Overeaters anonymous, or OA, is a group movement in which those who have a compulsive eating disorder offer each other support and fellowship with the goal of not overeating. OA doesn't promote any specific diet approach; the basis of the program is abstaining from the behavior of compulsive eating.
Overeaters Anonymous Overview
The official organization defines OA as a fellowship of individuals who are recovering from compulsive overeating. The body weight of members can differ from obese to underweight, but all members share compulsive eating behaviors. Some behaviors can include laxative use, vomiting after eating, eating binges, obsession with weight and food, and use of diet pills and quick-fix diet schemes.
Diet and OA
Abstaining from the damaging behavior is the foundation of the OA program’s philosophy. Members are to admit they are unable to control the behavior and work to completely eliminate the compulsion one day at a time. OA does not promote dieting strategies and cautions against restrictive diets that can exacerbate the tendency to overeat. The OA program is similar to the “12 Step” programs in place for other addictions. In step 1, according to 12step.org, the members must admit powerlessness over their addiction -- food, for overeaters -- and admit that their lives have become unmanageable.
Balanced Diet Recommendations
Adopting a balanced, healthy diet is important for normalizing weight and changing food behaviors. In the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends limiting solid fats, added sugars and refined grains. Further, the guidelines encourage eating nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, seafood and lean meats. Beans, peas, nuts and seeds are also an important part of a healthy balanced diet.
Overall, to prevent obesity or lose weight, you must eat fewer calories or expend more calories through physical activity or both. According to Dr. Walter Willett, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard University School of Public Health, replacing refined grains with unsaturated, or healthy, fats can improved blood cholesterol levels and lower triglycerides and thereby cut your risk of heart disease.
Portion control is also important in changing eating patterns, and measuring out all your portions for a week is a great start in learning and gauging appropriate food portions.
Healthy Eating Behavior
Healthy eating involves both the nutritional quality of your food and the way you experience eating. Eating is often social, and food should be enjoyed mindfully, in the company of others. Michelle May, medical doctor and mindful eating expert, explains on her website that “many people who struggle with food react mindlessly to their unrecognized or unexamined triggers, thoughts and feelings.” May suggests that adopting mindful eating increases your awareness of your triggers and eating patterns. This awareness can help you to improve both eating habits and weight.
The Oldways Preservation Trust, an organization promoting the consumption of real foods and positive heritage-oriented eating habits, emphasizes that for better health, you should eating slowly, with others, and in a relaxed setting.