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I wonder if the Overeaters Anonymous Fellowship took a wrong turn back near the beginning. Like AA, we kept our program one of suggestions rather than requirements. But abstinence in AA is clear-cut: don’t drink alcohol. Abstinence in OA is vague and unspecified: “the action of refraining from compulsive eating and compulsive food behaviors while working towards or maintaining a healthy body weight.” Just what does it mean to refrain from compulsion in eating and food behaviors? Just what is a healthy body weight? As long as we’re the ones deciding what these terms mean, we’re defining our own versions of abstinence.

If we do as Step One states and admit we are powerless over food, then how can we be expected to come up with our own plan of eating? Deciding our plan of eating, defining “compulsive eating and compulsive food behaviors,” defining “healthy body weight”—as long as we are trying to do these ourselves, we’re attempting the impossible. We are powerless over food; therefore, we have to relinquish all food choices to someone else.

The healthiest way I can imagine doing this is to depend on a dietician, nutritionist, or doctor to prescribe a plan of eating for me; ask my physician, with no input from me, to define a healthy weight for me; commit all my food in advance to another person who understands my powerlessness over food; and rely on other people who understand powerlessness to make any in-the-moment food decisions for me. These are the things I do. These are the things every member following the OA-HOW two-hour format does (although how to determine a healthy weight has yet to be included in our format). With all food decisions out of my hands—categories, portion sizes, meal components, and things that come up in the moment—I no longer hold endless debates in my head about when any given meal begins or ends. I am grateful to share a definition of black-and-white abstinence with my fellows following this meeting format.

I am grateful that they, along with my dietician and doctor, take food decisions out of my hands—and out of my head. In my head, I can’t make sane decisions about food. Thankfully, I don’t have to: my doctor, my dietician, and my fellows do it for me. This might seem restrictive, just as AA is restrictive in expecting its members to refrain from drinking alcohol, but since I can’t make sane food choices on my own, it’s not restrictive at all. It is freeing. Following this format, I, along with hundreds of others, am free from active food addiction. Come join us at an OA-HOW special-topic meeting.

— John-Eric R., Weybridge, Vermont USA

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