Recovery from an eating disorder can be difficult without the right support and resources, and OA aims to help.
This article gives an overview of the OA food plan, information to help you create your own plan, and tips for a healthy diet.
OA offers recovery tools for people experiencing compulsive eating, binge eating, and other eating disorders.
The organization follows a 12-step approach and is centered on group meetings and sponsors to aid with recovery.
OA has created a Plan of Eating to help people recover from compulsive eating behaviors. The plan aims to identify specific eating patterns and guide healthy eating decisions.
The plan is individualized. It doesn’t provide any specific suggestions for foods, calorie totals, or other restrictions. Instead, it aims to guide your recovery with the help of your doctor or a dietitian.
The primary focus of the plan is abstinence from harmful behaviors rather than weight loss.
You don’t need to have overweight or obesity to join OA. But some members may choose to use their plans to manage their weight on a steady and sustainable schedule.
OA may have benefits if you:
- have obsessive thoughts about your body weight
- have obsessive thoughts about food
- use diet pills or laxatives with the aim of weight loss
- feel compelled toward binge eating
OA recognizes that compulsive overeating can be physical, emotional, and spiritual. The organization recommends that your Plan of Eating be part of a holistic approach.
Overeaters Anonymous (OA) offers individualized eating plans and tools that can help promote recovery from compulsive eating behaviors.
There are several benefits and downsides to consider with the OA food plan.
One of the major advantages of this plan is that it’s individualized, meaning that you’re able to create an eating plan specifically for you and receive support along the way.
Another advantage is that if your plan isn’t working for you, you can toss it out and start from scratch.
This is especially beneficial because recovery from an eating disorder is a process. It may take several drafts to find the right approach for you.
When drafting your plan, remember to take into account eating out, weekends, and busy schedules. Planning ahead for these occasions can help you stay on track.
The plan requires its users to consider their trigger foods and other behaviors while working to find a new way of dealing with food and eating.
This can be difficult, as food choices are underpinned by complex emotions. Developing a plan where you have to think about food often can be triggering for some people.
Compulsive eating is about more than just food. Eating disorders are complex and linked with mental health. They often involve complicated emotions, like guilt and shame, that can be difficult to deal with.
It can be difficult to recover from them alone. If you’re struggling with recovering from an eating disorder, binge eating, or emotional eating on your own, it can help to reach out to a doctor or trained mental health professional.
They can help you focus your attention on healing, while also getting the foods your body needs to thrive.
The OA food plan is individualized and can be customized to fit your preferences. On the other hand, it requires you to carefully examine your diet history and work with a healthcare provider to ensure success.
Although there’s no written plan for eating, OA provides some helpful prompts on different pamphlets and worksheets in its document library.
Start brainstorming, both alone and with your local OA group, and write down everything you think could be useful.
Some questions you might ask include:
- What nutrients does my body need to function?
- How many meals or snacks do I need each day?
- What foods encourage overeating or bingeing?
- What behaviors encourage overeating or bingeing?
- What tools or supports do I have to help in my journey?
Try to focus your plan on abstinence by writing out your own affirmation or vision.
Your plan might include eating three meals per day with two snacks, or six small meals with no snacks. There’s no right or wrong plan as long as you make sure you’re meeting your nutritional needs and avoiding potential triggers.
OA also offers a couple of pamphlets at a low cost that provide more guidance:
You’ll also find several sample food plans that have been approved by licensed dietitians.
However, remember that everyone’s nutritional needs are different. These sample food plans may be a good guide, but make sure you speak with a registered dietitian to come up with the right plan for you.
When creating your plan, be sure to consider your nutritional needs, trigger foods, and eating behaviors. There are plenty of resources and sample plans available to help you get started.
There’s no one plan of eating that works for everyone. What you consume and how much is ultimately up to you.
Focus on the following areas when writing up your plan:
Follow a balanced diet
You’ll want to include a variety of foods in your day. This is the best way to get the nutrients you need.
Be sure to include ingredients from all the following groups in your plan:
Cooking with whole foods is more beneficial for your overall health than cooking with packaged alternatives. It may even help you avoid certain triggers.
When choosing foods, also ask your doctor if there are any ingredients you need to limit, especially if you have health conditions like:
Consider the timing of your meals
The amount of time between meals and snacks is another area you’ll want to consider.
Some people like eating three meals per day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Other people prefer smaller, more frequent meals. Others like snacking throughout the day.
The time you eat and how frequently you eat may be based on your daily schedule, your physical activity level, and any binge triggers.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers a tool called ChooseMyPlate.org. It offers sample food plans for people of all ages. The timing of your meals shouldn’t matter as long as you’re getting the right nutrients.
It’s best to review these plans with a healthcare provider to find one that works for you.
Practice healthy portion sizes
Many people find the most difficult part of the plan is managing how much they eat at any one time.
Here are a few tips to help practice healthy portion sizes:
- Measure out portions before mealtime.
- Freeze individual portions of meals so you can eat them later.
- Eat from a plate and not a package.
- Use smaller plates or bowls.
- Split meals with a friend, or package up half before starting to eat.
- Try to eat more slowly so your body has time to register when it starts to feel full.
Visual cues can make portion sizes more automatic. You can learn more about healthy food portion sizes at ChooseMyPlate.gov.
Enjoying a variety of nutritious whole foods, eating at regular intervals, and eating healthy portion sizes can help you have a healthier diet.
The OA Plan of Eating aims to help people recover from compulsive eating. While this plan may not be right for everyone, it can help some.
The plan is individualized, and there are plenty of resources available to help find what works for you.
Try attending a local OA meeting to see if OA is a good match for you. If so, discuss the OA eating plan with your doctor and a registered dietitian to create the best plan for you.