Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous
Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous (FA) is a program of recovery based on the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. FA members are men and women of all ages. Some have been obese; others have been severely underweight, bulimic, or so obsessed with food or weight that normal life was difficult or impossible. The common denominator uniting members of FA is addiction and a relationship with food that parallels an alcoholic's relationship with alcohol. The program offers the hope of long-term recovery, evidenced by members who have continuously maintained a normal weight and healthy eating for periods of twenty-five or even thirty years.
FA was established in 1998 by former members of Overeaters Anonymous. As of 2011, the organization consisted of over 500 local groups and over 4000 members in 6 countries, Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the United States. In 2012, FA published Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous.
- 1 Definitions
- 2 Program of recovery
- 3 Literature
- 4 Distinguishing characteristics
- 5 Study of the 12 Steps
- 6 Demographics and results
- 7 Criticism
- 8 History
- 9 Organizational and financial structure
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Addiction has been described as a progressive illness that is rooted in a combination of factors: physical allergy, mental obsession, and problems in the personality (fear, doubt, insecurity, and negativity), all of which drive the addict to repeated, destructive behaviors and a dependence on substances or behaviors in order to cope.
Food addiction is defined in FA as "an illness of the mind, body, and spirit for which there is no cure". As is the case with other addictions, food addiction involves physical craving and an ever-increasing dependence upon and struggle with a substance (food). The manifestations of food addiction vary. Overeating, under-eating or self-starvation, bulimia (including exercise bulimia), and extreme obsession with weight or food are among the symptoms of this addiction.
Abstinence in FA is the parallel of sobriety in A.A. Abstinence is a planned, disciplined way of eating that leads to the addict’s release from food cravings, obsession, and self-abuse. Abstinence is simple and clear, but it is difficult to sustain continuously over the course of a lifetime.
FA believes food addicts have an allergy to flour, sugar and quantities that sets up an uncontrollable craving. The problem can be arrested a day at a time by the action of weighing and measuring our food and abstaining completely from all flour and sugar. FA defines abstinence as weighed and measured meals with nothing in between, no flour, no sugar and the avoidance of any individual binge foods.
Program of recovery
FA offers support for a way of life that makes daily, uninterrupted abstinence possible. Rather than turning to eating or other self-destructive, food-related behaviors, members gain strength from one another. Through regular contact with a sponsor (an experienced member who serves as a guide), attendance at FA meetings, frequent phone contact with others in the program, and continuous efforts to share the FA program with others who want it, members of FA begin to maintain daily abstinence.
Sponsors are FA members who are committed to abstinence and to living the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions to the best of their ability. Sponsors share their program up to the level of their own experience.
FA Meetings are central to the FA program of recovery. Meetings break the isolation that is part of the disease of food addiction and provide the opportunity for newcomers and members to learn from abstinent speakers who share their experience, strength, and hope. Members attend three meetings each week and those with 90 days of abstinence from food addiction share at a group level. Meetings are open to all FA members and those who are interested in learning about the program for themselves or for others whom they think might find FA helpful.
The FA book, Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous describes the possibility of long-term, continuous recovery from food addiction offered by Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous (FA), a program based on the Twelve Steps pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous. The book begins with a description of the experience of food addiction and its symptoms, which can include obesity, extreme thinness, bulimia, exercise compulsion, or a normal weight maintained at the expense of debilitating obsession. Most of the book consists of individual accounts of food addiction and FA recovery, some from members with over thirty years of sustained, one-day-at-a-time success. The volume includes a doctor's perspective, a chapter for family and friends, and a discussion of each of the Twelve Steps.
The FA magazine connection is written, edited and illustrated by FA members, and shares FA members' broad experience of food addiction and their recovery. The magazine publishes 10 issues a year.
Audio recordings (CDs and downloads)
These are audio recordings of individual FA members with long-term success in FA, who tell their stories of what it was like while in active addiction, what happened when they found FA, and what life is like now in recovery.
FA has created pamphlets that, along with other tools of the program, support members in their recovery from food addiction.
- Food Addiction: There is a Solution – In this pamphlet are stories of people who could not stop eating; even though they desperately wanted to. Today, all of them have found a common solution in Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous (FA).
- Are You Having Trouble Controlling the Way You Eat? – This tri-fold brochure addresses the very basic questions: "Am I a food addict?", "What's FA about and does it work?" and, "How do I get more information or find a meeting in my area?"
- Before You Take That Bite – This pamphlet offers many suggestions for positive actions to take to avoid breaking abstinence
- 20 Questions/What is FA? It explains FA and how to get more information.
- Anorexic? Bulimic? There is Hope – Food addiction manifests itself in many forms. The stories of pain and hope in this pamphlet are told by members who were severely underweight or maintaining their size through purging, laxatives, or excessive exercise.
- Food Addiction: Stories of Teens and Twenties in Recovery – Food addiction does not discriminate by age. This pamphlet tells the stories of young people who have found a solution to their food addiction and unmanageable lives.
- Food Addiction: Stories of Men in Recovery – These stories were written by men who tried diets, exercise, and other approaches with no success. However, when they found FA, they realized that their problem was not gluttony or lack of will power, but addiction.
- To Our Families and Friends – Sometimes it is hard for families and friends to understand why food addicts have to do certain things to maintain recovery. Stories in this pamphlet explain this FA for family and friends.
There are now many programs using a Twelve Step approach for people having problems with weight or food. FA is distinctive because it focuses on addiction, not "compulsion", "eating disorders", or any of what it views as symptoms of the core illness (anorexia, obesity, or bulimia, for example).
Further, FA is united by a single definition of abstinence that is clear and unchanging. Most important, in addition to the usual support offered through individual contact and group meetings, the program gives members an effective means for doing each of the Twelve Steps in sequence, leading to a change in personality and a way of life that makes long-term, continuous abstinence possible. The members of FA often refer themselves as a "fellowship" united by warmth, trust, outreach to those who might want the program, and service to those who are new to it.
Study of the 12 Steps
At first glance, FA might appear to be a network of support groups, but in fact, the program works long-term because it offers a spiritual solution. Once members become abstinent, they are encouraged to do the Twelve Steps, one at a time, in closed groups called AWOLs. AWOL ("A Way of Life") enables each participant to face and clear away the wreckage of the past and to find and develop a reliance on his or her own Higher Power. This leads to a change in personality that makes one-day-at-a-time, continuous recovery possible. People from every religious tradition and those with no religious inclination at all are welcome in FA. While the program is spiritual, it is not religious.
Demographics and results
A survey taken of FA in 2011 showed 80% of members had lost 25 lbs. or more, and of those, 50% were at their goal weight. At that time, 33% of FA members had over 13 months of recovery from food addiction, and 22% had between 3 and 30 years with no return to food addiction.
Opponents of twelve-step programs argue that members become cult-like in their adherence to the program, which may isolate them. Fanaticism may lead to the idea that other treatment modalities are unnecessary. However, FA program approved literature encourages its members to seek professional help when it is necessary, as well as to be "quick to see where religious people are right" hence encouraging continued religious practices. AA and FA literature encourages seeking professional help whenever it would seem beneficial.
In the early 1980s, the FA program began to take form within the context of Overeaters Anonymous (OA), another twelve step program. At that time, in Chelsea, Massachusetts, and nearby, several OA meetings began to embrace a set of distinctive practices. The meetings were united by a shared definition of abstinence; the requirement that speakers at each meeting have a minimum of 90 days of continuous abstinence; the practice of doing the Twelve Steps in AWOL groups; and the belief that overeating, under-eating, bulimia, and other food-related, self-destructive behaviors are symptoms of the disease of addiction. These meetings were popularly called or criticized as "90-day meetings".
Over time, it became clear that the program developed at "90-day meetings" was distinctive from that of OA. Further, this program had grown. Members moved from the Boston area to Michigan, Florida, Texas, New York, California, Australia, and Germany, taking their recovery with them and establishing meetings in communities where they lived. In 1998, a small group gathered to discuss the possibility of establishing a separate program. "Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous" was launched later that year. The organization was legally incorporated in 1998.
In May 1998, FA consisted of 18 meetings with approximately 177 members. By 2001, the program had grown to 122 meetings, with almost 1,000 members. The first business convention, held to coordinate FA service to newcomers, took place that year.
Organizational and financial structure
Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous, Inc. is the umbrella entity that supports meeting groups and FA individuals around the world. It is internally known as "WSI" (for World Service Incorporated). WSI is led by thirteen elected trustees (members of FA) and is headquartered in Woburn, Massachusetts. FA meetings are also supported and united by incorporated regional associations (intergroups) and smaller, unincorporated regional affiliations (chapters).
Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization that is primarily funded through contributions given by members of FA. The acceptance of bequests or donations from non-members, outside organizations, and anonymous donors is prohibited. Individual members are restricted to donations or bequests of no more than $2,000 in a year.
- Addiction recovery groups
- Eating disorder
- List of twelve-step groups
- Self-help groups for mental health
- "Membership survey and statistics". www.foodaddicts.org. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
- Benoit Denizet-Lewis (2009), America Anonymous: Eight Addicts in Search of a Life, Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-7782-1, ISBN 978-0-7432-7782-2
- Leong, Melissa (7 March 2011). "Food addiction and the fat stigma" (PDF). National Post. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
- Carey, Alexis (18 February 2014). "Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous offers hope for those living with food addiction" (PDF). The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, Australia). Retrieved 24 December 2014.
- Anonymous (2013). Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous. Woburn, MA: Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous, Inc. ISBN 9781932021806.
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- "Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous Facts". Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous. 2014. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
- "FA Censes Survey". www.foodaddicts.org. 400 W. Cummings Park, Suite 1700, Woburn, MA 01801: Copyright © 2014 Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
- Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (Fourth ed.). 1939. p. 87. ISBN 1-893007-17-0.
- Kris, Kerri-Lynn Murphy (May 2, 2005). "The Efficacy of Overeaters Anonymous in Fostering Abstinence in Binge-Eating Disorder and Bulimia Nervosa". Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
- "FA Facts". www.foodaddicts.org 400 W. Cummings Park, Suite 1700, Woburn, MA 01801. Copyright © 2014 Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous. Retrieved 20 August 2014.