What Is FA?


What is FA?

Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous (FA), a program based on the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), is a fellowship of individuals who, through shared experience and mutual support, are recovering from the disease of food addiction.

How did FA get started?

FA was formally organized in 1998, although it began as part of another twelve-step program in the early 1980s. Some FA members have been continuously abstinent since that time.

Does the program really work?

Many FA members tried other solutions to get help with food addiction, including years of diets or exercise. FA™ offers a long-term answer. Abstinent members find freedom from addiction and maintain healthy weights. The number of people with years of unbroken abstinence continues to grow.

Can a person be addicted to food?

Addiction is a dependence upon a habit-forming substance or behavior, regardless of the consequences or the strength of a person’s desire to abstain. It is characterized by intense craving, increasing need, and the disease’s negative impact on the lives of addicts and those who love them.

Most people are familiar with the concept of alcoholism and drug addiction, but the idea that certain foods and quantities of foods can be addictive is only slowly gaining acceptance. Carl Lowe, Jr., MD, a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a member of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, stated that “undeniably, food addiction is real. I see it every day.” Food addiction tends to remain unrecognized because of the focus on symptoms rather than their underlying cause – addiction.

What are the symptoms of food addiction?

Some of the symptoms of food addiction include:

  • Overeating (bingeing or grazing)
  • Purging (bulimia)
  • Undereating
  • Obesity (and related problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and sleep apnea)
  • Compulsive exercise and/or dieting
  • Obsession with food or weight
  • Depression, shame, isolation, and hopelessness related to food, weight, or body image.

What is “abstinence”?

Abstinence in FA is equivalent to AA’s “sobriety” and is clearly defined: weighed and measured meals with nothing in between, no flour, no sugar, and the avoidance of any individual binge foods.

What do I eat in FA?

FA members eat food that can be found at any grocery store: fruits, vegetables, proteins, dairies, and whole grains. Members cook their own meals at home with the guidance of a sponsor and also enjoy eating in restaurants.

What is a sponsor?

A sponsor gives those starting out in recovery a lifeline of daily support. The result is not just a diet but real help with recovery from addiction. Diets ultimately fail. Recovery from food addiction can be sustained for decades.

Why don’t you publish the FA food plan online?

Because recovery from food addiction is more than just a diet, the FA program is passed down individually from sponsor to sponsee. This gives those starting out in recovery a lifeline of daily support. The result is not just a food plan but real help with food addiction. Diets ultimately fail. Recovery from food addiction can be sustained for decades within the FA program.

Who joins FA?

The only membership requirement is a desire to stop eating addictively. Members are all ages and from every part of the world and include people who were morbidly obese, substantially underweight, or even at a normal weight. Regardless of their size, they were tormented by cravings, dieting, bulimia, and/or an obsession with exercise.

Am I a food addict?

Food addiction is real but not everyone who struggles with food is a food addict. Answer the twenty questions on this food addiction quiz as honestly as you can. Once you’ve taken the test, reflect on whether you need help with food addiction. Many newcomers diagnose themselves after reading the book Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous, listening to the FA podcast, or attending a meeting.

Should I try FA before or after bariatric surgery?

If you’re ready to surgically alter your body, you have nothing to lose by trying FA first. It’s free, and it works. Bariatric surgery can surgically alter your body, but it doesn’t treat cravings or address the mental and spiritual aspects of the illness of food addiction. If you work the FA program as it’s laid out, you will not have a need for bariatric surgery.

Carl Lowe, Jr., MD, a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a member of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, states:

“[S]urgery can… potentially help people with medically diagnosed morbid obesity get down to obesity and then to a place where they’re merely overweight, but it’s highly unusual for anyone to reach what is medically considered a healthy body weight after bariatric surgery. Typically, a year and a half after the operation, people reach their lowest weight--about 50 percent of what they need to lose--and then, over the next ten years, they slowly regain some of what they've lost until they reach a plateau. I tell my patients all the time that they have to change their perception of food and how they relate to it or they will regain their weight.”

How do FA members achieve a healthy weight?

Members work with a sponsor, and a medical professional if necessary, to determine a food plan that will bring them to an appropriate weight. However, abstinence is not a diet and FA is not a weight-loss program. Achieving a healthy weight is a side-effect of abstinence, which requires a spiritual surrender; members find that abstinence frees them from the physical cravings that drove them. As a result, recovering food addicts achieve a healthy weight, whether they need to gain ten pounds (five kilos) or lose two hundred (ninety kilos).

How do FA members maintain a healthy weight?

Recovering food addicts in FA remain at their goal-weight for years and even decades. Long-term abstinence from addictive eating is made possible by a member’s willingness to live a structured way of life and work the Twelve Steps.

What are the “tools of recovery”?

FA members cannot sustain long-term recovery by merely following a food plan, even when they’ve reached a healthy weight. Instead, they find support for continuous abstinence by:

  • Committing to a food plan with an experienced FA member (a sponsor)
  • Attending FA meetings regularly
  • Reading FA and AA literature
  • Making contact with other food addicts every day
  • Seeking help from a Higher Power through daily meditation
  • Encouraging and guiding newer members.

You can learn more about the tools of recovery in the Living Abstinently pamphlet.

How much does it cost to join FA?

FA is free. There are no dues or fees for membership. FA meetings and the nonprofit organization that runs FA are supported by the contributions of those whose lives have been positively affected by the program.

Will I be weighed publicly?

There are no weigh-ins at FA meetings.

How much does FA cost?

There are no dues or fees. According to the Seventh Tradition, “we are self-supporting through our own contributions.”

Is FA religious?

Members come from many religious backgrounds, or none at all. We are not affiliated with any particular religion, ideology, or doctrine. The daily disciplines used by members are compatible with any faith practice.

Do I have to believe in God to be an FA member?

The Twelve Steps are spiritually-based and can work for anyone with an open mind, whether they are atheists, agnostics, or committed members of a particular religious tradition. Each member finds recovery through a Higher Power that is personal to them.

Can I do FA if I have a previous medical condition?

Anyone willing to practice honesty and keep an open mind can work the FA program. If you have a medical condition, work with your sponsor and your doctor to develop a food plan that addresses your medical issues as well as your addiction to food. Most FA members are able to reduce or eliminate medications for high blood pressure, Diabetes II, or Crohn’s disease after a period of abstinence.

Are there men in FA?

Yes. Food addiction affects people of all genders and gender identities.

Are there young people in FA?

Yes. Some FA members have found long term recovery from as early as thirteen. Many find the program in their teens and twenties.

I’m underweight or a healthy weight. Could I be a food addict?

The drive to control our eating can be as powerful as the drive to overeat.

How long will I have to do the FA program?

One day at a time.

What are the Twelve Steps?

In 1939, a group of 100 recovering alcoholics outlined the Steps they took to remain sober in the book Alcoholics Anonymous. These Twelve Steps proved more successful than psychiatric treatments, medical interventions, and willpower in treating the baffling disease of addiction. FA members use the Twelve Steps as a course of action for sustained recovery from food addiction.

How Can I Get Started in FA™?

It's easy to begin! We encourage you to attend a meeting to learn more about the program. There are no dues or fees, and newcomers are always welcome.

How do I find a meeting?

You can search for FA meetings geographically in the meeting finder. Each meeting lists a person who expects to be contacted with any questions.

I live in an area with no FA meetings. What can I do?

Contact the FA Office at (781) 932-6300 or fa@foodaddicts.org.