“I have been attending OA for about ten months. From a friend, I had some idea of what to expect coming into my first meeting.
I have a tendency to deeply connect with the emotions of other people in any room. Sometimes this is a blessing, sometimes it’s a struggle. In that first OA meeting, I immediately felt the openness and caring spirit in the room. I felt so at ease with people I hardly knew…”
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I certainly was a compulsive eater. I spent most of my day obsessing about what to eat. Should I eat some protein or maybe more greens or perhaps just give up and eat potato chips? I was constantly trying to mediate between eating for my health issues and eating for my selfish pleasure—why can’t I eat potato chips?I was a little kid who wanted my own way, even though I’d had years of experience eating potato chips and lots of other foods that made me feel wretched afterwards. Yes, food was defeating me over and over again, and my health issues were not benefiting from the struggle. So, I took a chance at a long shot and turned up at an OA meeting.Little did I know how interesting and compelling Twelve Step programs could be. I’d never thought of myself as a loser (even though I hated myself and was ashamed—go figure), and I guess I had bought into the myth that all Twelve Steppers were losers and different from people I knew. Was I ever wrong! The people I’ve met through face-to-face meetings and phone meetings have turned me around and kindled in me a greater respect for humankind. Anyone who shows up for a Twelve Step program is a winner in intelligence, courage, and open-heartedness. I’ve felt lucky to meet these people and blessed with the miracle of sharing this path with fellow travelers. So far, I’ve come to understand the nature of my compulsive eating. I feel in communion with others rather than alone and uniquely ashamed. At first, I was shocked by the term “abstinence” and didn’t want anything to do with it. Now, I better understand abstinence and have made a spiritual decision to leave room for my Higher Power. Thank you, OA!While I still have a long way to go with the Twelve Steps, I’ve befriended myself and others to make this journey. I’m so especially grateful for all the phone meetings available. Even though I’ve only been in OA eight weeks, I’ve been able to show up, learn, and love so many times because of the phone meetings. My health issues mean I can’t drive much to get to face-to-face meetings, so the phone has been my lifeline. I’ll keep coming back. It works and it’s working for me!”
“It was May of 2015, and I was up 30 pounds (14 kg) after a yearlong sugar binge. Although I’d been on a constant roller coaster of losing and gaining, this was the biggest weight gain I’d experienced in seven years. It was also the low point when I began to realize my powerlessness over food. I had not yet found…”
OA, but I was already beginning to take the First Step. The following summer, an awareness came to me that there just had to be a Twelve Step program for overeaters. I actually typed the words “overeaters anonymous” into the search engine without knowing of OA’s existence. I was overcome with emotion when I saw OA at the top of my results. Immediately, I looked to see if there was a meeting in my area, but after getting that information, I lost courage. I wanted to call the contact, but I was too afraid. Months later, I was again entering a new diet program. My husband, having witnessed years of my obsession with food and diets, was discouraged; he told me I needed to seek help. I realized that, months prior, my Higher Power (God) had led me to OA. In an exercise of trust, I called the contact for the meeting I’d originally hoped to attend. I was encouraged to hear a friendly voice inviting me to come the following week.That first meeting brought a feeling of hope I’d not had in my whole history of compulsive overeating. There was love, kindness, and empathy there—these people got it. I cried at a few different points, overwhelmed with feelings of relief at finally being understood. I was not alone in my madness.
“I came into the doors of OA six months ago, weighing 159 pounds (72 kg) at 5 feet 5 inches (165 cm) tall. I was athletic and a relatively normal size, but I was in food hell and miserable. I believed that if I just got down to a certain weight, I would be happy. By the time I stepped through OA’s doors, I knew this was a lie. I had been skinny and fat, and neither extreme brought me happiness, only misery.
I thought I was the only one in the world who was obsessed with food, my weight, and my body. I felt I had to appear perfect so no one would know. In…
OA I found people who knew what I was going through and had been through it too! My sense of relief was profound. For the first time that I could remember, I had hope.I work as a nurse, and last night at the hospital, I was reminded how powerful OA members’ connection is and why this program works. As I talked to the family of a girl in my care about their pain, they shared their newfound hope. A former patient in the unit whom doctors had given little chance of survival now visits the unit to talk to patients’ families about his experience. The amazing thing was that when he shared his story with this family, they all leaned forward in their seats and hung on his every word because he understood. In a hospital with specialists and staff who have tons of knowledge and expertise, the man who doesn’t have tons of knowledge about health care and doesn’t know this family at all is the one who brought strength and hope into their lives.
Wow, what a correlation to OA. The miracle of being understood is indescribable. I now have been abstinent for three and a half months, and my life has changed dramatically. I lost 17 pounds (8 kg) and gained joy in helping others, freedom from food hell, connection with my Higher Power, and serenity!”
because I always weighed and considered every word, every gesture, to keep my façade intact, even if everything inside me was completely unmanageable. Without hesitation she said I should look into Overeaters Anonymous. She told me OA could help with unmanageable urges around food, and I could find a local meeting on the OA website. Then she warned me that the members may be morbidly obese, and I might have a hard time connecting with them.‘But it’s the right place for you,’ she said.
I left her office vaguely ashamed for blurting out my inability to manage a simple thing like eating. And what would I do if all the members were morbidly obese? How could they help me if they were unable to take care of themselves or if the program was such a failure for them? But I knew I had to look into OA. My alternative was a miserable decline, slowly drowning in my body.
It took me a couple of weeks to work up the courage to look at the website. I found a meeting and put it in my schedule. It was a week and a half away. That gave me time to get used to the idea. The afternoon of the meeting, I phoned the meeting contact to ask if they were still meeting that night. It was December 23, and I half hoped they would cancel because it was too close to a holiday. I didn’t hear back, and even though I felt high strung and panicky about it, my stubbornness helped me decide to go anyway.
I arrived and walked in to a warm welcome from the key holder. Some of my nerves subsided. The members were kind and welcoming, and they represented many sizes and body shapes. This group read Step One whenever a newcomer arrived, and that night I read my own life on those pages. I felt hope flicker as members shared their stories of recovery through working the Steps.
Clutching the Where do I Start pamphlet, I felt real hope for the first time in over a year. There was an alternative to the dead-end future I was heading for, and I could have it if I kept coming back. I found Overeaters Anonymous. I found home.”
— Liz W.
“Being abstinent all of three whole days, I looked in my mirror to see if my body looked smaller. It didn’t. I was mad.”
This doesn’t work.
What a bunch of B.S.
I’ll never get thin.
I can’t do this.
It’s taking too long.
I’m doomed to be fat.
I’m doomed to live like an accordion, in and out, up and down.
“I stomped around a bit, then realized it had only been three days! This might take some time. Maybe give it a month?
And then I had this thought: What if I approached every day as if it were the first day? All I really…
have is today. Outside of time and space, it is the “great now.” Today is the only day. I supposed I had to start somewhere. What if I released the relentless demands of body image obsession? What if I released the lie that thinness promises worth, purpose, status, love, adventure, wealth, happiness, peace, and contentment? Being thin does not address the emptiness that has no shape or weight or name. Even reaching goal weight can be a failure, if inside that new body is the same sinking heart. Spiritual hunger has never been solved on the physical level.
I began to soften. I might have even smiled a bit. What if it can only get better from here?
I only have today, and that’s a fact. What if I stayed present in this moment, stayed abstinent, worked the Steps to heal my spiritual hunger, and let the right body show up in its own time, one day at a time? What if?”
— Courtney B.
Read about someone who needed OA.
“I can clearly remember my frame of mind the first time I attended an OA meeting. I had absolutely no idea what OA was about, or how or why it worked. Most importantly, I wasn’t at all sure I belonged there.I wasn’t sure I fit the profile…
“Instead, I think I’ll stick with offering the one piece of advice that was given to me way back at my very first meeting— the one that made all the difference to me: ‘Just keep coming back.'”
— Edited and reprinted from The Butterflyer newsletter, Chicago Western Intergroup, July 2009
Read another member’s experience
“When I walked into the rooms of Overeaters Anonymous, hope felt like a possibility, a possibility of a better life. I’d been bottling up all my feelings again; my mom had recently passed away and my wife and I had just moved into the South Bay area. Fear, anger, and sadness were churning inside me, and I did what I always did—I ate.
So, coming to OA was an act of hope. At one of my very first meetings, I saw a person…Read more cry about feeling helpless over food. Hugs were given and feelings were validated. I was awestruck at what I saw: people showing care and concern for people dealing with food issues. Was I on another planet? One of my beliefs was that I lacked willpower, but here, people were saying that compulsive overeating is a disease. ‘Am I sick?’ I wondered.
As I came to more meetings and met more people in the Fellowship, I saw tragedies turning into successes. I saw brokenness healed, one day at a time. I saw something there that I wanted in my life. It was in the eyes and faces of people in these rooms. Hope thrives in the rooms of Overeaters Anonymous, and I was given the gift of hope.”
“In OA, I’ve learned: no matter what life hands you today, there is always hope.”
— Frank C.
“As a newcomer to OA, I was helped most by seeing how genuinely happy and pleased the other group members were to have me join them that first morning—even though I came with anxiety…
shame, silence, and a travel mug of coffee (which violated their rules).
The greeter asked me to stay after that first meeting and gave me her precious, well-thumbed, previously gifted For Today book. She said, ‘Until you get your own copy, you may keep this—that way I know I will see you again.’
Her trust and willingness to share with a total stranger spoke volumes to me about the strength of the OA Fellowship. It gave me my first glimpse of hope.”
— Randy N.
“I came to the West Coast broken in spirit, ashamed, and depressed. Last year I lost another 132 pounds (60 kg) and regained more than 80 pounds (36 kg) of it. This was common practice for me, a yo-yo cycle…
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that had lasted more than fifty years. My mother died of diabetes and heart failure caused by obesity. Watching her have her lungs pumped out just to see her take her last breath made me realize I had to do something different or my life would be cut short too. I did not want to be unable to walk or care for my own body, to depend utterly on others to get my basic needs met.So I talked at great length with my husband—I totally broke down and cried many tears. We decided I needed something very different because all the diets of the past had not worked. I went to oa.org and began researching, reading, and studying. I attended online meetings that first week, not sharing but listening. The second week, I went to my first face-to-face meeting. I was overwhelmed by the warm welcome I received, and my major fears were soon gone.I found a sponsor and attended at least four meetings every day in person, online, or by telephone. I listened to podcasts. I worked with my sponsor on a plan of eating. I read everything I could read and began working the Steps. I shared at most of the meetings I attended, and I volunteered service. I worked my program as hard as I could. (My sponsor asked if I was ready to work really hard.) We began this journey together, inside a loving, caring program filled with people who understand and love me unconditionally and who helped me learn that it is okay for me to just be okay because I am still loved and worthy.
That was eighty-eight days ago, and I have been abstinent for eighty-eight days, giving up my trigger food of sugar and staying on my plan of eating. I am working with my Higher Power, my sponsor, and my entire recovery team, moment by moment, one day at a time, and it is saving my life.
My sponsor asked me to put away my scales and only weigh myself one time per month. After two months I have lost 15 pounds (7 kg), eating healthy food, not dieting. I know this is the lifestyle I will have from now on. My head is clearer than it has been for a long time, and I am happy. I know we’ve found something very good for me. My relationships are better—healthier—and I’ve formed new ones all around the world.
This is all brand-new to me, but I am so ready to continue this journey. I hope any new member reading this will take the steps necessary to get started and waltz along with us because my life is like a new and beautiful symphony!”
“When I attended my first OA meeting, I was beyond nervous, and I was overwhelmed with debilitating shame. Overweight since age 7, I had tried every diet and magical fix available. Each failure chipped away at what little self-esteem I had, and the “mean girl” in my head would remind me that I was worthless and ultimately unlovable. As I walked into the meeting that morning, the mean girl was telling me I was wasting my time…
The story continues
Several people were already there, and I was greeted and warmly welcomed. The space was full of comfy seating, and I chose a seat toward the back so I could silently observe. To my dismay the leader sat down about a foot away. ‘Great,’ I thought, ‘Now everyone will see me.’ I had been counting on invisibility so I could sneak out if I didn’t like what I heard. The leader welcomed everyone to the meeting and shared his story.
I was shocked. His admissions were my deep, dark secrets. He talked about his life before program and how powerless he was over his compulsions. The more he revealed, the more uncomfortable I became because it was glaringly obvious I belonged there. Then he spoke about the serenity and abstinence he’d found in OA and how the Twelve Steps had granted him freedom from the prison his life had become.
As others shared, I felt my walls crumbling. These people no longer seemed like strangers. My voice was shaky as I found a little bravery in me and volunteered to share. With eyes downcast, I repeated the harsh words of the mean girl who’d berated me for over two decades. I truly believed I was worth less than someone skinnier than me and my accomplishments were nullified by my lack of self-control. Tears flowed down my cheeks as I confessed my greatest fears. ‘I feel so hopeless and alone. Why would anyone love me? I’m just a waste of space.’
After the conclusion of the meeting, members offered hugs and commiserations. They told me to keep coming back and give the program a chance. The warmth, love, and acceptance I felt in that room inspired me to attend more meetings. With each passing day, my gratitude for the people and the program swelled.
Today I have six months of abstinence, a feat I never thought possible. I have a wonderful sponsor. The mean girl in my head is much quieter now and easier to ignore. I am no longer lonely or hopeless; I no longer have to be a slave to my disease. Letting go was one of the hardest things I ever had to do, and I still try to take control sometimes, until I remember there is a power greater than myself to take care of me.
Now it’s my turn to welcome newcomers who may be unsure of themselves. I will never forget my first meeting and the feeling of coming home.”
— Hannah L.
“Who would have thought, when I entered my first OA meeting six months ago, that my life was going to change in every conceivable way? After almost forty years of yo-yo diets and spending most of my adult life on diet pills…
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I was about to discover my weight problem had nothing to do with willpower.What an eye-opener that first beginner’s meeting was. There were ideas like ‘a compulsion of the brain and an allergy of the body’ and ‘a plan of action.’ Wow, my head was spinning with all this powerful, exciting information! I was trying to digest it all. OA had literature to read, sponsors to help, and Tools and Steps to work. Nonstop positive solutions could bring sanity into my life at long last.
Was I willing to go to any lengths to recover from being a food addict? You bet I was. From the very start I knew what my trigger foods were. My God gave me abstinence from my compulsion to overeat from that very first day, as he knows me better than I know myself. If I hadn’t jumped into our Fellowship with both feet from the get-go, I might not have stuck around. That was my first miracle. It was not that I lost 40-plus pounds (18-plus kg); it was that I found the willingness to surrender not only specific foods and food behaviors, but also my self-will to my God.
I have found serenity in every facet of life. My relationships with my husband and adult children have never been healthier. I no longer feel the need to run everyone’s lives. I no longer merely hear, because I’ve learned to listen. Releasing all my old resentments was definitely the turning point in my recovery. That’s when OA became a way of life.
Seven months ago, if someone gave me a prediction that I would become a person who prays daily, is spiritually connected to God, and would experience miracles in all aspects of my life, I would have thought that person was the worst fortune-teller ever. But today I am living a life beyond my wildest dreams, one day at a time.”
— Ilene H.