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April 28, 2010 / Katie

Overeaters Anonymous?

So, recently I’ve been thinking about Overeaters Anonymous (OA) because about 6 months ago a new OA group started up at my church. (My church also hosts AA, AlAnon, and GA meetings).

I realized that I haven’t seen much talk about OA within the fatosphere or among fat activist communities.  Maybe some of my readers can shed some light on this—have you seen analysis, criticism, praise, etc. for OA groups somewhere that I should be reading?  Have you had personal good or bad experiences with OA?

From their website, it appears they do engage in a lot of fat-hating with “overweight or obese” listed as potential reasons one might need OA and the assumption that fat folks should lose weight after undertaking the program.  But it also doesn’t seem nearly as bad as most diet and weight loss programs.  It seems to teeter on the fine line between seeing overeating as an illness and seeing fatness as an illness.

I’d just like to know more, personally as a fat activist and professionally as a psychotherapist, about a HAES perspective on OA.  Can you help me?

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38 Comments

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  1. the fat nutritionist / Apr 28 2010 11:22 am

    Oh yeah, I know some stuff about OA. Some of the people I’ve talked to have joined OA for a period of time. I’ll give you my outsider’s opinion on it:

    They basically follow the addiction model, and use a 12-step approach. They teach “abstinence” which, in practical terms, means eating 3 measured meals a day and nothing in between.

    In reality…it’s a diet. It’s supposed to be for compulsive overeating, but as far as I can tell, anyone can define any sort of eating behaviour they want as compulsive overeating as long as they believe they need to lose weight. People are encouraged to find their “trigger” foods and abstain from them, and as such, a lot of people avoid things like white flour and refined sugar, etc.

    I wish I could point you to an article or something with a critique of OA, but I don’t have one handy right now. There is some talk about them in the book Losing It by Fraser.

  2. CTJen / Apr 28 2010 11:26 am

    I went to an OA meeting once, before I ended up at WW. The focus seemed to be maintaining “sobriety” from a list of “trigger” foods. One attendee confided that he had contemplated suicide the weekend before which was completely glossed over by the group. Another attendee stated that she went to meetings every day of the week, not just OA, but AA and NA and Al Anon, so it wasn’t clear to me what she was there for, other than to get her 12-step fix for the day. Other members intimated about how they hate themselves for using (food, I assume), and for being fat. Bad body talk was a common theme.

    This was just my (terrible) personal experience with a local group. As I understand it, every group is different, but it was a lot to take in and I did not go back. WW was much more supportive (since my focus at that time was weight loss) than OA. Further, I would not now go back to OA since there was no discussion or support of intuitive eating and/or HAES. And to me, “sobriety” from a list of “trigger” foods isn’t much different than calorie restriction or eating from a proscribed plan.

  3. Elizabeth / Apr 28 2010 11:41 am

    In my experience, OA defines “over eating” as pretty much any eating that you do while fat. A slight exaggeration, perhaps. But seriously, the idea is, how do you know you’re overeating? You’re FAT, of course, so by definition the eating you’re doing is OVER.

    Horrible, horrible experience of shame and being made to feel broken and disordered for desiring food. let alone for being fat.

    • tolonda / Apr 28 2010 6:11 pm

      You’re FAT, of course, so by definition the eating you’re doing is OVER.

      omg yes. this is also exactly why i hate being accused of overthinking. i have a friend who insists that she doesn’t mean it [overthinking] as a bad thing, but how can anything with OVER be anything but a dis?

  4. JupiterPluvius / Apr 28 2010 12:16 pm

    I think it can be helpful for people who experience their own eating as disordered, and who do binge on the foods that the group defines as “trigger foods” (white flour/white sugar), and who find a 12-step environment to be a useful way for them to avoid binge eating and other eating behaviors that cause them distress.

    I also think it can replace one pattern of disordered eating with another for many people.

    And the idea that all people who have a high body weight “should” try Overeaters Anonymous, which many doctors seem to endorse, is ridiculous. Weight is not a behavior, and not everyone with a high body weight has disordered eating.

    • living400lbs / Apr 28 2010 2:51 pm

      And the idea that all people who have a high body weight “should” try Overeaters Anonymous, which many doctors seem to endorse, is ridiculous. Weight is not a behavior, and not everyone with a high body weight has disordered eating.

      Yes. This would be the same as recommending AA to everyone who drinks.

    • tolonda / Apr 28 2010 6:28 pm

      Weight is not a behavior

      THIS. so much this.

  5. Fantine / Apr 28 2010 12:43 pm

    I have not been to any meetings myself. I have met enough people who seem to view OA as a religion to keep me far, far away from it. It seems extremely judgmental and negative to me–just another way of dieting as far as I can tell. Like any diet, it’s all about abstension, denial, feeling bad about yourself if you fall off the wagon, making tearful confessions, and trying to atone for your food “sins.”

    While it may be helpful to people who actually have BED and need to find a way to cope, I do not think it is in any way useful for the average fat person. Food is not bad, and eating is a necessary part of life (even if you’re OMG fat!). OA will certainly not further the cause of fat acceptance.

  6. Kate / Apr 28 2010 12:47 pm

    I had a fairly positive experience with OA. There were some groups I preferred over others, but I can’t think of a single meeting where we were told how to eat, nor did I feel there was any pressure to lose weight. The groups I attended had people of every size with every kind of eating disorder.

    I sometimes think about going back, but my favorite meeting is pretty far away and I somewhat reject that you can be addicted to food when you need food to survive.

    I wouldn’t tell someone not to go if they liked going and found support and comfort in an accepting group.

  7. Patsy Nevins / Apr 28 2010 12:47 pm

    My own limited experience came through a meeting of Al-Anon, for adult children of alcoholics. There was a woman there who constantly raved about OA & kept cornering me to try to get me to go to OA with her, since she apparently believed, based only on my size (I am 5’6″, 175-180 at the time) that I MUST be a compulsive eating. I eat what I want & have done so for 30 years, since I gave up dieting & started my road to fat acceptance, but I have never eaten compulsively in any way or binged on anything. It certainly looks as if OA is a diet, & it is indeed, from the things this woman told me & her attitude, based on the belief that weight is a behavior & that all fat people have issues with food.

    Weight is at least 80% genetic, it is not a behavior, & fat people are no more likely to binge eat or whatever than thin people are. I personally think that OA is not a healthy atmosphere & I know that it is nothing with which I want to be involved.

  8. LonieMc. / Apr 28 2010 12:51 pm

    I’m pretty familiar with OA; I was abstinent from sugar for 6 years myself though I didn’t attend meetings regularly. I found that people who were “succeeding” at the program are completely obsessed about food and practiced serious self- and body- shaming continually. The AA text says “the drink problem will be removed,” and I’ve seen that happen many times for people. However, I’ve never seen OA remove the food or fat problem. After 6 years of abstaining, Overcoming Overeating was what actually removed my binge eating compulsion.

    I believe in the 12-steps. I think it works for AA, NA, Al-Anon, and sex addicts. I think the problem is what is being “abstained” from. I think we should create a new 12-step group and focus on abstaining from hating our bodies and from dieting. We could call it DieAnon!

    • Heidi / Apr 28 2010 2:13 pm

      I would agree with Lonie – Overcoming Overeating is a FAR more effective approach at dealing with compulsive eating than what I’ve heard about OA. I’ve never been a member of OA but have certainly heard from people who have been that it focuses on avoiding triggers and being abstinent rather than figuring out why that food is triggering and taking the “glitter” out of it (to use OO speak).

      I would never have thought I’d see the day when I didn’t have to eat three or more slices of bacon to feel satisfied. Post-OO, I can. It hasn’t solved my emotional eating, which is why I see a therapist & nutritionist, but it made me FAR more comfortable with my body and with my eating.

    • CTJen / Apr 28 2010 3:51 pm

      Yes, Overcoming Overeating is what truly and ultimately helped me with my BED. I love the idea of DieAnon. LOL

  9. LivingTheQuestions / Apr 28 2010 3:58 pm

    An FA blogger (Angry Gray Rainbows) blogged about this, and the comments are interesting, as I remember: http://angrygrayrainbows.wordpress.com/2009/06/26/i-loathe-12-step-programs/

    Worth reading.

  10. Bill Fabrey / Apr 28 2010 4:46 pm

    I am only speaking for myself when I say that I believe in 12-step programs, and am active in Al-Anon, for family and friends of alcoholics and others with similar addictive behavior/diseases. That said, there are considerable variations in each group and its participants. I have had those I love attend OA, and their focus wasn’t weight loss, but a release from compulsive eating, which they felt made them slaves to food. That’s a good thing, but for sure, many participants believe that they will lose weight in the process. Some do, and some don’t, but many become better people in the process.

    So, in principle, I favor OA for those who need it, but not for weight loss.

  11. Angela / Apr 28 2010 9:31 pm

    They definitely equate fat or obese with compulsive eating and do it in a ultra dogmatic way that I can only imagine would simply aggravate anyones condition who does have a problem with compulsive eating. I have never been to one of their meetings because I’m familiar with their philosophy and I don’t recommend it to anyone. I’ve also had a couple of very negative experiences with a couple of their group members proselytizing. On two separate occasions I have been approached by complete strangers in public while out walking who claimed to be OA members recommending the program. The experience I had with these people was no different than the kind of fat hating “concern troll” harassment many of us are quite familiar with.

    • bananacat / May 3 2010 8:34 pm

      Yeah, for many people fat shaming and restriction actually increases binge eating. I have no experience with OA, but if that’s what they are about, it seems extremely counter-productive.

      It has been my own experience that fat acceptance has made me binge much less often. I don’t feel like I need to eat a whole box of cookies right now because they will always be available to me. I can have them any time I want, as much as I want, so I don’t need to cram as many into my stomach as humanly possible during this one sitting.

      • hey / Apr 23 2011 10:21 pm

        that makes so much sense

  12. Bill Fabrey / Apr 28 2010 9:38 pm

    I have run into dogmatic OA members, but I believe that such proselytizing is contrary to all the 12-step principles. Such harassment as Angela has experienced is not too surprising, because many OA members are weight-fixated like anyone else. I once had a top national OA officer tell me that they deeply regret it when some members act that way.

    The bottom line is that it may depend a lot on who is in the local meeting(s). Many OA members have to “shop around” to find one that fits them.

  13. wriggles / Apr 29 2010 6:40 am

    Even when I was in abject despair about what to do about my rampaging appetite, I could not touch OA with a ten foot pole, for reasons already stated.

    I don’t even believe in abstinence in general -if you could abstain, why would you be an addict?

    Let alone misapplying the model of addiction to compulisve eating, BIG CLUE it’s called a compulsion.

    I’m sorry, but it makes me really angry that people with compulsive eating disorder really have only this kind of thing to “help” them. As for list of trigger foods, it’s a joke, an analysis of the vomit of bulimics showed it was mostly made up of “trigger foods” and that’s what you have to spend your whole life avoiding?

    Please.

    And I’m sick and tired of this attitude that because it’s there, you should see the positive or be somehow grateful for it.

    It’s because issues even distantly connected to fatness and fat people in general are held in such utter contempt and the vehicle for so little genuine and objective understanding that people have to resort to this kind of nonsense. I pity anyone who has to turn to them, they deserve better.

  14. Lori / Apr 29 2010 7:53 am

    I’m really confused about how “three measured meals with nothing in between” can be see as healthy or somehow “recovery” from an ED. To me, that sounds just as if not more disordered than compulsively overeating.

    It sounds like it would just set people up for feelings of guilt and failure. I know that my appetite fluctuates a lot from day to day. I have days where I eat three small meals and I’m all good, and other days where even eating three good-sized meals, I still find myself needing snacks to feel satisfied. It seems unnatural to expect to be able to eat the same amount of food, on the same schedule, every single day.

    OA, from what I’ve heard of it, seems very different from AA. Since you can fully abstain from alcohol, an abstinence model can work. Since you can’t fully abstain from food, it seems like it’s just replacing one set of disordered behaviors with another.

  15. QuiltLuvr / Apr 29 2010 9:57 am

    I went to OA for a year and a half; I was a compulsive overeater. I found OA totally useless with no clue how to help me. I persisted because of the success and respect that AA has earned (and deserves).

    If I was ever addicted to anything, it was to the “Fantasy of Being Thin” (as Kate Harding explains it) and/or addicted to dieting. What I needed to abstain from – was dieting. It was low calorie dieting that CAUSED my overeating.

    What did help me was an Overcoming Overeating therapy group, where I learned intuitive eating in a supportive environment. Once I quit dieting, I was able to improve my regular eating habits to a level where I could be confident, both in my ability to feed myself and my ability to avoid eating so much that I was physically uncomfortable. I did not ever lose any weight. My health, however, is way better (both physical and mental).

    I would not recommend OA to anyone. But it is the kind of decision that I think each person should make for themselves by attending a meeting or 2.

    There are different OA groups and some do follow specific weight loss diets. There was a goup at the time I attended, called “grey sheet”, which follows a severely restricted, low carbohydrate diet regimen. If such groups still exist, I would recommend avoiding them – “grey sheet” is dangerous to one’s health.

    So that’s my experience and opinion of OA (pretty much useless).

    • Kanazawag / Sep 18 2010 8:36 pm

      I can relate to your experience. I feel the same way. Been there done that.

  16. jane / May 4 2010 8:45 am

    I’ve been in and out of oa for over two years now- I’ve recently decided that I am going to commit to going to meetings. For me, it’s been an amazing experience. No diet is ever recommended- and body hating is never brought up.

    I believe that other groups may engage in these behaviors, but certainly not all of them.

    I suggest anyone who feels out of control when it comes to eating should check out a meetings. If you like it then great, and if you dont, then you can find something else.

    For me, my fatness is a result of disordered eating. However, I realize that this is not the case for everyone (or even most people).

  17. Christine / May 12 2010 7:02 pm

    This has been helpful. I am considering going to OA meetings. Not because I want to lose weight (though I do…though I am also into FA, because I think our society is extremely prejudiced against the fat) but because I know I “use” food for emotional reasons and I don’t like the feeling that something has control over me or that I’m not dealing with problems. If anything, I think this is the issue that is glossed over in our society…I’ve had so many people say to me “Losing weight is like physics–calories in, calories out.” Uh, yeah, not so much. Not one stupid doctor has recommended I get treatment for my real problem–which is NOT obesity as I’m physically quite healthy–but for my emotional dependence on certain foods and behaviors. They had no problem suggesting weight loss surgery, though. Ugh. Anyway, this is helpful as I make my decision!

  18. Peacefulbird / May 20 2010 8:57 pm

    Although reading the comments to this post promises to be very interesting, I’m going to write my own comment before I read them. This is my first visit to your blog…

    OA? I go to OA because I finally razed the bottom of constant yo-yo dieting-bingeing, daily struggles with overeating, the conversations in my head that always end in consumption and self-criticism and never in satisfaction, the numbness and avoidance. I razed the bottom and declared myself a compulsive overeater. My OA goal is not to reach normal weight and leave fat behind forever. It’s not even to be healthy and fit as is the goal of most dieting. Although these are worthy goals and might even happen tangentally, my OA goal is sanity. So far (33 days in the program) I am pleased. I am feeling more of my feelings and am sticking with my food plan, which is liberal by most diet standards, yet firm. Sanity and serenity touch my soulders and the burdens are lifting.

    Now I’ll read what the others say!

  19. friendthegirl / May 22 2010 11:22 pm

    Hi there, I a co-author of a blog that is highly critical of the 12-Step industry, and of AA and other xA programs, and — as your commenters here pointed out — OA is based on the 12-Step model. This doesn’t seem like the place for me to unravel the whole foundation of our position, but please do feel free to peruse the blog, or contact me. It might give you some more information to consider before joining.

  20. Sarah / Jun 13 2010 11:27 am

    My mother the yo-yo dieter, dragged me to OA meetings for awhile (when I was a child living at home with no choice in the matter). Other than meeting some interesting people there, it was pretty useless, and I think, for a lot people may have been harmful. The meetings in and of themselves simply reinforced the food is bad, fat is bad, being a fat person is the worst thing imaginable ideology. My mother loved it because that’s how she thought. Fortunately the OA message never really penetrated, because I never considered myself an overeater. Yes, I was a fat kid, and I’m a fat adult, but when I compare my food intake to that of other people, it isn’t any different.

    The one thing that gave me pause was the concept of ‘hidden eating’ – a food addict, according to OA, eats in secret (among other shameful habits). I did used to hide some of my eating, but this wasn’t because of shame, it was a natural reaction to my mother’s constant dieting and her need to also limit my food intake. Foods I used to hide eating: tuna, canned soups, fruits, nuts and crackers. LOL a somewhat different list of foods than people at those meetings used to ‘confess’ to hidden eating – like whole bags of cookies, entire cakes, liters of ice cream. I also believe that many of those ‘confessions’ were false, that they didn’t truly eat like that, but that they wanted the sympathy that such confessions bring, and they also wanted to ‘fit in’ with the crowd.

    The group I attended never promoted dieting or fad diets – but the constant message was to control eating and in doing that you would lose weight. If you weren’t losing weight then you were being ‘bad’, ‘falling off the wagon’ and lying about it at meetings. Overall a poisonous attitude that would likely worsen any existing eating disorders.

  21. Kara / Jul 30 2010 9:35 pm

    I’ve gone to several meetings in different towns and a number of different meeting times on different days and nights. I attended the meetings which best served my needs. I took what I needed and left the rest. A few times,I spent the entire day going from one meeting to another because that is what I needed at the time for encouragement.

    These meetings,like AA,are for addicts addicted to the use of food for comfort and are run by addicts. OEA is based on the 12 step AA model. The program will not work unless you have a sponsor,like in AA,one person you can call for support daily.

    AA is run by people addicted to alcohol who are sober and share their stories of recovery in the hope their story of achieving sobriety will give a listener the inspiration, motivation and encouragement to become a functional adult and stop abusing alchohol. OEA is run by people recoverying from abusing food for comfort.

    OEA is not for everyone. The program is meant to provide a guideline of living a life with a healthy relationship with food. This program is for people who treat food as though it is their best friend. It is a program of support for people who use food in a compulsive way like alcoholics who abuse alcohol in a way that interfers with living a productive life.

    OEs,as is true with all addicts have poor coping skills, and use food as a drug to cope. OEA is a program for people with serious eating disorders which can kill and are just as insidious as alcholism.

    It is my opinion that OEA works best in conjuction with a eating disorder therapist and a nutritionist. I also recommend a program of spiritualism to help fill that chronic feeling of emptiness.

  22. OA member / Aug 28 2010 5:07 pm

    I have been a member of OA for the last 15 months. I have lost 80 pounds so far, and I really need the structure and support that OA provides. I have found that following the 12 step program has given me a lot of peace. I no longer binge eat, or obsess about food like I used to.

  23. Kanazawag / Sep 18 2010 8:33 pm

    I have been to OA meetings off and on my entire life. The program works for a while but then you are told you have to abstain from certain foods which in my perspective, puts you in that diet mode all over again. It also depends on where you live. Some mtgs are very small and it can become a show for the person who runs it. You are either good “abstaining” or “bad” when you are not. Very black and white. Also, meetings can be unfocused and other ppl share about nothing that has to do with what is going on. It can be exhausting to listen to. I have been to meetings where I have felt like I was in jr. high school all over again. Very clicky. Overall, my experience with OA has felt very dissapointing. Your recovery depends on the sponsor you have and where you live. That to me is very unreliable.

  24. Charlie Edinburgh / Sep 21 2010 2:25 pm

    Hi… Just thought I’d throw in my $.02 worth… I am finding OA to be a joy- and life-giving thing for me. It really *does* come down to whether one chooses to accept the disease model of addiction and recovery. I have come to accept that I am powerless of compulsive overeating. As I surrender my life and will to God as I understand God, I am set free from my obsession with food and trying to control it. It’s like I can breathe again.

    I’ve been to OA meetings in California (SF Bay Area), Houston and Tulsa, OK. I have never been told what my food plan should be, nor have I ever been pressured to lose weight.

    By the way, cool blog. I’m a minister myself, also a candidate for commissioning. Blessings to you in your journey of faith and life.

    • Katie / Sep 21 2010 2:32 pm

      Hi Charlie, and welcome :)

      Are you a candidate for commissioning in the United Methodist Church?

  25. Charlie Edinburgh / Sep 21 2010 2:37 pm

    No… a different denomination. I’ll try to email you offline and tell you which one. You know, Overeaters ANONYMOUS. :)

  26. Kasi / Feb 27 2012 10:16 pm

    Hi! I was trying to find some analysis of OA from a fat acceptance perspective and was glad to find your blog. Also glad to see that you are also posting from a progressive Christian perspective. I have this nagging feeling that I want to talk to my otherwise inclusive church community about fat issues and the way I sometimes feel marginalized there.

    I was a member of 5 different OA groups in 3 different cities 20 years ago for about two years and the experiences I had were mostly not positive. After leaving OA I continued with a program based on the idea that I was addicted to refined carbohydrates for another 5 years or so. Since then I have re-evaluated the beliefs I took for granted while in OA. I reject the assumption that because I was about 20 pounds “overweight” at the time that I was necessarily “addicted” to food. There was no room to consider whether I was addicted to food or whether I needed to just quit fighting my body so hard to achieve what I thought was a socially acceptable body – I considered myself fat, ergo I was an addict. No one ever challenged me in this assumption. I no longer believe it is pathological to enjoy food or occasionally find food comforting. ( I remember being told in OA about a woman who so looked forward to her pumpkin puree that she needed to look at whether she was enjoying it too much – yes it was technically free of refined sugar but it must be triggering her addiction or she wouldn’t like it so much, so she should probably add it to her list of forbidden foods.) And the most unnecessarily shaming thing was the idea that my weight or my eating was a problem for anyone else that I needed to make amends for. I really tried to work those steps but my body did not change, my eating actually became more disordered, and I developed bulimia while attending OA. In my case, the binges constituted small deviations from the rules (like a single mini Snickers bar) and then throwing it up to atone for it and hopefully dodge the “inevitable” addictive response. Boy am I glad I am in a better place now.

    An OA group meets at my current church in another state, and I sometimes feel that there are people in my church who think I should attend, that I must have disordered eating based on my appearance alone. I am heavier now but haven’t struggled with bulimia in many years and I don’t think I eat differently from many thin people. I think my body fights my attempts to lose weight very efficiently. I don’t have a problem with my eating though I still struggle with feeling bad about my weight. I respect that other people have had positive experiences with OA, and it doesn’t bother me that OA uses our building, but I hate seeing the meeting listed with our other church events in the bulletin as if my church endorses it and condones the experiences I had there, you know? It’s like my church is saying to me that my being fat means there is something wrong with me that needs to be fixed. And while my denomination is careful to avoid language that associates the word dark with sin because we don’t want to make people with dark skin feel marginalized (even when a hymn clearly refers to nighttime and not skin color,) I have had to listen as fat is associated with every kind of moral failing. I think it’s good that we try to be sensitive to the racial implications of language, but I would like some consideration for my perspective as well. I have heard enough about how we fat Americans consume more than our share, etc. etc. I want to bring this up and yet I don’t, because I think people aren’t ready for it. I know there are people in my church who love me and yet have no problem making private judgements about me based on my weight, and I feel if I bring it up, I’ll just be stirring things up and making people verbalize those private judgements.

    Anyway I subscribed to your blog and I look forward to reading more.

  27. Elizabeth (@lzbth_cldwll) / Aug 25 2012 5:17 pm

    I would like very much to chime in here.

    I have been a part of OA for 3 years. I have also come to believe that a HAES approach is right FOR ME.

    Some OA groups are very focused on a particular food plan. It is my personal belief that this is misguided.

    The OA group that I was lucky enough to find is very Big Book focused, that is to say, they focus on using the 12 steps to overcome the emotional and spiritual reasons for overeating.

    Abstinence as defined by the World Service Office is as follows

    “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.”

    Therefore, If I believe that my current size is my healthy size, and I am refraining from eating compulsively then I am abstinent. There is no particular food plan that I must follow. There is no particular weight goal that I must have. That is between me and my Higher Power.

    You indicated that you were concerned that so much of OA is directed toward those who wish to lose weight. Yes that is true. Almost everyone who has found OA came to lose weight. Some did actually did that! But many of us have stayed and worked on the emotional and spiritual healing that was so badly needed. What we didn’t know before was that our overeating and the weight issues it had created were merely a symptom of the real issue.

    I too would run screaming as if my hair were on fire, from any group who told me what I could and could not eat. My plan of eating is simple. I eat what I want, I eat to satiety and I eat what is healthy for me. For me the fact that I avoid most simple sugar and all wheat and dairy is simply because the simple sugars mess with my ability to be intuitive about my food needs …. and the wheat and dairy make me miserable physically.

  28. Elizabeth (@lzbth_cldwll) / Aug 25 2012 5:19 pm

    I would like very much to chime in here. Please note that these views are my own and I do not represent OA as a whole.

    I have attended OA meetings for 3 years. I have also come to believe that a HAES approach is right FOR ME.

    Some OA groups are very focused on a particular food plan. It is my personal belief that this is misguided.

    The OA group that I was lucky enough to find is very Big Book focused, that is to say, they focus on using the 12 steps to overcome the emotional and spiritual reasons for overeating.

    Abstinence as defined by the World Service Office is as follows

    “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.”

    Therefore, If I believe that my current size is my healthy size, and I am refraining from eating compulsively then I am abstinent. There is no particular food plan that I must follow. There is no particular weight goal that I must have. That is between me and my Higher Power.

    You indicated that you were concerned that so much of OA is directed toward those who wish to lose weight. Yes that is true. Almost everyone who has found OA came to lose weight. Some did actually did that! But many of us have stayed and worked on the emotional and spiritual healing that was so badly needed. What we didn’t know before was that our overeating and the weight issues it had created were merely a symptom of the real issue.

    I too would run screaming as if my hair were on fire, from any group who told me what I could and could not eat. My plan of eating is simple. I eat what I want, I eat to satiety and I eat what is healthy for me. For me the fact that I avoid most simple sugar and all wheat and dairy is simply because the simple sugars mess with my ability to be intuitive about my food needs …. and the wheat and dairy make me miserable physically.

  29. Chaya / Nov 4 2012 5:40 pm

    Initially I loved OA and felt that it provided structure for me to manage my disordered eating habits. However, in the long run, I felt that OA was harmful – I don’t believe that I’m addicted to food and I felt that I was constantly being brainwashed to believe that I was addicted to food.

    I think that OA is really helpful for people who want to embrace that they’re “compulsive overeaters/food addicts” and want to commit to the 12 Step Program. I’d say maybe attend an OA meeting or two and then think carefully – do YOU believe that you’re a food addict? If you don’t believe it yourself, don’t let others in OA convince you that you’re a food addict.

    Good luck!

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