Monday, October 19, 2009

Fat is a Family Affair

Judi Hollis book Fat is a Family Affair is a great book. The latest research shows that overeating is a compulsive disorder just like alcoholism with all the 'isms' of the disease without the alcohol. Overeater's Anonymous is the treatment of choice since compulsive disorders respond best to group therapies given the denial and the underlying lying that goes with the disease. Just as alcoholics have long been known for blaming and rationalizing and justifying their illness on 'stress' and "others", the obese 'stuff' their emotions and use food as a means of avoiding dealing with their resentments and fears.
Ironically 'church lady's' were often obese when it's now recognised that the disease of addiction is a 'spiritual disease'. The addict has difficulty living in the present where God resides but rather lives in the past with resentments or the future with the fears. Just as alcoholics 'went on the wagon' or 'changed their drinks' or 'their companions', so the compulsive over eaters do all of these behaviours especially loving the 'quick fix' diets and short term solutions not disimiliar to the 'detox units' which are only supposed to be the stepping stone to a new life of recovery not 'revolving door' solution. With food addiction its the feast and famine cycles.
The tragedy of the western world of first nations is that the members are more likely to die of the disease of abundance rather than the diseases of insufficiency. Cardiac disease, hypertension, hip diseases, sleep disorders, depressions and diabetes are just some of the illnesses that obesity can cause. Healthy families exercise and exercise has been shown to be equivalent to antidepressants in affecting the mood of individuals. Obese people in contrast not uncommonly have a 'people pleasing' exterior (smiling depressions) with underlying negativity.
Treating alcoholism I often encountered people who said they didn't want to go to AA because they talk of God. When I began treating obese people I encouraged them to go to the gym but they didn't want to go there. They don't talk about God at the gym but alcoholics would be happy to go to the liquor store even if they were to talk about God there. Obese people are always happy to go shopping especially in a supermarket whether they talk of God or not. The critical factors of Alcoholic Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous is that it's here that the rubber meets the road. The key idea of a spiritual disease is that you recognise your 'anxiety as a measure of your personal distance from God and your lack of faith and trust at any given time but as well that anxiety is equally a measure of the human condition'. In putting one's faith and trust in God you look to the architect not the walls (food or drink) for the solution to the spiritual malady. The 'spiritual awakening' that occurs in AA and Overeater's Anonymous is the overcoming of the 'craving' for food or drink. But the Intervention movies show the extent of the harm that addiction causes and how many people are willing to come forward and help the individual who suffers yet blames others and their environment for their disease until one day they reach their 'bottom' when they finally accept responsibility for the 'solution' and are willing to go to any lengths to treat their disease of addiction, ie overcome their own distance from a loving God or their fellowship of recovery. As a great long recovered addict ever reminded me "I have a saying on my mirror, 'you're looking at the problem".
Increasingly the compulsive disorders are being seen for the damage they cause individuals and families with alcoholism, the substance abuse addictions of the chemical variety, food addictions and gambling addiction and sex addiction and shopping addiction, the latter being called the 'process addictions'.
All seem relatively harmless at first but they all tear families apart and cause great suffering for the individuals and for the community. Whereas the costs of addiction show up in police records and jails and hospitals the overeaters addiction costs are seen in hospital costs and what is not done.
Judi Hollis in her book has practical ideas such as don't eat while watching tv and eat but only eat and savour the food rather than be doing several things at once. The Mediterranean and Zone Diets have been those most associated with longevity and health so that a reasonable diet without the junk food is the mainstay of the long term approach.
An interesting study though showed that diets were secondary to exercise in terms of obesity. Indeed a lot of therapy for the addictions in general have been called "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic."
In this study, marine volunteers agreed to be force fed while doing a few hours on the obstacle course a day. What came from the study is that with a certain level of exercise no amount of eating could cause weight gain. The body is like a black box, energy in and energy out. The trouble with our society is that we are 'sedentary'. When we 'exercise' enough the body becomes 'efficient' and eliminates any excess energy.
There are no obese people over 100. There are smokers and there are drinkers but there are no obese people. Indeed the lean live longest and contrary to popular belief, they're not mean. The fat are sick and sad and carrying the weight of two, hoarding out of fear ,they're like the 'happy drunk' who deep down isn't really happy at all.
Judi Hollis' book is a great beginning. Overeater's Anonymous offers a way out. Addiction is a disease of isolation and we are as sick as our secrets whereas recovery is a 'we' solution and begins with the first step 'we admitted our powerlessness (the compulsion).
The higher power of the spiritual program is someone other than oneself, 'where two or more are gathered, there too am I' or the 'group' of recovering persons. In recovery 'we are not alone'. Not only do we know God but God acts through other people and 'together we can where alone we couldn't."

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