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Overeaters Anonymous is a non-profit, member-run organization that offers support and encouragement for people with eating disorders. The program incorporates a 12-step guideline for recovery, very similar to the one at the core of other addiction-focused organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Meetings are open to all people who believe they have problems with food, be they specific medical disorders such as bulimia or general tendencies to overindulge. Through group support, personal sponsorships, and adherence to the 12 steps, an individual can learn how to overcome their disorders and lead healthy, productive lifestyles.
Since its inception in 1960, Overeaters Anonymous has helped countless men and women around the world come to terms with their destructive habits. Groups are organized and facilities are maintained by the members themselves; no outside funding is accepted. The organization does not charge fees, but it does ask for donations from members at each meeting in order to pay the bills.
Most 12-step programs emphasize the importance of complete abstinence from the addicting substance or activity. Since it is impossible to wholly abstain from food, Overeaters Anonymous instead promotes abstinence from compulsive eating behaviors. The program helps people understand they are powerless over their eating habits, but with enough determination and enlightenment they can overcome unhealthy behaviors.
Spirituality is considered an integral part of the Overeaters Anonymous 12-step program, though no specific god or spiritual path is promoted as the one right way. People of any religion, or no religion at all, can learn to embrace the concept of a higher power that can help them overcome their addictions. A member is certainly welcome to ask for help in establishing a relationship with a higher power, but the ultimate decision about what to believe in is an individual's own choice.
Overeaters Anonymous does not claim to be an alternative to medical intervention or weight loss programs. It is simply a supplementary support group, where people can discuss their experiences with others in the hopes of helping newcomers develop essential living skills. People are still encouraged to follow their doctor's orders and seek professional help in the event of a life-threatening condition.
A person who is interested in attending an Overeaters Anonymous meeting can find out about local chapters by performing a quick Internet search or by asking for information at a dietary clinic or doctor's office. In large cities, it is usually easy to find meetings any day of the week being held at community buildings, churches, and even private households. Most meetings are open to the public and last about one hour. It is common for newcomers to be nervous about sharing openly with strangers, but established members are generally very sincere in welcoming those who truly want help.