Founded in 1960, Overeaters Anonymous was initially established to address overeating however it now addresses three timely and increasingly prevalent categories of addictive eating disorders including anorexia, bulimia and compulsive eating. Overeaters Anonymous philosophy is to assist its members in stopping their use of food as a means to change their emotional state and addictive behaviors while adopting a new philosophy of life through a 12-Step program.
Like many of the most prolific self-help and 12-Step programs available today, Overeaters Anonymous has closely patterned itself after the structure and philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous. OA’s 12-Steps are like those followed in AA however the terms alcohol and alcoholic are substituted with food and compulsive eater. However, a significant disparity between the two programs as it is revealed in the research is that OA has more recognizably worked to sustain its emphasis on the program’s spiritual basis while AA has gradually moved to a more secular format and focus.
This aspect of OA’s historical development has major implications for its role as both a ministry and therapeutic resource. For example, while Overeaters Anonymous fairly emphasizes the physical and emotional elements of addiction recovery, which contributes to its value in therapeutic interventions, it more importantly stresses the spiritual elements of addiction and recovery, which makes participation in its program conducive to application and integration with religion-based intervention and counseling.