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Pepcid (Famotidine)

When I was seven, my mother nearly died and I, the oldest of three children, was “farmed out” for most of one school year. Until that time, I had been a thin, asthmatic child who didn’t care about food. During my mother’s illness I stayed with three different families and I gained so much weight that when I came back home my family nicknamed me “Butterball.”
I was brought up in a rural part of the Midwest that never really shook off the Depression. Bible Belt Baptists, my family on both sides could be divided into two groups: grossly overweight women who were compulsive overeaters and skinny men who were alcoholics. Naturally, I identified with the women, especially my big, diabetic grandmother whose fate I always believed I would share.
I never felt close to my mother, who couldn’t show love and was constantly critical, but at thirteen I made friends with a fine, loving neighbor woman who gave me my first real feeling of acceptance. Like my relatives, she was obese.
Throughout my years at home, my mother forced me to go on unpalatable or bizarre diets to keep my weight down. I was a size 14 or 16 during most of my teen years, but she made me feel so ugly and fat that in my mind there was no difference between that size and the IbVi I was ultimately to become.
In college, I was able to keep my weight at a reasonable level until my senior year, when I had my first sexual experiences. This triggered an anxiety reaction and I went up to 180 pounds in a few months. That weight seemed the end of the world to me and, for the first time, I went on a diet voluntarily. Meantime, I stopped dating and the weight came off easily.
The next year I went to graduate school in the east. I was desperately lonely because I didn’t fit in with the sophistication, and I became rather promiscuous. In one school year I went from a size 14 to a 20Vi. That was the beginning of years of misery, because I never again got below that size and never again felt like a normal person until I got to Overeaters Anonymous at age thirty-five.
The intervening years were marked by depression, self-hatred and the steady upward toll of pounds. I was in therapy for depression for at least ten years, always thinking I ate because I was depressed, not admitting to myself that the reverse was true: I was depressed because I ate. I ate on the way to therapy and I ate after therapy, and hardly ever talked about my weight or the food with any of my therapists. I would only talk about it when I was dieting, just as the only time I ever got on the scale was when I had been dieting for at least two weeks. Denial was my big defense.
The diets I tried were the same ones everyone tries. I even had a staple in my ear once, put there by an osteopath “acupuncturist” who told me to wiggle my ear anytime I wanted to eat. Most of the time I wiggled after I ate, so it didn’t do any good. I never tried diet pills. I considered myself too good and pure and drug-free for that, so I just kept on drugging myself daily with sugar and gaining more weight.
I could lose 40 pounds in six weeks anytime I chose, but since that was inevitably followed by a 50-pound gain in a few months’ time, I gradually gave up dieting altogether. I had become interested in astrology and I convinced myself that my chart showed I was doomed to a lifetime of obesity.
On the surface, my life was successful. I lived in a lovely house, I was dating a beautiful, sensitive man who loved me, and I had my first book in the process of publication. I had finally arranged my career so that I could work at home most of the time, as I had always wanted to do. But I was binging and gaining weight, and when I topped 280, I wanted to kill myself.
The last straw — or perhaps the first step toward OA — was another look at my astrology chart. It was all set up for a repeat of the conditions that had coincided with a 100-pound weight gain twelve years earlier. I was within binging distance of 300 pounds.
I started a last-ditch effort at dieting. I threatened myself that if it didn’t work I’d have to go to Overeaters Anonymous which a friend had told me about. Strangely enough, though I loved Alcoholics Anonymous (a close friend is a recovering alcoholic and he had taken me to a few meetings), OA sounded grim. I had been impressed with AA and had even begun to absorb some of the philosophy; still, I was sure OA couldn’t do me any good.
Having flopped miserably at my “last ditch” diet, I binged my way through one last holiday season. Early in January, I dragged myself through a snowstorm to my first OA meeting.
I was not one of those people who achieve instant abstinence. My emotional reaction in those first few weeks was like unleashing a cyclone of pain. It meant facing all the feelings I used to eat to hide such as anger, loneliness, desire — and the way it feels to say yes to people when I really want and need to say no.
I stubbornly resisted taking a sponsor. The image of my controlling, dominating mother and her forced diets made my defiance very powerful on this point. I kept turning it over in meetings, as I was told, and gradually felt more at peace with it. It wasn’t until two months into the program, when I was approaching my usual 40-pound turnaround point, that I began to see I had to take a sponsor if I wanted to keep what the program was giving me. Finally, my Higher Power got impatient with my shillyshallying and moved a fine woman who had been watching my struggles to ask if I wanted her to sponsor me. I accepted fearfully — she seemed so forbiddingly strict — and within a week I had my abstinence!
I lost weight at a dizzying pace: 110 pounds and twelve sizes in nine months. The food was comfortable most of the time — more comfortable, I had to admit, than my new body and my new identity. As much as I had fantasized about becoming a normal-size person, I was terrified when it actually happened.
Passing from a size 18 to a 16 was a real crisis; it seemed to symbolize crossing the barrier between being a freaky, fat person and joining the human race. People would say, “You must be so happy,” and I couldn’t honestly say yes. For about a month, I was incredibly uptight, fearful and uncomfortable. I discovered I was afraid of men, and I also isolated myself emotionally from everyone — in program and out.
I handled this the same way I have handled each crisis I faced since joining OA. (Crises don’t stop just because I’m abstinent.) I work the program twice as hard. There isn’t a tool I don’t use. I go to more meetings and make sure I turn over exactly what’s bothering me. It helps. I listen at meetings as though my life depends on it — because it does. I especially listen to people with similar problems and I home in like a laser beam on people who have relapsed, because it can happen to me if I don’t learn from others’ mistakes. I make phone calls. I pray for guidance. I write out my feelings and then burn what I’ve written. It’s like burning old, self-defeating attitudes, and while they burn I pray that these attitudes will change. When I apply all aspects of the program to a crisis and trust that it is a phase rather than a life sentence, the crisis passes.
When the food thoughts come, I take them as feelings, not commands to be acted on. In fact, a little way into the program I learned that I forced food down when I didn’t even want it. I often ate when I was merely thirsty. I realized that sometimes when I was binging I didn’t even like the food; it became an enormous burden to consume it all. Now, I try to make mealtime serene and pleasant. I say a simple grace before each meal: “God, thank you for this beautiful food, and thank you that I don’t have to eat too much of it.”
I have become contented with my new body and my new identity. Now, when people say, “You must be so happy,” I practically sing out that I really am. I’m still startled when I see myself in a mirror or store window, and I can still be moved to tears by a medium size that fits. I no longer have the self-loathing that comes with feeling like a freak. The male attention I am getting amazes and pleases me. I have become used to all this, but I am not complacent; just comfortable and very grateful. I have a life to look forward to instead of a living death.
In a sense, the body changes, wonderful as they are, are superficial. The most important gift of the program is a way to deal with life. People who are compulsive have learned only one response to stress: for the alcoholic the response is drink; for the overeater it is food. Whatever the stress, we ate. It didn’t really help that much, but we didn’t know what else to do. Now I know what to do: I work my program, and it helps in a way food never did. Not only do I feel better for the moment, but my life gets better, too. It’s a wonderful feeling.

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