Thanksgiving is no picnic for compulsive overeaters. As one woman in a Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous meeting I attended put it, “I am so incredibly grateful, because it’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and I didn’t spend all of yesterday with a fork in front of the refrigerator! I used to just kill myself preparing this abundance of food for my whole family, and then the next day, when everyone was gone, was my day to eat. I wouldn’t even get out of my nightgown. And I always made sure it was my nightgown so there would be nothing constricting my waist. I would just gorge and gorge, then nap, then gorge some more.”
Many recovering food addicts bring their own “abstinent” meal (no sugar or flour, and with very specific quantities of protein and carbs) to any Thanksgiving get-together, a decision that isn’t always well received by their loved ones. “My mom wasn’t happy about that!” another food addict said. “She said, ‘Why can’t you just have what we’re going to have?’”
The answer, of course, is simple: Because she’s an addict.
Ellen, the food addict I followed for more than two years for America Anonymous (in the worst of her addiction, she ballooned up to 300 pounds), put it this way: “As much as you explain food addiction to people, they don’t really get it. I have no control over certain foods… People will say, ‘Don’t you ever get a treat?’ But I’m a food addict, and I can’t stop at one treat. If I eat certain foods, I will ruin my life. So I have to live what some people see as a really radical life.”