Black + White Food Plan = GreySheet
My name is [Anonymous], and I am a compulsive overeater. I weigh and measure three meals a day from the Cambridge Grey Sheet, write them down, commit them to my sponsor or another qualified person. I don't eat in between no matter what. Abstinence is the most important thing.
Compulsive eating runs in my family, and I believe I was born with the predisposition toward food addiction. I also saw compulsive behaviors around the food. My mother weighed about 83 pounds and was considered a finicky eater while my grandfather, whose weight reached over 300 pounds, ate large quantities. Whether by nature or by nurture I have the disease of compulsive overeating.
Nearly as far back as I can remember I wanted more sugar. I never wanted one bite or one item. When I was in first or second grade I traded the items on my school lunch plate for the sugar dessert on the plates of my classmates. I traded food until I had about four desserts. In another incident I was playing with my cousin and my cousin's friend. The friend's mother gave each of us one X. After finishing the X I wanted another. The other two children had continued playing; however, I was preoccupied with how I could get more sugar. I said to the friend, "Don't you want to ask your mom for another one?" That was the thing about being a child addict--I had to manipulate others in order to get my fix, and I lived with the fear of not getting enough. Many years later I would have to buy a bag of something sweet and eat it in my car on the way to dinner parties so that I could be certain I'd get enough. I could never be sure that I would be served enough at the dinner party to quell my insatiable appetite.
In grade school I looked forward to lunch, and I remember events by what foods I ate. I also enjoyed hoarding food, trying to make the Halloween sugar last until the Christmas sugar and the Christmas sugar last until the Easter sugar. I wanted to have a stash. I remember exactly what I liked to eat at the kiosk at the public pool. I loved going to the fair, especially the excitement of the different things I wanted to eat. I know what sugar I chose when we went to the pharmacy after doctor visits, and I remember the sugar drink I always got after a trip to the dentist. I tried to save sugar even if it melted because I wanted to eat in isolation.
My food was not monitored during my pre-teen and adolescent years. The cupboards were mine from which to dine, and I did. I was often home alone in the afternoon, and I snacked and snacked and snacked. My binge eating seemed to kick in even more when I was about twelve years old. This was around the time my mother re-married, and I suppose I may have eaten to stuff the myriad of feelings. After school I'd ride my bike with a friend; then we would overeat together -- Paula, my first binge buddy. It was with Paula that I got into trouble with someone for whom we babysat. We ate something the women wanted to serve to others. I also began eating things meant for multiple servings. I would cook breakfast items meant for a family, and I'd tell myself I would eat only two. Then I'd think three wouldn't be so bad, then four, and what would Mom and step-dad think if they saw only 2 remaining. So, I ate another. I would eat entres meant to serve an entire family.
Throughout this time I tried many diets. I believe I tried to diet beginning at age eight. Though not obese in the very early years I felt fat; eventually I was chubby and told not tuck in my shirt nor wear horizontal stripes. I always felt odd, different, and heavier than others. I tried counting calories, carbohydrates, and fat grams. I did Weight Watchers, Diet Center, and Dexatrim. I tried fasting, Slimfast, and cutting down, and eating these things called aids. I did lose weight as a child and as an adult, but I could never keep it off. It all led to frustration and shame. The shame in my heart and the distortion in my mind about my body size was excruciating.
As a little girl there were times I was proud of my eating. I loved my large grandfather, and I remember laying on the couch beside him and saying with a smile, "Papaw, we're the fattest people in the world!" By the time I was eleven I didn't even want to tuck my shirt in at cheerleader tryouts.
I was also very religious. I considered being fat to be a moral issue. I thought I must be bad and weak willed and a sinner or else I'd have more control over my food intake. I prayed for forgiveness about what I ate and was ashamed to be overweight at church. I heard there were seven deadly sins, and one was gluttony. I figured I was a pretty big sinner if I continually indulged in gluttony.
In high school I finally lost thirty pounds, a great deal of weight on my 4'11" frame. I got my photo in the newspaper in an ad for Diet Center; therefore, I felt the whole town was watching as I quickly gained back the weight. At age seventeen I was wearing a girdle and desperately trying to suck in my shame. Having gotten down to a size six earlier in the year my Spring prom dress was a size 13 or 15.
College continued the yo-yoing. It was a roller coaster with lots of eating large amounts, ordering out, using my parents' credit card to buy food. I was a Drama major, and I suffered greatly under the critical eye of the costumer. I kept getting bigger and had difficulty finding clothes to fit my out of proportion body. My weight became a sight gag in plays. In a dinner theatre comedy an obese young man and I were directed to get stuck in a doorway. I handled it good naturedly, but inside I was dying. I lived in constant fear of people's words. Throughout my life there were occasional barbs hurled at me both intentional and unintentional, and all of them stung like a thousand wasps. My first semester in college I had a roommate, and it was awful trying to sneak food at night under my covers so that my roommate wouldn't see me breaking a diet.
I went to graduate school and got an M.F.A. in Acting. Throughout grad school my weight was an issue. Appearance is fair game in professional actor training programs, and I was told if I didn't lose weight I'd be "playing teddy bears" all my life. My movement teacher implied I could be kicked out if I didn't lose weight and asked that I report my weight on a weekly basis. My solution was binging and purging with laxatives or eating all week and then fasting for a day or more before weigh day. When blood came out in my stool I was referred to the outpatient eating disorders program at a local hospital. I felt self conscious when someone looked me up and down -- I was about forty or fifty pounds overweight, and I was sure an anorexic/bulemic was judging me. Though I received therapy I also received information that was not true for me. I was told to eat whatever I wanted in moderation. This failed miserably.
Eventually I gave up on all diets. I tried to just be happy being fat. But the food had me. By the time I was in my thirties I was sixty pounds overweight and was hungry all the time. I could not quit eating. My mother had a health scare with heart problems. I knew I was in line for such health issues, and I used this and the fact that a friend had lost weight to once again try dieting. I went gung ho exercising and counting fat grams. I was eating diet food and still ingesting sugars, grains, and starches. Eventually I began to binge on diet foods.
At some point I had been introduced to OA. I identified with eating alcoholically but I judged the organization to be cult-like, and I dismissed the Big Book as sexist and old fashioned. In short, I was not yet ready to hear the message. When I began binging again I decided to go back to OA; I had lost weight on my own but knew I could not keep it off without intervention.
In OA I learned about the disease concept. I re-read literature with new eyes and became open minded to what others shared. I kept asking for a food plan, but no one would give me one. They suggested I ask my Higher Power what I should eat. (Had I been able to successfully do so I would have succeeded all those years ago as a pre-teen trying to pray my weight off.) I needed a black and white food plan, not an ethereal idea. It was also suggested that I listen to my body. I was't successful in this area either. I now know that my body is broken, that the full button does not work and that if I listen to my body only, it will say, "more food!". A therapist, who was also in OA, helped me define a food plan of 3 meals a day, nothing in between, and no sugar. Since there were no amounts given, I tried my best to muddle through, often undereating . The diet mentality was strong in my mind, and the distorted body image continued; anorexic thinking began to dominate. Friends grew concerned,; acquaintances pulled me aside questioning my skinny body, and my family worried. It became difficult to find clothing small enough to fit me. I joked that the good thing about me was that people could buy clothes for me from a size 2 to a size 20, and I would eventually be able to wear them. I was holding on for dear life, white knuckling and terrorized by the food. I knew the dam would burst. When it did burst, the first place I went to was the health food store. I told myself lies like, "this isn"t really sugar" even though it was among substances I now avoid on the Cambridge Grey Sheet.
Then came the literal hell of binging, purging with laxatives, fasting, and dieting. Now came compulsive eating as I had never know. I would diet or fast during the week. Friday came and along with it the hideous, ritualistic eating. If I thought of a food, I was compulsed to eat it. I ate until I could not lay flat. I ate until my heart pounded in my chest, until I was feverish, until I had to walk bent over, until I sat by the toilet afraid of vomiting from the mass quantities I had consumed. I would awake to the same thing all over again. I would drive around going from one food haunt to the next never buying too much at one place --what would the clerk think? I had to get rid of the wrappers quickly and in trash cans outside my home; I did not want to face what I had done. I wanted no evidence after the binge was over. I took sick pleasure in being in a normal size body. I felt some weird superiority that I had a secret no one knew about. I'd buy fast acting suppository laxatives, as I wanted to be rid of the food quickly. I went to work hung over from the food. I had smells coming from every orifice. My face sagged and my body was bloated. I felt so sick. I was in absolute misery, and I knew I soon would be unable to hold down a job. I didn't know what was to become of me.
It was in this battered and broken state that I came to Grey Sheet. In GS I saw cleared eyed, thin, calm women. I was attracted by their serenity, togetherness, and by their message. I had been in OA meetings with a couple of the Greysheeters and had been captivated by one of them saying that abstinence and God were the most important things in her life and that she did not eat in between her meals no matter what. Another of the Greysheeters seemed to have a love affair with her food. She said, "I love my food" and seemed unashamed of that fact. This was so different from my moralistic approach to food. In GS I heard the phrase, "positive pitches on Greysheet abstinence". This was new for me because many of the OAs were as I was -- not abstinent. I had attended GS meetings a few times before I hit my bottom. My initial response was that GS was too rigid and agreed with a friend that GSrs were the food Nazis. My next reaction was one of admiration. I looked up to the GS community but thought the food plan was beyond my ability to grasp. I didn't see how I could ever be GS abstinent like these noble people. I couldn't imagine how I could be GS abstinent when I couldn't even be abstinent defining my own food plan in regular OA. Thankfully, my fears were comforted by the sponsor I got; I really had no choice but to try the GS because I was at the end of my rope, the jumping off point. I couldn't live with or without the food. I am so grateful that even in my fear and diseased state my sponsor coaxed me into turning over my food the first night and spoke to me about one day at a time.
Thank God for the willingness to weigh and measure my food one day at a time. Though I was raw and fearful I did feel hope with Greysheet. The disease wanted to hang onto me and told me I'd just do GS until I lost some weight; however, I soon clung to GS for the lifeline that it is. I remember thinking that some how, though I could not pinpoint why, I felt different and better about the food on Greysheet. I don't think I even registered the idea of my allergy to sugars, grains, and starches. I just knew the Greysheet was working, and I clung to it as a drowning man clings to a life preserver. I was helped each step of the way by the GS community which taught me how to make scrumptious, delicious meals. I found that the Greysheet was bountiful and not restrictive in the way I had once considered it. I asked a Higher Power for help each day, and I was given everything I needed to stay abstinent.
I have been blessed to weigh and measure a day at a time for 6 1/2 years. I now have more serenity around the food than ever. I no longer have to undergo the mental anguish of what is or is not abstinent. I don't have to figure out how much or what my food plan should be. The Greysheet spells it out in black and white, and I have a sponsor to help me. This is such a relief! The Greysheet gives me boundaries and gives me just the right amount of choices so that I stay safe. Also, for the most part my guilt about being a compulsive eater has been removed. I have a fatal illness, not a moral issue, and Greysheet is my medicine. I've learned that I have food allergies. Just as certain medications to which I am allergic have the capacity to kill me, so can sugars, grains and carbohydrates. Just one bite sets off a craving for more of the same. I don't obsess about my body size and clothing size nearly as much as I did when I was in the food. The longer I stay abstinent the more I trust GS and my sponsor to keep me in a normal sized body. What a miracle to have clothes that actually wear out instead of me outgrowing them! The steadiness of being about the same size year after year is a new experience for me, and I enjoy the many benefits of going through life without an overweight or underweight body. I don't have that nagging voice at the back of my mind saying "I should be dieting" or "what am I going to do about my weight." I experience guilt free eating, and I have a car that one day at a time has never been binged in. In the past several years I haven't had to experience those horrible days of binging, purging, and dieting. Not having to diet is phenomenal! I love it! The freedom I experience from not having to diet -- it's a God-given gift. None of these gifts would be possible without the help of the Greysheet community, my sponsor, and my Higher Power. I hope I never have to go back to the food hell of former years. With one hand in yours (my GS community) and the other hand in Higher Power's, I hope to continue this yummy taste of heaven here on earth.