Monday, August 9, 2010

Review and thoughts on "Women Food and God" by Geneen Roth

Recently I read the book Women Food and God by Geneen Roth.  Oprah had been promoting it saying that "it changed the way she felt about her body, her diet, and her life."  The book totes being the "anti-diet" book.  It speaks more to the self help aspect of your relationship to food and food to your feelings.

"The way you eat is inseparable from your core beliefs about being alive. Your relationship to food is an exact mirror of your feelings about love, fear, anger, meaning, transformation, and yes, even God."

Although the book speaks mostly from the perspective of compulsive eating or overeating.  I found a lot of the feelings described throughout the book also pertain to compulsive under eating and deprivation of food. Really the emotions are the same, it is how each of us chooses to use our relationship with food to mask or numb our feelings.

Personally I have struggled with bouts of anorexia. Hiding and numbing my feelings by depriving myself.  Feeling that while things around may have been out of control, I could control what or if I ate and how much exercise I did.  I felt that I was good at this and even was praised for my thinness at times in my life.  After years of therapy, I do understand my triggers into this disease and relationship. And this relationship was a direct mirror externally to my feelings. I felt unloved, alone, angry, fearful, unworthy, and empty. The emptier my belly felt was how I dealt with the spiritual emptiness I was feeling.  I have friends who feel the same things but instead of depriving and torturing themselves through withdrawal, they instead try to fill up the emptiness with food by binging and overeating. Same feelings, different response. "Feelings are in the body, reactions are in the head; a reaction is the mental deduction of a feeling. (And beliefs are reactions to that we've had so many times that we believe they are true.) In an attempt not to feel what is uncomfortable, the mind will often rant and ramble and tell us how awful it all is." (pg 105 WFG)

Roth speaks about our internal conversation and judgement as "The Voice". In describing this Voice she writes, " you believe that you need to hide your defects from other people lest they withdraw in abject horror. You believe that The Voice knows the truth and you don't want anyone else to discover how monstrous you are. How dark. How unredeemable. Hiding seems like an act of self-preservation. It seems like your only option if you want to have any kindness or love in your life. When you are in total agreement with The Voice, you convince yourself that your best and only recourse is to be ashamed of yourself and try harder to get it right. Be The Voice's idea of you. Be someone different, someone you're not."(pg 138 WFG)

My relationship to food now is much healthier. Although, I do still have brief moments that I fall into the pattern.  I am still controlling about what I eat or don't eat, how much, and when. I still do not enjoy eating socially or trying new foods.  I watch my portions and I count my calories. And I still do weigh myself almost daily, which is better than the 3-4 times a day on two different scales that I used to do.

Roth later comments on recognizing The Voice, "that awareness functions now to separate you from what is not you. From your story about how unredeemable you are. From your shame at being the stale, rehashed, familiar story of yourself. And because you've come to love life without the story, you without your past, you are less and less willing to endure the suffering of merging with The Voice. You begin to prefer simplicity over complication. Freedom over familiarity."(pg 138 WFG)

While I found the book very eye opening, I do feel that it is just a beginning to dealing with women and their relationship to food. It is hard when you are in this vicious cycle to really stop and listen to what you are feeling. I think the book is a good starting point to investigate what you are feeling, but therapy to deal with and uncover these feelings is necessary.  I recall several points in therapy when just hearing something come out of my mouth was such a surprise to hear. I didn't even realize I was feeling it. And hearing it spoken from my mouth to someone else somehow made it more real and validated.

If you or someone you know has or is struggling with food issues this book is a must read. At least to start the internal questioning and awareness to the emotions.  A good spark to ignite the journey into the the depths of discovery of you, food, and God.

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