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  • Writer's pictureSue Bowles

Searching for Gray in My Black and White World

*** Forewarning: This will be a raw post….because I just need to let it loose. If you want to hear a little more about what it’s like inside the twisted world of an eating disordered person then by all means, read on. I would love you to. But if you’re not sure you are ready to read it that’s fine…just move along, nothing to see here. Because I said I would be open and honest and welcome you along the journey God has me on. This blog is about following Christ through the good, the bad, and the ugly made beautiful. And right now it’s the ugly….waiting for the beautiful. ***

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I like black. I look good in black. It’s in my color wheel. Quite frankly I look sharp in black. Black is safe. It goes well with anything. It makes other colors pop more. And in the last week I have been challenged to broaden my color palette and let a little gray in. I’m not sure how well my brain is doing with the expansion project.

I know I am a work in progress (Phil. 1:6). And I know this is part of that process. Oh how I used to HATE that word! I

now know there is hope on the other side of that word….it’s just getting to the other side that’s a challenge! When I committed to the next step – to get the help of a dietician to help even out my eating – I KNEW it would be hard. I explained it as making the main conversation about the one topic I want to avoid: food. I knew it would raise anxiety. I knew it would make me angry. And I knew it would screw with my mind. And yet I took the step. Because to continue to live in the anxiety, anger, and self-protection that I have been in for decades is no longer an option. God wants more for me. He wants better for me. And if I am to be about following Him through the good, the bad, and the ugly made beautiful then I need to follow. Period. My choices are obedience or disobedience. It’s that simple. Not easy, but simple.

The goal is to eat every 2-4 hours. So I’ve been keeping a food log that last 2 weeks. This has been my constant

companion in a manila folder I keep nearby. I am to write down everything I eat. Now we (dietician and myself) already set a meal schedule based on my typical day: breakfast at 7a when I get to work (because my schedule just doesn’t work to eat before I get to work), morning snack at 10a, lunch at 1p, afternoon snack at 4p, and supper at 7p. But it doesn’t end there.

The whole meal plan isn’t about making a menu. It’s about a plan…a balanced plan using the diabetic exchange principle. It’s not about calories. It’s about eating a balanced amount of carbohydrates (carbs), protein and endurance fuels (fats). My personalized meal plan lets me know how many of each I am to have at meals and snacks. If only it was that easy. I have to read the labels of everything (or in my case I use MyFitnessPal and scan the bar code and transfer it to my paper…a lot easier and faster and less obvious). And here’s the conversion table.

It sounds all fine and good….until rubber supposedly meets the road and the wheels come off. It’s not necessarily about changing what foods I eat as much as it is about balancing things out. I guessed pretty quickly – and two weeks of logs has proven I was right – that I eat more carbs and fats than protein. THAT has become PAINFULLY obvious. And frustrating.

A week or two ago my counselor and I were talking and she drew something to my attention. She had done it in the past but it became a bigger focus. As this dietician thing has taken off she said ‘You have the ED black and white thinking going on. Big time.’ So her challenge to me that particular week was to ‘live in the gray.’ Yes….that is the source of this week’s blog theme. I made it through that first week of living in the gray…because I was too busy to think much about it. Until this past week when we talked about it in more detail. In fact this time it was ‘your black and white thinking…sucks.’ I had a B&W attack last night. I was just about fit to be tied.

“Just wrote in my journal. …just frustrated…..with the eating plan, with not being able to do it “right “, with the increased hunger, with feeling like I can’t find the right combo of more proteins and less carbs….with how to go off script when we cook something on our own (like hamburgers tonight)……I hate feeling hungry every 90 minutes. It is driving me crazy. ”

ED likes to whisper in my ear. ED likes to demand perfection and getting it ‘right’ – whatever ‘it’ may be. And last night ‘it’ was the food log. Mind you I’ve been keeping it all week with little issue but last night my brain just stopped. For whatever reason it just couldn’t remember how I was figuring things for the last week.

It didn’t matter that I had a week’s worth of logs to use for reference. My brain locked in the B&W and wasn’t moving. I tried to write in my journal and I couldn’t even slow down my brain enough to capture it on paper. I LITERALLY used white out 3x on the entry and kept going back and forth. I finally had to set it aside and walk away. I felt like I was ready to explode. All because I couldn’t get it ‘right.’ The whispers in my ear rang like the bell tolling for church somewhere. I was a screw up. I was stupid because I couldn’t figure stuff correctly. I sent an email blowing steam to my counselor that said in part “I am getting so fricking confused on this stupid food log that I just want to quit!” And she wrote back “Step back a bit and refocus/simplify on one thing at a time. I’m not sure if you are speaking to the food choices or emotions, but just a reminder to live in the gray too.”

I had told my counselor this last week that I am putting SO MUCH energy into sticking to the meal plan for the 2/3 of the day I’m at work that I don’t have any energy to even think about supper. And that makes things worse. Maybe I kill it for 2/3 of the day but when supper goes out the window my B&W thinking tells me the entire day was a waste. Or as I put it to my counselor “THEN WHAT?! What good is it to do well during the day and then go right back where I was at night?!” That was one of the comments that made her say my B&W thinking sucks. And it does!


But that’s how it feels. Two steps forward two steps back. I was blowing steam in the Rag Room (private FB room for last year’s retreat participants) and a newer friend told me it will be like doing the cha-cha-cha for a while and to enjoy the dance. She always makes me smile. That decompressed my pressure cooker a little.

But tonight it a prime example. Hot weather makes supper a challenge so I got some cold stuff at the store and came home. I had a snack at work around 4:2op (not the 4p schedule) so I wasn’t particularly hungry right away. Then some stuff needed done and Mom needed some help and before you know it the clock read 7:30p. So much for 7p dinner. By now my stomach has just sunk and I felt defeated. Like I couldn’t get it right. Again. Like a wasted day, wasted effort. Like it’s never going to change. Like I can try all I want but it’s just too deeply entrenched after decades and it’s just not going to change. I hadn’t eaten yet and it was 8:15p. At this point I would usually just punt…or at most eat a bagel. And I was tempted to do that again tonight. But the fighting side of me knew I had to eat something. So I did my usual thing. I looked in the refrigerator and just stared blankly at it. I tend to freeze when I look in the fridge and can’t decide what to eat. And tonight was no different. So I baled out and had a protein shake.

That’s what it’s like in my brain right now. As I said I’m trying to invest so much time in righting the ship for breakfast and lunch (and accompanying snacks) that I have no energy to deal with supper. I just don’t have it. And the wheels come off because if something isn’t already in the works then I have to think more….and that just doesn’t work. And the frustration stokes up another notch and I get kicked down another notch. And the cycle continues. And I stay stuck. Or buried deeper. And then the fight in me tries to right THAT ship and I get frustrated because that part of the meal plan isn’t changing yet.

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So yes, I have B&W thinking. At every turn and forging new paths. And it’s hell breaking out. But I have to keep coming back to what I said at the start….I have to remember that God is the one directing this journey and my choice is obey or disobey. And my heart is to obey. “The flesh is willing but the spirit is weak.” But for me it’s more like the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

So I have a LOT of questions for the dietician tomorrow night. I have to figure out the gray in my meal plan – like how to go off script when we make something at home (like hamburgers) and don’t have a serving label to scan (yes, that frustrated me too). And how to account for stuff when I don’t keep exactly to the schedule. I need to figure out where each little sliver fits into the log. When it’s neat and tidy my brain is neat and tidy. And my emotions are calmer.

For more thoughts on black & white thinking check out http://jennfreeatlast.com for Jenn’s thoughts and Leisa’s thoughts at http://life4inga.blogspot.com

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