About OA

What does OA offer?

OA offers a way out of the misery, guilt and isolation of food and weight obsession. You do not have to suffer alone. Together we get better. To find out more, download the free newcomers pamphlet Where do I start? Everything a newcomer needs to know.


In OA you’ll find members who are very overweight, morbidly obese, moderately overweight, average weight, underweight, still maintaining periodic control over their eating behaviour, or totally unable to control their compulsive eating. OA members experience many different patterns of compulsive food behaviours. Our “symptoms” are as varied as our membership. Among them are:

  • constant grazing and preoccupation with food
  • very restrictive eating then out-of-control bingeing
  • using food as a reward or comfort
  • inability to stop eating certain foods after taking the first bite
  • preoccupation with diets
  • vulnerability to quick weight loss schemes
  • obsession with body image and compulsive weighing
  • excessive exercise
  • induced vomiting after eating
  • chewing and spitting out food
  • use of diet pills, shots, laxatives and diuretics to try to control weight
  • bariatric surgery and other medical interventions to control weight.


Our symptoms may vary, but we share a common bond: we are powerless over food and our lives are unmanageable. This common problem has led those in OA to seek and find a common solution in OA’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.

By admitting our inability to control our compulsive eating and surrendering the idea that all one needs is “a little willpower” it is possible to abstain from compulsive eating — one day at a time. However, OA is not a diet club. We offer freedom from food and weight obsession achieved through working the OA Twelve Steps and using the OA Tools of Recovery.

OA meetings provide ongoing support so we no longer struggle alone. Sponsors and fellow members help us understand and apply the OA Twelve Steps. These Twelve Steps impact us on three levels – physically, emotionally and spiritually. By working the steps, we can achieve a new way of life and a lasting freedom from food and weight obsession.

As an OA member, being anonymous means that what you say at a meeting, stays at the meeting and that no one but you, has the right to disclose your OA membership. Being anonymous also means we have no stars or celebrities in OA. No matter your outside status, within OA we are all equal. We share a common problem with a shared solution in the Twelve Steps.

Our public relations policy is based on attraction, not promotion. When speaking to the media or using social media, no one person speaks for all of OA. Our Eleventh Tradition requires that members’ faces are not identifiable and we provide our first names only.

OA is not a religious organisation. OA members are people of varying spiritual beliefs, religious faiths along with atheists and agnostics. Members are free to interpret the spiritual/ethical principles of the Twelve Steps so they resonate with them personally.

OA is a spiritual program. A Power of our own understanding, greater than our own individual willpower, helps us live free from food and weight obsession. There is no one right way, no one answer to the question of who or what a member’s personal Higher Power is. In OA, we are encouraged to decide for ourselves. To find out more, read the free pamphlet What if I don’t believe in “God”?

In 1958 our founder Roseanne S, attended Gamblers Anonymous to support a compulsive gambling friend. Roseanne identified with the gamblers’ stories of powerlessness and emotional turmoil, however, in Roseanne’s case, her powerlessness and turmoil came from her food and weight obsession. Roseanne had the idea that perhaps she could apply these same twelve steps, patterned after the Alcoholics Anonymous twelve step program, to her compulsive eating.

In January 1960, Roseanne, along with two others, held the first OA meeting in Los Angeles. Today, around 6,500 OA groups meet each week in more than 75 countries. For more on OA’s history, read Beyond Our Wildest Dreams available from the OA bookstore.

To explore if OA could help you, try answering these fifteen questions. The answers are only for you.

Meetings are held face-to-face and on Zoom. To find a meeting go to our meetings page.