Saturday , March 2 2024
A weighty topic implying food is not the problem, and dieting is not the solution.

Book Review: Women, Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth

Not a diet book, but a realization that change can come from within, Women, Food and God author Geneen Roth directs us toward the mindfulness to break the cycle of using food to feed a desire much deeper than hunger. Whether God, some type of spirituality, or another coping mechanism, Roth makes clear that food is not the problem and dieting is not the solution.

The way you eat is inseparable from your core beliefs about being alive. Your relationship with food is an exact mirror of your feelings about love, fear, anger, meaning, transformation, even God. Instead of dieting to lose weight, Roth suggests you eat when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied. What? Yes, she believes that when you figure out what’s bothering you, you will only want to eat what you need.

Geneen Roth has made a career of running workshops and writing about women and weight. For those who know the all-consuming “dieting” mindset, and who gain and lose weight over and over, some of Roth’s ideas ring true: “As long as you are striving and pushing and trying hard to do something that can never be done, you know who you are: someone with a weight problem who is working hard to be thin. You don’t have to feel lost or helpless because you always have a goal and that goal can never be reached.”

Once the reader of Women, Food and God succeeds at working through the issues behind the relationship with food and self, Roth says there is something even better than food when you viscerally discover you are bigger than your pain.

Roth speaks of her own life-threatening weight problems, and the use of meditation and spiritual inquiry to work through psychological and physical problems. “I turned to food for the same reasons that people turned to God," she explains: "it was my sign of ecstasy, my transport to heaven, my concrete proof that relief from the pain of everyday life was possible. … until the Hostess Sno Balls were gone.”

Finally, Roth says: “The fact that more than half the women in this country are slogging in the quicksand of food obsession is a spiritual, intellectual and political concern.” Yet, it isn't clear why the author thinks this is strictly a woman's problem, while large numbers of men [pun intended] also have issues with weight, self-esteem, and eating for reasons far from hunger.

Because our learned vision of ourselves is deeply set in childhood, Roth says, “Your self-image is refracted so many times – with learned inferences and memories and conditioning – that it is nothing more than a hall of mirrors.”

In the end, though, the book's truth is also this: “It takes great effort to become effortless at anything. There are no quick fixes.”

About Helen Gallagher

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