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Ask the Experts

Question:

What is your opinion on the effectiveness of overeaters anonymous and do you ever recommend it?

Answered by: Michael Devlin

Thanks for asking. In my experience (mostly indirect, i.e. reports from those with whom I've worked) OA can be very helpful for some individuals with problems related to eating. Of course, it's important to keep in mind that "problems related to eating" encompasses a wide variety of problems including overeating, undereating, binge eating, unhealthy methods of attempting to compensate for eating, etc. That means that each individual needs to figure out how to relate her or his problem to the problems that others are facing, since there may be different approaches that are effective for different problems. Nonetheless, the experience of finding common ground and working together toward a common goal, e.g. healthy eating/lifestyle and healthy self-acceptance can be extremely powerful. I believe that, in some locations, there are OA meetings that are geared toward individuals with eating disorders like bulimia nervosa, but I think it's still important, even in a select group, not to assume that what works for one person may be the right solution for someone else. It is also worth mentioning that the 12-step approach and the concept of a "higher power" however one understands that is something that seems to make a lot of sense to some individuals but does not sit well with others. I am certainly comfortable bringing up OA as an option for patients I believe may benefit. MJD