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What is compulsive eating?

“Compulsion” is defined as an irresistible desire to take an often irrational action. The word “irresistible” means we are unable to resist the urge, no matter how many promises we have made to ourselves or others. In our case, we have the compulsion to indulge repeatedly in destructive eating behaviors.

Can’t a compulsive overeater just use willpower to stop excessive eating?

Before turning to OA, many of us tried to control our food intake and change our eating habits resorting to many gimmicks, fad diets and sometimes drastic measures. When we failed, we inevitably felt guilt and remorse. We came to OA admitting we were powerless over food. If our willpower didn’t work, it followed that we needed a Power greater than ourselves to help us recover. We were powerless, but not helpless.

What is meant by “a Power greater than ourselves”?

For most of us, somewhere in the progression of our illness, we found that food began to take over our lives. We had become defenseless to our compulsion. Food had become a Power greater than ourselves. 

OA experience has taught us that to achieve abstinence from compulsive eating and maintain recovery, we need to accept and rely on a Higher Power, which we acknowledge is greater than ourselves. Some of us consider our group or OA itself as a Power greater than ourselves. Some of us adopt the concept of God, as we individually understand and interpret God. There are no right or wrong concepts. What’s important to our recovery is that we develop a relationship with this Higher Power. The focus and intent of the OA program is to help us do this.

Is OA a religious society?

No. OA is not a religious society and requires no definite religious belief as a condition of membership. OA has among its members people of many religious backgrounds, as well as atheists and agnostics. Recovery in OA is based on the acceptance of certain spiritual values. OA experience has shown that those who keep an open mind on this subject and continue coming to OA meetings will not find it difficult to work out a personal solution to this personal matter.

Can I stop eating compulsively on my own just through reading OA literature?

OA literature is a powerful Tool that helps members learn more about the disease and helps us to stop eating compulsively, one day at a time. However, ours is a disease of isolation and the OA program works best for those who recognize and accept that they can’t stop eating compulsively on their own, and that it is a program involving other people. We have found that communicating with other members is essential for us to stop eating compulsively.

What are the requirements for OA membership?

The OA Third Tradition states: “The only requirement for OA membership is a desire to stop eating compulsively.” Nothing else is asked of anyone. The acceptance and practice of the OA recovery program rests entirely with the individual.

How much does OA membership cost?

There are no financial obligations of any kind in connection with OA membership. Our recovery program is available to all who want to stop eating compulsively, regardless of personal financial situations. While there are no dues or fees for members, according to Tradition Seven we are fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions. Members may make a Seventh Tradition contribution when they attend meetings, either face-to-face, by telephone, or virtually.

How does OA support itself?

OA is entirely self-supporting through member donations and literature sales. No outside donations are accepted. Most local groups “pass the basket” at meetings to cover the cost of rent, literature, and meeting expenses, and to support OA as a whole. 

Who runs OA?

Volunteers! OA is truly unusual in that it has no central government and a minimum of formal organization. It has no officers or executives with power or authority over the Fellowship or individual members. In even the most informal organization, however, certain jobs obviously need to be done. OA at the local, regional, and international levels needs responsible volunteers to perform certain duties. Persons who accept these responsibilities are directly accountable to those they serve, and service jobs periodically rotate among members

What is the Twelve Step recovery program?

The Twelve Steps offer a new way of life that enables compulsive overeaters to live without the need for excess food and foods that cause us to eat compulsively. Members who make an earnest effort to follow these Steps and apply them in daily living get far more out of OA than do those members who merely come to meetings and don’t do the serious emotional and spiritual work involved in the Steps. 

Why does OA place such emphasis upon “anonymity”?

Anonymity at the most basic level says we don’t disclose the identities of individual members, their personal situations, or what they share in confidence at meetings, online, or on the phone with us. This makes OA a safe place where we can be honest with ourselves and others. It allows us to express ourselves freely at meetings and in conversation, and it safeguards us from gossip. 

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