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What do you think about OA? (Overeaters Anonymous)

By May 25, 2012

I am 42 years old and have been binging & dieting for too long. I am getting very depressed each time I binge again. My weight can fluctuate 20 pounds in 3 weeks. It is becoming unbearable. I have been and still am seeing a therapist, she is not specialized in ED’s, so I also went to see an ED therapist. I am going to start with group therapy for now, I think it will help me to share with others. The group is in a process to be created, so in the meantime I have been attending OA meetings. It has been a week now. I am a little bit concerned about their way with coping with the disease. They talk about abstinence. Flour and sugar is not a part of the diet anymore. To tell you the truth I do not think it is a solution for me. The word ‘abstinence’ scares me. They measure and weigh all of their food. For now it suits me to attend the meeting and listen to others who have the same problem, although sometimes I feel they speak to much about the physical aspect of the disease and not enough about the psychological aspect. What do you think about overeaters anonymous? – Isabelle

Dear Isabelle,

You raise an interesting question concerning the value of Overeaters Anonymous. I have respect for the Twelve Step program, but it does have some limitations. The program of Alcoholics Anonymous has been nothing short of miraculous for sufferers of alcoholism. Sometimes the concept of abstinence has difficulty translating to food issues, however. Within the OA program, there are several definitions of abstinence. Some define it as refraining from overeating. Some find that three meals and two snacks per day is a workable definition of abstinence. And some OA members are successful when restricting sugar and white flour, although that approach can actually promote the binge-starve cycle in others.

Sometimes too many rules about eating can tempt us to rebel. Declaring some foods as forbidden may be overwhelming for some people. Other people find that they need stricter definitions for abstinence. There is a saying in the Twelve step program – “Take what you need and leave the rest.” In other words, discover what IS helpful for you. Perhaps the spiritual emphasis of the program will be helpful to you. Or maybe the fellowship with others who struggle is affirming to you. Maybe OA can be one part of an overall approach that will be successful for you.

Find what works for you and never give up. We know dieting doesn’t work. It sounds like you are really tired of the cycle of gaining and losing. As you may know “yo-yo” weight changes are detrimental to our health. OA emphasizes how important it is not to get too hungry, angry, lonely or tired. That is the time to HALT. There are other great concepts in OA as well, like learning to eat to live, not live to eat.

FINDINGbalance has an online support program for all eating and image issues, without the restrictions. Check it out: Lasting Freedom. Also, peruse our articles in the Eat Well, Live Well section to understand and learn more about our approach to healthy eating.

My suggestion to you, Isabelle, is to use all the tools you can to learn to have a new relationship with food. It sounds like you are seeking out a variety of resources. Good for you. Perhaps your new journey is like learning a new language. As you know, there are many layers to learn. And only time and practice make us more comfortable. You can do it. Keep in touch.

Warmly,
Fb Team