By a raise of hands, how many of you have already read “Women Food and God” by Geneen Roth? If you haven’t, I bet you’ve heard of it at least. [And if not, please direct me to the rock you are living under.]
Geneen Roth is a #1 New York Times Bestselling author slash motivational speaker slash former dieter slash binge eater, who, over the span of her lifetime, has gained and lost over 1,000 pounds. [I’ll give you a moment while you contemplate that.] She’s tried it all- Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, SlimFast, laxatives, diet pills, you name it. She isn’t a stranger to eating in private, in her car, and subsequently would starve herself the following day or go on the latest diet craze. The chaos finally stopped when she attended a Buddhist meditation retreat, as a suggestion from her therapist. Geneen’s mind moves a mile a minute, so you can just imagine the sheer hell she was going through, having to learn to be still and be in the moment. She came home with a much deeper appreciation for food, its power and how it relates to every single other facet in a human’s life. She’s of the firm belief that how, where, with whom, and what you eat speaks eons about what you believe about life. The lessons she learned at the retreat have taken her years to put into practice in her own life, but she was finally able to end the war with food and with her body. She settled into and has now maintained her body’s natural, healthy weight for more than 3 decades.
I had wanted to read this book for years, but never got around to it. I was actually a little scared of the hype it was getting and wondered what strange secrets were inside that could possibly relate to my life. I have read and loved a few of Geneen’s other books, like “When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair,” which is a close second for my favorite. [How about that title?] She writes her books as if she’s talking to her very best friend and not educating an unknown audience. She’s extremely witty and candid about all the experiences revolving around food and dieting growing up. I can see so much of her life in my own. Her problems started when she was really young, just as I was, and her parents were constantly fighting and arguing. Her troubles with food began with Hostess SnoBalls and mine began with ice cream sandwiches. Somewhere deep inside her, she blamed herself for her parents’ hostility. And just as she began to hide food, eat more servings at meals, the pounds began to creep on and she could blame the fighting on her extra weight. Any time from then on when she’d be hurt in life or things didn’t go her way… at least there was food.
Too many people [my old self included] want so damn desperately just to DROP the weight instead of dealing with the enormous issues as to why they gained the weight in the first place. I’ll be the first people to tell you that if you DON’T do that, you might as well not start losing weight at all. It won’t stay off. Being thin doesn’t make your soul feel better if you haven’t dealt with your fear, your neglect, your abuse, your shame, your past disappointments, the need to escape reality, or just life in general. Not dealing with those issues is what keeps us eternally adolescent. We learned that behavior when we were just babies- the prime source of comfort was being fed by our mothers/caretakers. We learned, also, to abuse the system and to continually be fed even when we were no longer physically hungry. It’s far too easy to revert back to that behavior even when we’re 20, 30, 40, 50, and so on. For that short moment of tastebud euphoria, we’ve numbed out our problems. For that moment, we don’t have to face what’s staring us down, ready to fight. You swallow and 5 minutes later are faced with something twice as bad- guilt AND your problem that is still there. We go up in size, see a higher number on the scale, and if we don’t catch it in time… the health problems begin, as well.
I need to be frank with you guys. Not until reading this book did I think so seriously about the consequences of emotional eating. But the more I sit on it, the reality hits: binge eating, emotional eating, is a slow form of suicide. We see it all the time in the news- obesity rates skyrocketing, children under 10 contracting what used to be known as Adult Onset Diabetes [type 2], a few women trying to earn the title of Heaviest Woman in the World. Why?
Yes, portions of food are ridiculously higher than in 1950. Yes, we’re more sedentary than we used to be. And yes, there are many more processed crap “anti food” items to buy in the store these days. But what really rings true for me is that we no longer are facing our problems, working through them, and looking out to each other for emotional support. We’re instead turning to another bag of Doritos. Or Oreos. Or fast food. Instead of picking up the phone to call a neighbor or relative, we have our local pizza delivery guy on speed dial. I honestly believe that we’re dealing with such a huge crisis because we’re getting our fix with food.
Abuse still happens. Divorce still happens. People get fired. Your parents grow frail and eventually die. Your kids grow up and eventually move away. If you haven’t even dealt with the pain from your childhood and you’re carrying around that pain and shame in the form of extra pounds, you aren’t well-equipped to take on the numerous disappointments yet to happen. We shouldn’t be out of breath while going to war. I honestly believe that the way out of the diet roller coaster IS to reach out for that support again. Coming to that realization doesn’t make you weak, it makes you stronger. It makes you human. It makes you humble. There HAS to be a way to get your fill, to remedy that hunger you fill without spoon-feeding yourself another pint of ice cream.
You guys know that phrase that goes, “it takes a village?” I don’t think it’s ever been more true than in this scenario. Now, before you start thinking I’m going out for the next Miss America, I’m being completely serious here. [Heeheehee, world peace! Heeheehee] It’s time we start looking out for one another. I know, personally, that I can’t do this alone, and I also know that I have the hardest time reaching out to others for assistance. I get it. It’s just something that I need to work on. It needs to be okay for me to “put someone out” or “be a burden” sometimes. I expect the same from other people as well.