Book Review: Women, Food and God
WOMEN, FOOD AND GOD: AN UNEXPECTED PATH TO ALMOST ANYTHING, Geneen Roth’s new book, is a must read. You might wonder, as I did, what she could possibly have to say that she hasn’t said already after penning some half dozen bestsellers. The answer is lots. Although there’s nothing so new and startling that it will knock your socks off, she still has wisdom to impart from her own food struggles and recovery and from studying and pursuing emotional/psychological health for decades.
First off, for all you secularists (of which I am one) who fear that this book is some sort of religious or spiritual tome, let me put your mind at rest. When Roth speaks of God, she’s not talking about the concept in the traditional sense—to her, God can be anything or nothing. Her intent is for you to discover and hold dear the divine in yourself. Second, she writes beautifully, lyrically. As an author myself, I enjoy her humor, her prose style and the rhythm of her sentences. Third, I love her so-true premise: resolving your food problems is the path to transforming your entire life. Every corner of you comes into play in regularly abusing food and Roth rightly asserts that you can thank your eating for showing you what you need to heal and how to set your life right.
She uses her retreats as a backdrop to talk about eating problems and how to find your true, authentic self, the part of you that you throw away when abusing food and your body. Roth offers up letters and conversations with her students and retreat members in such a way that we feel as if we are there with them and with her. From her decades of working with troubled eaters, she zeros right in on their issues and offers wisdom in response. She touches on everything that disregulated eaters experience—yearning for both structure and freedom from rules, coping with the “Voice” which says negative things to us in our own heads, fear of being oneself, and letting go of childhood experiences interfering with living in the present. Her message is to become yourself.
She presents her Eating Guidelines at the end of the book, almost as an afterthought, a progression I value because it reinforces her message that your problems are not really about food. They are about how defective, frightened, confused, neglected, invisible, unheard, downtrodden, despairing, frustrated, hopeless, insecure, lonely, self-doubting, and helpless you feel in your life. What you are looking for, she insists, is not and will never be found in food. Disregulated eating is your way of ineffectively filling a need that, in fact, has nothing to do with food. Unlearning disreglated eating, she says, is your way of making the changes in you that will lead to living the life you wish for.