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Food Addicts in Recovery provided man with hope

A life-long food addiction and health issues caused by obesity held Nathan captive most of his life, imprisoned by isolation and shame and an object of ridicule for society.
That all changed 16 years ago when Nathan walked through the doors into a Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous meeting.
“I now live with hope because I have a program that I know works,” said Nathan, who is not being identified in compliance with the program’s philosophy of anonymity of its members.
Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous, or FA as it is known, has a free information meeting Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015 from 1:30-3:30 p.m. in County Hall at Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge.
The FA program is world-wide and based on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The program is for people who are overweight, underweight, anorexic, bulimic, or obsessed with food.
Nathan was obese by the time he was five years old, his addiction fed by his loving mother.
“The food connection with my mother was a powerful connection,” Nathan said. “She gave food as love.”
By the time he was 14 years old, Nathan weighed 300 pounds, incurring teasing and insults from school children and frustration from his parents, who did not understand their son’s weight gain.
“I just crawled into myself and would feed myself and want the pain to end,” Nathan said. “In food I found comfort in the moment. Afterwards, it was shame and humiliation.”
Nathan was suicidal from the time he was 15 until about age 21. He would plan his suicide but not follow through.
Growing up in the 1950s Nathan was raised in a family that was strong in church rules and strong in obedience. Men did not talk about their feelings.
“I’m holding all this in, pretending on the outside everything is okay,” Nathan said.
Nathan coped by becoming the class clown, making the students laugh at his words and actions, rather than at his weight.
“If I could make them laugh they would stop the teasing.”
Shame and humiliation followed Nathan to about age 25 when he reached his top weight of 395 pounds. He enrolled in Weight Watchers and by the time he was 28 had lost about 160 pounds.
While he learned how to lose weight, Nathan never learned why food was his addiction.
“As an addict I stayed hidden in myself, feeling like a victim and on the outside pretending that life was good.”
Nathan’s obesity and his awareness of his size and how it was perceived by others held him back in life. He skipped family events and didn’t pursue promotions in his professional life.
“I stayed away from life a lot,” said Nathan, who is now 71, married for 38 years with two children.
That changed when Nathan discovered Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous and connected with other people who shared the same addiction.
At age 57, Nathan was having heart trouble and at five foot seven and 350 pounds knew he needed help but he didn’t want to go back to a program with a focus on a scale.
Nathan discovered the fellowship of FA, which provides ongoing support from others who are ahead of him on the journey.
Hearing others share their personal stories at meetings made Nathan realize he wasn’t alone in his addiction, and the chance to finally express his feelings to others who understand came as a huge relief.
“It happened so gently in 12-step recovery,” Nathan said. “You hear other people sharing their journey what their life was like . . . and what has happened now since they surrendered their will and let others guide them.”
Nathan said it was not scary to look within to discover the reasons food was his addiction.
“Looking within becomes a real journey of knowing yourself and handling stuff better.”
Nathan lost 150 pounds in 1 1/2 years and although he has relapsed always comes back to FA to continue his journey.
People in the Lethbridge chapter of FA range in age from their mid 30s to 70s, the majority of which are women.
“The people who come in and stay are people who have had enough pain,” said Nathan, who is now a sponsor for another food addict. “We’ve tried almost everything going and we can’t keep the weight off.”
FA meets Mondays and Wednesdays at 7 p.m. in the Parkade room at Chinook Regional Hospital. There is no fee and no weigh-in.
There are readings from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, and people take turns telling their stories about how food affects them.
“If there is something you hear that you want then keep coming back,” Nathan said.
For more information about Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous call Ron at 403-320-2075 or visit www.foodaddicts.org.

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