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Dustin LindenSmith

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On Women Food and God by Geneen Roth

After a bit of digging in my LJ archives, I found that I last wrote about Geneen Roth nearly 4 years ago, probably after I'd been referred to her early book called Breaking Free From Emotional Eating by my psychotherapist. In that entry, I outlined Roth's so-called "eating guidelines" and also discussed an audio lecture series I'd been listening to called When Food is Food and Love is Love. At that particular time, I recall feeling personally incapable of following her advice. I do, however, remember feeling that what she was saying was critically and categorically correct.

Her most recent book is called Women Food and God (google | amazon.ca | amazon.com | oprah.com), and despite being obviously directed mostly towards women, I've found her advice and insight to be nearly equally applicable towards men like myself. I've marked up several passages during my read of the first 90 pages, but I wanted to make a special note of the following excerpt:
Our work is not to change what you do, but to witness what you do with enough awareness, enough curiosity, enough tenderness that the lies and old decisions upon which the compulsion is based become apparent and fall away. When you no longer believe that eating will save your life, when you feel exhausted or overwhelmed or lonely, you will stop. When you believe in yourself more than you believe in food, you will stop using food as if it were your only chance at not falling apart. When the shape of your body no longer matches the shape of your beliefs, the weight disappears, And yes, it really is that simple.

You will stop turning to food when you start understanding in your body, not just your mind, that there is something better than turning to food. And this time, when you lose weight, you will keep it off.

Truth, not force, does the work of ending compulsive eating.

Awareness, not deprivation, informs what you eat.

Presence, not shame, changes how you see yourself and what you rely on.

When you stop struggling, stop suffering, stop pushing and pulling yourself around food and your body, when you stop manipulating and controlling, when you actually relax and listen to the truth of what is there, something bigger than your fear will catch you. With repeated experiences of opening and ease, you learn to trust something infinitely more powerful than a set of rules that someone else made up: your own being.
Preceding this excellent passage from pages 80-81 are some more insights which I've already reached regarding how valid our reasons for overeating are. In essence, we have needed to overeat in order to cope with whatever we perceive our weaknesses or traumatic life situations to be. Whatever our reasons, they have been necessary and valid. However, they are no longer necessary for us to survive, and we no longer need to identify ourselves as psychologically, emotionally, or psychically damaged individuals who require something massive to be fixed before we can take off this weight.

In fact, we are totally perfect just as we are, and once we recognize that and then learn how to trust our own instincts about how to eat for the sake of our body's health and nutrition instead of how to eat mindlessly and to numb ourselves from the pain or frustration we might feel each day, then the weight will come off naturally and relatively easily. And as she says, it will stay off.

What's perhaps most difficult about this kind of approach is that so many of us have tied up a major part of our self-identification as flawed individuals who must be on a restricted diet in order to become healthy. If we have been dieting for a significant number of years (or have felt that we must go on a diet in order to lose weight), then this form of self-identification can become deeply entrenched and tremendously difficult to overcome. But it is absolutely possible to do it. We just need to trust in ourselves, which admittedly is not always easy to do.

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dizziedumb July 8th, 2010
i totally agree with your last paragraph. i mean, i agree with the whole lot of it, but absolutely that last bit! the issue of obesity is definitely a psychological issue as much as it is a physiological one, in some cases (here in america i'd like to say most cases) i'd say even moreso. i believe that the perception of oneself as damaged or victimized is really just a big "waiting to exhale," if you will, that we tend to use as a good reason to inflict all kinds of suffering upon ourselves.

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