Overeaters Anonymous focuses on physical, emotional, and spiriual health

This article submitted by Erin Aagesen on 10/20/99.

A group of people have been meeting regularly at the Paynesville Area Health Care System as part of an Overeaters Anonymous program. They meet every Saturday at 8:30 a.m. in the Nehring Room to discuss issues and read literature, which relates to the disease of compulsive overeating.

"We believe compulsive overeating is a threefold disease that is physical, emotional, and spiritual," said one area member. "The primary purpose of Overeaters Anonymous (OA) is to abstain from compulsive overeating one day at a time."

Meeting Group members use a theory of un-conditional acceptance in their approach to one another. They share personal ex-periences and do "step study" each week. This study is based on the Twelve Steps of Overeaters Anonymous, which are similar to those of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The steps are used along with the Twelve Traditions of OA. These traditions are unique to this organization and encompass principals by which the group is run. The steps and traditions are used as a way to bring the ideals of OA into the individual's daily life.

"Many people carry around an enormous amount of guilt and old hurts," said a member. By admitting a powerlessness over food, the meetings allow members to make amends and help them cope with issues in their personal lives which are unrelated to food.

A common misconception of compulsive overeating is cleared up by one OA pamphlet, which states: "Food and weight are only symptoms of our problem. We use food as the alcoholic uses alcohol and the drug addict uses drugs."

One member of the Paynesville group explained her reasons for coming to OA. She said she initially came to OA because she needed to lose weight for health reasons and didn't have the funds to join a commercial diet program. Having tried one group, losing over 100 pounds and then gaining it back, she needed to try a new approach.

"After spending time in OA, I came to realize I had old hurts, real or imaginary, that I wasn't dealing with. I was miserable in high school, and I felt like it was everyone else's fault," she recalled. "I had been out of high school for 30 years, but I was still carrrying around all those old hurts. OA has helped me let go of some of that and realize that some of the respon-sibility (for my unhappiness in high school) belonged to me."

She contin-ued, "People need something in life to strive for and the spiritual aspect of OA fulfills that. It fills the hunger that food cannot fill." Although OA stresses spirituality as an essential part of recovery, it does not promote any religion or beliefs. This particular member feels that spirituality is very important for her.

"The first time I lost weight, I didn't know who I was anymore. I was disappointed that my friends didn't treat me any differently (than) they had before the loss. I eventually gained all the weight back."

"It is coming off a lot slower this time, but at least when I get there, I'll know who I am this time. A loss can't be maintained unless other things are healed first."

She stresses that OA is not a diet group, and that everything discussed in the meeting room is kept strictly confidential. She encourages individuals to become involved, as she feels there is a need for OA in Paynesville. For more information, call 320-243-7427 after 5 p.m., or interested people can simply attend one of the Saturday morning meetings.

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