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Abstainers and Maintainers

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I’ve been thinking that a list of the common characteristics among longtime abstainers and maintainers in Overeaters Anonymous might be very revealing and helpful. In my mind, I picture all these members attributing everything on the list below to working the program—the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions—into their daily lives:

They have a healthy and conscious relationship with a loving Higher Power greater than themselves, and they maintain that relationship on a daily basis.

They like themselves, at least most of the time.

They don’t diet.

They don’t weigh themselves every day.

They don’t judge themselves for the mistakes they make with food or for their body weight, because they know that these are health issues, not moral issues.

They have some kind of structure for their food—some kind of plan as to what, when, where, and how they eat.

They never have to reward themselves with food because it has never been about deprivation for them. It’s about freely choosing what they eat.

They remain willing to go to any length to maintain their recovery.

They have learned to take the disease very seriously, but not themselves.

They have the joyful ability to be able to laugh at themselves and their mistakes.

They have learned how to be gentle with themselves, so they are able to be gentle with others a good deal of the time.

They enjoy themselves and what they eat, at least most of the time.

They have a positive outlook on life and are not consumed by fear and negativity, though they may experience this at times.

They see their lives as having a purpose.

They are to a very large extent honest with themselves and others.

They know there is nothing to be condemned, only things needing correction.

They exercise on a regular basis.

They eat the same foods most of the time.

They feel comfortable about their bodies.

They go to multiple meetings per week.

They are involved with OA and therefore feel part of OA.

They give back in whatever way they can what has so freely been given them.

They abstain from or eat very little sugar, salt, fat, or flour.

They pray every day.

They hold no reservation in the backs of their minds that someday they will return to eating like a normal person.

They are attentive and welcoming to newcomers.

I’m a longtimer myself. I entered OA Feb 4, 1981, at 210 pounds (95 kg), got a sponsor quickly, and started working the Steps immediately. I came down to my present weight of 154 pounds (70 kg) in the first five months and have been maintaining close to that weight ever since. All credit goes to my Higher Power, who has gifted me with physical, spiritual, and emotional recovery, which I believe is the direct result of working the Steps.

— Terry F., Santa Fe, New Mexico USA

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