My Problem with Overeaters Anonymous

“How we see ourselves determines how we treat ourselves.”

– Kimberly Taylor

One practice Overeaters Anonymous (OA) promotes highlights a problem I have with the 12-step program.

Why am I writing about OA? I’ve received emails from readers asking me what I think about it.

Sleepy Eater

Many years ago, I participated in Overeaters Anonymous for a while – before I became a believer in Christ.

While I am sure the program helps some people, it did not help me when I was a member.

Now I know why.

It violates a key Biblical principle at its core. Let me explain.

Problem #1: A Negative Confession

I had to stand up each meeting and say, “I’m Kim and I am a Compulsive Overeater.” It was fine at first, but then I started to become depressed. Then I noticed something else:

In my group were women who had been attending the meetings for 12, 9, 7 years – and they didn’t appear to have any healthier relationship with food than I did.

Instead, they were obsessed with food in the opposite direction – overly restrictive, bordering on anorexia.

I asked myself, “Where is the victory, the peace, the praise?” I could not see myself still attending meetings for 10 years, but not getting anywhere.

So I quit going.

Now I know the problem was one of identity.

Problem #2: Reinforcing Fear

The Bible says that our God is one who calls those things that do not exist as though they did (see Romans 4:17). He declares the end of a thing from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10).

So by continuing to confess myself as a “Compulsive Overeater,” all I was doing was reinforcing that oppressed identity mentally.

Confession means “to say the same.” In confessing myself as a compulsive overeater, with whom was I agreeing? The Lord or the enemy?

Even when I wasn’t bingeing on food, this identity made me fearful of a relapse. I felt doomed to remain helpless to food addiction.

That was bondage – not the freedom that Jesus promises!

God’s Way: “A Future and a Hope”

Because God declares the end of a thing from the beginning, the Biblical way of confession would be to say what God says: “I’m Kim and I’m a RECOVERED overeater.”

So the Lord sees us as complete in Christ, regardless of our current behavior.

As we learn to see ourselves through His eyes and through the Holy Spirit working within us, our character becomes conformed to the image of Jesus over time.

God exists in Eternity, so time does not limit Him as it limits us. The Lord can see all of our days before one of them comes to be (Psalm 139:16).

One of my favorite scriptures is Jeremiah 29:11:

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

I see the Bible as full of the Lord’s promises for His people. Isn’t it wonderful that the Creator of the universe wants us to have a personal relationship with Him?

If we believe Him, His word has the power to set us free.

My freedom came when I took that step of belief, anchored myself in Jesus and renewed my mind to His Word.

Today, I don’t live in fear of a relapse and I can eat any food I want.

Each person ultimately has to make the decision as to how they will live. I chose to put my trust in the Lord to deliver me from compulsive overeating back in 2003.

Today, I am overjoyed to say that my trust in Him was rewarded!

Be blessed in health, healing and wholeness,

Kimberly Taylor

Author of the Take Back Your Temple program

P.S. Do you struggle with eating too much sugar? If so, you are not alone!

Overcoming sugar addiction was a key factor on my journey to losing 85 pounds and dropping from a size 22 to a size 8.

In our 14-day Sugar Detox Challenge online course (inside the the Take Back Your Temple program), you’ll get the same success strategies and support to gain peace in your eating habits and achieve lasting weight loss success.

Click here to learn more about the Take Back Your Temple program.

About the author 

Kimberly Taylor

Kimberly Taylor is a certified Christian life coach and has a heart to help others struggling with emotional eating and weight loss. Once 240 pounds and a size 22, she can testify of God’s goodness and healing power to overcome. She lost 85 pounds as a result of implementing techniques to overcome emotional eating and binge eating disorder.

Kim is the author of "The Take Back Your Temple Program," which teaches Christians how to take control of their weight God's way and the books "The Weight Loss Scriptures" and "The Weight Loss Prayers."

Kim has been featured in Prevention Magazine, Charisma Magazine and on CBN’s 'The 700 Club' television program.

  • I left Christianity due to the similarities in approach between it & OA, where a negative self-image was reinforced and the focus was not on the promise of hope and freedom offered by the Lord.

  • hi Kim, my name is Cathy, and you are soooo true!! about a lot of things you have said about OA that I totally agree with !!…I am being led by the Holy Spirit to step out on faith and do something very similar to what you did….I am sooooo excited! about what the power of God will do for believers through me….a servant. Lord willing, I will talk to you or even meet you one day.
    In Jesus name
    Sincerely& Respectfully
    Cathy Ann Ellington
    President, O’s house

  • Amen We are over comers in Christ and have the victory ! I agree we need to be careful what we make agreements with ! Great read Kimberly!
    Blessings, Diana

  • That was so amazingly worded!!! It blessed me!!! Everything in God’s Word is true!!! Blessings, Jill S.

  • My problem with OA is that it teaches people to seek the god of their own understanding. There is only one higher power, the God of the Bible, the creator of the universe. The created cannot define the creator. Many atheists in OA would say that their higher power was the light on the wall or that the group was their higher power. Well, I’m a part of the group, and I’m not a part of any higher power! If one is relying on a counterfeit god, it is from Satan.

  • Another excellent article Kimberly!
    This information makes me think of a truth we talked about in our ladies bible study. There are facts i.e. being addicted, over weight, etc… and there are TRUTHS which is what God speaks over us through His promises and declarations in the Bible. Truth always trumps the facts!
    Jeremiah 29:11 is one of my favorite scriptures too!!

    • Yes, Vicky – exactly right about the difference between facts and truth – and to magnify truth about facts! I appreciate the feedback, Sister!

  • Oh Kim, what a blessing to read this! I deal with binge eating at night so I ‘joined’ OA. Purchased ‘The Big Book’, connected with a sponsor. I find ‘The Big Book’ does not set well with me as I’ve been a Christian for many years and there’s only ONE Bible or even book that warrents studying line by line. There’s also one God who is available through Jesus Christ only! Of course OA leaves all this out. I’m needing to utilize scripture and power of Holy Spirit to get my eating addiction under control……this I know. I’ve downloaded your book(somewhere in my computer)and am praying it helps. Thank you!

    • Hi Ronda – thank you for your feedback! So many things are bound up in food issues – from believing the enemy’s lies about ourselves, to emotional attachment to food, to fear that we would be left without comfort, can’t handle life without numbing ourselves to it, to structural changes that occur in our brains in response to practicing food addiction.

      Only a relationship with Jesus has the power to change hearts and only His word has the power to change minds. A diet can’t get to the heart of these matters but our Lord can!

  • I have an eating addiction; I am not an eating addiction. I have diabetes and treat it; I am not diabetes. Big difference and it is all about identity. I also have issues with the patriarchal approach, the inherent shaming of ourselves, insisting we can’t trust ourselves or our inner GPS where God lives, staying dependent on sponsors for our life decisions, the dualistic approach, the shame around defects. I like the word wounds instead of defects. A kinder, more feminine, reconciliation approach of all inner parts. I hear you.

  • I agree with you about the fact that their identity is incorrect. I can’t go to a meeting and say “I am a compulsive overeater.” I will have to say, I am a Child of God who overeats and who I have just discovered has an addition to carbs or who has a destructive relationship with sugar and carbs. Something like that. I have been on Greysheet for 8 days and haven’t shared at a meeting yet so don’t know if they’ll be okay with that or not. I did OA for 3-4 years and was abstinent then. I had true abstinence but did restrict myself some. I was able to eat carbs. I decided that I would function on my own because I was a New Creation and that God had freed me but I went back to my old eating habits. It’s been 17 years and I’ve come to the realization that I have to give up at least some of the carbs forever. I’m actually more addicted now then I was then. Like I said, I’m on Day 8. I know different things work for different people. God made us with such diversity. May He bless your program. I thank Him for the freedom He’s given us and look forward to the time when there is no more sin. Blessings.

  • OA does not force you to introduce yourself in a certain way. Kimberely stated “I had to…” I prefer to say, a “recovering compulsive overeater”. As a Believer in Jesus Christ, I am in process on-goingly of becoming more like Him. In addition, there are many different off-shoots of OA. Yes some have restrictions that you can’t speak until you have X amount of abstinence but main OA- there is no abstinence requirement to share. OA has been a huge blessing to me assisting by God’s Grace dropping 200 lbs to ideal weight. I feel it is a total gift from God and I have found there is more love & acceptance, realness & transparency in 12 steps rooms than in Spirit-filled churches… very sad to say but true.

    • I appreciate you sharing your perspective, Cheryl. May the Lord continue to bless you on your journey of wellness in Him.

  • I agree with you completely! Ever since I learned to agree with God’s word I could no longer agree with programs that require their members to call themselves who God says they are not. Thank you for reminding me to say Who I Am In Christ.
    Yours In Christ,
    Lisa Jones

  • I am so happy to see your comment! I have lost about 90 lbs on a food addiction plan, but I always resisted the meetings — I felt they were almost a religion in themselves…and that most of the people were actually hopeless in their addiction. What I was dealing with all these years could be called an addiction but it was actually sin! I so appreciate my sponsor and the accountability she helped me with….but she has become a true believer in Christ over the last year or so. We have agreed to be friends, rather than sponsor/sponsee — I am grateful for God’s help. I could not have done this without Him

    • Boy oh boy. Almost wish I could connect with you, Rosemarie. Just would like to talk. Thank you for sharing. And AMEN, AMEN!

  • Yes! I came to the same conclusion about Christian 12-step programs like Celebrate Recovery. I went to a CR group a few times when I was coming out of major depression but all of the people there were perpetually stuck where they were because they could never see themselves as new creations in Christ. I didn’t want to keep identifying myself as depressed. and now I’m not.

    • Trena,
      I read Kimberly’s free articles and listened to the podcasts for over a year before becoming an online member of TBYT because I am a very frugal person.

      I wanted to be sure it was a fit for me and the real deal.

      Let me tell you, it is the BEST $200 I have ever spent! I
      have been a member for over a year now. I love the camaraderie and constant coaching available through Kimberly’s participation. (I am no way connected, or benefited from anyone joining TBYT!)

  • I too was a member of OA off and on for years. I always had a problem with confessing that “I was a Compulsive Overeater”, that went completely against what I knew God’s word said about me. I was so desperate but finally at the beginning of this year I walked away from OA for good. Now I am embarking on a journey for totally healing thru Renewing my mind and believing the Word of God concerning Freedom. I am so happy that I came upon your website. I have not formally joined yet (I probably will in the near future), your articles and emails are so inspiring and uplifting. I now know that God has so much more instore for me and that I do not have to live in bondage. Thank you so much for your walk in life and sharing your story.

  • Thank you! I was about to start an OA journey again… This has made me rethink it. But.. OA is Free. Dr’s, these classes, they are not. Junk food it cheap. That is what is so hard. I always turn right back to what is cheap.. because I cannot financially afford the other stuff. Why does getting better, and getting help have to be so expensive? Why does getting healthy? Eating healthy have to be so expensive?….

    • Hi B,

      It is true that some healthy eating choices are expensive…but some are not. Google ‘eating healthy on a budget’ and you will see what your options are. There is a reason why you are thinking about joining OA again…because in your heart, you do not have peace about your eating choices. Lack of peace and joy are very costly. You don’t have to go through life that way.

      You don’t say anything about your personal relationship with God. That is the first thing to address in your life. If you don’t know what I mean, then check this article out:

      In addition, I have over 500 free articles here on the TBYT site that you can access for a Biblical perspective on health:

      Sister, I say this with love: As long as you keep telling yourself that you won’t be able to afford to get healthy, then you won’t make the daily choices necessary to get healthy. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, when you tell yourself “I may not have a lot of money but what I have I will invest it in my health. my health is worth it” then you start seeing solutions that you never saw before.

      Sickness, disease, and disability are very costly. By making cheap, but healthy choices you will get better health without breaking the bank. Like I said, if you seek out those options, you will find them. But you have to believe they are there first in order to be willing to look for them.

      God bless you!

  • I went to oa for a long time and I lost some weight but the philosophy is very deceptive. I wasn’t allowed to talk about Jesus, only higher power. I found it very upsetting. I is not a good place for a Christian to go to. I found my Christian faith became watered down and mixed with 12 step philosophy and I lost my desire to worship and was confused. I have started doing an online course now called setting captives free-weight loss. I am learning to repent and eat sensibly. I can eat any food now. In oa I was very restricted in what I could eat. I’m glad Jesus is setting me free.

    • I totally agree, although I only went one time. You couldn’t even talk unless you had been “abstinate” for three months, which in my case would have resulted in a weight loss of all I needed. How can one heal, if one can’t even speak??
      It was worthless!

    • Yes. When I inquired about OA meetings in a new city, the rep told me, “If Jesus is your higher power, you can’t say it. You might offend a Jew.” Well never mind if a Jew or atheist offends me. Needless to say, I didn’t go.

  • Overeaters Anonymous helped me in many ways. First, they don’t insist that you admit you are anything. Second, they encouraged me to find a sponsor to whom I could confess, openly and honestly, what I had eaten that day and what was going on when I did it. 3rd, they encouraged me to eat a good meal that would last till the next one. 4th, they helped me to stop lying to myself about my heart issue: I loved food more than I loved my health, my family, or even my God. I repented. I began to pray with a fellow Christian for help to enjoy food but not to LOVE food. 5th: We had a really crazy communication style in my family. We lied about how we felt so we wouldn’t seem like bad Christians. Overeaters Anonymous helped me stop lying. 6th: When I was upset I could go to a meeting, any day of the week, for free, and speak honestly about how I felt, and listen for solutions. They helped me just say no to Shame. I don’t go now, but it really helped, in its season.

    • Thank you for your perspective, Mary Lou. I’m glad that your group experience was different from mine and did not insist you confess that you were an “Overeater” as your identity.

    • I agree. OA has helped me a lot. You take what helps and leave the rest.
      How do you manage without going. Would you stay in to help someone else.

  • I have never been to an OA meeting. I tend to eat when I am bored. This really hit home as to how I talk to myself. I always say that your words claim what you receive and it never transferred to how I speak about food and my diet. Crazy how it never translated to that. Thank you for the eye opening article.

  • I too spent years in OA. I called it
    Chasing my tail, I working the program sooo hard with total
    Obsession on dieting, failure and feeling like a failure because I could not maintain what the program promised.
    I became depressed, towards the end just before I quit for good I tried calling myself RECOVERED!!! I do not agree with using the word recovered. I say delivered from a demon of food addiction. I now repent and the Holy Spirit has set me free. Who the SON SETS FREE IS FREE INDEED!!!!!
    Oh sweet FREEDOM !!!
    ps: I believe the 12 steps are half truths because they do not proclaim Jesus Christ, a half truth is a lie.

  • My experience exactly! That is why I quit and could not go back to another meeting. Calling myself a compulsive overeater each week does go against what God says I am. Yes, I must confess my sins but rehearsing and confessing are two separate things. I have found a much more positive program that helped me and other women I work with. Lose “It” For Life by Stephen Arterburn & Linda Mintle. The concept of community which OA uses does help if facilitated in a positive and supportive way.

  • I went to OA for years as a Christian but there were few recovered. The reason was, for me, I was not totally relying of God. I was still trying to control my disease. After finding a phone meeting of recovered, many Christian and Jew, I had a recovered sponsor who guided me through the Alcoholics Anonymous following exactly what the book said. Of course our recovery depended on me staying in fit spiritual condition. I am now recovered myself and not only have I lost weight, but my whole life has changed. I am so glad I stayed with it until I found recovery. Meetings that only cry and moan about their problem and do not seek the solution that is in that book will never find recovery. The spiritual experience makes all the difference. If you are a sugar and wheat addict that can not put it down, the answer is to give that to God and follow the steps as written. You might find how easy to do it if you do it one day at a time trusting only on God. The steps are very much based on the beatitudes, but a non-Christian wouldn’t recognize it. OA was based on the Oxford Group that was a Christian group. I’m sure I am not the only one who has had much success in OA. Your group is used to support my faith and strengthen my program.
    Love to you.

  • Thank you for this. I had no idea thast OA was like that! I had considered going to an OA meeting, but there were none that fgit my schedule. I sure am glad I did not go! Kimberly, what do you think of Weight Watchers?

  • Having to identify myself in that way made me feel hopeless about my problem. I went for 6 weeks and felt better when I stopped going.

  • I went to meetings for about three months. One lady had reach her goal and everyone else was just like me. To much doom and gloom. So very thankful that God led me to TBYT.

  • Thank you Kimberly!

    I have been always wondering why for yrs, I struggled with overeating. I too went to OA and said, at every meeting I am a compulsive overeater! Thanks! to your article on OA I now will say, I am Joy! a recovering overeater! There is a freedom now just reading and hearing it in my spirit. I would like to get the take back your temple program when i am able.
    Thanks! again Kimberly for the encouraging and uplifting articles you bless us with. I am also! a recovering bulimic as well!


    • I think you missed the point…why to say you are an overeater at all? As a man thinks in his heart so is he (Proverbs)….Just because you overeat that doesnt make you an overeater…You can change what you do but not who you are… but in Genesis God looked at all His creation and called it GOOD.

      The Bible says let the weak say “I am strong”. As you declare in faith you areeing with God what He says about you and you are creating your own reality. You will believe your own words more thanbody else’s.

    • Thank you Kimberly for your article on OA. I too!
      attended again and again and again. I felt guilty I could not do that nothing on between. I also said! I am Mary joy and a compulsive overeater. I like “my name is Mary Joy and I am a Recovering overeater and Balimic.
      Thank you Joy! for your openness and honesty!
      The Lord! has completely! healed me if Balimia and I am recovery from emotional overeating one day at a time! I thank Jesus! for taking that upon Himself on the cross. This is an Awt! Site and we! are all here supporting! One another! Thank you! Kimberly for your encouraging! and uplifting articles you send us from “Take Back Your Temple”
      Mary Joy

  • I went to OA one time and left depressed, never to return again. The rules were that an attendee couldn’t even speak until she had been “abstinate” for three months. Meaning not overeating for three months. Had that been the case, I would have been totally thin at that point and wouldn’t have had the problem which brought me there in the first place which was of course, overeating. It was an atrocious experience.

    Thanks for the biblical wisdom and insight, Kimberly!

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