At a meeting for "Recovery From Food Addiction," members have a physical or mental craving for food, not unlike an addiction to alcohol or drugs.
In fact, this program is patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous. It also features a twelve-step anonymous program to help members break their addiction to food.
"That's what food addiction is," said recovering food addict 'Ailene.' "It is a merciless obsession."
Most of its members are in a battle for their lives.
"For a lot of years, I was very suicidal because I could not stop eating," said Ailene. "I just did not want to keep living like I was living."
Signs of food addiction include preoccupation with food, sneaking food, discomfort in no-food situations, self-loathing and keeping secrets.
"I would wait until he was in the shower to unwrap the candy bars so nobody would hear them," said recovering addict Mary Rose. "And I didn't think it affected anybody but me, but it affected my whole family."
At the heart of the group's foundation is a pledge to eliminate sugar, flour and wheat from their diet, substances, they say, are addictive.
"So anything that's processed, like pasta, any kind of flour, cookies, all that stuff is highly, highly, highly processed, and it just turns into sugar real quickly and sets up an insatiable craving," said Ailene.The strict diet restrictions quickly turn off some. But for those who've reached rock bottom, it's a small sacrifice to make for a healthier life.
"You're going to have to completely give up certain foods just seemed so foreign," said recovering food addict 'Mary.' "But I was willing to do anything."
For Ailene, who's not eaten sugar, flour or wheat in 16 years, the program is working.
"My top weight was 320 pounds," she said. "I'm less than half that size now."
It's thanks, she says, to a book and 12-step program.
"Either recover or you die," said Ailene. "There is no middle ground. This disease takes no prisoners."
So how do you know if you're addicted to food?
SIGNS OF FOOD ADDICTION
I. Stage One
Preoccupation With Food
Stealing Food and Money
Discomfort In No-Food Situations
Concern About Weight
Eating After Others Stop
II. Stage Two
Loss Of Control and Attempts To Control
Self-Deception and The Deception Of Others
Lethargy, Irritability, and Depression
III. The Final Stages
Efforts To Control Binging Fail Repeatedly
Loss Of Interest In Family, Friends, Other Pursuits
Work and Family Problems
Emotional, Physical, Moral and Mental Deterioration
Neglect Of Good Nutrition
Food Is the Main Source Of Security
Panic: Obsession and Compulsion Take Over
If you are experiencing any number of these symptoms, seek help. You can call 713-673-2848 for more information.