My patients and I have been able to maintain our fantastic weight losses, as well as continue with our spiritual development, because we have adapted our programs to meet the ever-changing challenges of a changing, growing existence. There is even a program slogan: “You grow or you go.” Well, I’m still here, continuing with forty-one years of a normal healthy body and a multi-leveled changed personality. My professional therapist career was spent helping people make OA work for them. I was often challenged by resistance, anger, and criticism. I am now writing further about what works and what doesn’t and how a twelve-step recovery can help. A most common criticism leveled at me was that I was sending people to a cult. So, I offer the question to you and hope we can establish some dialogue around the issue.
Is accepting help in OA like entering a religious cult?

When you are advised to “surrender” does that mean you give up all dignity or personal responsibility for outcomes? Does it mean you become a dish-rag flopping in the wind?

Or, does it mean you stand up to create a cooperative relationship with the universe, and accept the chronic and lifelong nature of your obsessions? Does it mean you realize you have a big project ahead which will require a great deal of your own time, effort and ingenuity?

These are questions on the table this weekend at the Los Angeles Birthday Party for Overeater’s Anonymous. I will be offering an all-day seminar dedicated to this discussion. I will offer some insights based on my close to half a century treating a variety of addicts. At the same time, I will welcome the audience and your emails to share your experience with these issues.

First, we will tackle the founding of OA based on principles developed through AA. We will look at the similarities between overeaters and alcoholics and why the 12 step approach works for both. Then we will look at the differences in the two groups and see what has to be modified to make OA work for a lifelong recovery. We’ll see why some have called OA, “graduate school of addiction recovery.” In examining that, we will see that there are different messages and techniques for people in early recovery versus those farther along. What worked in the early days may need to be modified.

I will be encouraging a flexitarian focus, looking at individualizing your recovery without lapsing back into denial. And most importantly, I want to encourage all to develop listening skills to hear their own inner voice. That higher power speaks through the still, small voice within. Whether the voice signals panic or calm, action or relaxation, striving or letting go, it deserves to be heard.

Please send me any questions or comments.

RISKY BUSINESS……. To Lose the fat risk, we must live AT risk.

The AA Big Book says, “……we must have a program for living that allows for limitless expansion. Keeping one foot in front of the other is essential for maintaining our arrestment. Others may idle in a retrogressive groove without too much danger, but retrogression can spell death for us.” Those who are aging with arthritis know that the counter-intuitive solution to aches and pains is “keep moving.” That’s one reason why I’ve always been committed to world travel and adventure. It keeps my senses alert, my energy open and expansive, keeps me young and keeps me recovering.

Many of you know that since “re-firing” a few years ago, Henry and I have been traveling the world extensively. The way we usually travel is without reservations, winging it as we go, with a great openness to adventure and surprise. Most of the time, we’ve been lucky and smart and little has gone wrong. Not so this time….


They poured out of every shop and cafe, gathering in the center of the square. I held the elbow of our driver, Ravid. Wild screaming rose over an undertone of Moslem prayers and yelling. “Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar,” is all I could make out. The bee swarm of their mumbling sounded like rosary recitations. But, faces were contorted in anguish. Eyes bulged and pleaded as women in full hijabs screamed and cried hysterically. (That’s the black, often three-layered, headdress that covers all but the eyes.) A lady next to me fainted into her husband’s arms. It lasted less than a minute… Maybe the prayers worked.

The ancient three-story buildings stopped swaying, bricks stopped rattling, and scaffolding stayed in place. All got very still. I too got quiet, with determined, shallow breath and alert eyes. Henry had gone to a store down the street looking for a conversion plug to recharge his shaver and toothbrush. I worried. His approaching smile weaving through the crowd brought my breath back, deep and natural.

I wasn’t that alarmed as I live in southern California and we pause for earthquakes regularly. That had been the practice here in Kashmir as well, but these folks were terrified! Two years before they’d suffered the worst of it as 80,000 people died. We’d already seen evidence of the previous nightmare as this capital city was littered with haphazard construction interspersed with corrugated metal lean-to’s. Razor wire enclosed most dwellings and Indian army troops with bayonets and machine guns draped every corner of town. I’m not sure they were there for earthquake preparedness. That past quake had lasted three minutes, enough for the shaking to dislodge foundations, unset girders, and bring miles of buildings into rubble. And then, a recent 7.6 rumble had leveled much of ancient Kathmandu, not far away.

Ravid rushed us back to the car. A light sprinkle started. A traffic jam ensued. Everyone wanted a quick way out of town into the countryside. There were two roads in and out. No one dared travel the recently erected skyway, so we joined the throngs honking, stalled, and waiting. Traffic was managed by those armed guards pointing their guns and yelling into walkie-talkies.

Since travel was at a standstill anyway, Ravid asked, “You like come to my house?” I jumped at the chance. We entered an iron gate to view a three story erector set of girders and rebar with only the ground floor fully finished and habitable. “When I marry and my brother marry, all our families will live here. For now, my older brother lives here with wife, children, me, and my mother.”

A female guide in Oman taught us about this practice when she pointed out great insta-mansions where many families live under one roof. “This causes much trouble. Mother-in-law trouble,” she laughed as she let her hijab fall aside. She was so modern in thought and affect. Not a meek, retiring lady behind the veil. She helped me once again appreciate the benefits of foreign travel. It challenges any prejudices or expectations. Keeps ya young!

Ravid and his brother had lived in Saudi Arabia a while and after finally getting papers were now drivers hired out to transport tourists in Kashmir. They both owned the cars that, though older, were in fine condition. Due to his limited English, we didn’t quite understand how or why they eventually got to Kashmir, but I sensed they’d been refugees. I wished I could have found out more about his experience. I know his father had died, and they probably brought money with them. Hence, the cars and construction.
At Ravid’s, we were politely introduced to his sister and sister-in-law who sat on the floor of a bare room offset by a pass-through window to the kitchen. There were some rugs and pillows, but no furniture.

Not knowing any Arabic, we communicated with excessive bowing and large smiles and a lot of “thank you’s.” The bathroom sink was out in the hallway where soiled towels hung on hooks. All doors off the hallway were closed. We soon entered another room to find Ravid’s mom and four laughing children. The kids shook our hands, but did not attempt any English. In many countries, young children are taught English in school. We felt it would be rude to assume and impose it on them, so just kept smiling.

Of course, Ravid politely offered us tea and we graciously declined, wanting to get back to our houseboat on the lake before dark. On the way back, we learned from Ravid’s radio that the earthquake had been a 7.6 with its epicenter in nearby Pakistan where fourteen people died. The only other casualty was an old woman in southern Kashmir who succumbed to a heart attack.

We returned to spend another freezing night on a past-its-prime houseboat. It was wood paneled neither heated, nor insulated, damp and dilapidated. It certainly had not been in our plans to end up here. We’d been offered a “glorious vacation” week as a scam from some smooth operators in Delhi. Their full color brochures showed exotically carved teak vessels gleaming in the sunlight sparkling off Lake Dal.

“A Shangri-la!”

We had been scammed!

It had sounded good after an overnight flight from Dubai with no sleep. Off the flight, we’d then waited in an immigration line for nearly two hours. India’s bureaucracy is world famous and may be a large factor in China beating them in the GNP growth race. We forgot our cardinal rule: When getting off a plane in a new city, make sure to have a room reserved so you can rest up and make better decisions heading out. We’d figured that getting in at 4:00 am, why wait all day in Delhi, a city we’d visited many times. We longed for a small, spiritual town for relaxing and seeing fabulous Hindu rituals full of fire, song, and chanting. Instead we got slammed.

The Delhi “Government Tourist Office” scammers actually presented things as if we had no choice. According to them, the train we’d planned to take to Haridwar was stopped on the tracks due to a flood. “You might never make it,” the muscular one warned.

We’ve always loved the parts of our trips when we have no reservations, take a fancy to adventure and make our way. We were usually flexible and up for changing plans. So, we were even more convinced when hearing, “We now have the Muslim festival of Muharram. All streets in Delhi will be blockaded as it will be quite dangerous. Restaurants are closed and no one goes out.” He then threw in the cincher. “Shia Muslims will be walking the streets, slinging knives on ropes over their shoulders to cut and bloody themselves.” (He even showed us pictures of the gore on the internet!) “There are no vacancies in Delhi as everyone is seeking refuge. You’ll probably do best to get out of town.”

We decided to go out to breakfast to discuss our options. If only we’d had some sleep. I really wanted to get away from the watchful eye of these “government tourist agents.” They hired us a tuk tuk, (three-wheeled motorcycle taxi) and encouraged us to think about their “fantastic deal, including plane fare, all meals and lodging.”

Unfortunately, we rode all around Connaught Circle where every avenue was blocked with yellow police fences and not one single thing was open. We ended up back at the office resigned that the “Kashmir Shangri-la,” was probably our best choice.

“What could be bad? We’re in a foreign place. It will be an adventure, not the one we’d planned, but an adventure nonetheless.” We smiled at each other, always up for something new, and handed over the credit card.

Well, amongst other things, we neglected checking out Kashmir’s temperature in October. The scammers raved about the sunny weather, how it was “a retreat for the Brits during the Raj and later a plush vacation spot for European tourists in the ’60’s.” They failed to mention it is ghastly cold in October.
Maybe we didn’t look our age? Maybe they didn’t realize that, like many older folks, we’d left New York for the sunbelt and had bodies now accustomed to 70 degrees as a normal winter temperature.

We were no longer built for this. Whatever warm clothes we’d packed were checked at Left Luggage in the Delhi airport, so we both toted small backpacks for this leg of our trip. For our first day, we made the best of it, hired a car, found street vendors selling coats, hats, sweaters, and gloves. None of that took away the dampness. By our second night, we were offered an electric blanket.

But, even though we’d managed well with the cold and survived the earthquake, we weren’t up for the military intervention of our next day.

There are no pictures to share as the military rule in Kashmir does not allow it. Also, our facilities didn’t provide any way to charge the cell phones. So, here instead are some great young people back in Delhi during the Duwali Festival. They just love doing “selfies,” and especially with blond people…



Pin It on Pinterest

Share This