Do I have to believe in God to belong to OA?
OA is a spiritual program. A higher power of our own definition helps us to be free of compulsive eating. A higher power is different things to different people. There is no one right way, no one answer to the question of who or what a person’s Higher Power is. In OA, you sort it out for yourself. What if I don’t believe in God?
How did OA start?
The idea of OA came to founder Rozanne S. at a Gamblers Anonymous (GA) meeting she attended with a compulsive gambling friend in 1958. As GA members shared their stories, she heard her story—not of gambling, but of compulsive overeating. She knew then that the Twelve Step and Twelve Tradition program founded by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and modeled by GA offered her a chance to change her life and reduce her 152-pound (69-kg) body to a size that would fit her 5-foot, 2-inch (157-cm) frame. Not until 1960, when her weight had increased to 161 pounds (73 kg), could she find other people who shared her convictions. Her chance meeting with a new neighbor, Jo S., gave Rozanne strength in numbers, even if it was only one person. Together they found another compulsive overeater, Bernice S., and convened the first OA meeting in Los Angeles, California, on January 19, 1960.
Today, about 6,500 OA groups meet each week in over 75 countries. With 60,000 members worldwide divided into ten geographic regions and a virtual region, OA helps thousands of compulsive eaters find new life in recovery. For more on OA’s history, read Beyond Our Wildest Dreams.
How do OA members achieve a healthy weight?
The concept of abstinence is the basis of OA’s program of recovery. By admitting inability to control compulsive eating in the past and abandoning the idea that all one needs is “a little willpower,” it becomes possible to abstain from overeating—one day at a time. While a diet can help us lose weight, it often intensifies the compulsion to overeat. The solution offered by OA does not include diet tips. We don’t furnish diets, counseling services, hospitalization or treatment. OA also doesn’t participate in or conduct research and training in the field of eating disorders. For weight loss, any medically approved eating plan is acceptable.
OA members interested in learning about nutrition or who seek professional advice are encouraged to consult qualified professionals. We may freely use such help, with the assurance that OA supports each of us in our efforts to recover.
How is OA different from other weight control/weight loss/eating disorder programs?
We offer unconditional acceptance and support through OA meetings. We in OA believe we have a threefold illness—physical, emotional, and spiritual. Tens of thousands have found that OA’s Twelve Step program affects recovery on all three levels.
The Twelve Steps embody a set of principles which, when followed, promote inner change. Sponsors help us understand and apply these principles. As old attitudes are discarded, we often find there is no longer a need for excess food.
Those of us who choose to recover one day at a time, practice the Twelve Steps. In doing so, we achieve a new way of life and a lasting freedom from our food obsession.
For more, please read Our Invitation to You, which summarizes what OA offers and how it can help you find recovery.
Is OA a religious organization?
OA is not a religious organization. OA members are people of many religious faiths as well as atheists and agnostics. The OA recovery program is based on acceptance of certain spiritual principles. Members are free to interpret these principles as they think best, or not to think about them at all if they so choose.
Many individuals who come to OA have reservations about accepting any concept of a power greater than themselves. OA experience has shown that those who keep an open mind on this subject and continue coming to OA meetings will not find it too difficult to work out their own solution to this very personal matter.
Is OA affiliated with any medical group interested in obesity?
No. OA is not affiliated with any other organization or group.
Is OA affiliated with other Twelve Step groups?
OA is not affiliated with other Twelve Step or Twelve Tradition groups. OA has often made use of the wisdom and experience of other Twelve Step groups in making decisions for our Fellowship, but we are not a part of any of them, nor they of us. We have our own unique purpose to fulfill—providing a Twelve Step and Twelve Tradition Fellowship for compulsive overeaters. Our policy is “cooperation but not affiliation.”
What does OA offer?
A way out of misery, guilt, and shame around food. You no longer have to carry the burden alone. Society may say that if you had a little more willpower, you could do this on your own. But compulsive eaters react differently than normal eaters to food. For us, there is no such thing as just one bite. If that feels like the way you interact with food, learn more about the OA way.
Where can I find OA?
OA’s Find a Meeting page will help you find all registered OA meetings. There are local face-to-face meetings in many cities. You are also welcome at our virtual meetings held via phone and online—whatever works best for you.
Who belongs to OA?
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:
- eating binges or grazing
- preoccupation with diets
- obsession with body image and compulsive weighing
- laxative or diuretic abuse
- excessive exercise
- induced 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 nine tools of Overeaters Anonymous.
Why is OA anonymous and what does that mean?
As an OA member, being anonymous means that what you say at a meeting, stays at the meeting and that no one but you, has the right to disclose your membership in OA. Being anonymous also means we have no stars or celebrities inside OA, and no one is an OA spokesperson to the public. In OA, your outside status doesn’t matter because we get to know each other from the inside out. We are all equal. We share a common problem with a shared solution.