I had to see what all the fuss was about. Maybe I could join the many who, thanks to Oprah’s promotion of Geneen Roth’s book “Women Food and God,” had experienced life changing, food-relationship changing, epiphanies. In my constant search for answers (to questions I am still formulating in my reforming yo-yo dieter’s mind), I was open to a book with God in the title despite my own personal lack of spirituality and religious belief. Why not? Epiphanies can be secular too:) And Oprah, my own personal goddess, says she will never diet again, thanks to the book.
So I did my best to put my skepticism aside and read with an open mind. And then I finally sat down to watch (a months old recorded episode of) Oprah and Roth, as they responded to questions from women who had read the book.
According to Roth, a multitude of things are happening when we eat if we are not hungry. We are revealing what we truly believe about life here on earth… and once we know what it is we believe, we can begin to question if it’s true. We are turning to food because we are hungry for something else that we can’t name: “a connection to what is beyond the concerns of daily life.” We are trying to avoid feeling pain that has happened in our pasts, thereby we are “living in reverse.” We are using food as a drug to mask some feeling.
As for the God connection, Roth believes that our “relationship to food is an exact microcosm of our relationship to life itself…” and “everything we believe about love, fear, transformation and God is revealed in how, when and what we eat.” And it doesn’t matter if we believe in one God, many gods, or no god. Because “anyone who breathes and thinks and experiences has beliefs about God.” Oprah’s interpretation is that it all comes down to one’s “relationship to the source” – that which we call God or don’t call God is all that matters. It is about being in the moment and not trying to change. And Oprah further explains that the question so many of us ask,”Why can’t I stop eating,” is a sacred question, the answer to which would open the door to one’s entire life.
My interpretation of the bottom-line from Roth and Oprah is that if you listen to your body, you will get to your natural weight. And that we know something is not quite right in our lives and because we are not at our ideal weight, we “believe that food is the problem and that dieting will fix it.” Roth suggests that we are trying to fix something that has never been broken. They also say that 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.” So from this all, the moral is to give up dieting and start listening to your body instead. And, oh yeah, to have a spiritual connection as you are doing it.
One thing I found very interesting about the book and Roth’s message, is that while she does provide guidelines for eating, they are only found on the last page of her book and hold a very unimportant role in her message as a whole. So for her, it is not about the food. But about everything else in our lives that we are missing or masking with food.
So what do I think about all this? And did the book bring me an epiphany? I’m not sure. And – no. But according to Oprah, that might be a good thing. Because she says the book is for compulsive eaters and that not everyone will need to or get anything from what they read because not everyone is a compulsive eater. I also wonder if Oprah has herself finally had the “aha moment” that she can apply to her own life and use to once and for all conquer her own weight/food-related demons.
So while overall I did not find any personal aha moments or answers in Roth’s words, and a lot of it was nebulous which does not mesh well with my pragmatic mind, there were a few things that resonated with me. I can buy into the theory that often eating is not about the food. But I also don’t think it is necessarily about missing something spiritual in one’s life. Maybe it is about habit or boredom or emotions in the moment, rather than in the past. Then again, I have long thought that my life is missing something to give meaning to my days and I have yet to find, as Oprah suggested years ago, my passion. So maybe that is my “higher power” that I have yet to connect with. I also struggle with the notion that something in my past is driving me to eat today. I know that holds true for others, but I don’t think it is the case for me. Something else Roth said that struck me is that “most… can’t imagine a world in which they would stop dieting or trying to fix the size of their thighs.” I get that! For Roth, it is not about dieting. It is about listening to your body and silencing your negative inner voice and trusting in yourself and having a relationship to something godlike. Now if someone could give me specific step-by-step instructions for listening to my body I might get somewhere!
I am very curious what your thoughts are on Roth’s and Oprah’s theories. And please share things that you got from the book that I did not. I know from reading other blogs and comments that the book has inspired revelations for many, just not me. We are all different in this journey and it is those differences that make the trip more interesting. And informative. And maybe your interpretation may resonate with me in a way that Oprah’s and Roth’s did not.
The Eating Guidelines
- Eat when you are hungry.
- Eat sitting down in a calm environment.
- Eat without distractions.
- Eat what your body wants.
- Eat until you are satisfied.
- Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others.
- Eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure.