Overeaters Anonymous (OA)

Overeaters Anonymous is the largest Twelve-Step organization for eating addicts (compulsive overeaters) in the world. It has over eleven thousand groups registered worldwide, a World Service Office, a monthly recovery journal (Lifeline), and it publishes books, tapes, and pamphlets.

Rozanne S. founded OA in January, 1960, in Los Angeles. The early OA members did not see their problem as addiction, and they were not looking for a spiritual solution. Originally, they removed most references to God or a Higher Power from their Twelve Steps, though they were soon changed back to match AA’s. Early members were more inclined to use psychological means for recovery than spiritual tools. It was more like a self-help diet club. Experience has shown that abstinence from compulsive eating and the use of the Twelve Steps is the way members get and maintain lasting recovery.

OA’s unity has suffered from controversy about what to do about food, food plans, and abstinence. For many years OA provided members with food plans, though they were always officially optional. The first such plan was a restrictive, low-carbohydrate diet. It was called the “gray sheet” because it happened to be printed on gray paper. Alternatives were offered later. In 1986 food plans were declared an outside issue and discontinued, leaving choices about food plans to individuals and their Higher Power.

Subgroups One of the results of not having an official definition of abstinence was a polarization within OA. Some members don’t think abstinence is critical, while others adhere to a specific, highly restrictive food plan. There are subgroups in OA including HOW and Westminster groups, who have made such food plans the focus of their abstinence, sometimes equating sugar and white flour (and maybe other foods) with alcohol for the alcoholic. There is also a moderate course — members who find that an individualized food plan and using the Steps work well to empower them to recover from compulsive eating.

What’s in a name? Some treatment centers for food addiction teach their patients to call themselves food addicts. It is actually just another name, probably more accurate, for compulsive overeater. We like the term eating addict, but use whichever you and your Twelve-Step group are comfortble with.

For information, look for OA in the white pages of your phone book, or write or call:

Overeaters Anonymous
Box 44020
Rio Rancho, NM 87174-4020
Website: OA.org

There is also O-Anon, a group similar to Al-Anon for friends and relatives of compulsive eaters/eating disordered people.

O-Anon General Service Office
P.O. Box 34642
San Antonio, TX 78265
Website: o-anon.org

There are also several more rigid Twelve-Step groups discussed in the module Food Addiction Groups.

Overeaters Anonymous, see also: Alcoholics Anonymous, Community, Eating addiction, Eating plans, Food addiction, History of Twelve-Step groups, Meetings, Other support groups, Steps of AA, Traditions of AA.

Updated 16 Sep 2015

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