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Eating Disorders are a Complex Issue for Students

In the last issue of the fall semester, The Weekly staff ran some thoughtful and in-depth coverage of Jennifer Boever’s tragic death and the deadly disease that took her life: anorexia.There is another eating disorder from which millions of Americans suffer: compulsive overeating. I am a compulsive overeater. I have the same reaction to certain foods that alcoholics have to alcohol; instead of a slice of pie, I keep going back for more until I have eaten the entire pie.A number of times, I have successfully lost weight on diets only to gain more weight back than when I began. I often ate for emotional comfort when I wasn’t hungry. Like an anorexic, my relationship with food was distorted. I tried to accept and love my body as I grew out of all my clothes. I exercised every day, yet continued to gain weight because my individual willpower was no match for the disease of compulsive overeating.I could not stop overeating until I joined Overeaters Anonymous.There I met other compulsive overeaters, as well as anorexics and bulimics who had found recovery from their eating disorders. I learned that some members are sugar addicts and skip regular meals so do not suffer from weight gain, but they are at risk for diabetes and experience mood swings and emotional despair. Some compulsive overeaters attempt to manage or control their weight through purging, which can take the form of compulsive exercise, abuse of laxatives, and forced vomiting.Many members of Overeaters Anonymous have lost and kept off between 100 and 200 pounds. OA is a 12-step program modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous. It is a spiritual (not religious) fellowship. We do not promote a particular way of eating. We do not judge each other’s weight or weight loss. We share our experience, strength and hope with each other. The only requirement for membership is the desire to stop eating compulsively.Compulsive overeating usually leads to weight gain (and in extreme cases obesity), which comes with serious health risks like diabetes, heart and lung disease, wear and tear on joints, and damaged gall bladders. In addition, we suffer from depression and low self-esteem because we feel like failures for being fat. There is a lot of media attention paid to the epidemic of obesity in our country; however, there is little written about the underlying problem for most overweight people: compulsive eating.I joined OA four years ago because I knew I could not stop overeating by myself. I was able to lose 50 pounds by eating three regular meals a day without the aid of a special diet or pills, and I’ve kept the weight off. In OA I have the support I need to abstain from overeating one day at a time, in the same way a recovering alcoholic abstains from drinking one day at a time. For more information, contact OA at (510) 923-9491 or visit the Web site at withheld for privacy