Good Food, Bad Food
By Geneen Roth
Dividing what you eat into "yes" and "no" lists is a perfect
way to trigger a binge. Here's how to find out what your body really
My friend Samantha and I were eating at a Caribbean restaurant when she told
me the news: "I need to lose weight and I'm going on a diet," she
declared. "Please don't roll your eyes or tell me this won't work."
Samantha has never been fat and she's never been an emotional eater. But
she'd recently returned from traveling and had put on 20 pounds. It's always a
little dicey when good friends of mine diet. They know that I don't believe in
dieting and so the usual conversations about "how Mona lost weight" and
what she did to shed the pounds and the latest version of the
everything-but-white-food diet don't interest me. And although Samantha knew
that I'd worked with tens of thousands of people who have failed miserably at
dieting, she believed she was different.
"OK," I said, "I will do my best to keep my beliefs to
The waitress offered us corn bread. Samantha said no thank you. The waitress
offered us potatoes. Samantha said no thank you.
"So what can you eat on this diet?" I asked, eyeing the corn
"Fruit, vegetables, protein — nothing white, nothing that you couldn't
"Sounds doable," I said in a very bright and supportive manner.
Samantha continued: "No pasta, no ice cream, no alcohol."
Since she seemed so positive, so confident, so absolutely determined to
diet, I kept my mouth shut by eating both pieces of corn bread. And since
Samantha never had an issue with food before, I thought, Well OK, maybe I am
too adamant about my belief that the fourth law of the universe is that for
every diet there is an equal and opposite binge. (I actually have some
scientific support for this: University of Toronto researcher Janet Polivy,
Ph.D., has found that people who diet or are deprived of their favorite foods
eventually respond by consuming excessive amounts of those foods.) But I was
willing to concede that maybe dieting is only a prelude to overeating for
people who use food to satisfy their emotional hunger. Maybe it's only true of
people for whom food is love.
I kept nodding my head, since if I had said anything, it would have been:
"Talk to me in a few weeks. Let's see how this project of weight loss by
A month passed before Samantha and I talked again.
"How are you feeling?" I asked.
"Fat and full."
"So," I said in a very neutral tone, "what are you eating these