Welcome to Overeaters Anonymous Great Britain

What is OA?

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. The OA Programme is based on the twelve step recovery programme of Alcoholics Anonymous. In OA we admit that we are powerless over food and cannot manage our eating behaviours alone. In OA we find others who can help us to find a saner and more beneficial way to deal with our eating problems and our living problems.

How much does OA cost?

There is no 'charge' for attending an OA meeting. However, the meetings do have to pay rent to the venue in which they meet and pay for other expenses such as literature, tea, coffee and supporting the various service boards and committees, which help OA to function and reach new members.

Many meetings therefore have a suggested donation, which roughly covers the running expenses of the meeting. This amount is not obligatory; it is a voluntary contribution only and members are encouraged to give what they can to help the meeting function.

Who belongs in OA?

Primarily, whether an individual belongs in Overeaters Anonymous is a decision for that individual alone. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop eating compulsively. This may include compulsive overeating, under eating, dieting, starving, over exercising, vomiting, laxative abuse or any other of a number of symptoms related to eating and measures aimed at weight management. Whatever your problem with food, you are welcome in OA. The terms compulsive eater and compulsive overeater are used interchangeably throughout our literature.

OA members experience many different patterns of food behaviours. 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
  • starving
  • laxative or diuretic abuse
  • excessive exercise
  • inducing vomiting after eating
  • use of diet pills 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 Stepsthe Twelve Traditions and nine tools[needs to link to the tools] of Overeaters Anonymous.

How do OA members lose weight and maintain a healthy weight?

The concept of abstinence is the basis of OA’s programme of recovery, and we do have a formal definition:

Abstinence in Overeaters Anonymous is the action of refraining from compulsive eating and compulsive food behaviours while working towards or maintaining a healthy body weight

 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 offer any diets, counselling services, hospitalisation or treatment; nor does OA participate in or conduct research and training in the field of eating disorders.

OA members interested in learning about nutrition or who require 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 does OA work?

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.

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 eaters. 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 does not require any religious belief as a condition of membership. OA has among its membership people of many religious faiths as well as atheists and agnostics.

OA does not require that you believe in God. Although the word God may be mentioned in the meetings, we refer to a 'God', as we understand him or her which each member is free to define for themselves. The term 'Higher Power' is also used, which is a power greater than our self. This may be the OA groups itself, or any particular personal manifestation of a higher power that the individual may define for themself.

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.

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 programme founded by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and modelled 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 neighbour, 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, January 19, 1960.

Today, about 6,500 OA groups meet each week in over 75 countries. With OA divided into 10 regions worldwide and approximately 54,000 members worldwide, it helps thousands of compulsive eaters find new life in recovery.