Spoiler alert: this post is not about THAT [giggle] book. But the recent release of the movie about your favorite abused-child-who-grew-up-to-be-a-Dom got me thinking. Thinking about how our wishes are so often black and white, while the world operates in grey.
Discrete categories make things easy to understand. When things are clearly right or wrong, it is easier to create goals and plans. It’s comforting, in a way. It’s simpler, it seems.
The downside of thinking too categorically is that it’s too easy to judge yourself as wrong, or as a failure. Without shades of grey, you probably don’t give yourself credit for what you have accomplished.
I once worked with a therapy client who had been sober for over 11 years. Then she had one drink. One. The single drink did not turn into two. It did not turn into a binge drinking episode (for women, binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks in about a two-hour period of time). The single drink did not escalate into a relapse.
One single drink in over 11 years. Sounds like a huge success to me.
She saw it as failure. And so did her substance abuse group. Unfortunately, many programs see any substance use as a relapse. And relapse = failure. Substance abuse research now views relapse as a part of recovery, but many treatment programs haven’t caught up. It’s all or nothing, all the way. This is often to the detriment of people.
The philosophy of all or nothing is prevalent in eating attitudes, too.
Language like “cheat” or being “on” a diet or weight loss program hints at a mindset that has no wiggle room. You’re either faithful, or you’re cheating. You’re either on the plan, or off it. There’s no room for grey.
This mindset sets you up to fail.
It’s setting you up for countless “fresh-start” Mondays when you swear that this time, it will be different.
For my clients, the main worry they start with is that if they give up control (or the façade of control) over their eating, they will mostly eat ice cream and chips. They worry that if they stop starting fresh on Mondays, they will never stop eating.
Luckily, the reality doesn’t match the fear.
So what would shades of grey look like when it comes to eating?
Since grey operates on a continuum, each day might look a little different. In the big picture, you will eat mostly nutritious food, and not too much overall. Some days, you might eat ice cream for breakfast – but mostly not. Some days, you might eat for comfort – but mostly not. Most days, you’ll eat just enough to feel satisfied – but occasionally, you might eat more than that.
Not beating yourself up means that you can notice that talking to a friend would have provided more comfort than food. So next time, you can try that.
Not beating yourself up means that the next day, you’ll probably eat less. Not because you need to make up for overeating, but because things just balance out naturally.
Not beating yourself up means that if you reach for some variation of fried dough, you will probably be satisfied with one piece. Maybe you won’t even finish one, plus you’ll be able to enjoy it. Not like before, when you finished the whole box of donuts just to shut them up so they couldn’t tempt you any longer.
Looks like grey is pretty exciting after all.
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