Adventures in Books… Geneen Roth

When Food Is Love

Breaking Free from Emotional Eating

I recently finished reading a couple of books by Geneen Roth on the subject of emotional eating. I was enraptured reading her words. I am so glad so glad Mary over at A Merry Life blogged about Geneen. I feel I have finally found a writer who know what she is talking about. In a sense that she gets it, not that she has studied it and therefore is considered an expert. It is that she has been through it and come out the other side.

I started reading When Food Is Love, which is about “exploring the relationship between eating and intimacy. In the first paragraph she said “I spend the largest part of every day thinking about what I wanted to eat that I shouldn’t and what I should eat that I didn’t want” and I was relieved. That may sound odd, but it is what I have done for as long as I can remember and it was relieving to know someone else feels that way.

Here are a number of quotes from the book that sum up several ideas I related to:

  • “Food and love. We begin eating compulsively because of reasons that have to do with the kind and amount of love that is in our lives or that is missing from our lives. If we haven’t been loved well, recognised, understood, we arrange ourselves to fit the shape of out situations. We lower our expectations. We stop asking for what we need. We stop showing the places that hurt or need comfort. We stop expecting to be met. And we begin to reply on ourselves and only ourselves to provide sustenance, comfort and pleasure, We begin to eat, And eat.”
  • “When I binged, I didn’t are about anyone else; there were time when if anything or anyone was standing in the way between me and , I felt as if I could have mowed them down. Killed someone. And when I had stopped bingeing and surveyed the damage  – the food I had eaten, the urgency with which I had eaten it, the utter disregard for anyone I had seen before or during the binge – I was frightened. the binge seemed to have a mind of its own, a voice of its own, a will of its own.”
  • “Peace and contentment are feelings that take practice to achieve. They are not a consequence of being successful or being in love or being thin. They are, among other things, a consequence of stopping in the present moment and looking around.”
  • “The one-wrong-move syndrome is not something you do; it’s a way that you are….When you grow up believing that you are loved because of what you do, not who you are, your survival depends on doing the right thing.”
  • “Compulsion does not develop in a vacuum; it begins in relationship. Compulsion is what we resorted to when we felt we didn’t matter to the people who mattered to us.”

I read this book as a story and feel I need to re-read it to get all the ideas to sink in. The main thing I have taken from this is that food is not the enemy. There is something within me that makes me turn to food. I have stopped denying myself foods I like and want. I am also aware when the compulsion takes over. Being aware is an amazing step for me as I used to just go with it and get thrown out the other end feeling disgusted with myself now. Now I can eat a cupcake and think about how much I enjoy it. I eat more slowly and try hard to focus on the food I am eating. This also works if I don’t enjoy something as I don’t eat it. I am not afraid or worrying about when the next meal will be. There will be more food  and I can eat it if I’m hungry.

I then decided to investigate Geneen Roth further and found her website and that she has written more on this subject than I thought possible. On the website there is a recommended order to read her books and also extra resources available.

I decided to follow the suggestion and moved onto Breaking Free From Emotional Eating.  I found this book harder to read as it was now about facing things head on and being more honest with myself rather than just relating to stories in the previous book.

The book is written in chapter based on the thought or issue you are having. It is easy to go straight to the area you need help with. I read the book from start to finish, but plan to go back through the section I found useful and need more work on. In each section there are exercises to do. They focusing on looking in to yourself in the present moment, for example by tracking your hunger and when you eat.

The sections I have found interesting and useful:

  • “Being Hungry Is Like Being in Love: If You Don’t Know, You’re Probably Not”
  • “Deciding What You Want to Eat: Having Your Cake and Eating It, Too”
  • “Distracted Eating: It Doesn’t Count If You’re Not Sitting Down”
  • “Knowing When to Stop Eating: When Enough Is Enough”
  • “Bingeing: When Enough Isn’t Enough”

Some of the exercises are easy and some are not. I am working on working through them. Some I’m ready to do and some I am not. I am not worried about this as I know I cannot do everything straight away. My issues with eating didn’t occur overnight and therefore they are not going to go away overnight. It is going to work and understanding and compassion to get to a place when I can honestly say I love myself.

Reading ‘self-help’ books has never been on my agenda before, but I think it comes down to finding the right ones. I like Geneen Roth. I like her writing style. I like her honesty. I like her suggestions. I did not feel like these books and therefore the author were judging me because I bought these books. I felt as though they understood and would be there ready to read when I was ready. They have also helped me talk to my counsellor about things. I found it difficult to talk about food things as it is hard for anyone to understand who hasn’t been through it. My counsellor is great, but fully admits there is a lack of people to help with eating issues. Therefore these books have helped me to help her in a way.

I would fully recommend reading these books if you have any issues with emotional eating.  It is freely to not be on a ‘diet’. I want to live a healthy lifestyle and that include the odd cupcake for me. It is healthy to be balanced and acknowledge your problems and this is where I want to get to. It doesn’t matter what the scale says really, or at least it shouldn’t do (I’m still not quite there yet) as long as you are living a healthy life.

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