Note: Names have been changed to provide anonymity for members of Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous.
In a bright, small room on the west side of Hoboken one Monday evening, with 12 people surrounding him, a man stood up from his metal chair and walked to the front of the room. He turned and addressed the crowd.
“Hi. My name is Bob, and I’m a food addict.”
“Hi, Bob,” the crowd responded.
Bob is not overweight, but he read the tenets of the Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous program with various members of all backgrounds, ages, and sizes in attendance.
He spoke of abstaining from all flour and sugar, and shared his story of dropping from 230 pounds to 175.
Fake it ‘til you make it
Another man, Chris, explained his struggle.
“I was worried that my son would not have a father by the time he was 26,” Chris said. “I was killing myself.”
It was a struggle. Chris started at 440 pounds. Now, a little more than a year later, he weighs less than 275 pounds, a significant victory in his almost lifelong battle with his weight.
During his high school years, he went hiking in the Appalachians for months at a time to escape everything and focus on his health. For the most part, those plans worked. However, when Chris became a father, he could no longer pick up his belongings, drop his responsibilities, and disappear to hike.
Even as much as 20 minutes after the start of the meeting, members filed into the room, set up chairs, and sat down. Some members of the group travel to three meetings per week, in Paramus, New York City, and even as far away as Dover.
The group at the Hoboken meeting on this Monday was made up of six men and six women.
Chris credits the Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous plan with not only a change in his appearance and weight, but also in his attitude, and mental and spiritual well-being.
Chris isn’t sure if he’s really a food addict, but knows no other plan has worked as well as this one, which leads him to “fake it ‘til he makes it.”
The program is not affiliated with a religious organization, but its members do call for help from a higher power. The groups are self sufficient, and do not ask for outside donations.
A small folder, replacing what is usually a box, was passed around the room before the group started, and members gave what they could, even if just a small, one dollar donation.
‘I’m not an addict’
Another member, Sam, joined FA the first Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2004.
Sam was confronted by a family member who is a counselor and told Sam about the Food Addicts program. Sam immediately dismissed it and said, “I’m not an addict.”
Six years later, Sam has become a sponsor for many fellow sufferers, and dropped 85 pounds.
Sam believes sufferers from food addiction face a difficult plight.
“Alcoholics can put down a drink, drug addicts can put down drugs, but people have to eat,” Sam said. “You can’t just put down food forever.”
Sam, who introduced Chris to the program, said it took three or four years of convincing Chris to finally come to a meeting. Now Chris, who has lost over 150 pounds, attends three meetings a week.
“I started losing fast,” Chris said. “I lost 30 pounds in the first month, 20 in the second, and now I’m losing about five pounds a month.”
Members weigh themselves once a month. They do not want to know how they do on a daily basis because if they do well they may stray from the program.
However, Chris and Sam both agree that the program is not just a “weight loss group.”
The 12-step program uses literature from Alcoholics Anonymous, sharing the tenets of the program.
New Hoboken group
The Hoboken group began just this summer, and has around 12 members who come to the meetings.
What’s different about FA from other groups is that members who have been on the program for 90 days speak more frequently at the meetings.
Instead of people talking about how they want to cure a food addiction, the people talking are those who have been abstinent from flour and sugar for 90 days, and speak to the group about how the program has worked for them.
Members, like Chris, call their sponsor every morning, explain what they are going to eat, and how the food will be prepared. They also can reach out to other members in times of trouble when they feel they may stray from the rules of the group.
The members aren’t just overweight people trying to lose weight, but rather those with an “obsession with food that has kept them from living a normal, fulfilling life.”
According to the FA website, people have joined the group that are over 400 pounds or under 100 pounds.
Hoboken’s Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous group meets on Monday nights at the Jubilee Center at 6:30 p.m. Newcomers are welcome. For more information about the group, and to find out if Food Addicts Anonymous is for you, visit FoodAddicts.org.