What exactly is an OA meeting like

At OA, we have a solution that not only addresses the obsession with food, but that offers a design for living that really works – and we have no dues or fees for membership! The only requirement for OA membership is the desire to stop eating compulsively (this requirement lies at the core of Tradition Three). And you become an OA member as soon as YOU decide to become one. Nothing else is demanded or required.

To gain a better understanding of who we are and how we can help, we invite you to explore this website, give us a call (at 408-940-6278), send us an email (newtoOA@oasv.org), and attend at least six OASV meetings. In this manner, you can get to know us, and to discover for yourself which meetings might work best for you.

What to expect from an OA meeting

First of all: deep breath. There’s nothing to be nervous about. You will be welcome.

In fact, you will typically find us very open and friendly. And, you will quickly come to learn that you are not alone anymore.

Everyone at an OA meeting knows where you’re coming from regarding food and any issues you may have with compulsive eating and compulsive food behaviors. We have overeaten to the point of pain and sickness – and then repeated this behavior over and over again, ignoring the consequences. Unlike others who have a healthy relationship to food, we have not been able to find balance, or comprehend when enough was enough. Many of us have eaten food that was raw, undercooked, overcooked, burnt, spoiled, tossed out and then retrieved from the trash. We are people that have vowed never to touch a particular food again, yet have turned right around only to consume that very food, in unreasonable volumes, until not a crumb was left. We are people that have endlessly binged and purged, or resorted to yo-yo dieting, restricting, and starving ourselves to the point of failing health and emotional misery. We have been obsessed with our body weight, body image, food cravings (and/or severe food restrictions) and excessive exercise. We are people who have been truly insane around food. So please trust us when we say that we “get” you – we truly do!

Here’s what happens at a typical meeting:

It is not unusual for some of our meetings to have their own unique focus or differences. For instance, although most of our meetings are mixed meetings (indicating that anyone may attend) and offered in English, some of our meetings are women only or men only meetings, friendly to the LGBTQ community, or offered in Spanish (Español).

What Do You Need to Do at an OA Meeting?

Once you’ve found a meeting that you want to check out, you simply show up. Although you will likely be warmly welcomed, nothing will be expected from you. All participation is entirely voluntary.

We suggest that you arrive a few minutes early to introduce yourself. The secretary is typically the person that opens, hosts, and/or facilitates the meeting. At an in-person meeting, the secretary is often easy to identify. This person is often at the front of the meeting room.

In an online meeting, the secretary is often the host for the meeting, though the host may also be someone who is simply more technical, and available to assist with the online meeting format.

Feel free to introduce yourself to the secretary or host at an online meeting, or to anyone in the room at an in-person meeting. When you are new to the group, we will often come up to you to greet you and ask how we might help address any questions you might have. Or, if it is an in-person meeting, we often provide packets of information about OA that are freely shared with you. In OA, we like to say we enjoy the meeting before the meeting when we gather together early, before the meeting begins, for friendly check-ins and general fellowship.

How Long is an OA Meeting?

Set aside 60-90 minutes for your meeting, although here in OA Silicon Valley we do offer a unique (30-minute) Mini Meeting as an online option. It takes place from noon to 12:30pm every Tuesday (Pacific Time).

When attending any OA meeting, consider this “you” time.

You will meet others like you with a simple first name introduction, and be genuinely welcomed. If the meeting is an online meeting, be sure to check the chat as meeting information, and any special readings, are frequently shared through the online chat function. If you are attending an online meeting, you may find a waiting room where everyone gathers before the meeting begins. The host or meeting secretary will let you in and will explain anything you might need to know.

Once the meeting begins, get yourself settled with the group to enjoy various readings from OA literature.  Various members may be called upon or will volunteer to read something provided by the meeting group. After the readings, you will likely hear from other members as they share their unique journey of recovery from our common disease. And, with each subsequent meeting, you will come to learn more about OA.

How Much do I Need to Participate?

Feel free to participate as much – or as little – as you want. You are welcome to share, but you are not required to do so. If attending an online meeting, you may keep your audio muted and your video off. The choice is yours to make.

What Types of Meetings does OA Offer?

We offer different types of meetings. Some of our meetings are referred to as Literature meetings. Other meetings are referred to as Speaker Meetings.

What is a Literature Meeting?

A Literature Meeting is so named because at such meetings we read from a variety of OA-approved literature. After reading a paragraph or more, we then share, at our own discretion, our personal reflections on what was just read. In this way, through sharing, we gain a better understanding of our program of recovery, and of how other recovered members have achieved their recovery. To view a list of OA-approved literature, click here.

Various OA books may be chosen for use at a Literature Meeting. The members of each individual Literature Meeting are free to decide which book (or books) they would like to read from each week, and what kind of format they would like to adopt for their particular meeting group.

Some Literature meetings will read the day’s reflection from a particular daily reader and then spend the remainder of their meeting time reflecting for a few minutes upon what was read. Others may take turns reading a paragraph or two on the Step or Tradition of the month, after which time, members are free to volunteer to share their own reflections on what was read for 3 to 5 minutes.

Every Literature Meeting determines what they will read from and how they will use their meeting time. To ensure that you are prepared for what might be read, each of our Literature Meetings identifies what will be read in the “About this meeting” description on our website. If you do not have the particular book that will be read from at a given Literature Meeting, no need to be concerned. Many members who do have the particular OA book that is being used, will read out loud from it for the group. In this way, you may still participate when the time comes for sharing or reflecting upon what was read.

At in-person Literature Meetings, members often bring their own copies of an OA book, although copies of the book that will be used are typically made available to those who attend so everyone who is willing to do so, may participate in the reading. Anyone may share upon what was read. Participation (reading aloud, and/or sharing) is entirely up to each individual.

Some meetings are referred to as Step Study and/or Tradition Study meetings. At these particular meetings, members read from either AA or OA literature that is focused upon the steps or the traditions. After having read a paragraph or two, then members may share their experience with that particular step or tradition, or reflect upon how what was read applies to their own recovery. These types of meetings offer OA members the opportunity to learn and grow from one another – we refer to this as sharing our experience, strength, and hope.

What is a Speaker Meeting?

At an OA Speaker Meeting, a recovered OA member will typically share for 15-20 minutes (sometimes more), depending upon that meeting’s unique format. (Speaker Meetings in some other parts of the world may have the featured Speaker share for up to 1 hour.) A recovered member is someone that has worked all Twelve Steps with a *sponsor and is **abstinent.

*Sponsors are OA members who are living the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions to the best of their ability. They are willing to freely share their recovery with other members and are committed to **abstinence.

**Abstinence is the action of refraining from compulsive eating and compulsive food behaviors while working towards or maintaining a healthy body weight. Spiritual, emotional, and physical recovery is the result of living and working the Overeaters Anonymous Twelve Step program on a daily basis.

After the speaker (who may also be referred to as the chairperson or lead) has shared their story of recovery from compulsive eating (what it was like, what happened, and what it is like now), they often select a particular topic, step, or tradition for discussion or reflection. Or, at some meetings, the opportunity to ask questions of the speaker may be provided, and time is allotted for this exchange.

After the speaker has concluded their “chair” (i.e. the sharing of their story of recovery), other members may volunteer, or be called upon, to share their experience, strength, and hope. These shares can last anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes each, and are typically a reflection of that individual’s personal journey of recovery. They may speak to the topic chosen by the Speaker, or elect to share on what is going on in their lives, or how they work OA’s Twelve Step program of recovery. Sharing on the named topic, or whatever may be of uppermost concern to a member, is entirely voluntary.

What if I have Questions?

If you are new or returning from a relapse, and have questions, you can talk with individual members both before or after the meeting. Frequently, right after a meeting (whether in-person or online), we invite newcomers (people new to the group) to ask questions and the members in attendance will happily provide answers based upon their personal experience, strength, and hope. At some meetings, a Newcomer Greeter is available to greet you and to help you with any questions or concerns you might have, and is available to point you to any available literature or to those who are available to serve as sponsors. Sponsors are recovered members who have worked the Twelve Steps with a sponsor, and are available to share with you how they have recovered.

What are Special Focus Meetings?

Some OA meetings have a special focus. Here are just a few.


For instance, 90-Day format meetings are a special focus group of Overeaters Anonymous. At a 90-day format meeting it is suggested that only those with three or more months of continuous “90-day” format abstinence share their experience, strength and hope. OA does not endorse any specific food plan, but many of the members in the 90-Day format group practice a particular program of abstinence which is known as the 90-day format. Additionally, many of us who follow 90-Day format have come to understand ourselves as food addicts – that we are addicted, especially, to refined sugars and starches/carbohydrates, that these foods set-up an uncontrollable craving, and that 90-Day followers, therefore, must abstain from these foods completely.

For most people in the 90-day program, abstinence is defined as three weighed and measured meals a day under the supervision of a qualified sponsor. 


Another special focus meeting is HOW-OA. H.O.W. stands for Honest, Openminded, and Willing. HOW-OA is a movement within Overeaters Anonymous (OA) whose basic principle is that abstinence is the only means to freedom from compulsive eating and relief from the obsessions of food addiction. OA-HOW is for people seeking a structured program. HOW has a basic weighed and measured food plan with abstinence from sugars and refined flour. Modification of the food plan by health care providers is acceptable. A sponsor is required prior to receiving the HOW food plan.

Other special focus meetings exist within OA, but these are two of the most common that you may run across. You are welcome to attend any special focus OA meeting.

Please feel free to ask questions before or after the meeting if you would like to know more about these special focus meetings. We are here to help.

How do I Get to Know More About OA?

OA is a “we” program – together we get better! We share with one another to the level of our comfort within the circle and safety of Tradition Twelve – which states that Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

And, as a part of our “we” program, members may choose to offer their phone number or email address to other members and newcomers. You are encouraged to collect phone numbers and to share your contact information to your level of comfort with any other OA member that you might choose.

Outreach calls are made and accepted by OA members as a part of our recovery. An outreach call is a call made to another OA member as a means to share and connect with others who have our common disease and who are seeking the common solution through working the Twelve Steps. Rather than reach for food, we are encouraged to make an outreach call and to connect with another member. We can ask that member how they work their program of recovery when faced with the desire to eat compulsively, or we might share something we are grateful for with another in program, inviting them to share what they are grateful for today. When we share with another member, we are provided the opportunity to halve our misery, and double our joy.

Congratulations – you now know what you can expect from attending an OA meeting!

But, wait. What about the weigh-in? What about paying a membership fee? There’s none of that. When people become OA members, they often voluntarily contribute, but it’s never required. We promise.

So, to recap, at OA there is:

  • No weigh-in
  • No membership fee
  • No judgment
  • No religion (ours is a ‘spiritual’ not ‘religious’ program of recovery, yet all are welcome: religious, agnostic, or atheist)
  • A safe (and a brave) place for everyone (all gender identities, ethnicities, ages, and sizes)
  • A program that works
  • Hope
  • And, there are people who will understand

To find the meetings that work for you, we suggest you try a variety – typically, give at least 6 different meetings a try.  If you are honest, open-minded and willing (the HOW of the program), you will find meetings where it will feel good to be “a part of,” rather than “apart from!” Attending 3 meetings a week is a great way to get connected and grow your recovery!


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