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Overeaters Anonymous (OA) Meetings – An Inside Look


Overeaters Anonymous Logo Courtesy OA.org

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Jenny Clark. She primarily blogs about teaching and education related issues. She teaches 2nd grade in an urban Midwest school. You can see her blog at http://doinitjensway.blogspot.com.

First I’d like to say that I’m no expert on this. Please see the Overeaters Anonymous (OA) website www.OA.org for official information. Okay, now that that’s out of the way, I’d like to share my story. I’ve struggled with my weight, and had body issues for as long as I can remember. I remember thinking that I was fat as early as 1st grade. I went on the grapefruit diet when I was in third grade. I’ve since tried: the egg-banana-hotdog diet, anything a magazine told me to do, bulimia, Atkins, South Beach, medical research programs, poopy pills (they blocked the fat, but gave you the poops), and almost any other diet program you can think of. Regardless, my weight just kept increasing. I’ve had a few short lived periods of success, but in general, I’ve always failed. It didn’t make sense. I’m an over-achiever. I’m successful, why is it I couldn’t manage this?

Several years ago, I heard about Overeaters Anonymous meetings. I attended a couple of meetings… cried, listened, read, and decided that it wasn’t for me. I wasn’t ready yet. Finally, this summer, I’d had enough. My doctor had started mentioning my weight at every visit. I was constantly worrying that I would have a heart attack, and felt terrible. I decided that things had to change. I decided to approach this from all my angles. I went to my doctor and got some blood work done. I started seeing a therapist, I’ve met a couple of times with a nutritionist, I started reading, exercising, and I began attending OA
meetings.

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It started out rather uncomfortable. Overeaters Anonymous was definitely the hardest. It was hard just to get to the meeting. At the meeting it was hard to speak. It was hard to believe that I was in the right spot. I spent a lot of my time at those initial meetings judging the other people. I sort of knew I was in the right place, but I didn’t want to admit that I was the same as the people I was judging. Then, at about my 5th meeting, a person made a comment about stealing food from the families they were babysitting for. I flashed back to my babysitting years. I totally did that. I would eat little bits of lots of their food and try to put it back in just the same spot so it wouldn’t be noticed. Other people in the room also admitted to doing the same thing. It was then that it clicked. I was among people who, for whatever reason, shared my story. We don’t, and probably never have responded to food like most people. Many of them have overcome their weight problems by working the OA program (not just short term- these folks have been successful for years, and they keep coming back to sustain their success, and to help us newcomers).

After that I got “abstinent.” In Overeaters Anonymous (OA), abstinent, means that you pick a food/life plan, and stick to it. They don’t tell you what to pick, you know your trigger foods better than anyone else. Just like in AA, you keep track of your abstinence. I’ve now been abstinent for 26 days. I thought it would be terrible. I thought I’d constantly be feeling sorry for myself. Honestly, there have been hard parts, but overall, it’s been the most freeing thing of my life. I’m not constantly thinking about food. I’m finally free to be me. I’ve spent my whole life eating to deal with a painful experiences, now, I’m finally dealing with life without eating. I’m finally finding my spiritual path. I’m finally finding my voice, and letting it shine. After a year of abstinence, a person celebrates their “birthday,” now I understand why.

The things I hear in OA, the people I meet, the literature I’ve read, has all been amazing (once I got over the initial discomfort). I feel like a new person. I know that I’ll always have people right there to support me when things are tough. There are no fees, there’s nothing commercial, just people in all different stages of recovery to support each other.

*Image Courtesy OA.org

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About the Author

My name is Israel Lagares. I used to be the kind of guy that was always in shape, but over the last few years I've fallen off tremendously. This site is my final attempt to get back into shape. So far I've lost 70.4 lbs. Check out my weight loss chart, weight loss videos and progress pics. Follow my journey, those of others, and read our thoughts on various health topics. Share your thoughts, experience, and journey here on FMU.

Community Thoughts (48)

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  1. Strong OneNo Gravatar says:

    It takes a lot of courage to open up, publicly! And you’ve now done it not once, but twice.
    Congratulations on your first steps and I you continue on your path of success!
    Good luck and thanks for sharing.

  2. JenNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks! I really enjoyed sharing with you and your readers! What a validating experience!

    Regarding the OA meeting, be sure you call or e-mail ahead (just in case the website list isn’t current) and try a couple of meetings. Each meeting has a bit of a different format.

    I’d love to hear how it goes. Take care.

    • Israel LagaresNo Gravatar says:

      Will do.

    • Lucinda R.No Gravatar says:

      I have a small town problem that really gets in the way of my recovery. There is one person, a pillar in my local OA community who is, well, not very nice. I am very intimidated by her. I know it is a program of principles above personalities because i have 23 years AA sober. But, I really have a problem with this person. I just got out of Rader for the third time in 22 years. My primary food issue has always been overeating. Bingeing, no purging. However, in the last two months, I lost about 20 pounds subconsciously restricting. It was as if I was wasting away and it was going all on its own, without my control. I have never been this thin as an adult of 48. Treatment helped and it got my attention. If you had told me in my last treatment 5 years ago that I would be anorexic today, i would have said you’re crazy. But I stopped going to meetings. I went for w few weeks, something hapopened with the person I have trouble with and I threw myself out with the bathwater. I know I need OA or I could die. Pray for me that the group I am going to Monday is a fit.

      • MeredithNo Gravatar says:

        Lucinda R,

        Go to your meetings! Your recovery and health are far more important than whatever issue(s)you have with this person who is not so nice. Unfortunately, in life there will always be someone like that you will have to deal with at work, or church, etc. Whoever and wherever that is, you have to be bigger and better and do what you need to do for yourself to live your own life. Look beyond and don’t let anyone get in your way, is my wish for you.

  3. JeffNo Gravatar says:

    I never knew that this orgainzation existed until I read your post. I was a big overeater and often found myself not being able to move after a meal.
    I have referred a couple of friends that are overeaters to this post.

    • Israel LagaresNo Gravatar says:

      Neither did I. I thought it was a joke at first. With this guest post and some research, I found some useful info.

  4. Great post. Overeaters Anonymous, I’ve heard about them in the past, but never really considered them seriously. From this article, I can see, they are worth taking a second look at. Anything that helps those wanting to lose weight succeed should be considered as long as it’s legal and safe.

  5. TonyVNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks for the great post. I too have found a new life in Overeaters Anonymous. I hope your article helps someone in need of what OA has to offer. I just started a website about my own experience.

  6. Jenny ClarkNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve been thinking about writing a follow up to this, but so much of my recovery is just too personal. I don’t think I have a whole post worth of info, but I did want to follow up and say that I’ve now been abstinent for 6 months. I’ve lost 52 pounds! I’m stunned by the changes in my life on a daily basis. Thanks again Israel for letting me share!

  7. ToddNo Gravatar says:

    Its very interesting how you came to the epiphany that you, and the other members at OA, just “reacted to food differently”,in the whole baby sitting situation. I don’t know whether its Genetics, childhood upbringing, or something else; but it seems to me that when one is overweight, he/she just treats food differently… It starts with letting food control you, instead of just treating food as a source of nutrition.

    Anyways, good luck with the program. But just one more thing, the title “Overeaters Anonymous” put another thought in my head. From talking to people, and responses on my weight loss blog, its seems that fast eating often leads people to overeating. I’ve just recently discovered that when I chew my food (especially carbs), as much as I possibly can, I get full much faster. I definately used to beat an “overeater anonymous”; I would eat so quickly that I wouldn’t know when to stop, and I’d consume way too many calories, which really contributed to my weight. I’ve really been making a lot of progress with weight loss by just thoroughly chewing my food and not changing anything else. Strangly, I’ve been able to eat less, and have stayed full longer. I havn’t eaten desert this past week, haha, hopefully my little epiphany is of some help!

  8. Gerri WalshNo Gravatar says:

    HELP HELP
    I am definitely an overeater. I guess I have been all my life at different points. I certainly can remember binging on food for comfort at certain points in my life. My challenge is Can I join this group online? I live in a middle eastern country and am pretty suret there is no support group meeting here. Can anyone tell me how to find out.
    Thanks
    Gerri Walsh

  9. Debby OliverNo Gravatar says:

    I have been an overeater most of my life. Emotional eating, fearful eating and just plain ole enjoyment eating. I need help. I’m in weight watchers (notice I say in not doing the system) I’m “good” 2-3 days a week and cheat the rest…but who am I cheating? Me. I can’t seen to find a meeting and I’m not sure I could go – yet…fear. Fear has ruled me for a very long time. Do I have to go to the meeting to find out the 12 steps? Not sure I could even do one….but I’m trying to find my way.

  10. SamanthaNo Gravatar says:

    I am struggling and have been for many years with night eating. I need a plan of night abstinence. Eating at night has become like a mother and a god to me. I would like to begin by committing to eating a plain yogurt and a piece of fruit each evening. (as opposed to my current free for all). Does anyone else have this problem? If so, we could be email supporters.

    Thank you!

    • marleneNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Samantha! How you doing with that night eating? that seems to be my problem too.Just read your post tonight. Are you lonely at night? do you watch tv and eat at night? that is what I do. My husband goes to bed early and then I celebrate my day with food…why do you neeed to restrict to eating yogurt or fruit-when maybe what you and I really need is emotional support and unconditional love? I am running from feelings, I think; how about you? Hope to hear back from you.Bless you.

    • SueNo Gravatar says:

      I eat at night too. I can usually make it through the day with “minor” eating “indulgences” like a piece of dark chocolate after meals. At night, it’s a totally different story. I binge. It used to be worse, in terms of it being rather mindless and boundless. Now, I’m much more aware of the FACT that I’m eating, and I try to “contain” the binge. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

      I’m about 30 lbs heavier than I’d like to be, and I have gained 12 of those lbs since February!!!! I turned 42, and it’s like a “switch” flipped and I started gaining weight. I “torture” myself by getting on the scale, and then I get upset when my weight is up. I hit 180 this week. I haven’t been that heavy in a LOOONG time, and it made me cry.

      My binges haven’t changed (if anything, they’re a bit less severe, as I mentioned above…) but for some reason I’m suddenly gaining weight. I’m also taking progesterone to help w/ migraines and PMS (which it has helped…) and my Dr says my weight gain is not related to the hormones.

      I know I need to exercise more, even though I’m exercising more than I used to. But I’m having trouble starting a routine and changing my lifestyle.

      A bunch of my clothes don’t fit me anymore, but I don’t want to go buy bigger clothes – I gave away the bigger clothes I’d worn since the birth of my 2nd child (8 1/2 years ago!!) as I lost weight and “grew out” of them. I “recalled” a few skirts but I had told my friends I didn’t want the clothes back (which I don’t) so I’m not even sure who has what anymore or if they still have them.

      I’m looking into OA but I feel ashamed of my inability to control it myself. I live in a relatively small town, so I don’t want to go to a meeting in my town or the town where my kids go to school. I don’t want to meet anyone I know there. I know it’s anonymous, but if I meet someone I know I’ll be uncomfortable when I see them in other places in town. I might consider going to one where I don’t think I’ll meet anyone I know, or maybe just doing an online group.

      I commented on a book I saw on amazon, and I was emailing with a few women for a bit, but it didn’t really go anywhere. I wouldn’t mind an “email pal” who can relate….

      • SusanNo Gravatar says:

        Hi Sue
        I read your post and felt compelled to write- have never written a blog of Any kind!
        I can TOTALLY relate to what you are going though. I too have gained 12 pounds since January (Almost 48 years old). I am struggling to stop the night eating/ bingeing. I do fine all day on most days, then that same “switch” you talked about flips and I just lose all control. My clothes don’t fit, I feel bloated and I have canceled plans with friends due to how horrible I feel about myself.
        Ive looked online at the possibility of attending an OA meeting, but i had the same fears as you about running into someone I know. I’m completely ashamed of my behavior and am afraid to admit it out loud! My husband does not even know-I just complain to him that I feel bad about having gained weight, but he has no idea about my binges. I’m sometimes not very nice to him because I feel so bad about myself! That’s so wrong!
        I’ve tried diet pills, laxatives, weight watchers …..and I exercise (a lot!).
        From the outside, I look pretty normal – not horribly overweight and I have a lot of great things in my life. From the inside , I am literally tormented over how much control food has over my life- and has since the age of about 17!! I feel like I am 150 lbs overweight – not 15!
        Have you found any online support ? I thought I saw that there was an OA online meeting but am not sure how to find it.
        From the number of posts, it looks like there are a lot of us who struggle with this..I wish there was an easy answer!
        I need to get a handle on this-

        • TLCNo Gravatar says:

          Susan,
          Your story is my story exactly!!! I cannot believe how much we have in common! I have been looking for someone to be my on-line O.A. buddy. I see this was posted in August so you might not even see this reply but if you do, but would you want to try sponsoring each other? I just think talking to someone who knows what I am going through would be a big help. Let me know if you see this and want to keep in touch. We could exchange e-mails!
          Thanks!
          TLC

        • DebbyNo Gravatar says:

          I just found this site and read your post. It’s good to know others are sharing similar situations. I feel as though I wear my disorder/depression about it like an ugly dress- best wishes to you

      • KristinNo Gravatar says:

        Hi Sue,
        I can relate to what you have shared- I too have had a love-hate relationship with food and I will be 50 in a couple of weeks and have found the last year I have been gaining weight and I have felt so frustrated and out of control! I started going to OA after last Thanksgivings out of control feast but never stopped eating. I kept thinking that I could control my eating habits by dieting and such but it always goes back to the same out of control binging (at night mostly) and now I really need help! Maybe we can support each other- that would be nice!

    • barbara rosenNo Gravatar says:

      Istared going to meetings a few weeks ago, but didn’t speak. Today my AA sponsor told me it wasn’t aboout weight it is about the spiritual program. I am a night eater and also ate food while babysitting – half a cake, a little at a time. Through my thirties and into my 40′s I was a thin, healthy eater. Then I ruptured a disk and spent alot of time in bed (probably hiding from my job) I gained over 20 lbs. Atkins dient for 6 months and 10 lbs off. Another 10 yrs, back at the same job and over a 5 year period gained anoter 40 lbs. This is my first day of abstinence,
      have read the beginners pamplets and orderd some books through Central Services. I am having to remind myself that its not the pounds of self-disgust that I have to think about. It’s one day at a time, taking it easy, praying, reading, writing, staying on the program. I have to stop thinking pounds and start thinking Higher Power not so easy.

      • KristinNo Gravatar says:

        Hi Barbara,
        Today is my first day of abstinence as well. Like you, I feel I need to focus on my Higher Power to help assist me to overcome this disease- it is not easy and I know I cannot do this alone! We can do this- one day at at time!

  11. LizNo Gravatar says:

    I am convinced my life would be healthier without sugar. I have done a bit of reading and sugar is like a drug. It causes all kinds of health problems and depression. Has anyone got any stories to feed my mind with so I can be encouraged on this path.

    • SueNo Gravatar says:

      Me too…. I binge at night and it’s sweets I crave…. I know someone who gave up sugar, but I think I’d feel too deprived. And, I ***LOVE*** to bake (and am quite good at it ;-) .) I know I need to find another creative outlet that doesn’t involve sugar, but cooking doesn’t satisfy me the same way. I do other creative things, but baking is my favorite…..

      • Mary HardyNo Gravatar says:

        try natures own whole grain sandwitch rounds with smart squeeze fat free butter and sugar free syrup(smukers) It will get u through until the cravings for sugar subside. It takes 10 days for the sugar craving to go away. This will help u get off the sugar. Also Pumpkin mousse 1 small box of sugar free pudding, 1 sm. box of butterscotch pudding, mix 3 cups 1% milk with wire whisk, then fold in 3/4 cup sugar free cool whip. Serving size 3/4 cup

      • Christa DavisNo Gravatar says:

        I made wedding cakes for a living but have discovered that having a man take a second look is much more gratifing!!! Talk about a high! better than any sugar treat in the world!!!

  12. debbieNo Gravatar says:

    i have been back to my grey sheet abstinance for a few weeks and it feels amazing to lay all my food down and just eat my planned foods….are there any other grey sheeters out there.

    • KristinNo Gravatar says:

      Day 1 for me on the grey sheet- good for you for eating as planned for 3 weeks!! I am sure I will feel so wonderful in a few weeks time as well!

  13. marleneNo Gravatar says:

    well-here I go again-another addiction! the last one I labeled was called co-dependency. I have been eating out of control this past year..dealing with lots of emotional issues/events. How do I get off this treadmeal(pardon the pun and my bad spelling-maybe it is treadmill!)? I think I need to get support from others going thru the same stuff. Don’t want to go back to Weightwatchers either….would be good to check in with someone who is going thru the same stuff so we could encourage each other?

  14. CathyNo Gravatar says:

    hi this is the first time Ive seen this website had heard of OA but there isn’t one where I live Did go to TOPS for awhile which was good but now I work evenings and my EATING is totally out of control like so many I eat so much at night would love someone to just talk with about this problem I think it would help if I was accountable to someone anyone interested thanks

  15. KerryNo Gravatar says:

    I have been around OA with little success for about 5 years. I think the program works if you are committed to it and if you want to stop eating more than you want to eat! Another point I need to stress is that there is a huge difference between needing to loose weight and being a compulsive overeater. I am definately a COE I will eat until I am physically sick. I eat even though my doctors have warned me that I will develop serious complications if I dont stop. (I am an insulin dependant diabetic). There have been times in OA when I have managed to be abstinent but I must stress that these were periods when I was connected to God and had a stong spiritual life (as sugested by the program) Good Luck to all of you. We all suffer and need to give and receive support. Just one more thing…OA has a tradition of anonymity and as such nobody should use their surnames on line.

  16. sandyNo Gravatar says:

    i am another night eater. i am obese i really need to find more info on OA . would love to chat w/ others w/ same problem.

    • MinNo Gravatar says:

      Sandy,

      I know you posted months ago but I am in need of someone to chat with that truly understands what I am going through. I hide in my embarrassment every day and then punish myself every night by continuing this cycle of out of control binging. I just hit the 200 pound mark . . . I weighed that when I gave birth to my daughter 21 years ago and I swore that I would never get that big again . . . here I am. I am so depressed and feel so alone with this monster hovering over me all the time. I just need an honest, pity-free, shoulder to hear me and not sugar coat every feeling that I share. I am so tired of people telling me,’it’s not that bad’, ‘you’re not that overweight’, ‘you just need to eat smaller portions’, etc. Come on people! Get real, be real with me! Wow, that was more than I have said out loud (in writing) than I ever have before. Thanks for listening.

      • Christa DavisNo Gravatar says:

        You can do it Girl!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • DebbyNo Gravatar says:

        I would love to talk – its good to find others in same boat

      • Tony BrownNo Gravatar says:

        Sandy,

        I’m not sure how I can help but if you are serious about losing weight and changing your life I can introduce you to a product that may help. I too had to change my eating habits after the loss of my father due to his eating habits. So I understand what you are going through.

  17. barbaraNo Gravatar says:

    wow, just finished reading all the comments, I am so a compulsive eater, espcially at nght watching tv. one bit of sweet and the carton or package are gone before I go to sleep, I used to wake up in the middle of the night to eat if I knew there were goodies in the house. I feel alot of shame about my size and summer is here, that makes it even worse. I controlled my weight for many years, exercised like madwoman, taking my 35 lbs of weights and tape wherever I went, even to the Carribean, health spas. just nuts an I thought I was fat then. Now I’m 190 not 125, how could this happen? I know low self-esteem is a big part of it, hiding clearly is too. I do believe this program works, I’ve seen it. Believe and do the work is the answer. Feeling ok in your own body is what I want and to be healthier and stronger for now and old age. I’m sixty now and can’t let go of the past thin days, men looking at me, that kind of thing that I thought could never happen again. When I was young it was from the outside in, now its from the inside out.

  18. Tony BrownNo Gravatar says:

    Great article, I can relate to how overeating can lead to all kinds of health related issues. My father was an over eater and suffered from diabetes and other related health problems. He passed at the end of May 2012. I started really looking at how I was eating and I changed a great deal of my eating habits.

    I went to the doctor and my LDL cholesterol was high for my age group and I started using Visalus as a meal replacement and started working out again. After 6 months I went back for my lab report and my LDL dropped 50 points to a normal range. I believe in having support and people who care about there overall health this has led me to help as many people as I can attain whatever health goal they have.

  19. Yvonne BainNo Gravatar says:

    I have never been an over eater of a nibbler until just recently. I think it is because I am staying up later and working on the computer so the urge to eat is more tempting.
    There have been some extensive studies done about drinking at least 2 glasses of water half and hour before eating and the great results found by doing this. Perhaps it is something we could try.
    The other thing is the affect of our sleep hormones on weight gain or loss.
    I’ve included an extract from my articles in regards to this. “Current medical research is finding more evidence between the relationship of sound, adequate sleep and weight loss. There are two main hormones responsible for our eating habits. The hormone ghrelin which is produced in the G.I Tract sends messages to the brain that we are hungry. Leptin is its oppositional hormone and is produced in the fat cells. This hormone sends a signal to the brain to tell us that we are full. Inadequate sleep causes an imbalance in these hormones causing us to feel hungry. It is therefore important to get at least 8 hours sleep and restful sleep. Also, if you are inclined to sit up late, then you will be more inclined to eat more.”
    I hope that these tips may help all who are reading.
    Cheers
    Yvonne B

  20. DebbyNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Sandy,
    I am sorry to hear about your troubles with food. I need someone who I can buddy with to get through some positive changes — don’t we all try so HARD?!? I’m alone without a soul for support and I would love to give someone support as well. What so you think? Form
    A small support group orbits this blog good enough? It’s the night eating that’s killing me.
    Take care
    Debby

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