Conquering Body Issues Reading Women Food and God

This week I anxiously awaited the arrival of the book Women, Food and God, by author Geneen Roth.

I put a rush delivery on it, so I could begin the process as soon as possible. When it arrived, I felt as if a new friend had come to visit to talk with me about my dream and making peace with my body image issues.

It just so happened I am also home sick in bed with the flu. I found this to be a great opportunity to spend some quality time with my new book. I changed my sheets, took a shower and rolled into some nice clean jammys. I curled up around this book, eager to begin this woman’s journey to find freedom from food issues for all women.

I began to read how we treat our bodies: we treat them as if they are the enemy.

We believe our bodies and ourselves are one, and if there is nothing good about our bodies, then there must be nothing good about ourselves.

How many times have we all done something amazing only to say when we were done, Wow, I look fat, or Look at my arms flapping as I talked – ick! or God my face looks awful!?

Do you EVER hear a man do this after he has been successful?

Roth states that the shape of our body obeys the shape of our beliefs about love, value, and possibility.

To change our bodies, we must first understand what is shaping it.

If we seek to comprehend that we eat the way we do for lifesaving reasons, then maybe we can honor and forgive ourselves and move to a place where we comfort the small child inside of us who is scared, angry, sad or lost.

Imagine back in our young lives to a time when we were really scared and confused and the adults around us didn’t know how to reach out to us, hear us and make us feel safe and secure. Did they dismiss us, ignore us or even possibly abusive?

What if instead of this painful experience these adults made us feel safe and okay with our feelings, welcomed us into their arms, and encouraged us to share our feelings until there was nothing left for our young selves to say? All the while they are telling us they understand our feelings and are there for us.

How does this change the painful memory?

Do you think our body and food issues have anything to do with feeling pain that never found a person who would hear it? Is it because there was no one around to help deal with pain when we were too young to understand anything more than being scared/angry/confused and hating feeling that way?

Where did you put it? Where did you bury those feelings?

We stop turning to food when we begin to understand that there is something better than turning to food.

No matter how developed we are in any other area of our lives – no matter what we say we believe – no matter how sophisticated or enlightened we think we are – how we eat tells everything about what we are feeling about ourselves.

Okay – ouch.

In Women Food and God Geneen Roth writes that she believes the first step in breaking out of our eating patterns is through awareness. By taking a deep breath, then another. Noticing the sensations in our bodies. Notice our feelings – without words – without labels – as if it is the first time we have ever encountered it.

By being in contact with what we feel, we see that we are so much more than our feelings. When sadness is explored it may turn into a lush meadow of peace. Or when we allow ourselves to feel the full heat of anger without expressing it, a mountain of strength and courage can be revealed.

As long as we don’t eat a bowl of ice cream, drink three glasses of wine or eat a bag of potato chips while we are experiencing these feelings then it’s all good.

While feeling sad, ask yourself where that feeling is located in your body. Perhaps it is in your chest and suddenly you notice the belief “Love exists for other people but not for me.” Become curious about this belief. How old were you when you learned this?

What were your feelings when you saw that you were not being noticed, felt or understood?

You can also ask yourself if the feeling has a shape, a temperature, or a color. You can ask yourself how it affects you to feel this. And since no feeling is static, notice the changes that occur in your body as you ask yourself these questions.

Things to think about:

  • What are you using food to avoid.
  • Become curious about feelings and sensations.
  • Listen to your body.
  • Stop bossing yourself around.

Feelings are in the body, reactions are in the head.

A reaction is the mental deduction of a feeling. And beliefs are reactions that we’ve had so many times that we believe they are true.

Let your inquiry move in its own direction. Notice whatever arises – even if surprises you. “Oh, I thought I was sad, but I can see that this is loneliness. It feels like a ball of rubber bands in my stomach.” Welcome the rubber bands. Give them room. Watch what happens.

Keep coming back to the direct sensations in your body. Pay attention to things you’ve never told anyone, secrets you’ve kept to yourself. Do not censor anything. Do not get discouraged. It takes awhile to trust the immediacy of inquiry since we are so used to redirecting everything with our minds.

Redirecting ourselves to what is in the refrigerator, the pantry in the candy isle at the nearest store.

Treat it with tenderness.

. . . We will never know who we actually are. We will keep looking for the parent who never showed up and forget to see that the one who is looking is no longer a child. I tell my students that they need to remember two things: to eat what they want when they’re hungry and to feel what they feel when they’re not. Inquiry–the feel-what-you-feel part–allows you to relate to your feelings instead of retreat from them . . . “ – Geneen Roth

She also advises ways to eat so that we focus on the food at hand. She doesn’t believe in dieting or eating foods you don’t like. Her rules for eating have more to do with sitting down, no distractions (no TV), eating until we are satisfied (which is different than full), eating when we are hungry and understanding what hunger feels like.

Nothing like a light read when you’re sick.

Are you going to feel your feelings today ladies or are you going to bake a cake, open the fridge or eat the last of the lasagna – even though you aren’t hungry?

Blessings ladies – be kind to yourselves,

Veronica

Veronica left 8 Women Dream in December of 2010 after accomplishing two big dreams.

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  • The difficulty is that those of us who struggle with weight have a fixation with fixing. We think we are broken and we need to be fixed. In the book she writes, “It’s not about the weight and it’s not not about the weight.” She is right don’t you think? She goes on to write “Brokenness is learned,” Boy is it – I learned from my mother and brother. What’s hidden in plain sight is our wholeness, and we need to be willing to see it. When we are tied to disordered eating, we are arguing for our brokenness. This book is life-changing. Did it change you?

  • Great coverage of this engrossing topic. I train women every day and watch them struggle with food issues. I read every book I can find on this subject and try to guide each individual towards a book that might help them. I am going to have to go pick this one up. Thanks Veronica! JR

  • Rayne

    Veronica, I love this post. Women and food and body issues – gosh! – we can be so hard on ourselves. I’ve made huge leaps on this topic lately and you know what has helped? When I eat junk, or not enough or the wrong food I say to myself; if I were babysitting the little kid me, what would help her feel better? The answer might be playing, taking a walk, drinking WATER (gulp!) or removing the temptation of chips or candy. It’s funny, in that mind-set I can do what’s healthy for MY CHILD PERSONA, but not for my adult sefl. I consider it a positive baby step. Hope you are feeling better!

  • Terry

    Really great post Veronica.

  • Heather, the e-commerce builder

    Incredible post Veronica! Thank you for sharing the book details – it’s on my reading list now.

    I will always remember something a therapist told me a long time ago while dealing with anything instense..

    “Be gentle with yourself.”

    Thanks for the reminder – Heather

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  • Catherine

    Interesting take on this. I remember the exact moment when I knew my dad would probably die and the feelings it brought up – I went drinking with friends. It felt so much better to ignore the feelings with laughter and alcohol.

    But I also think that there can be a problem with endorphins, serotonin and hormones which can drive our bodies to crave foods that help boost our feel good hormones.

    When endorphins are low, people will feel anxious and will crave fat and fatty foods, such as fries, cheese, creamy sauces, margarine, butter, fried chicken, potato chips, and chocolate.

    When serotonin levels are low, we feel nervous, irritable and stressed. We crave sugar.

    A GABA deficiency can also affect a person’s ability to handle day to day or long term stress. The calming chemical in the brain, GABA induces relaxation, reduces stress and anxiety, and increases alertness.

    I found all this out when my thyroid died and I experienced a complete change in how I felt and what foods I craved. My adrenal glands were whacked and my hormones swung out of balance, which changed what I felt like eating as my body was desperately looking for calming foods.

    Sometimes I think our body is trying to talk to us through the foods we crave.

    Great post Veronica.

    Cath

  • Toni Schram

    My copy of “Women, Food and God” should arrive in the mail any day now. I’m ready to learn the real reasons why I overindulge.

    Your article serves has a informative introduction to the pearls of I wisdom, I am seeking.

    I hope you’re feeling better and back on your game~Bay-to-Breakers in sex (whoops, I meant six-I’m already thinking ahead to your next dream) weeks!

    Toni aka Saint Bitch

  • Remy G

    Veronica, by far – your best post yet. I’m sorry you were sick in bed, but it seems to instill creativity so Yay! I am now starting to craft next dream goal, and this book and your review are the catalyst for that. I cant wait! Thank you for this timely review – and your obvious genuine support for women! I feel blessed to know you. Love, Rem