GreySheeters Anonymous is not a passive solution to our eating problems. As our Group Purpose says, freedom from compulsive eating comes through “attaining and maintaining GreySheet abstinence, which we define as three weighed and measured meals a day from the GreySheet with nothing in between but black coffee, tea, or diet soda.”
In order to attain abstinence, we need a sponsor, a copy of the GreySheet food plan, a measuring cup, a food scale, and a lot of willingness.
The food plan itself not only provides practical guidance for grocery shopping and food preparation, but identifies several of the core aspects of the GSA program as it exists today:
- Write your food plan daily; call it in to your food sponsor.
- Eat three measured meals a day with nothing in between but black coffee, tea or no-calorie soft drinks.
- Check labels for sugar content. Sugar must be listed 5th or below on ingredient labels.
- Do not eat diet sweets or foods not on the food portions sheet.
- Avoid your individual binge foods.
- When in doubt, leave it out!
- Do not skip any meals.
- Weigh yourself only once a month.
- Call before you take that first bite.
As you can see from that list, abstinence takes work. However, the planning and preparation also give us something positive to focus on and to occupy the hours that we once filled with compulsive eating.
A Practical and Spiritual Solution
At first it may seem like we spend so much time just weighing and measuring, shopping and chopping, that we can’t do any spiritual work. If we have experience of other fellowships, we may be concerned that we aren’t making spiritual progress in GreySheeters Anonymous.
The truth is that we are doing important spiritual work every time we write down our food and commit it to our sponsor, every time we weigh and measure our food, and every time we face a challenge to our abstinence and make a phone call instead of giving in to temptation.
When we do those things, we are working the first three of the Twelve Steps.
We are admitting we are powerless over food by calling our sponsors to commit our food.
That commitment both expresses and develops a belief that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.
By putting our food onto a scale or into a measuring cup before we eat it, and eating only the food we commit in the amounts we commit, we are turning our will and our life over to the care of God as we understand Him.
During our first 90 days of back-to-back abstinence, we learn the ins and outs of weighing and measuring and are freed from our cravings as a result. With freedom from the compulsion to eat, some of our sanity is restored.
Beyond Weighing and Measuring
However, the GreySheet itself reminds us that weighing and measuring is only a part of our program. At the bottom of the first panel there is a box with the following words printed in capitals for emphasis:
Remember...ours is a three-fold illness. These suggested eating plans can guide us on the physical level, but we need the 12 Steps to remember our recovery on the spiritual and emotional levels as well.
And again, after the list of foods and portions, there is another boxed section that begins
This is the food plan. It will get rid of the outer manifestation, fat. It is only a part of our program. The 12 Steps will take care of our living problems.
The GSA Group Purpose says “We explore, together, the utilization of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous in arresting compulsive eating.” The book Alcoholics Anonymous (generally known as the “The Big Book”) outlines that program beginning in Chapter 5, “How It Works.” This is where we find the Twelve Steps and learn how to take Steps One through Four. Steps Five through Eleven occupy Chapter 6, “Into Action,” and Chapter 7, “Working with Others,” addresses the Twelfth Step. The A.A. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions expands on the ideas in the Big Book.
GreySheeters Anonymous models itself closely on A.A. The A.A. “Big Book” explains us to ourselves and serves as an “owner’s manual” for compulsive eaters as well as alcoholics. But reading Alcoholics Anonymous is not enough to bring about the spiritual awakening necessary for long-term abstinence and recovery from compulsive eating.
A "We" Program
Our Group Purpose makes it clear that we must explore A.A.’s program together. This is why we say that GSA is a “we program.” None of us can do it by ourselves. The Twelve Steps only work for us if we take them with other recovering compulsive eaters.
At absolute minimum, we work this program with a sponsor, and many GSA members do follow the A.A. tradition of working the steps one-on-one with their sponsors. Others prefer to approach the steps as a group, expanding both the support and the accountability our sponsor provides.
These groups are usually known by the acronym “AWOL,” which stands for A Way of Life, because GreySheet abstinence and the Twelve Steps are a way of life. They convene on a temporary basis so that members can work through the Twelve Steps together, starting at Step One and concluding with Step Twelve.
Recovery for Life
Step Twelve enjoins us to “practice this program in all of our affairs.” As time goes on, we uncover new layers of understanding and become progressively more honest and open. We must live the Twelve Steps every day and often choose to take them formally more than once. As the Big Book reminds us, we are not cured of our addiction:
What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.
By the time we find GSA, we have already learned that it is not enough to reach our desired weight. Simply losing weight or fitting into a certain size of clothes never fixed our problems. Without abstinence, we were just as miserable when we were thin as when we were fat.
The GreySheeters Anonymous program addresses all three aspects of our disease of compulsive eating: physical, emotional, and spiritual. As long as we follow it, we never have to eat compulsively again. And along the way we discover that GreySheet abstinence is the “easier, softer way” that many of us sought unsuccessfully for years.
Keep coming back. It works if you work it!