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How do I know if I am a Compulsive Overeater?

I’m anorexic/bulimic. Will OA help me?

This series of questions may help you determine if you are a compulsive overeater.

  1. Do I eat when I’m not hungry, or not eat when my body needs nourishment?

  2. Do I go on eating binges for no apparent reason, sometimes eating until I’m stuffed or even feel sick?

  3. Do I have feelings of guilt, shame or embarrassment about my weight or the way I eat?

  4. Do I eat sensibly in front of others and then make up for it when I am alone?

  5. Is my eating affecting my health or the way I live my life ?

  6. When my emotions are intense – whether positive or negative – do I find myself reaching for food ?

  7. Do my eating behaviours make me or others unhappy?

  8. Have I ever used laxatives, vomiting, diuretics, excessive exercise, diet pills, shots or other medical interventions (including surgery) to try to control my weight?

  9. Do I fast or severely restrict my food intake to control my weight?

  10. Do I fantasise about how much better life would be if I were a different size or weight ?

  11. Do I need to chew or have something in my mouth all the time: food, gum, mints, candies or beverages?

  12. Have I ever eaten food that is burned, frozen or spoiled; from containers in the grocery store; or out of the garbage?

  13. Are there certain foods I can’t stop eating after the first bite?

  14. Have I lost weight with a diet or “period of control” only to be followed by bouts or uncontrolled eating and/or weight gain?

  15. 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 probable that you may have or are well on your way to having a compulsive overeating problem. We have found that the way to arrest this progressive disease is to practice the Twelve-Step recovery program of Overeaters Anonymous.

Why is OA anonymous?

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 overeaters. Anonymity at the level of press, radio, television and other media of communication provides assurance that OA membership will not be disclosed.

Is OA a religious organisation?

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.

OA is a Twelve-Step recovery program primarily for the disorder of compulsive eating. OA welcomes anyone who has the desire to stop eating compulsively. Many compulsive eaters have had periods of bulimia and/or anorexia as a part of the disease of compulsive overeating.

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.

How do OA members lose weight and maintain their normal weight?

The concept of abstinence is the basis of OA’s program of recovery. By admitting inability to control compulsive overeating 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 food plans or 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 or refer to the pamphlet Dignity of Choice: Sample Plans of eating available for purchase at meetings. 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 funded?

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.

How do you join?

You don’t officially join. There are no fees or application forms required. As it states in Tradition three “The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop eating compulsively”.

How much does it cost?

There are no fees or dues to be paid. Overeaters Anonymous is self funded through members contributions. At meetings we ‘pass the basket’ to cover costs to keep the meeting and fellowship going. All our expenses such as rent, printing, electricity, phone bills are paid from money collected from passing the basket. We do not solicit funds from outside organisations.

What can you expect from 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 e-mailing the World Service Office (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 3 to 30 people at the meeting. An average meeting has about 10. 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. 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 or recovery from the obsession.


You may want to ask someone to be your sponsor. A sponsor will help you work the Steps of the program to achieve the recovery you seek. 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 two hours, and they often include a break. During the break, feel free to ask questions and pick up some OA literature to help you learn about the program. 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. 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 making coffee and setting up chairs at a meeting to being on the Board of Trustees.


The meeting usually closes with a reading like the OA Promise, ‘I Put My Hand in Yours’. 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 6 meetings before deciding on a meeting that is right for you.


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!

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