OA Fact Sheet

Overeaters Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women from all walks of life who meet in order to help solve a common problem - compulsive overeating. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop eating compulsively.

OA is a non-profit international organization that provides volunteer support groups worldwide. Patterned after the Twelve-Step Alcoholics Anonymous program, the OA recovery program addresses physical, emotional and spiritual recovery aspects of compulsive overeating. Members are encouraged to seek professional help for individual diet/nutrition plans and for any emotional or physical problems.

How Did OA Start?

In January 1960, three people living in southern California began meeting for the purpose of helping each other with their eating problems. They had tried everything else and failed. The program they followed was patterned after the Alcoholics Anonymous program. From that first meeting, OA has grown until today there are approximately 9,000 meeting groups in over 50 countries throughout the world.

How Do OA Members Lose Weight and Maintain Their Normal Weight?

OA is not a diet club, and makes no claims for weight loss. However, the average OA member loses between 40 and 99 pounds. The concept of abstinence is the basis of OA's program of recovery. By admitting inability to control compulsive overeating in the past, and abandoning the idea that all one needs to be able to eat normally is "a little willpower," it becomes possible to abstain from overeating one day at a time. OA offers members support in dealing with the physical and emotional symptoms of compulsive overeating, and recommends emotional, spiritual and physical recovery changes. For weight loss, any medically approved plan of eating is acceptable.

What are the Requirements for OA Membership?

There are no "requirements" in the usual sense of the term. The third of OA's Twelve Traditions states, "The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop eating compulsively." Nothing else is asked or demanded of anyone. The acceptance and practice of the OA recovery program rests entirely with the individual.

Why OA Members are Anonymous?

In order to protect the identity of those who feel shame about their obsession, members are asked to keep the identity of other members to themselves. If a member wants to say they are in OA, that is fine, unless they say it to the media. OA wants its members to rely on the principles that will help them overcome their disease, rather than on OA personalities, who could one day relapse and regain their lost weight. Every OA member knows that relapse is always a possibility. Thus, OA practices "principles before personalities" and anonymity.

Is OA a Religious Organization?

No, but it does have a spiritual foundation. OA members are asked to define for themselves a "higher power" to whom they can refer their program. Many in OA refer to their higher power as God, but many others take their higher power as the group, their higher self, or even a feminine principle. Many atheists and agnostics are included among OA's successful program members.

Does OA Work for all Eating Disorders?

The primary purpose of OA is to help compulsive overeaters. Often the compulsive overeater also experiences other eating disorders. While OA does not specifically address these other eating disorders, anyone who finds help in this program is welcomed at our meetings. OA cannot guarantee results for anyone, since results depend on each person's willingness to participate in the program.

How is OA Funded?

Overeaters Anonymous has no dues or fees for membership. It is entirely self-supporting through contributions and sales of publications. Most groups "pass the basket" at meetings to cover expenses. OA does not solicit or accept outside contributions.

Who Runs OA?

OA has no central government and a minimum of formal organization. At the local, regional, and international levels, responsible people serve the organization by volunteering to lead meetings, conduct activities and sit on the Board of Trustees.

The World Service Office is a service center whose main function is to carry the OA message to the many compulsive overeaters who still suffer. The World Service Office publishes and distributes literature, maintains records on all registered groups, intergroups, regions and national service boards, and issues meeting directories. The World Service Office acts as a public information clearing house.