Jewish Thought

friends

Thanks for publishing such an insightful and entertaining weekly magazine. I really enjoy reading it. Your series “Girl on a Diet” reminded me of the time in my life I spent on the Grey Sheet program. I was on the program for a good few years. I lost my weight and was maintaining my weight loss, until one night I picked up two cookies—and that was the end of my time on Grey Sheet. According to their rules, I had to start the program again from day one, as if all the work I had done until then was for nothing. I took a second look at Grey Sheet after that and eventually decided to move on. It is ironic that Grey Sheet is called “grey” when in fact it is based on black-and-white thinking. Sugar and white flour are always bad. Fruits, vegetables and protein are always good. If members have a slip—meaning that they eat something that is not on their program or too much of something that is on their program—they lose all the days they have been counting (Grey Sheeters count the days they have been abstaining from sugar and flour and following their plan). They also have to stop sponsoring if they are doing so. There is no room for mistakes; Grey Sheet cultivates perfectionism. What about complimenting people and focusing on how long they’ve been abstaining as opposed to telling them that since they did something that was against the Grey Sheet principles, they need to start counting from the beginning? What about the fact that before the slip they lost a lot of weight or stayed off certain foods for a long period while following the Grey Sheet food plan? For some people this punitive system may work, but from my experience and from seeing others struggle, this approach is not helpful, especially since people tend to come to it at a time when they are already feeling bad about themselves. It can easily just make them feel worse. Grey Sheet keeps reiterating that your life will be destroyed if you take the first bite of a food that contains white flour or sugar. This is very extreme. For some people, abstaining completely from white flour and sugar makes them want it even more. Let’s say you decide never to eat peppers. Keep on telling yourself that peppers are bad for you. Tell yourself every day that if you have one bite of pepper, you will not be able to stop. If you continuously focus on how bad peppers are for you and how you’ve decided never to eat them again, you will want them even more. And when, G-d forbid, you take the first bite of a pepper, you will probably binge on them for a long time because you feel deprived. The fact is that many people fall off the program and have a very hard time going back to it. They also gain tons of weight because they just can’t get enough of the sugar and flour they have been missing. People even start bingeing on fruits, vegetables or protein, which they never binged on before. People who fall off the program gain much more weight than before they started; they feel so deprived that they just can’t get enough food. Grey Sheeters will tell you that this is just because overeating is a progressive disease, but I disagree. The rigid system itself can create fears and obsessions with food. The rigidity of the program can be problematic in other ways, too. People who are struggling can’t have the program tweaked to make it work for them. Not even doctors’ orders faze the program. If a doctor says that a member needs to eat more meals, his Grey Sheet sponsor will not allow this, telling him that the doctor doesn’t really know best and that Grey Sheet knows better. Finally, if the program doesn’t work for you, they just tell you that you didn’t follow it the “right” way. They claim that this is the only way to get better, that “it’s the last house on the block.” Of course, the program focuses only on those who are successfully following the program. The only people who are entitled to speak at meetings are the ones who are following the program to a tee. They talk for 15 to 20 minutes about their

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