How OA Works

What does working the program mean?

OA is a Twelve-Step Fellowship much like Alcoholics Anonymous. Our one day at a time approach and reliance on something beyond our own individual willpower could make us different from other solutions you may have tried. We work the Twelve Steps with the support of a sponsor, meetings and community of OA members. We have discovered we need each other to get well.

The 12 Steps

The Twelve Steps are the heart of the OA recovery program. The steps offer a new way of life that enables the compulsive eater to live free from the obsession with and need for excess food. One day at a time, we gain spiritual, emotional, and physical recovery through living and working the Overeaters Anonymous Twelve Step program.

The 12 Traditions

“Overeaters Anonymous has Twelve Traditions which are designed to keep our meetings and service committees on track, functioning in such a way as to nurture the recovery of all compulsive eaters who seek help in this Fellowship.” The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous p.107.

For more information see The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous available from the OA bookstore.

A guide to some OA terms and the Tools of Recovery

  • Abstinence is the action of refraining from compulsive eating and compulsive food behaviours while working towards or maintaining a healthy body weight.
  • Recovery is removal of the need to engage in compulsive eating behaviours. Spiritual, emotional and physical recovery is the result of living and working the OA Twelve Step program on a daily basis.  
  • Plan of eating: This gives us a daily guide to avoid trigger foods and our own particular destructive eating behaviours. A plan of eating—our individual guide to nourishing foods in appropriate portions—is a tool that helps us begin the process of recovery from compulsive eating. A plan of eating may be very specific or general e.g. three meals a day with nothing in between. For more information, see A New Plan of Eating pamphlet available from the OA bookstore.
  • Sponsorship: Sponsors work the program to the best of their ability and walk you through the Twelve Steps. They help you understand each step and work the program in the best way for you – physically, emotionally and spiritually. 
  • Meetings: OA offers more than 6,500 face to face and virtual meetings  worldwide – and in languages other than English. Meetings provide an opportunity for members to share their recovery and for struggling members to gain strength and hope to break the isolation of compulsive eating.
  • Telephone: Members old and new reach out between meetings, for support for ourselves and to offer help to others. Phone calls, texts and emails can help us process those often hard-to-handle highs and lows that can be part of life.
  • Writing: Putting our difficulties down on paper may help us let off steam and see situations more clearly. Some members keep a daily journal or a daily gratitude list; some members write when they feel overwhelmed with emotions.
  • Literature: OA has many books including personal stories, step-study guides and pamphlets to help us understand how to “work the Twelve Steps”. We maintain a strong OA Twelve Step focus by using only Conference Approved Literature (CAL) in meetings.
  • Anonymity: Only an individual OA member has the right to reveal their OA membership. Anonymity ensures our confidence is respected in and out of meetings and safeguards us from gossip. There are no stars in OA – we are one of many members recovering together.
  • Service: Any form of service – no matter how small – may help reach a fellow sufferer while adding to the quality of our recovery. Sharing our recovery with newcomers and each other is an integral part of our Twelve Step journey. Together we get better.
  • Action Plan: This tool helps us plan our day and asks us to be specific about the program action we will take today. Working with an achievable action plan can bring balance and manageability into our lives and helps us work our program consistently.

To find out more
Download the free pamphlet, Where Do I Start? Everything a Newcomer Needs to Know.