Is OA for You?
Only you can decide that question. No one else can make this decision for you. We who are now in OA have found a way of life which enables us to live without the need for excess food. We believe that compulsive overeating is a progressive illness, one that, like alcoholism and some other illnesses, can be arrested. Remember, there is no shame in admitting you have a problem; the most important thing is to do something about it. In Overeaters Anonymous, you’ll find members who are extremely overweight, even morbidly obese; moderately overweight; average weight; underweight; still maintaining periodic control over their eating behavior; or totally unable to control their compulsive eating. OA members experience many different patterns of food behaviors. These “symptoms” are as varied as our membership. Among them are:
- obsession with body weight, size and shape
- eating binges or grazing
- preoccupation with reducing diets
- laxative or diuretic abuse
- excessive exercise
- inducing vomiting after eating
- chewing and spitting out food
- use of diet pills, shots and other medical interventions to control weight
- inability to stop eating certain foods after taking the first bite
- fantasies about food
- vulnerability to quick-weight-loss schemes
- constant preoccupation with food
- using food as a reward or comfort
Our symptoms may vary, but we share a common bond: we are powerless over food and our lives are unmanageable. This common problem has led those in OA to seek and find a common solution in the Twelve Steps, the Twelve Traditions and eight tools of Overeaters Anonymous.
Q: What is OA? What is a compulsive overeater or food addict?
A: Overeaters Anonymous, or OA, is modeled on the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-Step program of recovery. OA is not a diet-and-calories club. We are a worldwide organization — men and women, young and old — who are seeking relief and recovery from our addiction to food. In OA, we consider ourselves to be addicted to food in much the same way that an alcoholic is addicted to alcohol. In Alcoholics Anonymous, members who are practicing the recovery program achieve sobriety by refraining from alcohol completely. OA’s version of sobriety is called “abstinence.” In OA, recovering members eat a normal diet, but refrain from the foods and patterns of eating they consider to be addictive for themselves.
Q: Are there weigh-ins or diets?
A: No!! OA members who are abstaining from compulsive eating generally have a healthy plan of eating that they follow on a daily basis. We have many different plans of eating based on the nature of our own particular addictions and needs. Coming to OA meeting and talking to members who are successfully recovering is a good way to find a plan of eating that will work for you.
Q: What happens at an OA meeting?
A: All meetings are a little different — they can vary in size from two people to as many as 50 — but the format is basically the same: An OA member serves as the secretary who leads the meeting. The meeting usually begins with readings from the AA or OA books or pamphlets that we use as our guides to recovery. Usually there is a speaker. Speakers talk about how they found OA and how the OA program has helped them recover from their addiction to food. Then people in the group will volunteer to talk about their experiences and what they are doing every day to maintain their abstinence. There will be a literature table where OA and AA books are sold at cost; usually OA pamphlets are free. Be sure to pick up a list of meeting times and places. Also, an optional phone list is passed around so that members can write down numbers of people who are willing to receive telephone calls for support between meetings. And finally, at the end of a meeting attendees generally stand, hold hands, and recite a prayer. This is not mandatory. In fact, nothing is mandatory in OA. We often use the slogan, “Take what you like and leave the rest.” Special Newcomer meetings have a more open format where participants may ask any questions they have about OA and how it works.
Q. Will I have to do anything?
A: Often the secretary will ask if there are any newcomers at the meeting. If you are new, feel free to introduce yourself, but this is not mandatory. OA members simply like to welcome newcomers and help them understand how the program works.
Q: How much does OA cost?
A: There are no dues or fees to attend Overeaters Anonymous. OA is self-supporting through its members’ contributions of both time (to keep the meetings running) and donations. Donations are used for rent and other expenses. OA is not affiliated with, nor does it accept donations from, outside organizations. In addition, newcomers are asked not to contribute until they have decided if OA is for them or not. OA suggests that you attend at least five different OA meetings before deciding whether the program is for you. Pamphlets are free at OA meetings and OA approved books are sold at cost. There is no obligation to purchase literature, but many members find that using OA literature helps them in their recovery.
Q: How long do the meetings last?
A: Meetings generally last an hour.
Q: Is OA a religion? Is it therapy?
A: OA is not associated with any religious denomination or therapy. OA is based on spiritual principles and traditions, and its members have developed their own, individual spiritual practices based on their personal understanding of what they call “a power greater than themselves.” You may hear members use the words God, or Higher Power, to describe that power. But they are speaking for themselves, not for OA. In fact, no single individual speaks for the fellowship of OA. The only exception is the World Service Organization of Overeaters Anonymous, which is responsible for the approved literature that you will find at meetings.
Q: Does it work?
A: Absolutely. OA works for anyone who is willing to practice the OA 12-Step program of recovery Overeaters Anonymous is a 40-year old fellowship of countless members, all around the world, who are recovering from the disease of compulsive overeating. It is common for OA members who have been overweight their entire lives to return to a normal weight and maintain that for years and years; even for the rest of their lives. It is also common in OA for bulimics and anorexics who have suffered for years find full recovery from their diseases.
Q: Is OA for me?
A: OA is for *anyone* who has a problem with food. The best way to find out whether Overeaters Anonymous can work for you is to go to a meeting. Because meetings reflect the diversity of our fellowship, OA suggests that you attend at least five different OA meetings before deciding whether the program is for you.
Reprinted by permission of Overeaters Anonymous, Inc.; World Service Office.