Overeaters Anonymous (OA) is a self-help group for people who suffer from eating disorders. In January 1960, a few people living in Los Angeles, began meeting for the purpose of helping each other with their eating problems, They had tried everything else and failed. Today there are thousands of meetings in the U.S., Canada and other countries. OA started in Ireland in 1978. We have about 12 meetings in Dublin and as many more spread throughout the country.
Our membership includes men and women of all ages and many different patterns of behaviour with food. Our symptoms are varied – obsession with weight and size, fear of eating too much and trying not to eat at all. Binging, starving, throwing up, abusing laxatives, exercising excessively etc. Some members are overweight, some are underweight and some are average size. Some of us have periodic control and some have lost all control.
We have tried many ways to control our behaviour with food, including diets, weight loss groups, hypnosis, acupuncture, exercise workouts, long walks, making change in our lives etc. All these things worked for a while but inevitably, the old failure patterns returned with devastating effects on our self-worth.
OA believes that an eating disorder is an illness – a progressive illness – that cannot be cured but which, like many other illnesses, can be arrested. Our disease is threefold; physical, emotional and spiritual. Recovery is based on the twelve step programme begun by Alcoholics Anonymous. The programme has a spiritual but not a religious dimension to it. Many individuals have reservations about accepting any concept of a Power greater than themselves, but experience has shown that those who keep an open mind will work out their own solution to the spiritual side of their recovery.
It is suggested in one of the steps that we do a personal inventory, this helps us to sort out and come to terms with our past. It also helps us to see our flaws and it helps us to take full responsibility for ourselves. As we work our way through the steps with the love and support of other members, life takes on a whole new meaning for us. We begin to deal with life instead of reacting to it, our whole attitude changes and we experience a new happiness and serenity. The obsession with food and weight leaves us as we recover one day at a time. No one fails in OA, as long as a person is completely honest with him/her self and works the programme.
Recovery for each OA member is personal. Most would agree that regular attendance at meetings is important. We offer unconditional acceptance and support to one another. Through our meetings we have an opportunity to identify with others who share the same problem.
OA is not affiliated with any organisation, nor are we a diet club. Food and weight are only symptoms of our problem. A diet can help us lose weight, for some of us it also intensifies the need to overeat. The solution offered by OA does not include diet tips. We are not professionals. We give no advice on what constitutes proper food planning either for weight loss or weight maintenance. We don’t furnish food plans or diets, counselling services, hospitalisation or treatment, neither do we participate in nor conduct research and training in the field of eating disorders. Lack of knowledge on how to eat is not usually our problem, it is the power to put it into practice. However, should a member seek specific advice regarding food or diet we suggest they go to an appropriate professional.
There are no requirements for membership of OA. Once a person believes they have an eating disorder and has the desire to do something about it, they simply go along to their nearest meeting. There are no dues or fees in connection with OA membership. We are financed by members voluntary contributions so we “pass the basket” at meetings to cover the cost of the meeting place, some leaflets and other incidental expenses. No outside donations are ever accepted.
Anonymity is essential within the Fellowship. It means that within each group OA principles are placed before personalities. The social and economic barriers that separate people in society do not exist in OA. By practising anonymity, members ensure that egoism and self-glorification will not be the undoing of the OA Fellowship. It also assures members that their presence at a meeting will not be disclosed or anything heard at a meeting will not be discussed. Our tradition of anonymity at the level of press, radio, television and other media of communication is also vital.
There is an open meeting on the last Wednesday of every month (except December) at 8 pm in the Dublin Central Mission, Abbey Street. OA can also be contacted by writing to P.O. Box 2529 Dublin or by phoning 01 451 5138.
THE TWELVE STEPS OF OA
1. We admitted we were powerless over food – that our lives had become unmanageable. 2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 3. Made a decision to turn our Will and our life over to the care of God, as we understand Him. 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. 5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. 6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. 7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. 8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. 9. Made direct amends to such people, wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
11. Sought, through prayer and meditation, to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understand Him, praying only for Knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to compulsive overeaters and to practise these principles in all our affairs.
[This twelve step programme is based, with permission, on the original twelve steps of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous]