Geneen Roth has been living, writing, and speaking about compulsive eating, food addiction, emotional eating, intuitive eating, and a non-diet approach to weight management for several decades. Having worked with thousands of people struggling with these issues, I was thrilled to read her new book, Women, Food, and God. Imagine how excited I was to hear that Oprah had read it and loved it too – and that Geneen will appear on the Oprah show on May 12th!
I hope that her influence will finally shift the conversation away from restrictive diets to the meaning behind our relationship with food. More importantly, I believe that this book will help people understand that issues with food and weight are a beautiful opportunity to discover their true nature.
I don’t usually write formal reviews about the books I read but I wanted to share some of my thoughts about Women, Food, and God and the journey that so many of us, Geneen and myself included, have traveled and now guide others to take as well.
This journey begins at different points for each of us – body dissatisfaction, a painful relationship with food, health consequences of yo-yo dieting, whatever – but the common denominator is that our obsession with food, weight, or dieting limits our ability to live the fulfilling, abundant life we crave.
Every attempt to stuff down our emotions, ignore our true needs, or
shame ourselves for eating the foods we love takes us further away from
presence and joy. Unfortunately, our culture is so focused on counting, weighing, and measuring food and pounds that most people become even more distracted from the life they want. As I often say, people overdiet the same way they overeat.
Geneen’s beautiful writing, deep insights, and knowing humor peel away the layers of denial about why people eat when they aren’t physically hungry, continue to eat far beyond the point of fullness, and deprive and punish themselves. For that I would give this beautiful book ten stars. However, having worked with thousands of women (and men), I have to be honest and reluctantly admit that I am troubled by the Eating Guidelines at the back of the book. (For those that have read Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat, you’ll recognize them as chapters one through eight.)
First, while I fully agree with the intent of the guidelines, I believe they have been way oversimplified (as evidenced by the fact that they fit on half a page). While they are simple, they are not easy. In my experience these habits are deeply ingrained so they require more exploration and specific strategies in order to overcome them. For example, many people have difficulty identifying hunger, fullness, and their emotional triggers for overeating (much less what to do about them) and struggle with learning to love what they eat. There are many resources to help with the process (and it is a process); I just hope that people don’t become discouraged if they don’t immediately “get it” when they read Women, Food, and God and decide that this didn’t “work” either.
Second, I can see that the rule-like nature of the guidelines could lead people back into their eat-repent-repeat cycle. People who have been trained to diet may believe they have to adhere to the guidelines to the letter so like their diets, they may give up when they feel they have “blown it.” Fortunately, perfection isn’t necessary (or possible) and the awareness, enjoyment, and acceptance this book describes is not only possible, but is the only way out of their love-hate relationship with food and the beginning of their joyful, vibrant life.