As a healthcare professional, you may be seeking additional or alternative support for the people in your care with eating disorders. The following information is intended to give an overview of Overeaters Anonymous (OA) and help you decide whether the programme is suitable for signposting.
What is OA and how is it different from what is offered elsewhere?
Overeaters Anonymous offers a program of recovery from compulsive eating and compulsive food behaviours. We use the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of OA which are based on the same steps and traditions used in Alcoholics Anonymous.
The Twelve Steps have worked for those with a variety of eating problems, including overeating, binge eating, undereating, anorexia, compulsive exercising and bulimia.
The only requirement to join OA is a desire to stop eating compulsively. There are no subscriptions or fees and you do not need to live in any specific area.
There is no one way to work the OA programme. While the twelve steps are the same for everyone, people in OA can go through those steps differently.
Is OA staffed by medical professionals?
OA is fully self supporting and nonprofessional. The meetings are run and managed by other people with disordered eating who are working the twelve steps.
While some of us may be medical professionals (including therapists, dieticians or counsellors) we do not bring this experience into OA. We attend OA in a personal capacity, not a professional one.
This is a peer support programme where compulsive eaters support each other based on shared experience, strength and hope.
OA claims no nutritional expertise. Some people choose to follow a food plan as a tool to help with their recovery but some do not. We recommend that members seek the advice of medical and nutritional professionals for guidance and for approval of a plan of eating should they choose to follow one.
How would OA work with the support I provide?
The OA programme is a resource which can enhance existing treatment programmes. Some people are able to find recovery from their disordered eating behaviours through OA alone, but many also seek support from a variety of medical professionals.
Because there is no one way to work the OA programme, it has the ability to be complementary to a variety of more traditional medical interventions if need be.
What does anonymous mean in OA?
Anonymity allows each member the freedom and safety to develop personal honesty, accountability and responsibility about his or her actions. Position or status has no relevance in OA; we are all compulsive eaters and we all have an equal voice.
Nobody in OA keeps a log or register of who is working the programme.
In meetings people identify themselves by their first name only, but people can choose to use a pseudonym if that makes them feel more comfortable.
We encourage people to share their contact details with other members of OA so they can reach out in between meetings, but people do not need to give over personal or contact details unless they feel comfortable to do so.
Can anyone attend an OA meeting? Could I go to one with my client even if I’m not a compulsive eater?
The only requirement for OA membership is a desire to stop eating compulsively but meetings can be either open or closed.
A closed meeting is exclusively for those who see themselves as a compulsive eater. In open meetings, friends, family members or other people are able to attend but normally they are only permitted to listen and not contribute to the discussions. The OA website lists which meetings are open or closed but if you’re not sure, contact the group directly and ask.
I think I know someone who would be interested in OA, where do they start? How do I signpost or refer to you?
OA does not take formal referrals from medical teams but anyone who wants to stop eating compulsively and achieve freedom from food obsession is very welcome to attend any of our meetings. To find your nearest meeting please go to our online Meetings List.
Alternatively we have a wide range of literature which can be located at the OAGB literature shop including packs and resources specifically for newcomers.
I have more questions about OA and how it might help the people in my care, who can I speak to?
If you would like any more information about OA in the South and East of England, please contact our Professional Outreach Officer on firstname.lastname@example.org. They would be delighted to hear from you and help in any way they can.
Should you wish to find out more about our work with Professionals in general, please visit our World Service Website which contains more detailed information and resources.