eating disorders, such as overeating, under-eating, bulimia or weight obsession.
Mae said there’s a pretty straightforward definition to food addiction.
“Any obsessive eating that interferes with your daily living,” she said. “You’re doing unhealthy things with food, but you can’t stop.”
Having extensive medical training and expertise didn’t curtail Mae’s addiction.
“It’s like drug addicts,” she said. “It’s like any addict – it’s something in your brain.”
Mae said she used to hide her food addiction – or so she thought – by eating one way in public and another in private. She hid the addiction from herself by focusing on her face when looking in the mirror.
Mae got involved with Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous in 1998. She said the program gave her a sensible approach to eating, and a new way of looking at her obsession with it.
“I have an addiction to food,” she said. “What (Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous) does is look at addiction as a three-fold illness – mental physical and spiritual.”
At first, Mae said, she tried addressing her food addiction solo.
“I tried going to meetings and doing it on my own,” she said. “Then I decided to get a sponsor.”
That was a turning point for her. Mae proudly says she’s sticking to a healthful diet that deliberately eschews trigger substances, such as sugar. That’s one of the problems food addicts face. Unlike others, such as cigarette smokers, whose struggle and solution is simple – to abstain from their drugs of choice – food addicts must eat and exercise, reasonably, regularly.
“They talk about taking the tiger out of the cage three times a day,” Mae said.
She said it’s possible with support, and that’s what the information session is about. Today Mae is about 120 pounds. More importantly to her, Mae doesn’t feel guilt and powerlessness about her eating.
She said much of the information session will be personal testimonials like hers with a common theme – there’s hope.
“We suffer in silence with this disease,” Mae said. “People need to know there’s help out there and hope.”
Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous grew out of Overeaters Anonymous in the 1980s. It’s distinct in that it views certain eating patterns as addiction and emphasizes the concept of abstinence. For example, Mae said she hasn’t eaten flour products in decades. Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous is a free program.
There’s a weekly meeting on Fridays at the Atria Senior Living Center, 9825 S. U.S. 1. That’s at 10 a.m. For information about it, call 772-871-6810. There’s also a weekly meeting at White City United Methodist Church, 810 W. Midway Road, Fort Pierce. That’s on Tuesdays at 4 p.m. For information, call 772-336-5811.
For more about Food Addicts in Recovery, visit www.foodaddicts.org.