— Betsy R., Farmington Hills, Michigan, 45 years old
I'm glad you asked about The Voice because this is really an important piece of the work with your relationship with food. But before I answer in a bit more detail about The Voice, it's good to point out that this is not an overnight process. The Voice has been in place since you were 4 years old. Four years old! That means it's been 41 years that it's been functioning, shouting and trying to protect you from getting hurt by cutting you off at the knees (before anyone else can do that first).
So, the very first thing is that part of being kind to yourself is understanding this is a process and will take time, since it took 41 years to establish itself the way it is now. And you need to be patient with yourself. Most changes that are worth going through aren't visible at first. They happen underground, so to speak. They happen in the recesses of your soul. Take your time and know that this whole process takes time. But with each piece of kindness, each act of patience you shower upon yourself, something changes. You begin trusting yourself more. You are more willing to see the truth.
Now, for The Voice: The best thing I've discovered is to disengage from it and to be relentless about that. You need a firm, almost fierce commitment to doing this. Each time you find yourself paralyzed with judgment or shame, each time you hear that voice ranting at you, you need to stop. Stop. No matter what, you stop. Even if you feel compelled by what it is saying, even if you believe every single word, you hear the tone of voice, you notice what it does to you and you stop. You disengage, telling it that it is not your friend. You are firm with it and with your commitment to stop The Voice from taking over your life. And if you keep doing that, if you stop it every time it attacks you, you will begin feeling as if you are getting more and more of yourself back. And when you have yourself back, you can then ask what you want to do, how you want to live, what's important to you. And how you want to eat. Without The Voice, those answers are much clearer and in alignment with your heart.
Next: How to respond to your cravings
Every week, Geneen will be answering questions from readers just like you—ask your questions now!
Geneen Roth's books were among the first to link compulsive eating and perpetual dieting with deeply personal and spiritual issues that go far beyond food, weight and body image. She believes that we eat the way we live and that our relationships to food, money and love are exact reflections of our deeply held beliefs about ourselves and the amount of joy, abundance, pain and scarcity we believe we have (or are allowed) to have in our lives.
Roth has appeared on many national television shows, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, 20/20, The NBC Nightly News, The View and Good Morning America. Articles about Roth and her work have appeared in numerous publications, including O, The Oprah Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Time, Elle, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune and The Philadelphia Inquirer. She has written a monthly column in Good Housekeeping magazine since 2007. Roth is the author of eight books, including The New York Times best-seller When Food Is Love and a memoir about love and loss, The Craggy Hole in My Heart. Women, Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything is her newest book.
Read More from Geneen Roth:
How to get over those last 10 pounds
Forgive yourself for your food addiction
Get clear about Geneen's 7 food guidelines