Tuscaloosa Becomes First City in Alabama to Have ‘Food Addicts Anonymous’

Tuscaloosa residents struggling with food addiction can now share their burdens with people like them.

By Jennifer Johns
News Reporter

Collegiate Recovery and Intervention Services at the University of Alabama now hosts a new 12 step program centered around those struggling with food addiction.

Food Addicts Anonymous (FAA) is a fellowship of people wanting to support one another in their recovery from their disease in a healthy and understanding environment. The structure of the program follows closely to the well-known Alcoholics Anonymous program that has 12 steps and 12 traditions members follow to take back their lives.

“When you look at the world of food addiction, we need food to live,” said Gerard Love, executive director of Collegiate Recovery and Intervention Services of UA. “Defining sobriety is easy for alcohol, and many say recovering from food addiction is harder because you have to have it.”

The organization describes food addiction as an “uncontrollable craving for excess food that follows the ingestion of refined carbohydrates, primarily sugar and flour substances that are quickly metabolized and turned into sugar in the bloodstream.” The addiction compoundly manifests into a physical, emotional, social and/or spiritual obsession with food, body image and weight.

Many associate eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia with food addiction. While food addicts can also have an eating disorder, food addiction can be present in someone without one as well. Those struggling with the addiction may overeat, intentionally under eat to avoid gaining weight, try dangerous diets or feel like they do not have enough willpower to stop.

John Lochman, interim director of the Alabama Life Research Institute and saxon professor emeritus of psychology at UA, said social support can have strong positive intervention effects when channeled carefully.

“Intervention is designed to assist with the immediate effects of withdrawing from substance abuse (helping with emotional regulation, coping with cravings), as well as to assist with longer-term growth and prevention of further worse outcomes,” Lochman said. “Intervention can help clients to internalize various coping methods, including improved problem-solving skills.”

As the name indicates, all members who attend meetings have the guarantee of anonymity. They are also given the opportunity to create a food plan that cuts out sugars and refined carbohydrates. These foods are the usual sources of issue for food addicts.

Love said Collegiate Recovery and Intervention Services hopes to be a resource to anyone affected by addiction in the community.

“Addiction doesn’t discriminate social class, race or sexual orientation,” Love said. “It doesn’t mean you’re exposed to a bad family or environment.”

Collegiate Recovery and Intervention Services hosts weekly meetings for different types of addiction including alcohol, narcotics, food or those personally affected by an addict. All members of the community are welcome to attend the free meetings. Meetings typically occur weekly at noon.

Anyone wanting to know more information about aid Collegiate Recovery and Intervention Services provides can call the center at 205-348-2727 or email galove1@ua.edu.