By As Told To Camille Chatterjee
In her new book, Women, Food, and God, writer and teacher Geneen Roth reveals how to end our painful obsession with our weight, our food, and our bodies — once and for all.
I've been helping women with their food issues for many years through my books, my retreats, and my workshops around the country. I started doing it because I was utterly tortured by my relationship with food and believed that if I got thin, my life would be much better and I would be happy. I had been dieting since I was 11, and always lost weight on any diet, but in six months or a year the weight would come back and I'd start the cycle again. By age 28, I had been watching myself very carefully for a couple of years, and I just couldn't stand it anymore: I went on a knock-your-socks-off binge and gained 80 pounds in a couple of months. And then I became suicidal — I had been dieting and bingeing for 17 years, and I knew that I didn't want to keep living like that. My self-loathing was so intense, and I didn't see a way out besides going on another diet — and I knew I couldn't do that, because the weight would only come back. So I stopped dieting, started eating what my body wanted, and reached my natural weight — and a new lightness of being. These are the five key steps I followed along the way.
1. Realize that the size of your body isn't just about food
We make weight into the big bad problem. We think that it, and our obsession with food, are what's "wrong" with us. I went through years believing that. At least in my own case, nothing changed until I stopped warring with myself and I became interested in what my relationship with food was really about. I do think the big picture here, the first step, is to realize that what you do with food is an expression of all the self-defeating beliefs you have about yourself and your life. It isn't just about food. Most people don't understand that the way they eat is inseparable from the way they live.
Here's an everyday example. Say I'm not taking my time with food, that I'm eating on the run, standing at the refrigerator, or in the car. That's just an expression of the belief that I can't take time for myself — that that kind of time is not allowed, that other things are more important than I am. Instead, ask yourself: What do you want to be doing with your time? Does that even enter your mind? Do you disregard yourself? Is there a way you could include more of what you truly want in your life? Everything is connected: If you feel guilty for eating one cookie, for instance, what does that say about the pleasure you deprive yourself of in daily life? Nothing is going to change if you're not curious about why you're using food and what you really need instead.