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Thursday 23 March 2023 Dublin: 13°C
My food addiction How group therapy helped me overcome years of bingeing and purging
The following account is written by a member of Addictive Eaters Anonymous, who shares her experience of sobriety from addictive eating.

I WORKED FROM home, actually in my kitchen, during the recent lockdown. It would have been nearly impossible to do a day’s work had I still been eating addictively.

I’m so grateful I am no longer bingeing and purging, obsessing about my weight constantly or craving food all day long. I am free from addictive eating today and that’s from following the Twelve Step programme of Addictive Eaters Anonymous.

‘Just the one’

In the past, when I was at home I’d be thinking about what was in the fridge and what food was in the cupboards. When I was house sharing I would check what my housemates had in their cupboards. I would convince myself I could have just one, whether it be one slice of toast, one bowl of cereal or one of my housemates’ biscuits.

I would have one of whatever it was, then the craving would set in and I would want more. When I ran out of food at home I would go to the shop to continue the binge or go to buy food to replace what I’d just eaten.

If I didn’t have enough money I would steal the food. I would nearly always eat as much as I could until I felt so uncomfortable and then I would throw up.

After some time I would forget what had happened and I would get the notion again, that it would be okay to have just one. I’d tell myself that this time I meant just one. Then the cycle would start all over again.

This is how my eating went on for years, caught in this loop of bingeing and purging, up to several times a day. Not being able to stop even when at times I really didn’t want to start.

Years of struggle

My life with food carried on like this for most of my late teens and twenties. Deep down I was miserable but I tried my best to hide it from my family and friends. I always put on a front pretending that things were okay, going out partying and having a smile on my face but inside I was really struggling.

I lived a double life, bingeing in secret. I didn’t want anyone to see the large volumes of food I ate. I just wanted to be alone with food.

For some time I got great comfort from bingeing alone but then it just started to cause me pain. I would try to stop bingeing, I would get a day or two, even up to a week at times without bingeing and purging but then that craving would kick in and I would have to give into it. I didn’t have the power to resist the urge to pick up that first one.

I would feel so much shame and remorse after every time I binged. I started to hate what I was doing with food but I couldn’t stop. I was obsessing a lot about my weight and how I looked.

In the same vein, I was preoccupied with what people thought of me. I wanted people to like me and found it really difficult to be myself. I thought that people would like me if only I was thinner.

With all of this going on, I was finding life very difficult. I could see my friends getting on with their lives, with their careers and relationships and I was struggling in all these areas.

I’m grateful my eating started to cause me enough pain that I reached out for help and eventually ended up at an Addictive Eaters Anonymous meeting.

There I heard members share how it was for them and how they were no longer obsessing about food and their weight. I wanted what they had. It gave me hope to hear their recovery and it kept me coming back.

Free from addiction

I eventually surrendered alcohol, bingeing and purging, restricting and got sober. Sobriety in Addictive Eaters Anonymous is freedom from addictive eating and all mind-altering substances. I got a sponsor and did the Twelve Steps of Addictive Eaters Anonymous, which are based on the Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve Steps.

Through doing those steps I had a spiritual awakening and connection with a Higher Power. It’s not necessarily the case for everyone, but this experience really helps me as I feel that that power comes in between me and picking up ‘that first one’. My life is very different today. Food just isn’t a problem any more, it’s a miracle.

I have my planned meals for the day and I don’t think about food in between those meals. This is something I never thought was possible. I no longer obsess about what I’m going to eat or the order I’ll eat it in and I no longer weigh myself obsessively, allowing the number on the scales to ruin my day.

My presentation to the world is different, too, in that I no longer think people will like me solely based on how I look. No longer will I traipse the aisles in supermarkets eating food off the shelves, or spend hours a day vomiting what I’d binged on. There are many more obsessive behaviours I’m so grateful to be free of today.

What AEA has taught me is that I can’t do this programme on my own. I need to keep in regular contact with my AEA sponsor and other sober members. This really helps me be honest and share what is going on for me today. I need to talk about those fears or things I’m obsessing or worrying about.

Our minds can lie to us so it’s important to get the perspective of another sober member to help us see those falsehoods. When freed of all that obsessive thinking I can try and see where I can be useful today. I’m grateful that through this journey I’ve learnt how to live a productive and meaningful life.

For more information about Addictive Eaters Anonymous and online meetings available please visit

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