9 choices every OA needs to make every day

We compulsive eaters are powerless against food. Once we take the first bite, we lose the power of choice in eating, as well as in many other aspects of our lives. We come undone when we eat compulsively, and our disease takes us on a nightmarish roller coaster we seem unable to step off of.

That means that in OA we have many, many important choices to make to keep ourselves on the path of sanity, clarity, and serenity. Here are some of the most important of those choices that OAs face every day.

1. Am I choosing to acknowledge the truth about my food addiction?

We food addicts are great at denial. We’ve been telling ourselves for years or decades that  we’re going to get our eating under control any day now. That this will be the last diet program we ever need. That if we just exercised, the weight would come off. That our doctor doesn’t know what he’s talking about. That the aching in our knees or back aren’t caused by our weight. Deep down inside, we know the truth, but we don’t want to admit it.

2. Am I choosing to consider this a killing disease?

So maybe we eat too much and can’t stop. So what? We’re probably just exaggerating the problem. We’re making too much of it. So maybe our A1C is nearing diabetic levels. Plenty of people live with diabetes. So maybe we’ve had chest pains from time to time. Could just be anxiety. So maybe we’ve wondered if life is worth continuing the way we’re going. Surely everyone thinks that at some point. A killing disease? Aren’t those OA people exaggerating?

No. We’re not.

3. Am I choosing to be in OA?

There’s a difference between being a member and being in OA. Claiming membership is very simple, and our Traditions tell us that the only requirement for membership in OA is a desire to stop eating compulsively. Being in OA means we are fully engaging with the program as best we can given our level of experience.

4. Am I choosing to attend meetings?

An old OA saying tells us that meetings are the first thing to go, and the food is the last thing to go. If life gets busy, are we making time to make meetings? Do we go even if we’re tired or would rather do something else? Those impulses to stay away one day at a time often indicate that we need a meeting much more than we realize. For newcomers unsure if they are in the right place or old-timers with only one foot in the door, our collective experience suggests that we might attend meetings until we are certain we are in the right place or until we are ready to drag the other foot back through into door.

5. Am I choosing abstinence?

Abstaining from our binge/trigger foods is one of the big points of OA. But abstinence is more than what we eat, it’s our mindset about our eating. It’s acting one day at a time on the belief that we won’t eat no matter what, and no matter what we won’t eat. It’s also using OA’s 9 tools and letting the fellowship support our abstinence instead of going it alone.

6. Am I choosing to do OA’s 12 Steps?

Many of us get scared by one or more of the Steps. We get hung up on the wording or hear internalize other people’s fear of them and stop in our tracks. But the Steps of OA are the program. They are what get us better. We must do them in order to recover, and they are not an a la carte menu. We do them, in order, and with the help of our God so that we can be well again. Without the Steps, we’re just doing another diet program.

7. Am I choosing to abide by and protect OA’s 12 Traditions?


The Traditions are to meetings what the Steps are to individual members. They are a set of principles for action that allow our organization to function safely and sanely. They also arise out of experience, not out of someone’s fanciful ideas. If we want OA to be around for us, we need to abide by and protect the Traditions as those before us have done. If not, then we will repeat the same mistakes that led to their creation in the first place! We need OA healthy and thriving so that we can be healthy and thriving. So we ask ourselves: Do I know the Traditions? Have I studied them? Am I willing to stand up for them when it’s time?

8. Am I choosing to help others who still suffer?

The most important person in OA is the newcomer. They are the lifeblood of OA. They also help our recoveries. When we help another, we get much of the benefit. Are we “too busy” to help someone? If so could that mean we are too busy to help ourselves? Self-sacrifice, as our OA literature reminds us, is part of this program.

9. Am I choosing to support OA by doing service?

Let’s be honest. Service is an issue in our area. Are we raising our hands, volunteering to do service of any sort when the call is issued? Do we speak when asked? Do we carry the bag or the key? Do we do the honor of serving our group as an Intergroup rep? Do we act as speaker seeker or treasurer for our meeting? Do we volunteer to support initiatives at the Intergroup level? We each have many helpful skills and talents that might support any number of helpful OA opportunities to carry the message to still-suffering compulsive eaters. We might ask ourselves why aren’t we doing service? What fear or resentment keeps us from saying yes? Why might we be content to let a small number of others do the work of OA for us?

OA is a program designed to help us make better choices with our food and our life. And these nine choices we make every day are crucial to our recovery.

Tradition of the Month: #4 and how food and autonomy

4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or OA as a whole. 

What in the world does this Tradition have to do with our food? What does it have to do with maintaining our abstinence? As it turns out, plenty. Tradition Four has much in common with Steps Three, Six, Seven, and Ten. All these Steps help us address a key aspect of the cycle of addiction.

Let’s be specific. The wheel of addiction turns and turns and runs us over. Every time we eat compulsively, we start out to give ourselves ease and comfort about a feeling we have. The Big Book famously says these feelings are usually restlessness, irritability, and discontentedness. It also tells us that resentment, anger, and fear are root-level issues for us addicts. Once we have a feeling, we start obsessing about dampening that feeling. Then we go about the usual stages of compulsive eating: the first bite, physical cravings, remorse, and a resolution to never do it again, which we forsake as soon as we have another feeling. If we could only deal with the feelings when they arise, we’d have a puncher’s chance!

Now, in Step 3, we decide that we aren’t in control anymore, God is. We’re going to let HP call the shots. After we do inventory, we arrive at Steps 6 and 7, where we decide we are ready to have God remove what’s objectionable, and then ask for its removal. As we begin making amends, we also start the daily practice of Step 10, where we ask God to remove new resentments and to help us maintain the code of kindness, love, and tolerance toward others.

In other words, these Steps help us see that to recover, we must surrender control, ask to have our angry, fearful, and judging natures changed, and ask that we live in harmony with others as best we can. That is how our feelings become less dangerous to us.

Now comes Tradition 4. It’s basically telling us that, in terms of how meetings conduct themselves, our code is “Live and let live.” Which isn’t easy! Why not? Because we are used to doing the opposite of Steps 3, 6, 7, and 10. We try to control situations. We don’t want our defects of character removed because we either aren’t convinced we have any, or we think we can’t live successfully without them. We don’t live by the code of kindness, love, and tolerance because the world is mean and unfair to us, and it can go screw itself while we take from it what we’re owed.

Once we engage with recovery, we no longer have the luxury of sitting back and judging others (and their meetings) then gossiping about them. Even if we disagree with someone(s), we must do so with love and honesty. And not the kind of honesty that’s designed to spit in their eye while we share “our truth” with them.

Instead, we ask God to help us assess the situation. If we believe our meeting is going against Tradition, then we ask HP to give us the words to lovingly question whether the meeting is doing the right thing. If we believe another meeting is going against Tradition, we ask HP to show us whether their actions will harm other meetings or OA as a whole before we take any action. We discuss all of this with a trusted OA friend to make sure we’re not power driving.

If the meeting isn’t harming other meetings or OA as a whole, we have one important to do: nothing. It’s not our business to tell a meeting what to do. Nor is it our business to worry about it. Steps 3, 6, 7, and 10 basically tell us that the problem is with us, not with the other person(s). It’s out of our control, we need to be rid of the defects of character that we are engaging in the situation, and we need to be sure our conduct isn’t causing harm. With Tradition 4, we are putting the principles into action.

Release from worry. From anger. Ask how God will fix it. The answer may be that it doesn’t need fixing, we do. In which case, we’ve learned an ultra valuable lesson about our own natures, and we can ask God how to fix us so that our feelings don’t send us back to the food.

Traveling in OA…food planning on the road

With Thanksgiving coming up, many of us will be traveling to friends or family for a day, two, maybe even a week of visiting. Others of us travel frequently for business…or pleasure. It reminds us of that eternal question: How do I use a food plan when I don’t necessarily know what will be served?

The answer, as it turns out, is different for every OA member. In part, of course, because we all have an individual food plan. But also, in part, because we all need different levels of structure.

For some of us, eating away from home can be an open invitation to the higher quantities our disease desires. Or to eating some of our “yellow-light” foods: ones we don’t eat frequently because they call to us sometimes, but that we don’t react to as insanely as our “red-light” foods. For others the lack of structure can feel frightening by itself. Doing things a little loosy-goosey threatens the firm boundaries we rely on.

So we each have to work out with our Higher Power and our sponsor what will work for us. There are, however, a variety of strategies that we hear in meetings that we may able to adopt or adapt for our own situations. Here’s a few:

Strategize with a sponsor before leaving.
Failure to plan is planning to fail. Talking to our sponsor before we depart and developing a strategy for the trip is a great way to bring a sense of structure to the journey.

Call ahead, when possible, to see what the menu will be.
Especially when visiting loved ones and friends, we can easily call to see what will be on the menu. If we’re concerned little or nothing will meet our needs, we can not attend, or we can ask if we can bring something we can eat.

Check out eateries along the way in advance.
We can plan where we want to stop if we are driving. The internet allows us to search out and check the menus of eateries before we leave. If we are going on an extended vacation, we can look into restaurants around our hotel or the area we are visiting to ensure we have someplace to get the food we need.

Bring food in the car/plane/train just in case.
Having a small snack item might be a saving grace if we are caught in awful traffic, sitting on a runway, or what have you and unable to eat our scheduled meal. Whatever that small item is, we tell our sponsor about it and keep it in reserve for an emergency.

Don’t always eat out.
If we are renting a house or have a hotel room with a fridge or a small galley, we may be able to buy the food we usually eat and keep it handy. That reduces our eating out and increases the structure we’ll have.

Use a 3-0-1 plan and don’t touch binge foods.
This is the first plan listed in the “Dignity of Choice” pamphlet. If we truly don’t know what our food choices will be, we can keep things simple by committing to three moderate meals a day, nothing in between, one day at a time, and no binge foods.

Stay in touch with a sponsor.
Just because we leave town doesn’t mean we leave our sponsors behind. We may need them more than ever while traveling. Even if we can’t call them without risking our anonymity, we can certainly text or email, both of which are silent. Also, if something is bugging us that may lead us to eat, staying in touch with a sponsor will help us avoid eating over feelings.

Be sure to do a 10th Step inventory at night.
The rationale here is to ensure that we check in our eating. Did we respond to anything in our day by making excuses based on our circumstances while traveling to eat compulsively? Is there anything that occurred during the day that we need to deal with before we might eat compulsively tomorrow?

Most important of all, however, is that we trust and rely on our Higher Power. Many times traveling brings with it stressors such as traffic, lost luggage, or simply the strangeness of being away from home. If visiting family and friends, we may feel ill-at-ease being a houseguest or longstanding conflicts may rear up. In many cases, we may be visiting our eating buddies. Our old way of dealing with these things was to eat for ease and comfort. Now we are in the business of trusting and relying on God. We replace food with God. We sit with difficult feelings and situations, knowing that by not reacting to them with extreme actions or with compulsive eating, we will be OK. We accept a little discomfort now in exchange for keeping the abstinence that allows us to be sane in this world.

Strong Abstinence Checklist

OA's Strong Abstinence Checklist

OA’s Strong Abstinence Checklist

2014 is SeacoastOA’s Year of Abstinence. As if on cue, OA World Service recently passed along an excellent tool, the Strong Abstinence Checklist. Click the link to download a printable PDF.

The Strong Abstinence Checklist includes twelve questions that remind us of the actions we can take to get and keep our abstinence. It also includes twelve questions for written reflection.

Here’s four ways you might find it immediately useful:

  1. Assess your abstinence anytime, anywhere
  2. Ask your sponsor to work through it with you
  3. Work through it with a sponsee to support their abstinence
  4. Use one of its questions as the topic in a discussion-format meeting.

This checklist has been added to our website and can be found on our Recovery Resources page. Please feel free to distribute it at your meetings—it is OA approved.


2014: Year of Abstinence

141_Commitment-to-AbstSeacoast Intergroup has made 2014 The Year of Abstinence in our area.

Just what does this mean to for current members and newcomers? It means we are providing special opportunities to explore abstinence from compulsive eating and food addiction in new ways that may help your recovery, whether you are new to the idea, getting abstinent, newly abstinent, or abstinent for many twenty-four hours in a row.

Here are four actions Seacoast Intergroup is taking. We’ll have more information as details become available.

The new Thursday night Portsmouth meeting is focused on abstinence and features speakers describing what they were like, how they got abstinent, and how they maintain it. (See this flyer or visit our meetings page for more details.)

Our 12th Step Within Drive helps you pass on the message of abstinence and recovery to others, and working the 12th Step is vital to maintaining our abstience! Call someone you haven’t seen at a meeting lately on the 12th of every month…or any day of the month! (See this flyer for ideas.) Pass it on!

SeacoastOA.wordpress.com is the new site for our Intergroup. It’s friendlier and more navigable than our old site, and it allows us to inform you of what’s going on more quickly and easily. We’ve also got a lot of great resources for your recovery and for the health of your meetings. Got a resource you’d like us to add? Just email us!

We will soon be announcing the details of two incredible, abstinence-focused one-day workshops that Seacoast Intergroup will be hosting this summer. Both will be facilitated by wonderful, experienced OA members from elsewhere in Region 6, and no one will not want to miss these events. More will be revealed very soon, so stay on the edge of your seat. Just know that there may be limited space available. We will be opening this opportunity up to members of neighboring intergroups as well, but Seacoast Intergroup members will have the first chance to reserve a seat!