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Clorpres

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OVEREATERS ANONYMOUS: IT WASN’T FAIR
It just wasn’t fair. I was sixteen years old and weighed almost 300 pounds. I don’t really know how I got there. It was as if I were living in a nightmare for sixteen years and suddenly woke up, fat and afraid. I cried all the time, but could never really explain why. I was tired of diets and sick of trying to lose weight.
My life was given over to food: hiding it, sneaking it, then counting calories and trying every new fad diet that came along. My sole purpose in life seemed to be to lose weight. I would vow to become a certain weight or a certain size before the next school year or the next birthday, only to fail again. That was my life. I was miserable. I still shudder to remember what it was like in those days.
I remember how awful it felt to be the youngest and fattest wherever I went. In public and at family gatherings, I was acutely conscious of my size and my age. I was always the one with the charming personality.
“If only she would lose weight, she would be adorable,” the aunts and other relations would cluck. They never intended to hurt my feelings. But I was very good at hiding my feelings.
Actually, my best friends and strongest supporters were my family and their friends. It seems strange, but the people closest to me were all much older than I. Now I know that it was because I was ridiculed and rejected by my peers. Kids can be so cruel.
I still remember the all-school assembly in sixth grade when I was initiated into safety patrols. Everyone laughed when that fluorescent orange belt wouldn’t fit around me. Or the time in the junior high school cafeteria when my classmates threw peanuts at me, and choruses of “Dumbo!” echoed through the lunchroom.
But the most painful time of all was in the tenth grade when the class yearbook came out. There was a full-page picture of me, close to 300 pounds, leaning against a tree. The caption identified me by name, and joked in print that I was “holding up the tree.”
But kids aren’t the only ones who lack compassion. It took me a long time to ride a bike again after the man who lived around the corner called me over just to say hello, then proceeded to laugh hysterically about the way the bike tires would flatten to the rim every time I sat down.
The utter humiliation of that fat! The first time I ever undressed in the locker room, the other girls laughed and joked and pointed to the rolls and layers of blubber. They thought they were teasing; I’m sure they didn’t intend to be so cruel. But I never gave them another chance to hurt me like that. From that day on,
I always wore my gym shorts and T-shirt under my clothes. My school clothes were a uniform, anyway: stretch pants and a knit top. What did it matter if I added another layer? Not many stylish clothes for teenagers come in size 46 and 48. There were no gym suits large enough to fit me, of course, and I never could wear a Girl Scout uniform. I was the only girl in my troop without one. I also was the only student in my high school hospital careers class without the traditional white coat. They didn’t have one large enough.
Teachers didn’t help, either. It was humiliating enough to have to dress differently from the other kids for gym class, but then the teacher would send me off by myself in an auxiliary gym with nothing to keep me company but a boring “inches off ” exercise book. They wouldn’t let me participate in games or sports. I guess they thought I might keel over.
Thank God for the few good friends I had during this period. The ones who liked me then, in spite of what I looked like, are the ones I know will always be dear to me.
Although it was food that was making my life so miserable all those years, it always appeared to be my friend. Or so I thought. It kept me company, relieved anxiety and covered up everything I ever felt. Food interfered with living. I can see now I wasn’t living, merely existing — and miserably.
It is strange to realize when I look back that I was trying to “get even” with my friends, and especially my family, by eating. How it hurt them to see me eating and apparently not caring what I was doing to myself. I overlooked the fact that although I was hurting them, I was destroying myself.
I hated what I was doing. The games I played for so long were becoming meaningless. I was tired of cleverly devising new ways to cover up what I ate. I had become an expert at eating as much ice cream as possible without letting the bottom of the carton show through. I thought I fooled everyone by not chewing whatever was in my mouth if someone walked into the room unexpectedly.
The only good thing I remember about being fat — at least I considered it positive at the time — was that being obese gave me an unreal sense of power. I was bigger, and my fat made me feel more powerful than my peers. I didn’t feel like a girl at all. I had to lose more than a hundred pounds before I felt any sense of femininity. In my fat days I didn’t care about my appearance. All I ever wore were big shirts and pants that would stretch, and boys’ tennis shoes. I never washed or combed my hair. It’s hard to believe I once lived like such a slob, but it’s true.
My mother tried to help me. She took me to a popular diet club four different times, the first time when I was only ten years old. I did fairly well on their diet, but I always stopped going after the fifteenth week. I couldn’t face that award ceremony which came on the sixteenth week, when you had to walk up in front of a large group of people to receive a pin. I could never bring myself to do that.
When I was thirteen or fourteen, a friend introduced me to another weight-loss group. I was successful there for short periods of time, but I don’t remember feeling as if they really cared about me. That was true in the first diet club too.
I guess it was about this same time that the school nurse suggested I visit the public school psychologist. My parents, who all along would have given anything for me to lose weight, agreed I should go. For the next two years I met with a doctor every Wednesday afternoon. I suppose he tried, but he never really understood how I felt. Each counseling session became a contest to see if I could cry louder than he yelled.
“It’s not that difficult,” he would scream at me. “You just don’t give a damn!”
If he only could have known how very much I cared.
I cared enough to try acupuncture next, a drastic step. I was positive this was the answer. I didn’t know a whole lot about it, but at that point I was near the end of my rope and so was my family. After a long family discussion about the cost of acupuncture treatment — and some caustic comments about my determination to stick with it — we decided to give it a whirl.
It cost more than $100 to have the staple inserted in my ear, and ten dollars a week for the treatment. But it wasn’t long before I simply stopped going. Interestingly enough, the acupuncture treatment worked well physically. It did decrease my appetite. But it did not decrease my intake of food. I ate whether I was hungry or not.
To this day I don’t really know why I came to OA. I was sure I was destined to be fat forever. I read about OA in the newspaper, and one Thursday night I made my way to a meeting. I don’t know what made me go. I do know I didn’t like it. I have no memory of the speaker, topic or discussion. All I saw at that meeting was the tops of my shoes. I never looked up, but tried to hide my tears by hanging my head. I still remember the way the teardrops beaded on the tops of my shoes, never really sinking in. The OA philosophy didn’t sink in, either — at least not that night.
It took only about a half hour of that torture for me to decide that OA wasn’t for me. I ran from the room, leaving the meeting in the middle of the discussion, wiping my teary eyes and hoping against hope that my mother and sister would come by early to pick me up.
I stood there in the dark by the curb, utterly alone, depressed and feeling that once again a group had failed me. No one cared.
But that’s where OA people are different from any I had ever known before. I heard footsteps behind me. I didn’t know who it was, but I knew she was from the OA group inside. She didn’t know me, had no personal reason for following me outside. She just came to give me a hug, assure me she cared, and hoped I would come back. If she had not made that effort to reach out to me, to take the time to tell me more about the program, I know I would have added OA to my list of failures. I’ll always remember what she did for me that night, and I’ll always be grateful.
Through that caring person, I found a sponsor, a beautiful person. She not only was — and is — a super sponsor, but our relationship has grown and blossomed into a caring and trusting friendship.
Nobody else would have put up with what I put her through. She never complained. She spent many hours patiently explaining how the program works. My first few weeks in OA were spent on an erratic on-again, off-again abstinence. But that was OK. My sponsor was patient, loving and understanding. I could sense her caring, her willingness to share what I needed. One Thursday night I was talking with her on the phone as usual, only this conversation was different. I broke down, crying my heart out, pouring out my feelings of worthlessness and confusion.
“Stop!” she said suddenly. “We’ve got to talk. I want you to meet me in front of the church where your OA meeting is.”
It was a bitter cold, icy night, and she drove all the way down from the opposite end of the county. I couldn’t understand why anyone would come so far on such a night for me, but I went and met her. That was the first time I had met her in person, and that was my first day of abstinence. I have been abstinent ever since, more than a year now. It was through her support, and the help and guidance of many others like her that I have been able to maintain a good, strong, unshakable abstinence — and a weight loss of more than 111 pounds so far.
During my first six months in the program, I felt as if I were being tested over and over again. I refused to go to parties in the beginning because I was afraid I’d lose my abstinence. I couldn’t handle the food choices. Eventually, I didn’t hurt so much and could handle holidays and family gatherings without overeating, or even being tempted to overeat.
Some of these family occasions seemed interminable. I remember my uncle’s birthday party, where I spent half the evening locked in the bathroom with a box of Kleenex and the telephone I had pulled through the door.
How clearly my sponsor spoke to me that night, reminding me of my own responsibility, and assuring me that I was capable of making the right choices. Again that night, she comforted me with those simple words I’ve heard so often and still need to hear: “It’s going to be all right. Just continue to follow the program.”
My sponsor never failed me on those occasions when I needed to talk, to be reassured. I called her from parties, from restaurants, from school, from wherever I was, for whatever I needed.
A few weeks after that night came my birthday. I know birthdays are supposed to be happy occasions, but I was new in the program. And I was only seventeen years old. I felt deprived without that traditional birthday cake with candles. It just wasn’t fair that I had to give up an old birthday tradition for a new way of life that was not yet comfortable.<
How my feelings and my lifestyle changed over the next few months!
One night I was having dinner out with friends when I had one of those insights that come from the OA program. I suddenly realized — for the first time — that I simply couldn’t eat the same way as most of my friends. But I didn’t resent it or in any way feel deprived. It was just a fact of life.
I excused myself and quickly ran to a public telephone to call my sponsor. She had helped me through so much, patiently talked me through so many bad times, that it was only fair that I also share my growth and joy with her, too.
That night was exciting. I went to sleep feeling on top of the world. So what if I couldn’t eat certain foods! I was just beginning to wake up and live in a world that before OA was only a fantasy. Food no longer ruled my life. I was free. I had recently bought my very first pair of pants with pockets and a zipper (instead of an elastic waistband). I had passed my driver’s test and had my operator’s license. My family and friends were thrilled about my weight loss. People cared about me, and I cared for them. And I honestly cared about myself. I came to understand that if I eat compulsively I’m not being fair to myself.
Then I finally realized that it wasn’t life all those years that hadn’t been fair to me; it was I who hadn’t been fair to myself. That was something I could change, and right then I decided I would.
I did change and grow in lots of ways from that point on. Some changes and growth came unexpectedly and tragically. When I had been in the program less than a year, my mother died suddenly. One day she was there, and the next she wasn’t.
The pain was acute, and the wound deep. It took a long time to heal, but food wasn’t part of the medication. My Higher Power and my OA friends gave me the strength to work through the grief and survive, a stronger person. I know now that my finding OA when I did was no coincidence, and that my very special sponsor was a gift — the right person in the right place at the right time.
The night before my mother died, she and I had gone to an OA meeting together. I was so proud of her, and I know she was proud of me. I feel great comfort in knowing she died abstinent. I truly believe it was God’s way of showing me the importance of OA in my life.
I know that as long as I follow the OA program, everything I must face in life will turn out all right, and my life will be as fair to me as I allow it to be.
*3/245/2*

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