A Night with Geneen Roth: Women Food and God
Yesterday I had the pleasure to see the amazing Geneen Roth speak (via the Open Center) in New York City. I’ve been familiar with her for quite some time now, and her books on making peace with compulsive eating have been my safety blankets many times over.
Geneen Roth has a new book out, Women Food and God (you might’ve caught her on Oprah a few weeks ago. If you missed it, don’t worry! She’ll be on again in July). Because her work is so important to me and my journey with food and compulsive eating, I took copious notes (and of course bought the book). I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned with you.
First off, Geneen defines compulsive eating as: Eating when you’re not hungry and not stopping when you’ve had enough. That is me in a nutshell! The overarching premise is that our relationship with food is the gateway to the way we live our lives. Food isn’t just food. Food represents our beliefs about the meaning of life. So, when we eat because we are bored, tired, lonely, angry…we’re not eating because we want FOOD. We’re doing it because during the act of eating, we don’t have to face those emotions. Only problem is that as soon as the last crumb is finished, our problems are still there. Even doubled with the compulsive eating.
Here are 5 Principles that Geneen outlines in her book:
1. We compulsively eat for exquisitely good reasons only. For example, if you’re experiencing grief at the lost of a loved one, eating can temporarily allow you to forget those feelings. However, as mentioned before, eating doesn’t push away the grief, it only doubles it. We need to look at what’s really going on when we eat.
2. We don’t change by force. This includes: guilt, fear, deprivation, punishment, and shame. Think back to all the diets you’ve been on, and subsequently failed, and then saying to yourself: “If I just deprive myself ENOUGH, then I will end up thin, happy, etc.” That seems a bit paradoxical. How can you deprive and punish yourself and still be happy?
3. Diet’s Don’t Work. I’ve said this before, many times. Diets don’t lead to happiness. They lead to binges, and they lead you to not trust yourself.
4. Healing is about being broken and whole at the same time. I loved this one. She mentioned that people we admire and look up to: celebrities, parents, seemingly perfect people like the Dalai Lama…they may look perfect on the outside, but they too have broken parts. They are human, after all.
5. Realize nothing is wrong when the pain is there. Experiencing uncomfortable feelings is a matter of being alive and vulnerable. And it’s also the point at which people turn to food (as I do). But, what’s it truly like to feel hurt? Can you sit with the discomfort, be curious about it, and learn from it, instead of numbing the feeling with food?
Geneen Roth reminded me last night that our relationship with food is vaster than we realize. We need to learn to trust ourselves to make the right decisions for what’s best for us.
As Geneen so succinctly said last night, “We are following instructions by people we wouldn’t even ask for street directions.”