When you're obsessed with food and your body image, you'll try anything to look and feel better—crash diets, calorie counting, intense workout plans. But Geneen Roth, author of Women, Food, and God, suggests something completely different: Instead of trying to control your eating habits, let go of your fixation and discover who you really are.
Those of us who are utterly focused on food and weight never consider that we are ignoring the most obvious solution. We tell ourselves that the answer is out there and our job is to keep looking, to never give up until we find the right solution. One month it's about white foods. Then it's about brain chemistry. Finding the right drug. The fat gene. LAP-BAND surgery. Being addicted to sugar. Eating for our blood type. Alkaline and acid-forming foods. Although attending to one or some of these issues might indeed ease our struggle, we use the hunt for answers to abdicate personal responsibility—and with it, any semblance of power—for our relationship with food. Underlying each frenzied bout of passionate involvement in the newest solution is the same lack of interest in acknowledging our own part. The same conviction that "I don't have the power to do anything about this problem." We want to be done; we want to be fixed. But since the answer is not where we are looking, our efforts are doomed to fail.
Freedom from obsession is not about something you do; it's about knowing who you are. It's about recognizing what sustains you and what exhausts you. What you love and what you think you love because you believe you can't have it. In the first few months after I stopped dieting some 30 years ago, any food or way of eating (in the car, standing up, sneaking) that spaced me out, drained my energy, made me feel terrible about myself, soon lost its appeal. It quickly became apparent that eating was always about only one thing: nourishing the body. And this body wanted to live. This body loved being alive. Loved moving from place to place. Loved being able to see, hear, touch, smell, taste—and food was a big part of how I could do that. It became apparent that the way I ate was another way to soar.
You can sneak food, for instance, hide what you eat from friends and family, but you can also sneak your true feelings. You can lie to people about what you believe, what you want, what you need. And you can examine your life by either looking at the way you live or the way you eat. Both are paths to what is underneath and beyond the eating: to that in you that has never gotten hungry, never binged, never gained or lost a pound.
Have a question for Geneen about your dieting and food obsessions? Ask her 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 relationship to food, money and love is an exact reflection 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.
For more information, visit Roth's website at GeneenRoth.com.
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Read an excerpt from the book
Published on May 12, 2010