For two months, I’ve been attending Overeaters Anonymous meetings. As I worked Step One, my denial started to crumble. I became painfully aware of the ways my life was unmanageable due to my eating behaviors. I could not deny that my closet and drawers were full of clothes that no longer fit me. Only larger-size pants let me breathe when I bent over. I could not deny I did not like my body or how I felt about myself. This dislike slid into my relationship with my husband and caused friction in our marriage. Managing my own life brought me to being overweight, unhappy, and unhealthy. I was powerless over food and my life had become unmanageable.

I continued to go to meetings and participated in a For Today Workbook study group. I asked a longtime member to be my sponsor. With my sponsor’s guidance, I wrote and re-wrote my plan of eating. I prayed for God’s help with abstinence from oversized portions and sugar-rich foods. I wrote in my journal daily, uncovering false beliefs that contributed to my compulsive overeating.

Working Step Two, I came to believe that a Power greater than myself could restore me to sanity. I’d come to OA through another Twelve Step program, with a Higher Power that really loved me. In OA, my Higher Power’s love for me grew. My Higher Power really did care about my eating—what, how, and how much—and my exercise. I came to believe that my Higher Power, whom I call God, could and would nourish my body, heart, and soul. All I needed to do was humbly ask him.

So in Step Three, I became willing to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understood him. Every morning I quietly read For Today and Voices of Recovery, praying for God’s will. Every morning I did my walking meditation in the local park. I followed my plan of eating. I placed abstinence and the metaphoric weight of my body, heart, and soul in God’s hands.

After one month, I weighed myself. I had lost 7.5 pounds (3.5 kg). After two months, I had lost another 5.5 pounds (2.5 kg). I felt the weight loss in the way my bras and pants fit me again. My tops fit, and I looked good in them. Aha! OA works!

Then my obsession about a new bathing suit arose.

Twenty-three years ago, I moved to Florida and gained access to a pool. I swam laps daily. Every spring, for fifteen of those twenty-three years, I rewarded myself with a new size 12 bathing suit.  Every time I put on a new bathing suit, I felt healthy and fit and beautiful. I was happiest and most satisfied with my body when it was just me in my bathing suit.

Those happy feelings eroded with weight gain, a reflection of my emotions with situation changes in my life. I continued to swim, but I also overate. As I got older, my body’s need for food decreased but my appetite and intake did not. My size 12 suit became too tight. I had to buy the next larger size, and eventually got up to a size 16. When I put on the larger-size suits, I no longer felt happy and proud about my appearance.

To motivate myself to lose weight, I deliberately bought a size 12 suit and displayed it on my closet door as a reminder. I still enjoyed swimming, but I did not lose any weight. I was ashamed of my body. When I got out of the pool, I’d quickly wrap myself up in a big beach towel and hurry home.

Then, with a 13-pound (6-kg) weight loss, I felt OA was restoring my body to me! My focus shifted to getting a new bathing suit. I found an ideal suit—in my mind, perfect at a size 14 (even though I am not at that size quite yet). It had blues and greens (my favorite colors), thick straps, and a pretty neckline that would draw attention to my upper chest, just as I like. It was even on clearance, marked down 55 percent. I would buy this bathing suit, God would restore me to a size 14 within a month, and life would be perfect. I would put on this bathing suit and look just as I looked twenty-three years ago. This new bathing suit would be my reward for all my daily efforts in OA. I would hang it in my bathroom as inspiration for abstinence and exercise. I decided to wait one week before buying the suit, as I do before making any other purchase.

Visions of me wearing my new bathing suit were consuming my walking meditation one morning when God broke through the fantasy. What was realistic? First, the suit would not fit me yet. Displaying a too-tight suit had never before motivated me to exercise and eat better—why would it motivate me now? And what was the urgency? I do not have access to a pool. I visit the beach only once every few months. When and where would I wear it? A new suit cannot restore to me the body I had years ago. Somehow, I’d blocked out the real-life image of my pale, white legs with purple and blue varicose veins. My shape has also changed, since I’m now 62 years old.  Moreover, I really do not have an extra money in my budget for a new bathing suit I cannot wear.

Then I realized that I’d reduced OA to a weight-reduction program. I’d shoved God aside and become my own Higher Power. I was telling God how, why, and when I would be restored. I was dictating what size I would be and when he would get me there. The spirituality of the program of OA dissolved when I only focused on physical weight loss.

Humbly, I chuckled gently at myself. God lets my mind run away with fantasy for as long as I need it to. I am reassured by this passage from The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous, Second Edition: “When we get off track, our Higher Power will guide us back, as long as we are sincerely trying to know and do God’s will . . . We have what we need any time we are willing to let go of self-will and humbly ask for help” (p. 23).

So now I have abandoned the bathing suit fantasy. I’ve channeled my energy and thoughts and prayers back to the real Higher Power. I pray my OA Third Step prayer with renewed intention. I shared this experience at my OA meeting. And I spent my bathing suit money on a two-year subscription to Lifeline.

— Mary Beth S.

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