Maintaining body weight and/or weight loss may be achieved for some with education around serving sizes, food selection, exercise, and the establishment of healthy habits. For others however, the issue goes much deeper than simply changing eating habits and exercise routines.
Geneen Roth through her exploration of compulsive eating sums up her understanding with her latest book “Women Food and God”. She presents a very interesting argument regarding our relationship to a Higher Being and that of food saying that compulsive eaters -whether overweight or not- have “anorexia of the soul”. She states that “women turn to food when they are not hungry because they are hungry for something they can’t name: a connection to what is beyond the concerns of daily life. Something deathless, something sacred.” But that replacing this hunger for the divine with food only creates more hunger as well as panic. This in turn results in endless diets for the compulsive eater which the author equates to praying. She describes that dieting is like a plaintive cry to whoever may be listening; a way of expressing our despair.
Her attitude towards healing in this area combines spiritual awareness as well as a number of guidelines. She says that “it doesn’t matter if we believe in one God, many gods or no god, Anyone who breathes and thinks and experiences has beliefs about God.” She states that in order to discover what our concept of God is we need to pay attention to the way we act and to what we do when things don’t go the way we think they should. “Pay attention to what you value. Pay attention to how and on what you spend your time, your money. And pay attention to the way you eat.” She says that this way you will quickly discover if you believe that the world is a hostile place (i.e. you need to be in control of your immediate universe), if there is not enough to go around (i.e. taking more than you need is necessary for survival), if being quiet is unbearable and that being alone means being lonely, if being vulnerable is for sissies or if opening to love is a big mistake.
This paying attention can be accomplished through meditation, regardless of the specific practice. Meditation she says, develops the capacity to question your mind without which you are at the mercy of every thought, every desire, every wave of emotion. In other words, meditation provides you with freedom. This emptying out and quieting of the mind allows you to inquire into your thoughts and to gain access to a source beyond yourself.
I highly recommend this book for anyone suffering from an unhealthy relationship with food. Geneen is very loving and kind in her approach. She has personally struggled and resolved her own “anorexia of the soul” by walking through the doorway that her compulsive eating provided. She has also been leading workshops around the US for the past 30 years and can be said to be an expert in the area.
“Women Food and God” can be summed up in Geneen’s own words: “Weight-loss is the easy part; anytime you truly listen to your hunger and fullness, you lose weight”. Weight-loss is therefore not the goal but a direct result of listening to ourselves and our bodies needs’ and honoring those needs.