A new study ranks Iowa as the nation’s 13th most obese state, with 32% of the population now considered in that category of being extremely overweight.

A central Iowa woman credits a food addiction program with helping her to drop nearly 50 pounds to stop abusing food and begin living a more fulfilling life. Using the name Margaret, the Des Moines woman says the program focuses on fellowship.

“Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous is a 12-step program based on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous but for food,” Margaret says. “We meet in meetings and also provide experience, strength and hope through phone calls and other support networks with our help for addictive eating.”

Some members of Food Addicts, or FA, are obese, but symptoms of food addiction can also include extreme thinness, bulimia and exercise compulsion.

“Often it’s folks who may on the outside look completely normal weight but may be struggling with an obsession with food or maybe struggling with eating, often in private,” Margaret says. “Food addiction is a disease of isolation so often we don’t see the behaviors in public.”

Before she started the program, the five-foot-four Margaret weighed 172 pounds but is now steady at 125. There are no dues, fees or weigh-ins at FA meetings and membership is open to anyone who wants help with food.

“If you find that you can’t stop eating, maybe you’re thinking about certain foods, you’re eating at all times and can’t stop, maybe you’re going to different restaurants or seeking out certain things that you have to have,” Margaret says. “It could also be that you keep going from diet to diet, convinced that this is going to be the one to fix everything.”

There are regular FA meetings being held in West Des Moines and Sioux City, but help is available to anyone who wants it, starting with the website: www.foodaddicts.org.