Overeaters Anonymous Freed Me From Feelings of ‘Not Enough’


April 30, 2024

Overeaters Anonymous Freed Me From Feelings of ‘Not Enough’

Today is a good day. Why? Because, just for today, I am ‘enough.’

For as long as I can remember, I NEVER felt enough. Not enoughness, inadequacy, feelings of being a failure or a disappointment, ruminating thoughts of being ‘broken’ or ‘a mistake’ – all of this ‘head junk’ forever repeating itself between my ears virtually haunted me, day-in and day-out. It led me to believe that I would NEVER be worth anything, that NO ONE would ever love me or befriend me, and that I would NEVER be accepted just as I am. That’s a whole lot of ‘not enough’ (and head junk) that just would NOT quit!

It was absolutely awful to feel this way – and for so very, very long! I could not seem to escape the feeling that I was a huge disappointment and that I would never be enough, never do enough, and, consequently, could never come to accept myself as ‘enough,’ just as I am.

That huge hole in me became a virtually bottomless pit of heartache – a terrible feeling of ‘lack’ and ‘not enoughness.’ It was a torment I couldn’t bear! And that led me directly into the food – and mounds of it, round the clock!

Although I passed through a chubby toddler phase, as I began to grow I became extremely active. I actually slimmed down and shot up, becoming rather tall for my young age, and, interestingly enough, became pretty picky about what I ate. That would soon change!

With the passage of time, and some particularly hurtful adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), something began to change. Inside I began to feel a type of emotional hunger, something people now refer to as ‘head-hunger’ that I could never seem to satisfy. I would eat, and eat, and then eat some more. But I could not come to feel any sense of fullness. Or, if I did, I just went on and ate my way through it, to the point of making myself sick! Regrettably, I had no way to feel any kind of satiety or satisfaction with a normal portion of food. Consequently, I sought more. And even more, to where thousands of calories were consumed in one sitting! It was as if I went into a feeding frenzy, with no end in sight!

However, what I happened to want the most were sugary-sweet, high-fat, flour-rich foods. In particular, baked goods were my drug of choice! But I didn’t stop there! I reached for breads, pasta, potatoes, and other starchy foods. While I loved sweets best of all, I sought everything and anything that contained flour or starches, as well. These foods became like a drug for me! But a drug that was NEVER enough! Most certainly never enough to silence the noise in my head or to fill the hole in the center of my being – that space of ‘not enoughness’ that repeated and replayed itself over and over and over again.

Eating like I did, it was inevitable that I would come to pack on the excess pounds.

Yes, I had been a very active and athletic child (and young adult), but all my activity and participation in sports was just not enough to hold back the tide of all those empty excess calories.

It was inevitable, that despite all my incessant exercise and sports activities, that I would begin to plump up – and that was AWFUL! I could feel the judgment from my family, from my peers, and from society as if it was a physical thing. My burgeoning weight became the topic of conversation at nearly every family meal. It was a living nightmare for me to have to listen to all the judgmental comments and all the criticism of what I was eating, how I was eating, and what I was ‘doing’ to my body – as if I had any choice! The emotional hunger (or head hunger) pounding inside my brain was insatiable, and it was growing more and more out of control!

To top it all off, my poor body was going through changes that made matters so much worse! As a young girl, I had been slender, but now, just before my 10th birthday, I began developing large breasts and hips, and there were curves, and new rolls of fat, where once there were long, lean lines. It felt as if my own body was betraying me and screaming at me that I was broken, a failure, and that I would never, EVER be enough!

All the feelings of ‘not enoughness’ led me to isolate. I hid away from the world in my books and with my pets. My loyal German Shepherd and my tiny white kitten (aptly named ‘Shadow’) never criticized me or thought of me as ‘not enough.’ And with my nose in a book, I could completely escape to an entirely different world where my body and food did not play any part and was not the enemy!

Eventually, it felt as if food were my only friend. And yet, that very same food was also my worst enemy. It was making me fat, lumpy, and miserable. And that awful word, ‘fat’ – it represented everything that was undesirable, distancing, isolating, defective, and definitely ugly. I was the ‘thing’ that everyone either made fun of, or that everyone pitied. It was a nightmare existence from which I could never seem to awaken!

On top of this feeling of never being good enough, I also felt so completely out of control! Once I began to eat something I thought would make me feel better, I could NOT stop. And I only felt worse, because it never filled me! And, as much as I fervently hoped it would, no amount of food could ever take away that awful ‘not enoughness!’

I tried to diet and exercise. In fact, I got pretty good at dieting. At least for a while. I could get the weight off if I wanted to – through heavy restricting and excessive exercise – but I could NEVER keep it off! It ALWAYS came back! And it came back with a vengeance! I would regain to the point of weighing more than I ever had before I started my diet and exercise obsession!

And because I always went back to my drug of choice: those sugary baked concoctions, boxes of sugar-laden cereals, huge bowls of pasta, and endless loaves of bread; I gained more weight than ever before! There are some tough consequences to overeating, not the least of which is that my cost-conscious parents had to keep buying bigger and bigger sized clothes for me. All kids eventually outgrow their clothes, but my parents had to spend far more money than they cared to because of my expanding waist, rather than increased height.

As a young adult, my weight swung up and down, wildly, between diets. It got so bad, I soon found myself needing to go to stores for plus-sized women. While other teenagers were wearing bikinis and cute sundresses each summer, I was hiding my big body in big black shirts and baggy pants with an elastic waistband from the plus-sized store. There I was, barely in my teens, and feeling totally fat and frumpy. It was humiliating!

And even with all that shame and humiliation, and endless yo-yo dieting, I could not stop the crazy, never-ending cycle of regain, or the explosiveness of my eating compulsions and food cravings the moment I hit the wall with dieting!

I felt – and acted – like a young woman possessed! Possessed by a demon that had me convinced there was NEVER enough food, and could never be enough!

My self-worth dissolved down to nothing. I came to view myself as worthless. I realized I had nothing to put a stop to my massive head hunger and absolutely insane eating behaviors. Depression became a constant companion. Whatever willpower I once had, was entirely spent! I had nothing left within me to stop the insanity of my cravings and the damage I was inflicting upon my poor body because of all the low quality food and excess weight! At well over 250 pounds, I was actually malnourished and utterly miserable!

And that’s when I found Overeaters Anonymous!

I was referred to my first meeting by an insightful psychologist who knew about OA and who had been successfully referring people just like me to the program.

That first meeting was nothing less than a miracle! At it, I heard just what I needed to hear. I heard there was a solution. I heard that OA’s Twelve Steps were a design for living that worked. And if I worked those steps, I could come to know peace and food neutrality. WOW! Was that even possible?

Yes! Within OA it wasn’t just possible. It came to be a daily reality and my ‘lived experience’ that continues to this day! Within OA, by working the steps with my sponsor, and quickly getting into service at my home group (by helping to set-up the chairs and put out the literature) I became abstinent from my trigger foods and actually came to experience the miracle of food neutrality.

Food neutrality allows me to walk past those aisles containing all the breads, pastas, cereals, and baked confections that I used to consume in massive quantities. I NEVER imagined this would be possible! And yet, here I am, 85 pounds lighter, nothing sugary or baked in my refrigerator or cupboard, and having 3 balanced meals that not only taste good, but are good for my body, yet don’t trigger my crazy food cravings!

My wonderful sponsor (who I was so afraid to ask to be my sponsor) told me something that has stuck with me. She said that the God of her understanding, “Never made junk!” And she told me that I needed to find a Higher Power to whom I could surrender my food obsessions and reactiveness to my emotions, and with whom I could come to know my ‘worth.’ That certainly seemed to me to be too tall an order!

Although I had abandoned the faith of my childhood, I was still able to sit in awe and wonder when gazing upon a beautiful sunset or into the face of a newborn baby. Maybe, just maybe, there was something greater than myself that had created this planet and organized this amazing universe. By opening my mind, and setting aside my disbeliefs and contempt for all things not within my understanding, it helped me decide to give her words due consideration.

Had the Universe ever made junk? I asked myself this very question. From the tall ancient redwoods I so admired, to the beautiful songs of birds in the morning, I was aware that life was pretty amazing, and that nothing in nature was broken or defective. It all worked. In fact, it worked beautifully, and without any interference on my part.

So, maybe, just maybe, there is a Higher Power.

The Higher Power of my understanding has proven to be love. And it was through this love I came to see that ‘I am enough.’ Maybe I was never really broken or defective. Maybe, I was just confused and reacting to my many unfounded fears and runaway worries – all those feelings and emotions I had never known how to allow in my life, until OA.

On page 68 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, it says, “We ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be.”

WOW! Yet another amazing lesson for this crazy compulsive eaters – that I can ask my Higher Power to direct my attention away from the food and towards what my HP would have me be – what a concept!

In OA, I not only learned how to feel my feelings (rather than eat them), but I am actually finding that I have unique skills and talents that this world not only needs, but values.

Rather than view myself as defective, and not enough, I have learned to practice self-care and self-regard. My growing list of OA friends have helped me to recognize the good within me and to help me see my true worth – that I am whole and complete, lacking nothing, just as I am, without saying, doing, or being anything other than simply me – a member of OA among other members, working her program of recovery one day at a time!

And, now, nearly thirty years later, I have come to realize that I am truly enough, and that I do NOT need to stuff myself with food to know and live this simple truth.

Thank you, OA. Thank you for helping me see my worth, and for helping me to carry this message of hope to other compulsive eaters just like me! Today I am free from my food addiction and enjoying my life knowing I am enough!

— A Grateful Member of OA