Overeaters Anonymous describes itself as a "fellowship of individuals who, through shared experience, strength, and hope, are recovering from compulsive overeating." It is an international, nonprofit organization that operates through a network of volunteers.
Its main function is to offer a support system for people trying to overcome compulsive overeating and to spread the message of hope and recovery to those who are suffering in silence.
This Diet Is Best For
There is no diet, but a survey of the program's membership found that OA members are typically middle-aged women who have been struggling with compulsive overeating since their teens.
The program is designed for people who have serious problems controlling their food intake and need the support of people in the same situation. You can determine if you are a compulsive eater who might be helped by the 12-step program by taking OA's questionnaire.
Who Should Not Try This Diet
Overeaters Anonymous is not for someone just trying to lose a few pounds or even for someone who needs to lose quite a bit of weight that was gained through a gradual increase in calorie intake or a drop in activity or both.
This is for people who admit to having serious problems with food and likely have the emotional baggage that comes with that. OA is not for those who may be uncomfortable or disagree with the spiritual and religious aspects of the program.
The organization has no diet plan or diet book, and as a result, there is no calorie counting or recipe exchanging, no sharing of dieting tips, and no membership dues or fees. There currently are about 6,500 groups meeting in more than 65 countries around the world.
Overeaters Anonymous (OA) is completely self-supported through contributions and the sale of publications, one of which is an international monthly magazine called Lifeline, which includes true stories by OA members.
Compulsive overeating is viewed by OA as an addiction, like drinking or gambling, and is treated as such. In fact, the OA program is modeled after the 12-step program for Alcoholics Anonymous, which addresses physical, emotional, and spiritual recovery. The only requirement for becoming a member of OA is a desire to stop eating compulsively.
As with Alcoholics Anonymous, each member has a sponsor, someone who is already a recovering member of OA. There is a strong spiritual component to the group, and members must be willing to "surrender" themselves to God (not a particular god, but their personal concept of a higher power), as the ultimate authority over their destiny.
What's for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner?
There is no diet plan or calorie counting. In fact, no diet recommendations are made at all, except for the encouragement to stop compulsive overeating and to develop a personal eating plan based on your own likes, dislikes, and lifestyle.
In fact, the organization says that "individual plans of eating are as varied as our members." Though every chapter is different, the organization recommends that all members consult a qualified professional for help in creating an individual diet plan.
What the Experts Say
Some experts have reservations about the loosely knit organization and the rule-free atmosphere OA offers. And some argue that while it may make a person feel less guilty about their compulsive eating, it does nothing to address and "fix" the underlying problems. Others, however, say that if it offers much needed support that, alone, may make membership in OA worthwhile.
Because there is no diet plan, there's no way to assess if attending OA meetings will result in weight loss. However, for people who have serious issues with food and a history of compulsive overeating, the group meetings may offer additional support during recovery.
Calorie quota: Because there is no diet plan, there are no daily calorie counts or menu plans.
Yes: Attending meetings, stopping compulsive overeating while following the 12-step program, staying in contact with your sponsor
No: Continuing to compulsively overeat and failing to attend meetings
Other similar diets: Since OA is not really a diet plan, there are no other similar programs. However, it is modeled after the 12-step programs of Alcoholics Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous.
The Richard Simmons Diet has been around for decades, and with much success. Continue to the next page to find out if this is an effective calorie-control diet for seniors.
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