Hanging in There…
I had been feeling sluggish and not very clear-headed, so in October 2011 I made an appointment for a physical. The Doctor did the usual stuff – run through a list of symptoms and complaints, check this and that, discuss preventive tests, and then we moved to my recent blood work report. My doctor said my A1C (blood sugar level measured over a 90 day period) was high at 6.3%. She said at 6.5% we would have to talk seriously about the “D” word - diabetes. Though I should have seen that coming (I am living in this body and see it every day…) I totally freaked out. I never thought I could be giving myself an incredibly dangerous disease! For the following week I was okay; I paid attention to my diet and my activity level. Then, I resumed my ‘normal’ habits of eating ice cream, cookies, cake, or pastries every day. I felt defeated, but just kept eating.
When I think about it, I have been a bystander in regard to my health for years. You know the story…we’re all going to live forever and we all have oodles of time to ‘fix’ our bad health habits. I think that conversation with my Doctor in October 2011 kicked me out of my daze and made me realize my time was now.
So, I joined Overeaters Anonymous (OA) in October 2011. I learned so much about myself and my behaviors. OA uses Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) ‘Big Book’ and replaces the terms ‘alcohol’ and ‘alcoholic’ with ‘food’ and ‘compulsive overeater’. I learned so much about my relationship with food, especially my behaviors that resulted in my overeating. Many of those behaviors were not exactly attractive. Once I was aware, the plan was to stop the behavior. Sounds simple. It was a lot of hard work, physically and emotionally. If you are familiar with AA, you know it is based on steps. Step 4 in OA (and in AA) is making a list of those you have harmed. I was stymied. What harm could a food addict do – throw bread at someone? Then it became clear it was my behavior that could be harmful. You see, I found out through OA that when I could not control a situation at work or at home, my resulting behavior was to eat. Eating brought me the sense of control and comfort. My controlling behaviors were harmful to my coworkers and family and the resulting eating behaviors were having a very detrimental effect on me. It had become a vicious cycle. That realization was huge for me.
On January 3, 2012, I “gave up” my favorite foods and committed to eating healthier. This time I felt good. I felt like I had armed myself with the tools to be successful. It’s amazing what a difference it makes to understand why you do what you do. On April 16, 2012 I went back for another blood test. On the 19th my Doctor called and said my A1C had dropped to 5.9%!!! I am no longer pre-diabetic! I haven’t lost any weight and can’t really tell a difference from not eating sugar, but to have a normal A1C is the real prize! I got my health back.
Food is still challenging. I think the entire process of understanding and managing eating behaviors requires a lifetime of learning. It gradually turns into a process of becoming a better, healthier person. It was interesting to watch my focus go from “I want to lose weight” to “I want to be free from food compulsions and gain serenity”. I wouldn’t say I am in control of my eating now; I just know I understand myself better and I need to continue learning and changing. I am at the same weight I have been for quite a while, which is okay. I think I will always struggle with my weight because I am a food addict. However, with support I can continue to learn about me and manage my food.
So, if you are starting a weight-loss or wellness journey, my advice is to get to know yourself and your eating behaviors. OA isn’t for everyone; it’s just one more tool out there to help people start their journey to better health. To do nothing but watch your health deteriorate is ridiculous. So, get on board before your Doctor gives you a bit of bad news. I was lucky. My news motivated me to change my lifestyle and I am so glad.
Department of Health and Welfare