When I read on the cover that Women Food and God was a guide to everything, I rolled my eyes. Rolled ‘em again at the suggestion that our food approach is related to our beliefs about life and god. And a third eye-roll at the concept that we can bring our eating battle to a swift, permanent end by eating what we want.
I finished the book today and loved it. I felt liberated — not just in my relationship to food but, yes, to everything. Work, family, friends, leisure time, shoe shopping, the way I brush my teeth. Geneen makes a compelling case for how everything we do, especially eating, is mapped out by our beliefs about life and ourselves.
Back to the eye-rolling: I bought Women Food and God because it was recommended to me. I have a pretty healthy relationship with food, so I approached it like a well-balanced outsider looking in on a world of troublesome eating and weight frustration. I hoped to glean some insight that I could use to better understand others. And, since there were 160 holds on it at my local library, I figured that whatever it was about, it must be worth reading.
Funny that I would approach a book about compulsive eating with such detachment: I happened to be at the end of a month-long “letting myself go” phase. July for me was a full-blown food party. On most nights you could find me eating ’til I was 180% full, eating when I wasn’t hungry and eating big bowls of ice cream (which I don’t like, and which gives me a stomach ache). In addition to eating crap I don’t even like, my vices (coffee, gin, cheese, chips) all came to the party. I even took the chips to bed.
I have no idea why I plunged into this food revelry, or why I was completely unaware of it. This book that I began reading with an outsider’s eye — a cynical one, even — couldn’t have been more perfectly-timed or more perfectly about me.
A Few Reasons We Binge/Indulge/Gorge/Splurge
Geneen says we slip into “oh, what the hell” mode as a way of dealing with — or rather, not dealing with — pain. At the tail end of a serious pig-out, this caught my attention. What was I trying to bury under that bottomless pile of food?
Sometimes an eating spree is our attempt to regain a feeling of control over our lives. Other times, Geneen found, we feel empty and turn to something else to fill the void. That one thing becomes the missing puzzle piece: if I have a venti frappuccino with whipped cream, my workday will bearable. If I have that new outfit, I will be loved. If I can get rid of my cellulite, I will be happy again.
So what happens when it’s time to start trusting ourselves, as Geneen instructs — to let go of the fight and do what we want? Won’t we spin out of control?
When her students panic at her suggestion, she tells them this: by approaching the compulsion honestly and allowing yourself to feel what you truly feel, you’ll probably find that you really don’t want any of those things anyway. If we can stop seeing weight loss — or that sparkly pair of heels at Nordstrom, or a different job, or another martini, or another man — as a cure-all, we might find that the ticket to happiness is something totally different… and right at our fingertips.
The Age of the Anti-Diet
You don’t have to be religious, a compulsive eater or even a woman to glean heaps of insight from the book. In fact, Karen recently recommended it to her hormone specialist, after he recommended to her a new fad diet.
Earlier I said the book couldn’t have come at a better time for me, and I think almost every woman is feeling the same way. We’re as sick of diets, rules and obesity statistics as we are of dimpled thighs and fast food cravings. When Geneen tells us that the answer is as simple as listening to our bodies, it’s a welcome proposition.
Of course, when she said the same thing a few decades ago, fewer people listened. Regis Philbin raised a skeptical brow. It was too easy; there could only be merit in stricter guidelines and complicated food plans. I don’t think Geneen had even fleshed out her idea yet. But now, in Women Food and God, she has the evidence to back it up — and we’re finally ready to believe it.
For those who have read the book, did you like it? Which parts resonated with you?