One statement you will often hear in OA90 is that the tools are the handrails of the steps.  We study and learn to use the tools before we study the 12 steps because it is excellent preparation for our step work as well as for living life every day. When we have a problem (and nobody goes through life without problems) we have our tools to help us stay abstinent and not turn to food as a solution. Think of it as trading a bad habit (inappropriate eating) for a good habit (working OA90 program).  Let us look at each of OA’s nine tools of recovery: a plan of eating, sponsorship, meetings, telephone, writing, literature, anonymity, service, and action plan and see how we use them in OA90.

Plan of Eating

An OA90 plan of eating is not a diet.  A diet is something you do for a certain period to lose weight (example would be to lose weight before an event) and then go back to your usual food habits. As many of us can attest, a food addict/compulsive overeater does not find a solution in a diet. In OA90 one’s plan of eating can come from one’s sponsor, doctor, or nutritionist or a combination of them.  An OA90 plan of eating typically includes 3 meals a day of food portions weighed on a digital scale but for some people with medical issues a different plan may be needed. We don’t eat between meals or eat while doing other tasks and keep 4–6-hour time between our 3 meals a day with nothing between meals except water (some sponsors allow unsweetened seltzer water or herbal tea). So, there is no single OA90 food plan that everyone follows and that is why we don’t list one on this website.

Typically, however, we don’t eat sugar, flour, or artificial sweeteners. For some people, caffeine is also a problem to be avoided, others may not use spices. Use of gum or mints is also avoided.  The key here is to avoid foods that create cravings or binges for us, some people say they don’t want food to sing or dance. Food is fuel for our bodies, not a special treat.  Many people use a list of red-light foods (that cause trouble), yellow light foods (that may cause problems), green light foods (no obvious difficulties) in helping to choose foods to put on a daily food plan. In OA90 we commit our food daily to our sponsor and we stick to our plan. If something unexpected happens (like a family member eats your fruit or you take the chicken out of the freezer and it is spoiled), call or text your sponsor for guidance on substitution, we do not make these decisions on our own. An OA90 person may have different food plans in different phases of their recovery, so the initial weight-loss food plan is not forever, but we continue to follow a plan of eating for life. Many people do not eat out in restaurants for their first 90 days for their food plan to set in their minds. Some don’t eat out at all, preferring to eat their own food.  This is not a diet; it is a way of life within a fellowship.


A sponsor is your guide through the program. One of the first things people are told in OA90 is to get a sponsor who has what you want and ask how they are achieving it.  There is a slogan: if you want what I have, do what I do. A sponsor is someone with long-term abstinence who is willing to help someone else. Typically, a sponsor will help a sponsee set up a plan of eating with advice on what worked for them when they were new and using information from the sponsee on food problems and medical issues if any. Sponsor-sponsee relationships can become friendships but are often more like teacher-student. They are also voluntary; either party can leave but some notice is commonly given. The job of the sponsor is not to force the sponsee to become abstinent but rather to model the behavior that works in abstinence.  Some sponsors will drop sponsees who break their abstinence, but others will continue to work with them, perhaps with suggestions to avoid problem situations. A sponsor may also recommend tools to the sponsee, like reading pages from OA literature or the AA Big Book, doing writing, making 3 outbound calls a day, setting a time for call to the sponsor with food plan (be on time, that 15 minutes is reserved for you), discussing what meetings to attend, and setting up an action plan. Choose a sponsor you think you can work with by talking to them first, it is ok to ask questions and they may ask you questions. Often you will hear people on meetings volunteer to be sponsors or to help someone get started by being a temporary sponsor. Write down their names and phone numbers and call them after the meeting, being aware of time zones and anything they say about good times to call. Typically, men sponsor men and women sponsor women; the food amounts can be different.


Meetings are our medicine is a slogan you may hear.  As people with a food addiction, we need regular repetition of the message that we have a chronic disease that can be arrested a day at a time by working our OA90 program.

OA90 meetings come in various forms: face to face in person meetings, phone meetings where we can only hear each other, Zoom meetings where, if we have the technology, we can both hear and see each other (they can also be attended by phone like a phone meeting).  There are many OA90 meetings, you can find them by looking on the website and clicking find a meeting. There will be tabs for the different forms. To find OA90 meetings, choose a tab and then choose an additional search for special focus 90 Day. Another way to find phone and Zoom meetings is to look at the interactive meeting list on this website.

Most meetings last for an hour. Each meeting has its own format, they are not identical. It is a good idea to be in a quiet place in your home if listening to a phone or Zoom meeting, many will mute people to keep down background noise. You can listen for instructions on how to unmute yourself if you want to read something like the 12 Steps, or if they ask newcomers to unmute and give their first name and phone number to be welcomed. You will want to have paper and pen to jot down names and phone numbers. A meeting may include readings from the 12 Steps, 12 Traditions, the OA preamble, How It Works from the AA Big Book, or other literature. Speaker meetings have someone qualify (tell their story) for 15 or 20 minutes followed by sharing from people with 90 days or more of continuous abstinence. Literature meetings read from the literature and again, suggest people with 90 or more days of abstinence share. We ask for people with 90 days or more because they have something positive to share in their experience, strength, and hope. If you don’t have your 90 days yet, listen, learn, and wait your turn. Pay attention to the meeting and don’t distract yourself with other activities. Offer to read if you have the literature handy and the moderator says anyone can read.

Because this is for the website of the OA90 Virtual Intergroup, only OA90 phone and Zoom meetings are covered here but there are many other meetings out there on including meetings in other parts of the world, in other languages, time zones, etc. We suggest talking to your sponsor about what meetings you want to attend.  Some people commit their meetings like they do their food and attend the same meetings regularly to get to know people.  We suggest 3 meetings a week, but some do a meeting a day to reinforce the message.


Many sponsors recommend their sponsees to make at least 3 outbound calls a day in addition to the daily call to their sponsor. This can help relieve isolation and make connections to other people in the program which can be helpful later. For example, if you have a question or problem and can’t reach your sponsor, calling another person with long-term abstinence may resolve the issue or at least calm you down until you can reach your sponsor.

So, what do you say in these phone calls to people you don’t know very well?

Hi, this is (first name) from (city/state) and I’m a newcomer to OA90 making an outreach call.  Is this (person you are calling)? Do you have a few minutes to talk?

How is your program today? I heard you on (meeting) and took down your number.  I liked what you said about… etc.

If you get an answering machine you can leave a message with your first name, phone number, and best time to call with time zone.

Remember we were all newcomers once and we remember what it was like to make outbound calls.  We encourage newcomers to stick with the program because it has helped us for years and it can help you too.


Writing is a great tool that can be used any time you need it.  We write down our food to commit to our sponsor daily along with any questions we might have. Our sponsor may ask us to write a gratitude list or write about something we read in the literature or heard discussed at a meeting.  Writing can be a great way to get something out of our heads that is bothering us. Remember that a thought can’t rent space in your head unless you let it, so writing about it can clear that space. This can be good to do if you are up in the early hours of the morning and can’t call anyone! You can also write a letter to your Higher Power about your problems, we know that line is open 24/7.

If we join an AWOL (closed step-study group not officially part of OA) or a Big Book Step Study group (BBSS), we will have homework and that also includes writing. Keep writing! You will feel better.


Another tool we use frequently is literature.  OA has a lot of literature to choose from and many people read from at least one piece of literature daily. OA approved literature can come from (they have an online bookstore), some things can be purchased online from other book sellers though OA does not endorse outside enterprises. AA literature with a copyright date before 2010 is also acceptable including the 4th edition of the AA Big Book.  OA also has pamphlets and wallet cards that are portable literature for carrying with us. In some areas there is also locally produced literature.  Books about food addiction and compulsive overeating from other publishers may be popular, but because they are not OA produced or approved, we do not mention them at meetings even if we read them (or our sponsor does) because that is a violation of Tradition 6 (endorsing an outside enterprise).

Typical books read by OA90 people are the 2 daily readers For Today (little white book) and Voices of Recovery (blue book), the AA Big Book, and the OA and AA 12&12 books.  Keeping these books handy when you are on a phone or Zoom meeting allows you to volunteer to read if a volunteer is needed.  Many people read literature in the morning and before bed, a great way to bookend your day with program.


Anonymity is an integral part of our program.  We are called Anonymous for a reason. We don’t use our last names (unless we choose to), we don’t advertise our OA membership publicly or publicly identify other members without their permission.  So, if I’m in the grocery store and I see someone I know from a meeting, I can say hi to them, but if somebody with me asks who that was, I just say a friend from a community group, not so-and -so from my OA meeting. If for some reason I am in the news, I don’t mention OA membership. We don’t advertise OA like a commercial weight-loss program, no celebrity spokesperson or people handing out meeting lists on street corners. Simple announcements in local newspapers or on bulletin boards are enough. Attraction not promotion works.

OA is open to everyone regardless of race, religion (or non-religion), income, where they live, work, or go to school. All you need is a desire to stop eating compulsively. Another part of anonymity is that everything you see or hear at a meeting stays there.  We don’t gossip about people after the meeting or in our phone calls.  Gossip is harmful both for the gossipers and the person being gossiped about.  If you hear something that you want to talk about (a good slogan, or something a person mentioned in their share), you can repeat the slogan without saying where you heard it or who said it. You can also call the person who said it to thank them or ask a question.

In OA90 we also keep our sponsor’s name anonymous and those of other sponsees. Again, this discourages gossip. One slogan says that the person with the longest abstinence today is the one who got up earliest this morning.


Service is the backbone of OA.  If nobody did voluntary service we wouldn’t have meetings, or an OA90 website, or literature, or phone meeting lists, or many of the other things we have come to count on in this program. There are many types of service. A new OA90 member might ask “What can I do to help?”

The first service you can do is to get and stay abstinent yourself. Use your tools.  Make connections.  Since many service positions at 90-day meetings do need at least 90 days of abstinence and you may not be there yet, many meetings include actions suggested that anyone can do like reading the steps or traditions or readings from the AA Big Book. If you have the literature, why not volunteer to read? It is a way to feel part of the meeting and by leaving your first name and phone number after you read, other people on the meeting might call you or if you call them later, they might remember hearing you.  If you go to face-to-face meetings you could help with room set up or putting chairs away.

After you get your 90 days of abstinence, continue to volunteer. Share at meetings, offer to take service positions, volunteer to qualify at speaker meetings.  You never know when something you say might be just what someone else needs to hear.

Action Plan

The action plan is the newest tool and can be seen as a complement to the food plan since it can cover everything else.  What you put on your action plan is between you and your sponsor.  For many of us the action plan for the day can include our readings, phone calls, writing, meetings, daily activities at home or work, food prep, quiet time.  By measuring our activities like we do with our food we can have a balanced life in abstinence and serenity.  The action plan is not a to do list but rather a way to keep track of our time so we can stay on track with our meals and meetings. Don’t put too many things on at once, maybe one or two extra things per day, until you see how your plan is working for you. Your sponsor may give you some help with this.

It is hoped that this short review of the tools of the program can help you strengthen your OA90 tool kit.  Remember that working every tool, every day can help you stay abstinent; you may not know which one will make the difference for you!

Written in service by Jean B.

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