WELCOME TO OVEREATERS ANONYMOUS (OA)
The following information for Newcomers (those new to the Overeaters Anonymous 12 Step Program of recovery) will assist you if you are new to OA recovery or wondering about this program. You will find answers to many of the questions you may have about OA and recovery in these readings.
While our program is based on the 12 Steps, aided by the 12 Traditions, and helped by our “Tools,” these basics may make more sense if you read the other information preceding them first.
You may secure more information about the OA program of recovery by reading the following, by attending an OA meeting, or from the website OA.ORG. Since OA is a fellowship of recovery, we strongly suggest in addition to reading this information, you take the next step and connect with others in recovery at an OA meeting.
Here is an index of information that follows to help familiarize you with the OA 12 Step Program of Recovery:
- Who Belongs To OA?
- How Does OA Work?
- What Does OA Offer?
- Why Is OA Anonymous?
- Is OA a Religious Organisation?
- How Is OA Funded?
- Where Can I Find OA?
- Our Invitation To You
Is OA For You?
Are You a Compulsive Overeater?
Now that you have found Overeaters Anonymous, you may want to make sure our program is right for you. Many of us have found it useful to answer the following questions to help determine if we have a problem with compulsive eating.
- Do I eat when I’m not hungry, or not eat when my body needs nourishment?
- Do I go on eating binges for no apparent reason, sometimes eating until I’m stuffed or even feel sick?
- Do I have feelings of guilt, shame or embarrassment about my weight or the way I eat?
- Do I eat sensibly in front of others and then make up for it when I am alone?
- Is my eating affecting my health or the way I live my life?
- When my emotions are intense—whether positive or negative—do I find myself reaching for food?
- Do my eating behaviors make me or others unhappy?
- Have I ever used laxatives, vomiting, diuretics, excessive exercise, diet pills, shots or other medical interventions (including surgery) to try to control my weight?
- Do I fast or severely restrict my food intake to control my weight?
- Do I fantasize about how much better life would be if I were a different size or weight?
- Do I need to chew or have something in my mouth all the time: food, gum, mints, candies or beverages?
- Have I ever eaten food that is burned, frozen or spoiled; from containers in the grocery store; or out of the garbage?
- Are there certain foods I can’t stop eating after having the first bite?
- Have I lost weight with a diet or “period of control” only to be followed by bouts of uncontrolled eating and/or weight gain?
- Do I spend too much time thinking about food, arguing with myself about whether or what to eat, planning the next diet or exercise cure, or counting calories?
Have you answered “yes” to several of these questions? If so, it is possible that you have, or are well on your way to having, a compulsive eating or overeating problem.
We have found that the way to arrest this progressive disease is to practice the Twelve-Step recovery program of Overeaters Anonymous. Overeaters Anonymous is a fellowship of individuals who, through shared experience, strength and hope, are recovering from compulsive overeating. We welcome everyone who wants to stop eating compulsively. There are no dues or fees for members; we are self-supporting through our own contributions, neither soliciting nor accepting outside donations. OA is not affiliated with any public or private organization, political movement, ideology or religious doctrine; we take no position on outside issues. Our primary purpose is to abstain from compulsive overeating and to carry this message of recovery to those who still suffer.
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 eating 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.
Overeaters Anonymous is a Fellowship of individuals who, through shared experience, strength and hope, are recovering from compulsive overeating. We welcome everyone who wants to stop eating compulsively.
There are no dues or fees for members; we are self-supporting through our own contributions, neither soliciting nor accepting outside donations. OA is not affiliated with any public or private organization, political movement, ideology or religious doctrine; we take no position on outside issues.
Our primary purpose is to abstain from compulsive overeating and to carry this message of recovery to those who still suffer.
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 Tools of Recovery of Overeaters Anonymous.
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; nor does OA 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.
We offer unconditional acceptance and support through readily available OA meetings, which are self-supported through voluntary contributions.
We in OA believe we have a threefold illness—physical, emotional and spiritual. Tens of thousands have found that OA’s Twelve-Step program effects 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 so doing, we achieve a new way of life and lasting freedom from our food obsession.
Anonymity allows the Fellowship to govern itself through principles rather than personalities. Social and economic status have no relevance in OA; we are all compulsive eaters. Anonymity at the level of press, radio, television and other media of communication provides assurance that OA membership will not be disclosed.
OA is not a religious society, since it requires no definite religious belief as a condition of membership. OA has among its membership people of many religious faiths as well as atheists and agnostics.
The OA recovery program is based on acceptance of certain spiritual values. Members are free to interpret these values 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.
Overeaters Anonymous has no dues or fees for membership. It is entirely self-supporting through literature sales and member contributions. Most groups “pass the basket” at meetings to cover expenses. OA does not solicit or accept outside contributions.
Go to Find a Meeting on this Web site and follow the instructions to find a meeting in your area. Or you can contact the World Service Office at (505) 891-2664 or email for further assistance. You can also look for Overeaters Anonymous in your local telephone directory and in your local newspaper’s social or community calendar section.
We of Overeaters Anonymous have made a discovery. At the very first meeting we attended, we learned that we were in the clutches of a dangerous illness, and that willpower, emotional health and self-confidence, which some of us had once possessed, were no defense against it.
We have found that the reasons for this illness are unimportant. What deserves the attention of the still-suffering compulsive overeater is this: There is a proven, workable method by which we can arrest our illness.
The OA recovery program is patterned after that of Alcoholics Anonymous. We use AA’s twelve steps and twelve traditions, changing only the words “alcoholic” and “alcohol” to “food” and “compulsive overeating.”
As our personal stories attest, the twelve-step program of recovery works as well for compulsive overeaters as it does for alcoholics.
Can we guarantee you this recovery? The answer is simple. If you will honestly face the truth about yourself and the illness; if you keep coming back to meetings to talk and listen to other recovering compulsive overeaters; if you will read our literature and that of Alcoholic Anonymous with an open mind; and most important, if you are willing to rely on a power greater than yourself for direction in your life, and to take the twelve steps to the best of your ability, we believe you can indeed join the ranks of those who recover.
To remedy the emotional, physical, and spiritual illness of compulsive overeating we offer several suggestions, but keep in mind that the basis of this program is spiritual, as evidenced by the twelve steps.
We are not a “diet and calories” club. We do not endorse any particular plan of eating. Once we become abstinent, the preoccupation with food diminishes and in many cases leaves us entirely. We then find that, to deal with our inner turmoil, we have to have a new way of thinking, of acting on life rather than reacting to it – in essence, a new way of living.
From this vantage point, we began the twelve-step program of recovery, moving beyond the food and the emotional havoc to a fuller living experience. As a result of practicing these steps, the symptom of compulsive overeating is removed on a daily basis, achieved through the process of surrendering to something greater than ourselves; the more total our surrender, the more freely realized our freedom from food obsession.
“But I’m too weak. I’ll never make it!” Don’t worry, we have all thought and said the same thing. The amazing secret to the success of this program is just that: weakness. It is weakness, not strength that binds us to each other and to a higher power and somehow gives us the ability to do what we cannot do alone.
If you decide you are one of us, we welcome you with open arms. Whatever your circumstances, we offer you the gift of acceptance. You are not alone anymore. Welcome to Overeaters Anonymous. Welcome home!
In working Overeaters Anonymous’ Twelve-Step program of recovery from compulsive overeating, we have found a number of tools to assist us. We use these tools regularly to help us achieve and maintain abstinence and recover from our disease.
In Overeaters Anonymous (OA), the Statement on Abstinence and Recovery is “Abstinence is the action of refraining from compulsive eating and compulsive food behaviors while working towards or maintaining a healthy body weight. Spiritual, emotional and physical recovery is the result of living the Overeaters Anonymous Twelve-Step program.” Many of us have found we cannot abstain from compulsive eating unless we use some or all of OA’s nine tools of recovery to help us practice the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.
As a tool, a plan of eating helps us abstain from compulsive eating, guides us in our dietary decisions, and defines what, when, how, where and why we eat.
There are no specific requirements for a plan of eating; OA does not endorse or recommend any specific plan of eating, nor does it exclude the personal use of one. (See the pamphlets Dignity of Choice and A Plan of Eating for more information.) For specific dietary or nutritional guidance, OA suggests consulting a qualified health care professional, such as a physician or dietitian. Each of us develops a personal plan of eating based on an honest appraisal of his or her past experience. Many of us find it essential to take guidance from our sponsors to develop a plan of eating that reflects an honest desire to achieve and maintain abstinence.
Although individual plans of eating are as varied as our members, most OA members agree that some plan—no matter how flexible or structured—is necessary.
This tool helps us deal with the physical aspects of our disease and achieve physical recovery. From this vantage point, we can more effectively follow OA’s Twelve-Step program of recovery and move beyond the food to a happier, healthier and more spiritual life.
Sponsors are OA members who are living the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions to the best of their ability. They are willing to share their recovery with other members of the Fellowship and are committed to abstinence.
We ask a sponsor to help us through our program of recovery on all three levels: physical, emotional and spiritual. By working with other members of OA and sharing their experience, strength and hope, sponsors continually renew and reaffirm their own recovery. Sponsors share their program up to the level of their own experience.
Ours is a program of attraction; find a sponsor who has what you want and ask that person how he or she is achieving it. A member may work with more than one sponsor and may change sponsors. However, many of us choose to work with just one sponsor. In either case, it’s helpful to avoid changing sponsors frequently.
Meetings are gatherings of two or more compulsive overeaters who come together to share their personal experience, and the strength and hope OA has given them. There are many types of meetings, but fellowship with other compulsive overeaters is the basis of them all. Meetings give us an opportunity to identify our common problem, confirm our common solution through the Twelve Steps and share the gifts we receive through this program. In addition to face-to-face meetings, OA offers telephone and online meetings that are useful in breaking down the deadly isolation caused by distance, illness or physical challenges.
Member-to-member contact helps us share on a one-to-one basis and avoid the isolation that is so common among us. Many members call, text or email their sponsors and other OA members daily. As part of the surrender process, these tools help us learn to reach out, ask for help and extend help to others. Telephone or electronic contact also provides an immediate outlet for those hard-to-handle highs and lows we may experience. Members should respect anonymity when leaving any type of voicemail or electronic message.
In addition to writing our inventories and the list of people we have harmed, most of us have found that writing has been an indispensable tool for working the Steps. Further, putting our thoughts and feelings down on paper, or describing a troubling incident, helps us to better understand our actions and reactions in a way that is often not revealed to us by simply thinking or talking about them. In the past, compulsive eating was our most common reaction to life. When we put our difficulties down on paper, it becomes easier to see situations more clearly and perhaps better discern any necessary action.
We read OA-approved books such as Overeaters Anonymous, Second Edition; The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous; Voices of Recovery; For Today; and Alcoholics Anonymous (the Big Book). We also study and read OA-approved pamphlets and Lifeline, our magazine of recovery. Many OA members find that reading literature daily further reinforces how to live the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. All our literature provides insight into our problem of eating compulsively, strength to deal with it, and the very real hope that there is a solution for us.
An action plan is the process of identifying and implementing attainable actions, both daily and long-term, that are necessary to support our individual abstinence and emotional, spiritual and physical recovery. While the plan is ours, tailored to our own recovery process, most of us find it important to work with a sponsor, fellow OA member and/or appropriate professional to help us create it. This tool, like our plan of eating, may vary widely among members and may need to be adjusted as we progress in our recovery.
For example, a newcomer’s action plan might focus on planning, shopping for and preparing food. Some members may need a regular fitness routine to improve strength and health, while others may need to set exercise limits in order to attain more balance. Some of us may need an action plan that includes time for meditation and relaxation or provides strategies for balancing work, personal interactions with family and friends, and our program. Others may need help to organize their homes; deal with their finances; and address medical, dental or mental health issues.
Along with working the Steps on a daily basis, an action plan may incorporate use of the other OA tools to bring structure, balance and manageability into our lives. As we use this tool, we find that we develop a feeling of serenity and continue to grow emotionally and spiritually while we make measurable progress one day at a time.
Anonymity, referred to in Traditions Eleven and Twelve, is a tool that guarantees we will place principles before personalities. The protection of anonymity offers each of us freedom of expression and safeguards us from gossip. Anonymity assures us that only we, as individual OA members, have the right to make our membership known within our community. Anonymity at the level of press, radio, films, television and other public media of communication means that we never allow our faces or last names to be used once we identify ourselves as OA members. This protects both the individual and the Fellowship.
Within the Fellowship, anonymity means that whatever we share with another OA member will be held in respect and confidence. What we hear at meetings should remain there. However, we understand that we must not allow anonymity to limit our effectiveness within the Fellowship. It is not a break of anonymity to use our full names within our group or OA service bodies. Also, it is not a break of anonymity to enlist Twelfth-Step help for group members in trouble, provided we are careful to refrain from discussing any specific personal information.
Another aspect of anonymity is that we are all equal in the Fellowship, whether we are newcomers or seasoned longtimers. And our outside status makes no difference in OA; we have no stars or VIPs. We come together simply as compulsive overeaters.
Carrying the message to the compulsive overeater who still suffers is the basic purpose of our Fellowship; therefore, it is the most fundamental form of service. Any form of service—no matter how small—that helps reach a fellow sufferer adds to the quality of our own recovery. Members who are new to OA can give service by getting to meetings, putting away chairs, putting out literature, talking to newcomers, and doing whatever needs to be done for the group. Members who meet the abstinence requirement can give service beyond the group level in such activities as intergroup representative, committee chair, region representative or Conference delegate. There are many ways to give back what we have so generously been given. We are encouraged to do what we can when we can. “A life of sane and happy usefulness” is what we are promised as the result of working the Twelve Steps. Service helps to fulfill that promise.
As OA’s responsibility pledge states: “Always to extend the hand and heart of OA to all who share my compulsion; for this, I am responsible.”
Tools of Recovery © 2011 Overeaters Anonymous, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Twelve Steps are the heart of the OA recovery program. They offer a new way of life that enables the compulsive eater to live without the need for excess food.
The ideas expressed in the Twelve Steps, which originated in Alcoholics Anonymous, reflect practical experience and application of spiritual insights recorded by thinkers throughout the ages. Their greatest importance lies in the fact that they work! They enable compulsive eaters and millions of other Twelve-Steppers to lead happy, productive lives. They represent the foundation upon which OA is built.
- We admitted we were powerless over food — that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to compulsive overeaters and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Permission to use the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous for adaptation granted by AA World Services, Inc.
The Twelve Traditions are the means by which OA remains unified in a common cause. These Twelve Traditions are to the groups what the Twelve Steps are to the individual. They are suggested principles to ensure the survival and growth of the many groups that compose Overeaters Anonymous.
Like the Twelve Steps, the Twelve Traditions have their origins in Alcoholics Anonymous. These Traditions describe attitudes which those early members believed were important to group survival.
- Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon OA unity.
- For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority — a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
- The only requirement for OA membership is a desire to stop eating compulsively.
- Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or OA as a whole.
- Each group has but one primary purpose — to carry its message to the compulsive overeater who still suffers.
- An OA group ought never endorse, finance or lend the OA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
- Every OA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
- Overeaters Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
- OA, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
- Overeaters Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the OA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
- Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, films, television and other public media of communication.
- Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all these Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.
Permission to use the Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous for adaptation granted by AA World Services, Inc.
“Sound Bites from Overeaters Anonymous (OA)” is a new Internet radio show dedicated to educating you about recovery from compulsive eating using OA’s 12-step program, so you recognize the symptoms and find the support you need and a program that works to help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. In OA, you’ll find acceptance and understanding; support and companionship from others who have similar challenges; and a transformation to physical, emotional and spiritual well being. Join us to hear the experience, strength and hope of people who struggled and found recovery and a new life in Overeaters Anonymous.
Hear for yourself the recovery of OA members: listen to a podcast of an OA meeting.
After years of struggling with your weight and obsessing about food, you have decided to give Overeaters Anonymous a try. You find an OA meeting in your area by checking OA’s online meeting locator or by calling or emailing the WSO. You’ve called the contact person to confirm the day, time and location of the meeting to make sure the information hasn’t changed.
When you arrive at the meeting, you will find men and women who share a common malady — compulsive eating — and have found a common solution: the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous. You will see anywhere from three to 30 or more people at the meeting. An average meeting has about nine. Many members attend more than one meeting a week. You will be warmly welcomed.
The meeting usually opens with the Serenity Prayer, and you may hear a reading called “Our Invitation to You,” which describes the disease of compulsive overeating and the Twelve-Step solution. Meeting formats may vary, but all OA groups are the same in that they seek recovery on three levels — physical, emotional and spiritual — through the Twelve Steps, and the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop eating compulsively.
Although meeting formats vary, you may hear a speaker open the meeting and speak for 10 to 15 minutes about what life was like before OA, what happened, and what he or she is like now; or someone might read from OA or AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) literature. Other members will share their experience, strength and hope. You will have an opportunity to introduce yourself as a newcomer, if you like. You will find that you are not alone, that there is a way out of your desperation. Because anonymity is a critical principle of the OA program, you are assured that what you share will be held in confidence. This provides the safety you need to share your experiences honestly.
You may recognize your own story when you listen to others share. Listening will help you find others who have what you want, whether it be weight loss, clarity, joy in achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight, or freedom from the obsession of self-destructive eating behaviors. You may want to ask someone you can identify with to be your sponsor. A sponsor will share the experience, strength and hope they’ve found in Twelve-Step recovery and may help answer the questions you have about the OA program. Please don’t hesitate to ask anything. You may need to attend several meetings before you find a sponsor.
When members share, you may hear them refer to a Higher Power or to God. OA is not a religious program and does not subscribe to any specific religious ideology. It is a program that practices spiritual principles, and members individually approach these principles with a Higher Power of their understanding.
A list may be passed around for all to sign their names and phone numbers, so people can offer each other support between meetings. Someone from the meeting you attend may call you to answer any questions you may have about the program, and you will also have an opportunity to get phone numbers yourself to reach out for help. The telephone is an important tool in OA for getting and giving support and reminding you that you are not alone.
Meetings usually last between one and one and a half hours. Before and after the meeting, feel free to ask questions and pick up some OA Literature to help you learn about the program. The Questions and Answers pamphlet may provide answers to your specific questions. It is included in the Newcomers Packet you may receive. By asking for help, you are taking an important step toward recovery.
Because OA is self-supporting through member contributions, a basket will be passed for donations which are used to pay rent, buy literature and help support OA’s service bodies.
You will notice that some members volunteer to help keep the meeting going, such as the group secretary, the treasurer and greeters. Members find that doing Service in OA helps keep them from eating compulsively. Service is important to their recovery and allows them to give back to the Fellowship that has saved their lives. Service opportunities exist in all levels of the Fellowship, from setting up chairs at a meeting to being on the Board of Trustees.
The meeting usually ends with the OA Promise, “I Put My Hand in Yours,” or a similar closing. If you find that the meeting you attended does not feel right, try a different group at another time and location. It is a good idea to attend at least six meetings to learn the many ways OA can help you. If your area doesn’t offer a large number of face-to-face meetings, you are welcome to attend online or telephone meetings.
What you WON’T find at OA meetings are weigh-ins, packaged meals, dues, fees, “shoulds,” “musts” or judgment.
What you WILL find at meetings is:
- Acceptance of you as you are now, as you were, as you will be.
- Understanding of the problems you now face — problems almost certainly shared by others in the group.
- Communication that comes as the natural result of our mutual understanding and acceptance.
- Recovery from your illness.
- Power to enter a new way of life through the acceptance and understanding of yourself, the practice of the Twelve-Step recovery program, the belief in a power greater than yourself, and the support and companionship of the group.
If you decide that you are one of us, we welcome you with open arms. Whatever your circumstances, we offer you the gift of acceptance. You are not alone anymore. Welcome to Overeaters Anonymous. Welcome home!
I received these payoffs from compulsively overeating:Morbid obesity. I hate that description of myself, but I saw it on my medical records. Morbid obesity meant my overweight condition would kill me if continued; 100 pounds overweight is morbidly obese.
Pain, as in joints. My arthritis pain was aggravated by many years of morbid obesity. It has lessened considerably after nine and a half years in a normal body size.
Poor health. In addition to arthritis, I suffered borderline diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart palpitations and constant indigestion. I had two surgeries for bone spurs between my toes. I had knee surgery twice for damage resulting from overload on my joints. I was hospitalized twice for bowel problems.
Emotional flat line. I made life decisions while drugged on excess food, which adversely affected my life. I felt little pain, but also no joy, excitement, love or happiness. When I felt fear, anxiety or lack of love, I used food to live life on my terms.
Lack of clear judgment: While drugged, I made poor job decisions, married three alcoholics, ran up credit card debt and did not keep a clean home.
Lack of control. The majority of my decisions were based on food: my need to have it, how I would get it and my terror of not having it. While I felt that I controlled things, the truth was that food controlled me. I operated under false values.
Pleasure. What pleasure? I was depressed. Long ago, I must have had one pleasurable moment with food and then chased that dream for the next 39 years. Some life of pleasure! I pasted on a smile for the world. I lived a lie.
Loneliness. Food cannot hug me, hold me or converse with me. The night I hit my bottom I ate so much that I thought my stomach would burst, and I considered ways of ending my life. Food did not comfort me.
Delayed feelings. When I began feeling anxious, food took the edge off and delayed the feeling. Then I could take no action to solve whatever problem caused the anxiety.
Safety. I took no risks. I stayed in a false feeling of safety and did not grow as a person.
Demoralized character. I did nothing to build character. I had no desire to be moral, self-respecting or helpful to others.
Paranoia. I felt that people were out to get me. I ate to numb that feeling. I could not face the reality that most people were not even thinking about me!
I receive these payoffs from abstaining from compulsive overeating:
Good health. I am relieved of most health problems related to morbid obesity.
More time to think of others. I am surprised at how much time I have in my day to concentrate on work, family, program and friends now that I’m not obsessed with planning my next meal, calculating how many calories I’ve consumed, planning my shopping trips or what snack I could pick up.
Normal-size body. Maintaining a normal body size means last year’s jeans fit this year. I don’t have to keep three or more sizes in my closet. Everything fits!
Physical activity. When I turned 50, I climbed through the window of a racecar and drove 118.1 mph for six laps. I scuba dive, walk two big dogs and enjoy an active sex life with my husband. I swim and exercise, and I play on the floor with my grandchildren.
A new way of life. Because OA has removed my self-focused activities, I have the time and desire to serve others. I do a lot for my friends, family, OA, church, work and people I don’t even know.
A light in my eyes. Friends tell me I have that. My whole face genuinely smiles. I am not hiding behind a smile. When things are rough, I can think clearly to deal with problems and can see my cup as half full.
Textbook for living. That is what the Big Book is for me. For the most part, I relate to Bill’s story. When I compare, I run into trouble. My self-centeredness was dressed a little differently than Bill’s; mine was decorated with self-loathing and self-pity. Truth is, Bill and I went to the same prom.
When I look at these two states of being, I want to stay in the abstinent arena. I could go on, but will close here in gratitude for this shift in me—physically, emotionally and most of all spiritually. God bless OA for changing my life. Trust God and buy broccoli.
— Reprinted from Lifeline magazine
To the Family and Friends of the Compulsive Eater
You may have found this page because you are concerned about someone’s behavior with food.
Consider the following questions:
Do you notice that food is inexplicably gone?
Does the person try to sneak food?
Do you find hidden food and wrappers?
Are all the “goodies” gone?
Does the person often eat alone?
Does the person visit the bathroom after eating, and you hear water running?
Are people often suggesting the person go on a diet?
Does the person seem to have more food and less money?
Does the person’s weight affect how he or she lives?
Is the person routinely using laxatives or water pills?
Is the person unhappy about his or her appearance?
Is the person or other people in the person’s life unhappy about his or her eating behavior?
Answering “yes” to several of these questions may indicate a loved one has problems with food and may be a compulsive eater. He or she is not alone. Since 1960, compulsive eaters have found a solution through OA. OA meetings are held worldwide. You can search for a meeting for yourself or your loved one on the Find a Meeting page.
The effects of the compulsive eater’s abnormal preoccupation with food, such as health issues and mood swings, can harm the family. People who are eating abnormally can demoralize and devastate everyone around them. But there is hope: you can read the inspiring stories of OA members who have greatly improved their relationships with their families.
Although no groups currently exist for families and friends of compulsive eaters, you might find help by attending Twelve-Step family programs related to other addictions. An internet search can help you find such programs.
What you can do for yourself:
Learn more about the disease of compulsive overeating through literature such as Compulsive Overeating: An Inside View and the 15 questions.
Read other Overeaters Anonymous literature.
Attend an open meeting of Overeaters Anonymous (find a meeting here).
Learn more about recovery from compulsive eating through literature such as To the Family of the Compulsive Eater.
Attend meetings of family groups for other Twelve-Step programs.
If you would prefer to receive the introductory literature by mail, email your request for a Family Packet to the World Service Office of Overeaters Anonymous.
To order other literature about compulsive eating and the OA program, visit the online catalog or call the World Service Office; you can order by phone or request a printed catalog. These items would be helpful:
Questions and Answers
OA Members Come in All Sizes: Welcome, Whatever Your Problem with Food
Many Symptoms, One Solution
To Parents and Concerned Adults or To the Teen.
You may have found this page because you are a young person concerned about your behavior around food or you are an OA member seeking ways to reach out to young people interested in OA. If you have a problem with compulsive eating, you are welcome to seek help in OA.
Since 1960, compulsive eaters have found a solution through OA. OA meetings are held worldwide. Go to the Find a Meeting page to search for face to face meetings in your local area. Anyone under the legal age should be accompanied by a responsible adult. Go to the Telephone Meetings page to search for telephone meetings. For internet safety purposes, we discourage teen attendance at online meetings.
To the Teen
If you have a problem with food, give yourself the following quick quiz. Be honest — you’re doing this for YOU!
Do you have a problem with food?
1. Do your eating habits change depending on your feelings?
2. Are you unhappy or frustrated with your eating or body size, or with your attempts to control them?
3. Do you sometimes feel you can’t stop eating even though you want to?
4. Do you often eat more than most people do at a meal or throughout the day?
5. Do you eat large amounts of food even when you’re not physically hungry?
6. Do you eat normally in front of others, but eat excessively when you’re alone?
7. Do you spend a lot of time thinking about your body size?
8. Do you try to control your body size by fasting, purging or exercising for long hours?
9. Do your eating habits, body size or feelings of shame about how you look limit your social life?
10. Do you avoid physical activities because of how you feel about your body?
11. Do you lie about how much you eat or don’t eat?
12. Do you sometimes sneak food or steal money to buy it?
13. Do you wish people wouldn’t comment about your body size or eating habits?
14. Have you been told that you really ought to eat more?
If your answer to many of these questions is yes, you’re not alone. Many people, including the young, suffer from the disease of compulsive (out-of-control) eating. The symptoms range from overeating to bulimia or anorexia. Whether you call the problem a food disorder or a disease, the good news is that there is a solution.
Available for Download Now
Is Food a Problem for You?
Billy’s Story pamphlet (younger than teen)
The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions: A Kid’s View booklet (younger than teen)
Available for Purchase
Reaching Out to Young People
If you are an OA member seeking information about reaching out to young people, please email the WSO. The following resources might also be helpful: