“Always to extend the hand and heart of OA to all who share my compulsion;for this I am responsible.”

Utah Soaring Intergroup

of Overeaters Anonymous

Questions and Answers

Here are some common questions asked about Overeaters Anonymous. Left click on the question to open the answer.

If you still have questions, feel free to either call the hot-line number (given at the bottom of this page) or email us at Questions.


Who belongs in OA?

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.

...you’ll find members who are extremely overweight, even morbidly obese; moderately overweight; average weight; underweight....

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
  • starving
  • 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 nine tools of Overeaters Anonymous.

How do OA members control their 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.

We don’t furnish food plans or diets...

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.

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.

Is OA a diet plan?

OA does not recommend or endorse a specific plan of eating...

Overeaters Anonymous is not a diet. It is a fellowship of individuals who through shared experience, strength and hope are recovering from compulsive behavior with food. OA does not recommend or endorse a specific plan of eating, although the OA pamphlet “Dignity of Choice” (available from www.oa.org) offers some suggestions on food plans. An OA member or your OA sponsor can help you get started until you see a health care professional. OA members are encouraged to work with a nutritionist or other professional for specific advice regarding their own food plan.

What does OA offer me?

We offer unconditional acceptance and support...

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.

I don’t overeat, but food is a problem.

Yes. OA can help people with many forms of problem eating, including compulsive overeating, binging, purging, restrictive eating, over-exercising, and others. Anyone with a desire to stop eating compulsively and to change their relationship with food is welcome at OA meetings.

Can OA help anorexics and bulimics?

Yes. OA can help people with many forms of problem eating, including anorexia and bulimia. Anyone with a desire to stop eating compulsively is welcome at OA meetings. Overeaters Anonymous has a packet of material addressed to those suffering from anorexia or bulimia: “Focus on Anorexia and Bulimia Packet” that is available from www.oa.org.

I have gastric bypass surgery. Can OA help me?

Yes. Overeaters Anonymous is not a diet. At its core, OA is about dealing with the issues which drove us to engage in unhealthy behavior with food. Gastric bypass surgery helps deal with the excess weight but not with the reasons for the behaviors that caused the excess weight.

I’m a teen. Can OA help me?

OA works for anyone of any age...

OA works for anyone of any age. We have a pamphlet written especially for teens, “To the Teen”, that is available from www.oa.org. Teens are welcome at all meetings and with enough interest we could start Young Peoples’ meetings. There are members who have worked OA’s program of recovery from the time they were pre-teens and are still strongly committed OA members decades later. There are currently young adults in their late teens and early twenties.

Who can attend OA meetings?

...nobody is ever barred

The only requirement for membership is a desire to refrain from compulsive eating behaviors (these behaviors also include bulimia and anorexia). There are some special focus meetings (men’s groups and women’s groups for instance) but nobody is ever barred from attending such a meeting. Most OA meetings are open meetings and all members are welcome. Visitors are also welcome and we ask that they respect our tradition of anonymity.

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.

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.

Is OA a religious organization?

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.

...will not find it too difficult to work out their own solution

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.

Do I have to believe in God to be a member?

A belief in God is not required to be a member of Overeaters Anonymous. There is only one requirement for membership: A desire to stop eating compulsively. In OA “God” or “Higher Power” are very personal concepts. We are a spiritual program, not a religious organization. What you believe in is not important; a desire to stop eating compulsively is what’s important. That desire is common to all of us who seek help in OA.

How do I tell if I may be a compulsive overeater?

This series of questions may help you determine if you are a compulsive eater. Many members of Overeaters Anonymous have found that they have answered “yes” to many of these questions.

  • Do you eat when you’re not hungry?
  • Do you go on eating binges for no apparent reason?
  • Do you have feelings of guilt and remorse after overeating?
  • Do you give too much time and thought to food?
  • Do you look forward with pleasure and anticipation to the time when you can eat alone?
  • Do you plan these secret binges ahead of time?
  • Do you eat sensibly before others and make up for it alone?
  • Is your weight affecting the way you live your life?
  • Have you tried to diet for a week (or longer), only to fall short of your goal?
  • Do you resent others telling you to “use a little willpower” to stop overeating?
  • Despite evidence to the contrary, have you continued to assert that you can diet “on your own” whenever you wish?
  • Do you crave to eat at a definite time, day or night, other than mealtime?
  • Do you eat to escape from worries or trouble?
  • Have you ever been treated for obesity or a food-related condition?
  • Does your eating behavior make you or others unhappy?