Member Submission: Figuring Out How to Eat at Age 69

Until I came to OA 18 months ago, I had been a raving bulimic for almost 40 years.

Although I “controlled” it, sometimes for weeks at a time, it was always there, a fear I had every morning when I woke up. Would this be another day lost to bingeing and purging?

Most people thought I was someone with a “moderate” weight problem. By throwing up about three-quarters of everything I ate, I kept my weight about 25 lb. more than it should be.

The fact that I had the eating habits of a 300 lb. person was something no one knew. At one point, I estimated that my bingeing and purging was costing me $50 a day on some days, mostly on food that ended up flushed down the toilet.

So, while I had the eating habits of a 300 lb. person, I had the cash flow problems of a classic drug addict. So much of my income was going towards “feeding my habit.” (pun intended)

In fact, I am totally comfortable with describing myself as an addict, someone with changed brain patterns who will never be normal. That works better for me than describing myself as someone with a disease. In 21st Century America, a disease is something that we seek a pill to cure. There is no cure for my addiction, only management One Day at a Time.

I have been blessed with 18 months of flexible abstinence. My only rule is that I don’t throw up, no matter what, and I don’t eat to the point of being so full that I consider throwing up. Over those 18 months, I have lost about 12 lb., so I guess I’m doing something right.

But, at 69, I’m trying to learn what toddlers learn while they are learning to walk and talk. How much food is appropriate to eat at one meal? How do I eat slowly and carefully and actually enjoy what I’m eating? When am I actually hungry? Am I hungry when my stomach rumbles, indicating that I’m empty? I’ve learned that feeling goes away in about an hour whether I eat or not. It comes back in about 4 hours. Am I hungry when I get a “hunger headache?” That seems the time I actually must stop and take care of my body. When I have that kind of headache, I can’t concentrate on anything. However, it’s amazing to learn how little food it takes to get rid of that headache.

There is also that feeling that I just MUST eat something RIGHT NOW. That feeling can only be handled by using the Tools daily and bears no connection to physical hunger. As an agnostic continuing to search for something resembling a Higher Power, I know that only that search can keep me abstinent over the long term.

So, here I am at age 69…struggling to figure out how to eat.  Thanks OA for being there.

By Harriet F.