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Questions About OA

What does OA offer?

We offer unconditional acceptance and support through OA meetings, which are self-supporting 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 and behaviors 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.

How do OA members lose weight and maintain their normal weight?

The concept of abstinence is the basis of OA's program of recovery. By admitting inability to control compulsive overeating and abandoning the idea that all one needs is "a little willpower," it becomes possible to abstain from overeating—one day at a time.
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.  For guidance, OA does provide a pamphlet called "Dignity of Choice" which can suggest a plan of eating that may work for you. 
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.

How does OA define abstinence and recovery?

According to the dictionary, the word abstain means "to refrain from." In Overeaters Anonymous (OA), 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 are the result of living the Overeaters Anonymous Twelve-Step program.
Must I be a certain amount over my normal weight to come to OA?
No. Experience has shown that OA works for almost anyone who has a desire to stop eating compulsively, no matter what size the individual may be. Some people who come into OA have already attained their normal weight; others may be underweight. They turn to OA to find a way of life where they can live comfortably without returning to compulsive eating habits. There are as many degrees of overweight as there are OA members, ranging from normal weight to those who have hundreds of pounds to lose.
Whatever their weight, all who have a desire to stop eating compulsively have equal advantages in coming to Overeaters Anonymous. Their common bond is stated in Step One: "We admitted we were powerless over food, and our lives had become unmanageable."


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 rent and literature expenses.  OA does not solicit or accept outside contributions.

Is OA a religious organization?

OA requires no definitive religious belief as a condition of membership. OA has among its membership people of many religious faiths, as well as atheists and agnostics.
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 accept 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 attending OA meetings will not find it very difficult to work out their own solution to this very personal matter.  Many people choose to call their higher power "God" as this may relate to them.  Again, a higher power just means "a power greater than ourselves" and is open to one's own interpretation.


What is a H.O.W. group?

"H.O.W." stands for "Honesty, Open-Mindedness and Willingness."  Some members and groups choose to work their programs through "H.O.W."  It is considered a "subgroup" of OA by many, known for its adherence to strict food plans and disciplined sponsor/sponsoree approach.  In the OA Program, the only requirement is a desire to stop eating compulsively.  Where the OA program offers only suggestions and allows for individual flexibility, the H.O.W. method usually requires a more defined structure.  Both programs practice the Twelve Steps for personal recovery, but the philosophy regarding how one achieves abstinence is different.  

How do I find the answers to questions I may have?

The "Ask-it- Basket" questions and answers from the OA World Service Website have answers to many questions that newcomers and OA members have about the OA program. You can find it on the World Service webpage at 

What is the difference between an "open" group and a "closed" group?

The following policy statement defining open and closed groups was adopted at WSBC 1982 and revised in 1989:

Open group is a group which is open to anyone, including non-OA visitors.
Closed group is a group that is open to anyone with a desire to stop eating compulsively, or anyone who thinks they may have a problem with compulsive overeating. 

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