You just have to love the Internet, or hate it, depending on your point of view.
I love it because it gives me instant access to information for my articles so I can double and triple check my facts before I put them down on paper. But since I am a counselor and my practice has a
strong focus on wellness, the facts I check usually involve some type of information that is sure to make some people uncomfortable, even though it might literally save their lives.
A good friend of mine, Marsha, recently gave me a great opportunity to love the Internet while using it to make some people uncomfortable and maybe saving, or at least helping, some people improve their lives. Let me preface the following with some information: the five leading causes of death in the United States are heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, and unintentional injuries.
Obesity, poor dietary habits and high cholesterol play a part in the first four of them.
Marsha, like me, is a senior citizen, at least chronologically. But her youthful appearance and seemingly boundless energy and athletic physique belie her age. Marsha is also a member of Over Eaters Anonymous. According to the OA website, the group offers a program of recovery from compulsive overeating, binge eating and other eating disorders using the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of OA. According to Marsha - she is quick to point out she speaks only for herself and does not represent OA - it saved her life and gave her freedom from “reacting to food the way an alcoholic relates to alcohol.”
Marsha distinguishes OA from weight watchers and Jenny Craig and other commercial programs. Diets are better suited for people who gain a few pounds around the holidays and want to take it off in January, and can take it off and keep it off. OA is for people who find their compulsive eating is creating major living, health and self-esteem problems, and they usually rebound and gain more weight after attempting to diet.
Marsha also said that OA is different from diets because it relies on three different principles to work. OA address the physical, emotional and spiritual.
For the spiritual component, OA borrowed the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, a program recognized as helping millions of individuals with alcohol problems get and stay sober. The basis of the 12 steps is accepting that only a power higher than yourself can give you the ability to overcome your eating disorder.
Marsha explains that the concept is not religious, and religion is not discussed in OA.
She says that the focus of OA meetings is on their common problem, and the solution to that problem. The OA group is open to anyone from any religion, and atheists and agnostics too. She points out that many people use the combined wisdom of the group members, most of whom have achieved an appropriate weight, and like Marsha “don’t look like over eaters.”
Marsha describes how she was “in the clutches of certain foods” and had no control over her eating at all and that by working the 12 steps of OA she is “granted a reprieve” from the control the food had over her. One thing that impressed me was the freedom from dogmatic rules in OA. There are no dues, fees, costs, weigh ins or mandatory diets.
Marsha also made the point that OA was a program for those people who were attracted to it, and that OA did not promote itself because it worked best for people who wanted it or at least were desperate to find a solution for out-of-control eating.
I got the impression that Marsha could have talked about OA for the entire day, but because of her success in OA, she had a day full of activities such as Tai Chi lessons and kayaking on the marsh. However, my curiosity and love-hate relationship with the Internet got the better of me, so I looked up some fun facts.
South Carolina is the eighth most obese state in the United States; 66.9 percent of our citizens are overweight, meaning a Body Mass Index of 25 or greater; 31.5 percent were obese, with a BMI of 30 or greater. That is only 4.1 percent lower than the most obese state in the country, Mississippi.
So if anyone who reads this and has questions, would like to discuss this, find a meeting and rid themselves of a deadly obsession, call for more information about this free community-based program.
Contact The Counseling Center of Georgetown at (843) 527-8118.
The writer lives is the director of the Counseling Center of Georgetown.