A 12-step program available locally helps people who are have difficulties controlling the way they eat.
Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous meet four times a week in central Alberta – twice in Lacombe and Red Deer. The program includes people who are overweight, underweight or even at a normal weight.
Regardless of size, individuals can be “tormented” by cravings, dieting, bulimia and/or an obsession with exercise, a FA information pamphlet said.
One member of the program locally, who will be referred to as Shelley, said she has been in “the fellowship” for 20 years.
“I came from anorexia and I basically found out about it when I was in the hospital,” said Shelley.
With Food Addicts being a 12-step program, based on Alcoholics Anonymous, Shelley’s identity is to be protected at the public level.
Shelley said friends of hers, who were in the AA program, saw she had an addiction.
“When I went into an AA meeting, there were two people that were working with the FA program. I talked with them and they told me about the program a little bit and I didn’t really join the recovery program until two years later.
“I was in the hospital for four years, in and out – more in than out. I just couldn’t get well. My doctor kind of felt that I was at the point of maybe no return. But this program came across my path and I basically do the recovery that’s set before me and away I go,” said Shelley.
Shelley said with the “support of the fellowship” she was able to gain a necessary 15 pounds.
“Generally people who come in need to lose weight, but putting down the food is not an easy feat. If it were, we’d all be very healthy,” said Shelley.
Liz, who has been involved in the program for 23 years, said she has had a food addiction since childhood.
“By the time I was five, I was an obese child. My mother was concerned about me of course, no mother wants their child to have health issues,” said Liz.
Throughout her life she had stretches where she was overweight, underweight and of normal weight.
“When I was 17 … I started exercising excessively. I was running probably seven miles a day and then I was restricting my food to less than 1,000 calories a day, so of course I got underweight. I was never diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, but I had anorexic tendencies.”
She continued to struggle with her weight after completing university as well.
“I was just unhappy with everything and I couldn’t stop eating and gaining weight. I was lucky enough to hear about Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous. I went to an information session and … I was like, ‘I am all in,’” said Liz.
“It started then and it hasn’t always been easy, but I’m still in recovery and I’m so grateful.”
The FA fellowship is scheduled to participate in an Eating Disorder Awareness Week event at Red Deer College in late February.
“We’ll have a booth where people can come and ask questions about the different programs available for those having difficulty with eating disorders,” said Shelley.
Red Deer meetings are held Wednesday at Kentwood Alliance Church from 7 to 8:30 p.m. and Friday at Church of Nazarene from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Lacombe meetings are held Tuesday at Parkside Alliance Church from 7 to 8:30 p.m. and Saturday at the same location from 9 to 10:30 a.m.
For more information on the program, which has been available in central Alberta for 23 years, visit www.foodaddicts.org.