What Is Overeaters Anonymous?

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on August 24, 2022
5 min read

Overeaters Anonymous, also known as OA, are groups of individuals who come together at a specific meeting place at a set time. The group consists of all kinds of people from all walks of life. They meet over a shared problem: compulsive overeating. This problem may include anorexia, bulimia, and obesity. To join Overeaters Anonymous is simple: all you have to have is the desire to change the way you eat and a willingness to engage with others on the same journey. 

Overeaters Anonymous is a supportive community that works to help those with problematic relationships with food through mutual support and a twelve-step intervention plan. With the assistance of the Twelve Steps of OA, which have been adopted from Alcoholics Anonymous, and a set of Nine Tools, individuals in Overeaters Anonymous support other members in their recovery from eating disorders through compulsive eating treatment. Their support also extends to those with body image issues. 

OA can be used to supplement another treatment program, or it can be used independently. OA can be conducted in face-to-face environments and in remote environments through the phone or online. OA demands no fees to join and is open to all who are working toward bettering their relationship with food and eating. OA also respects the privacy and anonymity of its members. 

As mentioned before, there are also certain steps and tools that go hand-in-hand with OA meetings and support groups to help members achieve the best recovery possible.

The way of life based on these twelve steps brings many individuals physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. Oftentimes, members of OA call this nothing short of a miracle. They assert that these steps have helped them and will help you, too. 

These steps include: 

  1. Admitting to being powerless around food and acknowledging that life has become unmanageable because of it. 
  2. Believing in a power greater than yourself and which can restore you. 
  3. Making the decision to turn your will and life over to the higher power’s hands. 
  4. Creating a moral inventory of yourself through self-searching. 
  5. Admitting your mistakes to the higher power, yourself, and another person. 
  6. Being ready to allow the higher power to remove all of your defects of character.
  7. Asking the higher power to remove your shortcomings. 
  8. Making a list of all the people you have harmed. 
  9. Making amends with the people you have harmed when possible. 
  10. Continuing to create a personal inventory and acknowledge when you are wrong, then admitting it as soon as you realize. 
  11. Seeking to improve your conscious contact with the higher power through prayer and meditation while praying only for knowledge of its will and the power to carry it out. 
  12. Having a spiritual awakening with help from these steps and carrying this message to other compulsive overeaters while practicing these principles in all of your affairs  

Overeaters Anonymous has a number of tools to help its members overcome their food addiction. These tools include: 

Overeaters Anonymous Food Plan 

This is one of the most important tools offered by Overeaters Anonymous. Having a plan for eating will help you to refrain from compulsive eating. With a personal food plan, you can be guided in dietary decisions and learn important factors regarding what, when, how, where, and why you eat. It’s equally important to share this food plan with another member of OA or with your sponsor. Doing so will allow others to hold you accountable. 


Sponsors are members of OA, too, but they have managed to implement the Twelve Steps to the best of their ability. These members are willing to share their progress and stories with other members and are there to assist you with your own recovery, whether you need help physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Sponsors are able to share the level of their own experience with OA in the hopes of not only helping other members but also renewing and reaffirming their own recovery.


Meetings happen when at least two compulsive overeaters meet to share their personal stories and experience. These meetings are also a chance for members to share the strength and hope given to them by OA. There are many types of meetings, but the most important aspect of any meeting is to identify and confirm common issues with food and to share the hope that OA bestows on you. 


For those who are unable to attend face-to-face meetings, the telephone is another handy tool that can help members feel less isolated in their battles. For members who are struggling, making a phone call to another OA member or their sponsor can help. The telephone allows members to reach out when they need help the most. 


Writing is a great asset to those who are overcome by their feelings. Putting thoughts and feelings down on paper can be therapeutic and can help you to understand your thoughts and feelings better. It can also help you to understand the way you act and react. By writing down your thoughts, feelings, or events that happen, you can see situations more clearly.


There are several pamphlets, OA-approved books, and magazines that can help you on your road to recovery. Certain literature can help to reinforce your efforts to live healthily with compulsive eating. 


Anonymity allows members to freely express their thoughts and feelings about their compulsive eating without worrying about gossip. As such, faces and last names are prohibited from being used once the identification process is over. Whatever is heard at OA stays at OA. 


At OA, members continue to carry the message they’ve learned from OA to other members. This is the most significant form of service. Other services are important, too, though. Services can include anything big or small that helps other OA members. 

Action Plan

Finally, the ninth tool that is offered by OA is an action plan. Action plans are there to identify and implement daily and long-term achievable actions. These actions are important to the recovery process of the members and help to support abstinence, as well as emotional, physical, and spiritual recovery.

Many members have had success through OA programs, but whether or not Overeaters Anonymous will be effective for you will depend on your commitment to the program.