People of Color Recovery Stories

 

An Asian  Story  

My name is Shirley and I am a real recovering compulsive overeater.  I will qualify by telling you that I am also a third-generation Japanese-American who was born in Cleveland, a bi-polar since the late 70s and also served in the United States Air Force in the late 60s.  When I came into the program, I was 43 years old on my second marriage, gave birth to a daughter for the first time and am also an adopted mom. And by the way, my husband is 14 years younger.  

I found my way to Overeaters Anonymous (OA) after having giving birth to my daughter as my husband and his mother felt I needed to go where the rest of the family was receiving their medical care in Palo Alto, CA.  My new internist felt I needed a commercial diet to learn what is an appropriate amount of food to eat and I needed OA for emotional support to help me deal with why a woman has over a hundred pounds of excess weight on her body.  In the San Jose area, there was a number to call and I left all of my pertinent mailing information and a few days later I received an envelope filled with a listing of suggested meetings for a newcomer plus pamphlets describing the OA philosophy.  

I walked into the Big Saturday meeting on July 18, 1992.  When I gave birth to my daughter, I tipped the scales at 240 pounds and in 1969 it represented twice my normal body weight.  Since I am barely over 5’ 2” you can understand why a weight over 200 pounds was devastating.  

In my first marriage, my husband told me if I ever hit 200 pounds he would be gone.  However, when I did hit that weight he was still there and eventually he did find the door.  He told me that I would be a fat lonely woman and when he was done with me that no one would ever want me.  During the 21 years, we were married, I believed everything he said to me and I shut down.  He felt that chocolate chip cookies should be fat and women should be thin. He did not want to be seen with me because I could no longer maintain his weight criteria of 140 pounds and therefore the last 11 years of our marriage were celibate.  I decided food was more comforting as he wasn’t very good sexually.  

As a young child, food was important in my family’s life.  An incident happened when I was eight years old, where my mother beat me until she heard the lie that she believed was the truth.  At that moment, I felt I could not trust my mother with the truth. Shortly thereafter, a black male teenager played what he thought was a joke by trying to molest me behind some bushes.  I prayed and ran for help and realized I could not trust the first person that I asked for help who was a black female teenager and a friend of the guy who was chasing me. That became my first secret.  When I was 28, there were two other sexual molestations where a white hippie was trying to break into the house and attack me. I called the police and later my husband talked to our neighbors, but once again no one believed me.  Later, a black jock came up to me in an empty college classroom and exposed himself in front of me. I yelled at him and ran out of the room. I was a mess but somehow pulled myself together for my exam. That was my second and third secret.  I did not share these secrets with my mother or husband until 1985. The first secret was about 28 years old.  

You might wonder what do these so-called sexual attempts have to do with food.  It was shortly after my first attempt that my body kept developing and I kept eating.  By the time I was nine years old, my parents felt that they needed to start controlling the quantities of what I was taking in.  They were embarrassed over my size as I towered in both height and weight over all the other Japanese girls who were very petite.  My weight became a constant battle every year, as my school clothes were a different size. I dieted to keep the weight off and was in competition with a cousin who was six months older than me.  The one thing I was better at was keeping a smaller body size.  

Today, by the grace of my Higher Power, a sponsor and a nutritionist, I am currently maintaining about half my body size.  When I came, I wore an elastic pair of Women’s pants size 18/20 and today I wear a Petite 6. After having released this weight, both my internist and psychiatrist have been able to take me off of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and antidepressant medications.  In order to maintain my new body, it requires that I be willing to surrender the food, to weigh-and-measure my food every day, to let go of certain foods and food groups, to move my body every day and to weigh my body every week. In, we are given tools to help us work the program.  The steps and traditions are based on spiritual principles adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous 12 steps. If it can work for me, it can work for you. You have nothing to lose, try it and if you don’t like it your misery will be refunded. My life and relationships have all changed and improved because I was willing to work the program of Overeaters Anonymous.

Bay Area, CA

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