The book Women Food and God by Geneen Roth was a quick read this weekend. I was able to spend time with my mom, and after reading this book it reminded me of how my own relationship with food has been conditioned and influenced through growing up in my family. My approach as a health and wellness professional is to tell people to put away the scales and diet plans and to eat what they want (For more see Land of Plenty ). As a kid, there was always chocolate, ice cream, and dessert under the cake lid, so this makes sense to me. I enjoyed lattes, pumpkin donuts, waffles, and lots of chardonnay wine this weekend. We danced all night at a wedding (sweating profusely from busting so many moves on the dance floor for hours on end) and then had pizza to cap off the night because we were hungry, hours after the formal dinner was served. I have never heard one of my three sisters or my mother complain about being fat or needing to/going on a diet. As women in present- day America, I feel like this is rare.
I find this topic so interesting because almost everyone whom I speak to about working out/eating/life goals wants to lose 5, 10, or 15 lbs. If only their thighs weren’t so fat or if their stomach didn’t hang over their jeans….they would be happy. They would truly be satisfied with what they look like (many times meaning who they are). I truly appreciated Roth’s approach to eating and would encourage others to read it, mainly anyone who has ever felt guilty/worried/obsessed about weight/eating/body image (Did I cover everyone yet?). She comes from the experience of gaining and losing over 1000 lbs since adolescence.
For over 30 years, Roth has lead workshops focusing on women and their relationship with food, and her experiences are what her eight books are written from. She includes God in the title of this book stating that “Our personality and its defenses, one of which is our emotionally charged relationship with food are a direct link to our spirituality. They are the bread crumbs that lead us home.” The part of her own personal experience that surprises people the most is not that she quit dieting, but that she quit trying to fix herself. In her book she asks the reader to quit trying to fix their bodies. She states how common it is for women to be brainwashed by the sixty-billion dollar a year diet industry.
I found a lot of similarities in between the yogic frame of mind and her theory, including staying in the present moment, being fully aware of how your body feels, listening to your inner teacher/quieting your inner critic, and loving yourself for who you are at your core. She talks about how risk aversive our minds are and how we become afraid of change and love, not just in eating but in life decisions. Below are some of my favorite quotes from her advice to stop dieting, start listening to your body/heart/mind by practicing what she calls inquiry, and follow her simple Eating Guidelines (basic things like eating when you are hungry/eating until satisfied/eating with no distraction, enjoying your food, etc).
“Ask yourself what you love. Without fear of consequences, without force or shame or guilt. What motivates you to be kind, to take care of your body, your spirit, others, the earth? Trust the longing, trust the love that can be translated into action without the threat of punishment. Trust that you will not destroy what matters most. Give yourself that much.”
“We think we are miserable because of what we weigh, and to the extent that our joints hurt and our knees ache and we can’t walk three blocks without losing our breath, we probably are physically miserable because of extra weight. But if we’ve spent the last five, twenty, fifty years obsessing about the same ten or twenty pounds, something else is going on.”
“The bottom line, whether you weigh 340 pounds or 150 pounds, is that when you eat when you are not hungry you are using food as a drug, grappling with boredom or illness or loss or grief or emptiness or loneliness or rejection.”
“It’s called the When I Get Thin (Change Jobs, Move, Find a Relationship, Leave This Relationship, Have Money) Blues. It’s called the “If Only” refrain. It’s called postponing your life and your ability to be happy to a future date when then, oh then you will finally get what you want and life will be good.”
“It’s not about the weight. It’s not about the goal. It’s not about Being Thin or Being Someone Special or Getting There. Those are fantasies in your mind– and they are all in the future, a future that never comes. Because when your goals are reached, they will be reached in the ‘right now.’”
“I believed there was an end goal, a place at which I would arrive and forevermore be at peace…The promise of a diet is not only that you will have a different body; it is that in having a different body, you will have a different life.”
“We treat ourselves and the rest of the world as if deprivation, punishment and shame lead to change…To change your body, you must first understand that which is shaping it. Not fight it. Not force it. Not deprive it. Not shame it. Not do anything but accept and understand it.”
“If you actually listen to your what body (not your mind) wants, you’ll discover that it doesn’t want three weeks of hot fudge sundaes despite the panting and salivating that is evoked at their very mention…the moment you tell yourself you can have it, the moment the taboo is removed, hot fudge sundaes become as ordinary as sardines.”
“We want to be thin because thinness is the purported currency of happiness and peace and contentment in our time. And although that currency is a lie– the tabloids are filled with miserable skinny celebrities– most systems of weight loss fail because they don’t live up to the promise: weight loss does not make people happy.”
“You spend years, sometimes a whole life dieting, fasting, bingeing, exercising and then laying on the couch because you refuse to do one more sit up or downward dog. During this stage your main goal is to fix yourself, reach your ideal weight and rid yourself forever of the focus on food. Since the relationship with food is only a microcosm for your relationship to the rest of your life (and your beliefs about abundance, deprivation, fear, benevolence, God) any attempts to change the food part without also engaging in the beliefs it represents will end in disappointment, 100 percent of the time.”