OA Meetings

Overeaters Anonymous is a recovery programme for people who struggle with compulsive eating. The concept of powerlessness over food is central, as are the 12 Steps, adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous. OA is free, but meetings will have a suggested donation to cover the cost of renting the venue, literature, tea, coffee and other essentials. However, no one will be turned away due to lack of funds.


12-step programmes have been adapted for many addictions and are helpful for people who are struggling with addiction. While there aren’t many studies on OA in particular, members do report finding membership helpful.

Who Are Overeaters Anonymous?

Overeaters Anonymous started in Los Angeles, California on January 19th 1960, with a meeting of just three people. Its founder came up with the idea of OA when she attended a meeting of Gamblers Anonymous with a friend in 1958. At this meeting, she came to believe that the stories she heard applied to her struggles with food, and decided to take the 12-step model and apply it to compulsive eating.


There are currently around 6500 OA meetings worldwide in over 75 countries, with 54,000 members.

What do Overeaters Anonymous Provide Help For?

The only requirement for OA membership is a desire to stop eating compulsively. It’s for people struggling with any disordered eating, and despite the name, this includes undereating.


Members of OA may struggle with bingeing, dieting, self-starvation, orthorexia (being overly fixated on ‘healthy’ foods), laxative abuse, or any compulsions around eating and weight management. Overeaters Anonymous is for anyone who feels they have lost control over the way they eat. You don’t need to register to attend OA.


Part of OA is developing your Plan of Eating. This plan is focused on overcoming compulsive eating, not on weight management. OA is not about weight loss or swapping dieting tips – the Plan of Eating is a plan that reflects a desire to achieve abstinence from compulsive eating.

Overeaters Anonymous in the UK

Overeaters Anonymous UK has meetings all over the country, and has its own dedicated website. There you will find UK-specific information and news on OA, and adverts for new events in various regions.

How does Overeaters Anonymous work?

Because OA is based on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous, the 12 Steps are central to the ethos, adapted to focus on compulsive eating. They are:


  • Step one: Admitting your powerlessness over food
  • Step two: Recognising a higher power
  • Step three: Deciding to turn your will and life over to this higher power
  • Step four: Making a fearless moral inventory
  • Step five: Admitting your powerless to yourself, others and your higher power
  • Step six: Getting ready to ask your higher power to remove your shortcomings
  • Step seven: Asking the higher power to remove your shortcomings
  • Step eight: Making a list of those you have wronged to make amends
  • Step nine: Making amends with others, unless this would cause injury to them
  • Step ten: Continuing to take a moral inventory and admitting fault where you were wrong
  • Step eleven: Improving your relationship with your higher power through meditation and prayer
  • Step twelve: Having an awakening as a result of these steps and carrying the message to others.


OA also has 12 Traditions that form a central ethos. These are based on welfare and unity, ensuring that OA meetings are autonomous and ensuring that money or prestige should never divert OA from its primary purpose – recovery. Anonymity is important in OA, and members are bound to be anonymous in any interactions with the press or the media.

Do you need to be religious to join Overeaters Anonymous?


OA states that it isn’t a religious organisation and that people of many faiths and none are members. OA recognises that some who attend struggle with the concept of a power higher than themselves. It encourages people to interpret a higher power in the most comfortable way or not think about it at all if they choose. However, the concept of a higher power is central to OA, and they do ask people to keep an open mind on this subject. For this reason, people who do believe in God or spirituality or are open to the idea may find they have a more natural affinity with Overeaters Anonymous.

What to expect from a typical OA meeting


Meetings last 1-1.5 hours, and there is usually a chance to ask questions or pick up literature before and after. Because meetings are autonomous, they will be quite different, and checking out a few is encouraged to get a feel for the group that fits you best.


Meetings usually open with the Serenity Prayer and a reading. There may be an opening speaker, and you can introduce yourself if you want to.


Confidentiality is critical to OA, ensuring members can speak freely and honestly. Members will share their stories, both to unburden themselves and to offer hope and insight to other members.

The benefits of OA meetings


Overeaters Anonymous has a low barrier to entry – you don’t need to register with them, and meetings are funded by donations. OA is also completely anonymous, meaning whatever you share is confidential.


OA provides fellowship and community, which is helpful for people who have suffered from feelings of shame and isolated themselves in their addiction. OA can also provide purpose, with veteran members being able to become sponsors in order to help others. The stories shared at OA can help you to feel less alone, and help others to feel less alone.

How to get the most out of OA meetings


Keeping an open mind can help you find your feet at OA, as well as perseverance – OA recommends attending at least six meetings to find out how OA can best help you. Because of their focus on autonomy, meetings can be a little different depending on the group you attend.


OA is very flexible, so feel free to check out a few local meetings or attend one of their online options.

Finding OA meetings near me


You can find OA meetings UK-wide by visiting Overeaters Anonymous’s website and meetings can be conducted face-to-face, online or by telephone. There are even non-real-time OA online meetings that allow you to speak to other members at your own pace. These meetings take the form of bulletins or email loops, message boards, social media pages and mobile apps. There are OA WhatsApp groups you can join if they apply to you, such as their dedicated OA for Carers group, for anyone who struggles with compulsive eating and also has caregiving responsibilities for another person.


OA’s ‘find a meeting’ function allows you to search by postcode, and many meetings are available all across the UK. However, due to their flexibility, you will still be able to access OA even if there are no face-to-face meetings in your area.

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(Click here to see works cited)

  • OA Great Britain. (n.d.). What is Overeaters Anonymous? [online] Available at: https://www.oagb.org.uk/about-us/.
  • Russell-Mayhew, S., von Ranson, K.M. and Masson, P.C. (2010). How does overeaters anonymous help its members? A qualitative analysis. European Eating Disorders Review, 18(1), pp.33–42. doi:https://doi.org/10.1002/erv.966.
  • OA Great Britain. (n.d.). Healthcare Professionals. [online] Available at: https://www.oagb.org.uk/healthcare-professionals/.
  • www.oagb.org.uk. (n.d.). OA News and Events – OA Great Britain. [online] Available at: https://www.oagb.org.uk/up-coming-events/ [Accessed 29 May 2024].
  • OA Great Britain. (n.d.). What are the 12 Steps of OA? [online] Available at: https://www.oagb.org.uk/what-are-the-12-steps-of-oa/.