Overeaters Anonymous: How Meetings Work

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Overeaters Anonymous How Meetings Work

Overeaters Anonymous (OA) meetings run on a 12-step program for recovery from compulsive overeating.

Meetings begin by reading from the Overeaters Anonymous book and then people share their feelings in an open discussion.

The meeting ends with a closing prayer or meditation and announcements about upcoming events.

I’ve been to quite a few of these meetings myself. I would recommend you attend an Overeaters Anonymous meeting because the experience is quite unique and may deeply resonate with you, even if you may feel weird about going.

I remember my first Overeaters Anonymous meeting when in my young 20’s and had recently joined a meditation community to do work trade.

But the OA meeting was at the meditation center! This meant people who knew me would be attending!

I felt really weird going, but thankfully everyone in the meeting was chill. Once I left the meeting and nobody spoke of it in public.

I really suggest you try out a meeting, but I understand if you feel weird about going too.

Here’s some more information about how OA Meetings work.  🙂

What is Overeaters Anonymous?

OA is a community support group for those who have struggled with overeating, compulsive eating, odd food behaviors and food addiction.

OA has no dues or fees, but it does ask that members give back to the community by:

  • volunteering at an OA meeting
  • sponsoring someone in recovery from compulsive overeating
  • setting up speakers’ meetings

OA offers different ways of using either an OA book or “Alcoholics Anonymous” during its 12-step program to stop eating compulsively.  Below are the 12 steps, quoted directly from the OA website.

the 12 steps of overeater's anonymous

The 12 Steps of OA are:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over our addiction to overeating and that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made the decision to turn our will and life over to the care of God, as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of self-discovered wrongs from which any person may have benefited or been harmed in any way directly or indirectly through me, my thoughts, feelings, actions, words or deeds.
  5. Admitted fully with no reservation all known sins because when we are ready to make a change, we must first be honest with ourselves.
  6. Were entirely ready and willing to cleanse our past mistakes from our conscience by following the directions of Overeaters Anonymous for continued progress in sobriety.
  7. Humbly asked God within us to remove all character defects which may have caused other people harm or discomfort through my thoughts, feelings, words or deeds.
  8. Made a list of anyone I had harmed and became willing that they should now be free from any possible harms I might cause them in the future as long as they continue their own program of recovery according to the instructions  of Overeaters Anonymous.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when it would cause harm or difficulty to them or others as long as they continue their own program of recovery according to the instructions of Overeaters Anonymous.
  10. Continued taking personal inventory and became willing that I could be wrong at any time without feelings of guilt (this was completed in Step Four).
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God within us which means we should talk more often with God about anything that bothers us. 
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other overeaters.

What Happens at an OA Meeting?

In the very first part of an OA meeting, there is a standard statement read aloud by the leader of the meeting.

The statement is a recap of the 12 rules and a reminder to keep things confidential.

Next people go around the circle and introduce themselves and share a thing or two. These introductions are short.

Then there is a verbal reading from the OA Book, or the Alcoholics Anonymous book. I’ve been to different groups and have seen both versions.

The reading is approximately 5-10 minutes but the timing depends on the length of chapter and how fast people read! Let me tell you, some people read very slowly!

I always found this part of the meeting to be the most boring. I would just read ahead while the person was still reading out their lines!

Then, most meetings start an open discussion where participants go more in depth on what happened to them that week.

I also found this part difficult because back then I was extremely socially awkward and was only just beginning to realize I had a problem with food.

Some groups have a more specific presentation instead of an open discussion. One of the groups I went to has someone share a personal topic of his or her own choosing.

Then there is time set aside for breakouts groups where participants go into smaller rooms with other members to discuss certain topics such as:

  • spirituality
  • sponsor relationships
  • harm reduction strategies like triggers and stress management skills

Who Can Attend an OA Meeting?

The only ‘real’ rule for OA attendance is that the person needs to want help with their overeating problem.

Some groups insist upon members having abstinence from compulsive overeating before officially joining.

But for the most part, OA will welcome everyone who wants to attend!

Why Do People Attend an OA Meeting?

Some people attend OA meetings to get the support of other overeaters who know how difficult it is to deal with this problem.

Others come because they are looking for more than to just stop eating compulsively:

  • like spirituality in a formal program
  • sponsorship relationships with others in recovery from compulsive eating and living healthy lives

Whatever you may be seeking within an Overeaters Anonymous meeting: community, inspiration, understanding…

It’s there waiting for you! 

How Do OA Phone Meetings Work?

OA does do phone meetings too.

They are often used as a supplement to in-person meetings.

The OA phone meeting is a way to connect with others and share your experiences without shame, time or distance.

Meetings are free: there’s no need for dues or fees!

More meeting descriptions exist on the OA website to make it easier to find one that suits you!

About the Author

Jared Levenson is a former binge eating wrestler turned Zen Buddhist Monk, Internal Family Systems counselor and nutrition wellness coach. He's helped hundreds of people through universal meal principles and internal family systems to make peace with food, stop binge eating, and find true health and wholeness.


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