Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Women Food and God; Geneen Roth

Title: Women Food and God
Author: Geneen Roth
Publication Year: 2010
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Edition: Trade Softcover/2011
Source: Publisher
Date Completed: 4/5/2011
Setting: n/a
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Recommend: yes

When I first received this book in the mail, I wasn't sure it was for me.  I consider myself to be more of a spiritual person than a religious person, so I was concerned that the book might be preachy -- it is not. The title is very misleading, and the author even states that God means different things to different people.  As I read a few pages, something about what the author was saying seemed to resonate with me. The author states:  

"The way you eat is inseparable from your core beliefs about being alive. Your relationship with food is an exact mirror of your feelings about love, fear, anger meaning, transformation, and yes, even God."

The author, at an early age, began to use food as a way to ease her pain. She has gained and lost some 1,000 pounds over the years and has dealt with obesity, bulimia and even anorexia. Roth writes: 

"At eleven, I felt like a raw nerve, as if the fact that I took up space at the red Formica table was the reason for the hatred between my parents and their violence toward each other. They threw things, left the house, stayed away for hours or days......Enter food........The sight of a Hostess Sno Ball turned the world into a riot of color. The fluffy, pristine mound of marshmallow sprinkled with coconut. The promise of chocolate cake inside........I turned to food for the same reasons that people turned to God: it was my sigh of ecstasy, my transport to heaven, my concrete proof that relief from the pain of everyday life would be possible. Then it would be gone."

The book is not about dieting or about how to lose weight. Anyone who has struggled with weight knows what they need to do to lose weight. It is more about getting in touch with your feelings and the triggers that drive some of us to food as a means of escape.  It is about learning to confront issues and your feelings: loneliness, anger, resentment etc, and dealing with the issues instead of trying to avoid them with the temporary pleasure our foods of choice might provide.  Temporary satisfaction is all one can expect, before the feelings of loathing and shame resurface, and the cycle is repeated. 

"Compulsive eating is an attempt to avoid the absence (of love, comfort, knowing what to do) when we find ourselves in the desert of a particular moment, feeling, situation.  In the process of resisting the emptiness, in the act of turning away from our feelings, or trying and trying again to lose the same twenty, fifty, eighty pounds, we ignore what what could utterly transform us.  But when we welcome what we most want to avoid, we evoke that in us that is not a story, not caught in the past, not some old image of ourselves. We evoke divinity itself. And in doing so, we can hold happiness, old hurts, fear in our cupped hands and behold our missing hearts."

Roth explains why for some people losing weight, and keeping the weight off is more complex then it may seem to those who have never struggled with serious weight issues.  She divides individuals who have battled with their weight into two groups:  Restrictors and Permitters.

Restrictors, need to be in control -- about themselves, what they eat and their environment.  Permitters, hate rules and tend to use food to numb themselves.  If you have struggled with weight issues, you might be curious to see what your eating habits say about you.
I am a classic Permitter, and it came as no surprise after reading this terrific book.  If you are tired of dieting, and want some insight as to how to get to the root the yo yo weight loss/weight gain cycle, I think you will find this book not only interesting, but helpful as well.

Geneen Roth is the author of the bestseller, When Food is Love and seven other books. She has conducted workshops for over thirty years and has lead retreats for the past ten. Roth is a frequent contributor to many publications including, Huffington Post and Good Housekeeping and has appeared on numerous national shows from Oprah, 20/20, Good Morning America, and The View, to Primetime Live and NPR's Talk of the Nation.


  1. I read other books by Roth and I think she's great. I've been eying this one too so it's helpful to know what it's about!

  2. This book hasn't said anything new that the common person should know.. Common sense is the key, I guess if u don't have it, then any book on the market would attract.

  3. These were my scores:
    Your Restrictor score is 4.
    Your Permitter score is 3.
    Your Healthy Awareness score is 3.

    I am definitely interested in the book now.

  4. I love this book... really started to free me from my dysfunctional relationship with food!

    BTW, Diane, I've decided to keep my blog, I'm going to not take any books for a long while, but am going to continue to post and contribute to the community.

    Thanks for you support, chicky!

  5. You know, I used to have huge issues with food, and often ate until I got sick. I was very overweight as well. Then I got diabetes, and everything changed. I am no longer able to eat that way, and I stick exclusively to a meal plan. It actually sounds a lot more boring than it is, because there are times when I can have a cupcake or ice-cream, and since my meal plan was designed by a nutritionist, I know I am getting what I need. I don't have all these issues with food, and have lost a lot of weight as well.

  6. I'm not sure this is the book for me either but it does sound interesting.

  7. Sounds like a truly thought provoking read. Having several family members who have 'food issues' I think this is a book I should take a look at, thanks for the recommendation.

  8. I've lost more than 25 lbs. in the past year and in most of these questions none of the answers applied to me. I chose the closest and got 6 for restrictor, 1for permitter, and 3 for healthy awareness. In truth, I'm not that rigid.

  9. This book sounds fantastic! I took the quiz and I'm a restrictor. I'll have to look more into this book as it seems like one I'd be interested in. Thanks for the great review.

  10. Very interesting book! I think I'm more of a Restrictor. But I do love food!

  11. Wow this book does sound terrific! Glad I have started reading it!

    I agree with you that we all know how to lose weight (less calories, better food choices and more exercise), but why oh why is it so difficult? That is something I could use help with!

  12. I've never had a weight problem--don't hate me, it's just in the genes--but I know someone who might appreciate reading your review. Thanks!

  13. I suspect I am a permittee. I think this approach is great as it focuses more on the root causes of your relationship with food. Great review.

  14. This is so funny! My mother, the first Official Food Police, had this book when we went to visit my parents in Florida. While parts of me want to celebrate the abandonza of life, other parts realize I need to exercise self control. Is that the reason I have the same number of points for a Permitter as a Restrictor? I hate being so equivocated, on the other hand...I love food which is bad for me and have to monitor it somewhat. On some days. ;)

  15. I didn't do so well on the test!!
    Restrictor: 5
    Permitter: 4
    Healthy: 1

    I need to read this one. I watched her on Oprah and requested it from the library but as usual I didn't get to it before it was due!!

  16. Great review! This is going on my TBR list.

  17. I saw Geneen Roth present at a conference last week and thought she was phenomenal. She hits the nail on the head with emotional eating - I have struggled with it for a long time so I am anxious to read this book and see if I can begin changing my approach/relationship to food


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