66 of 79 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2010
Geneen Roth has been living, writing, and speaking about compulsive eating, food addiction, emotional eating, intuitive eating, and a non-diet approach to weight management for several decades. Having worked with thousands of people struggling with these issues, I was thrilled to read her new book, Women, Food, and God and even more excited to hear that she will appear on the Oprah show on May 12th!
I hope that her influence will finally shift the conversation away from restrictive diets to the meaning behind our relationship with food. More importantly, I believe that this book will help people understand that issues with food and weight are a beautiful opportunity to discover their true nature. This journey begins at different points for each of us - body dissatisfaction, a painful relationship with food, health consequences of yo-yo dieting, whatever - but the common denominator is that our obsession with food, weight, or dieting limits our ability to live the fulfilling, abundant life we crave. Every attempt to stuff down our emotions, ignore our true needs, or shame ourselves for eating the foods we love takes us further away from presence and joy. Unfortunately, our culture is so focused on counting, weighing, and measuring food and pounds that most people become even more distracted from the life they want. As I often say, people overdiet the same way they overeat.
Geneen's beautiful writing, deep insights, and knowing humor peel away the layers of denial about why people eat when they aren't physically hungry, continue to eat far beyond the point of fullness, and deprive and punish themselves. For that I would give this beautiful book ten stars. However, having worked with thousands of women (and men), I have to be honest and reluctantly admit that I am troubled by the Eating Guidelines at the back of the book. (For those that have read "Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle," you'll recognize them as chapters one through eight.)
First, while I fully agree with the intent of the guidelines, I believe they have been way oversimplified (as evidenced by the fact that they fit on half a page). While they are simple, they are not easy. In my experience these habits are deeply ingrained so they require more exploration and specific strategies in order to overcome them. For example, many people have difficulty identifying hunger, fullness, and their emotional triggers for overeating (much less what to do about them) and struggle with learning to love what they eat. There are many resources to help with the process (and it is a process); I just hope that people don't become discouraged if they don't immediately "get it" when they read Women, Food, and God and decide that this didn't "work" either.
Second, I can see that the rule-like nature of the guidelines could lead people back into their eat-repent-repeat cycle. People who have been trained to diet may believe they have to adhere to the guidelines to the letter so like their diets, they may give up when they feel they have "blown it." Fortunately, perfection isn't necessary (or possible) and the awareness, enjoyment, and acceptance this book describes is not only possible, but is the only way out of their love-hate relationship with food and the beginning of their joyful, vibrant life.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on March 22, 2010
What is happening in your life is reflected in your relationship with food. This is my one sentence summary of this book. When you think of it you realize that this is actually true and obvious, yet we needed the insight of Geneen Roth to open our eyes and point that obvious fact to most of us. The most eating disorders, whether starving or overeating, stem from our psychological problems and our inability to cope with them. If we are unhappy or broken-hearted, food is often relied upon as a quick and temporary fix to the underlying bigger problem that we are not able to deal with at this particular point in time.
This book is for all food addicts, which means for most of us. In our culture food is not only there for you when you are hungry. It also plays a major role in our social life. When you want to meet someone, you often meet them for lunch, dinner, coffee, tea, desert, etc. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we surround ourselves with food and this becomes a major problem when food turns to a drug to hide from our feelings, to anesthetize ourselves, or to escape.
But this is not all the book is about. The author shows the reader how going beyond the food and the feelings will take you into spirituality -- "to the bright center of your own life."
It is true that the way we eat mirrors the way we feel. But the opposite is also true. The author of the book titled "Your Body Maintenance Handbook" states that "by reducing sugar, meat, and coffee in our diet we can reduce aggressive behavior by 50%" He further cites old Japanese joke: "If a couple starts their day with a fight, they should recall what they ate the previous day"
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2011
Full disclosure: About two years ago I lost 30 lbs. without trying, and in the process found my dream job, a great relationship (after a very dry decade), a great house, etc. I'm not going to pretend that my life is perfect, but I should probably admit up front that I've already found the last self-help book I really need. However, old habits die hard, and as a bit of a self-help junkie (and OK, an "Oprah recommends" junkie, as well), I chose to purchase both A A Course In Weight Loss: 21 Spiritual Lessons for Surrendering Your Weight Forever by Marianne Williamson and Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth. This review is meant as a bit of compare and contrast, and possibly as a plug for Martha Beck's Steering by Starlight: The Science and Magic of Finding Your Destiny and/or The Four-Day Win: End Your Diet War and Achieve Thinner Peace, as well.
First, as you have probably found in the prior reviews, one major difference between the two is that despite the titles, the Course is very much based in Christianity, whereas the God part of Women, Food, and God is really more of an eastern-tinged, God-as-universe understanding of the divine. Although both insist that God can be tailored to the needs of the reader, I saw that several reviewers objected to Roth's use of the F word while discussing God, while I cringed a bit every time that Williamson personified the divine as He or Him (always caps). Another difference is that the Roth book is fairly heavy on concepts and anecdotes from the retreats she runs, but fairly vague on the actual plan, whereas the Williamson is very methodical on the steps, which involve writing, praying, alter-building, and ceremonies. In contrast to both, Beck tells a lot of stories and includes a lot of visualization exercises, but she spends large portions of the books explaining the brain science behind her methods. Williamson's tone is serious and comforting, Roth is sharp and funny, and Beck uses silliness and magic to discuss dead serious topics in a way that really appeals to me, but might not work for everyone.
At their heart, all three books are exactly the same in that the weight loss is really the least of what is supposed to happen, a byproduct of your better life: Roth's subtitle is "a path to almost everything", Williamson's Course is based on A Course in Miracles, and Beck's books are about, well, as much of your life as you want them to encompass. None include any sort of food plan, or even recommend foods to eat or target calorie ranges. All three involve some meditation, prayer, or visualization as a key component to changing your life. All three involve taking a look at your past, but also moving beyond the stories you tell yourself. All three trust your intelligence in selecting what is healthy for your body - they just want to help you get past the mental junk that is keeping you from making those choices. Since I think this is the key, I would say that any of them could be useful, depending on which author's style you connect with. As you may have guessed, I'm a fan of Martha Beck, since I credit the work I did based on her books with transforming my life from blah to pretty darn sweet. If you are still seeking, I wish you luck in finding the same. Peace with the size of your (incidentally, smaller) thighs will follow.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
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.
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 Salon.com, 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.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 2010
This is definitely not a book for everyone.
It's probably not a book for people who buy things because Oprah tells them to, without researching for themselves and taking Oprah's advice with a grain of salt. What works for Oprah will not necessarily work for you.
It's not a book for people whose bodies have been changed by time and who now need to learn how to eat and move in order to compensate for those changes, or because of having a baby or a recent disability. Let's face it, we all gain weight for different reasons, not everyone has an unhealthy relationship with themselves and uses food as means of expressing that.
It IS a book for people who have lost weight in the past, only to have gained it back (and maybe then some). I know a man who lost a tremendous amount of weight, literally 250+ lbs, via gastric bypass. And you know what? He's gained most of it back. Literally. He may benefit from this book and from looking inside himself for the answers.
It IS a book for people who know they shouldn't be eating the voluminous amounts of food they eat - but can't seem to stop themselves, even when the voice in their head screams at them, berates and belittles them.
Is IS a book for women AND men who obsess over their eating habits. Whose days revolve around the scheduling of their meals. Who measure themselves as "good" or "bad" depending solely on how they eat. "I've been so bad today, I had a piece of cake at the office for someone's birthday" - who HASN'T heard a coworker, friend or family member say something like that?
I am a big fan of Geneen's work because she has helped me see the big picture of why I eat the way I do - of why I live or don't live my life the way I do. For her work, I commend her.
However, I'm only giving this 4 stars because a lot of what she is saying here, she has said before. Numerous times, in fact. I mean, you can only sell the same point using different words so many times before people will begin to wonder why you're getting paid in the first place. Still, I highly recommend this book, and if you want to read more of her work I recommend "When Food is Love" and/or "Breaking Free From Emotional Eating". I have read both many times and they never fail to get me back on track.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I've said before that all self-help books are retreads, but that's okay. They keep selling, because people need to be reminded of the things they already know and the things they've forgotten. Geneen Roth is saying to be present in your life, but not try to fill up the emptiness with food or any other addiction, because it's not what you need. She is saying to love yourself today -- not to medicate the pain away, but to feel it. No matter how this is packaged, you've seen this advice before, but it does bear repeating.
There were "aha" moments. I realized that I went from a person who eat a model diet and exercised joyously to someone who made foolish choices out of disappointment that my life didn't go to plan on the schedule I'd decided that it should. I also realized that my dreams, exact dreams, were fulfilled in time, but I was still stuck in the moment of disappointment and acting accordingly -- not just in my eating but in my cynicism. I was holding onto a grudge at myself for trusting in, oh, God or the universe to come through for me long after my upset was obsolete. My dream came true down to an address and instead of being in awe, I was still feeling betrayed or like I'd been a sucker.
I sat there reading this on my porch and watching the birds eating from the feeders and noting that mason bees had cleverly found a home in the holes on the porch railing and I let go of the stuff that was stopping me from fully enjoying what really fulfills me spiritually. I accepted that numbing myself prevented me from dealing with my fears or grief at the death of loved ones, my terror at the thought that life is just a series of losses, but it also distracted me from all the things I legitimately love. All my bad habits, like spending too much, and eating the convenient thing rather than the thing I really wanted, or that new SATC progressive machine at the casino, can push aside the negative feelings for a while but those feelings are waiting to make their entrance, stage left.
So, yeah -- AHA! :)
God in this book, and I see where it bugs some folks, is no specific deity, but rather whatever you connect to in your spiritual life. Whatever leaves you in awe. I think some people really wanted this to be a Judeo-Christian God specifically, and it might be exactly that for them, but you don't have to be particularly religious to understand that this is about being present for whatever makes you feel most alive -- like the multi-colored canoes I saw today looking all shiny like the way the paints looked in kindergarten. I mean, you could be an atheist and still love you some shiny canoes or the feel of a dog's fur between your fingers. (Although that progressive machine included a lot of sparkles and pink...)
I think this is a very worthwhile book, no matter what your addictions or negative coping mechanisms, even though the repetition got to me after a while. I understand the purpose though of explaining the same concepts in different ways so that it resonates with more people. Doesn't mean that I wasn't bored once in a while. :)
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2010
I've been resisting Geneen Roth books for years. I knew all about *her*. She's this skinny blonde idiot who somehow doesn't have to diet anymore and makes her clients eat *chocolate*. Eat what you want? Are you kidding me?
Still not sure why I picked up the book, but the phrase that grabbed hold of me was this:
"Diets are based on the unspoken fear that you are a madwoman, a food terrorist, a lunatic. The promise of a diet is not only that you will have a different body; it is that in having a different body, you will have a different life. If you hate yourself enough, you will love yourself. If you torture yourself enough, you will become a peaceful, relaxed human being."
Sounds obvious in print like that, but yes, I did/do think that way--and wasn't really aware of it. Also, it's easy for a lot of compulsive eaters (like yours truly) to hear "eat what you want" as "eat everything you're craving until you physically cannot eat any more." There's a difference, and she actually does address that specifically at one point. Others have accused her of not including nutritional information or diet plans, but I suspect she is deliberately vague on nutrition because most chronic dieters are already experts on that subject, and know almost every plan out there (though we're always looking for new ones). Every body has different needs, so one person may have to cut out sugar, or wheat, or keep a food diary, or engage in suspiciously diet-sounding activities to best support his or her own health. That's up to the individual; Roth seems more worried about the mentality that drives those choices. She tries to dispense as little actual advice as possible, even couching that advice as "if love speaks" guidelines, trying to avoid anything that sounds like a hard-and-fast rule to be rigidly followed or rebelliously broken.
The book has issues, no question. Roth is an upper-middle class professional woman writing for people who are more or less like her, and that is likely the crowd with whom she is most successful (case in point: Oprah). At times it reads like a long, beautifully printed ad for one of her seminars (which I can't afford) or her personal coaching (ditto). A lot of what she said was clearly not directed at me, yet since I read the book, I've been eating more thoughtfully and binging less, and staying off the scale. I haven't found nirvana or anything, but life is a little more peaceful on the food front, so I'm grateful for that.
Oh, and also--if you're looking for the path to the Judeo-Christian God in this book, it's not here. Her concept of God is quite different and much more broad, which could be a relief to some and offensive to others. Still, her emphasis on honesty, kindness, non-judgmental listening and noticing what's going on in one's mind, body and life is spot-on, and frankly can't be repeated enough.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Call me what you will, but I am a huge Oprah Winfrey fan. I love her show (it gets DVRed every day...yeah, I'm one of those) and her magazine and when she endorses a book, I usually listen. In the case of Women, Food, and God by Geneen Roth, I not only listened, I wanted to know more and I truly wanted to see if the book would speak to me, as it did so many other women.
For most of my life, I've had issues with compulsive eating, Roth's main focus in the book. I eat when I'm bored, I eat when I'm lonely, and I love to "treat" myself with food after something bad has happened during the day or if things just aren't going my way. It's my reward, it's what my husband and I do for fun (finding new restaurants), and I enjoy it. But, it's also a problem. I'm not hugely overweight, but I could lose 20lbs and be healthier. I have a family history of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and early death and I don't want to follow that same path. I don't necessarily eat "junk", just the opposite actually, but I eat a lot. Geneen Roth to the rescue? Maybe.
While reading the book, I definitely had light bulb moments. The author has been in the same situation and therefore, "gets it." She gives different ways in which to discover why we eat, when we eat, and how we eat and turn it around to actually enjoying our food, something we cannot possibly do while standing up/driving/shoveling it in our mouths as fast as possible/hiding. She tells us to learn how to listen to our bodies. When we're full, we're full. Just don't put the last bite in your mouth if you're body is telling you you're full. And most of all, she tells us NOT to diet.
Dieting is the quick fix and Roth explains that the fix will indeed work for a time. But, if you aren't tackling the issues as to why you eat the way you do, you'll just get fat again.
The writing flow is done very well, making it easy to read, and thought provoking. She tells it like it is and doesn't sugarcoat. Small stories, both personal from Roth and from members of her retreats are added for examples and motivating factors. We're given a section at the end on "Beginning Inquiry," which is a learned method of truly knowing yourself (one I probably won't participate in, but it may be helpful for some), as well as a list of eating guidelines. Those are going up on my fridge.
You can read this book as if it were written by a friend. Geneen Roth really is a friend in the sense that she's gone through the dieting and yo-yo-ing and has finally found herself, her reasons for eating, and therefore has been able to change the way she is living her life, which translates into the food she consumes. It's a deep read, not funny, not light, and will probably bring up some bad memories, more than a few tears, and some self-realization...which is entirely the point. It's psychological and Roth is good at her job!
Oooh...I did want to make mention of the "God" portion of the title and text. Roth's "God" refers mainly to spirituality as a whole. This is not a guideline for how MY God tells us to live our lives. It's about connecting with ourselves spiritually to learn what's really going on and to fix that. Don't shy away because you don't believe in the Christian God (neither does Roth) and don't pick it up expecting Scriptural references. There are none.
Overall rating: 4 out of 5
It will stay on my shelves as a reference for many years. Weight loss and the ongoing struggle to find one's self is a never ending process for some of us and I'm sure I will need Roth's words in years to come. I don't want to say that this is necessarily the "thing" I've been looking for, but it certainly is an insightful read with a lot of thought-provoking statements.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I saw this author on Oprah and I thought after hearing her talk to Oprah that this book might be helpful. Well, I can't say that it isn't, but I think it really depends on what kind of food issues you have and if you are the type of person who likes to get to the bottom of problems to try to fix them.
The main theme of this book seems to be dealing with your negative feelings. The author is telling us that by just accepting your negative feelings and realizing that you can have them and survive, you will no longer need to overeat to mask them. In theory, I think this is great. But, I'm really not the type who will stop and think about what I'm feeling, why I'm feeling that way and then try to deal with it. I'm more into quick fixes.
Another thing you might want to consider before buying this book is what type of over eater you are. Throughout this book, I kept picturing someone who just comes home from work or whatever the situation is and just eats and eats, all alone. I'm really not that kind of an over eater, so I couldn't relate to that.
I'd say if you are the introspective type, this book would be really good for you. It was easy to understand and there really were quite a few good points in it. I even highlighted a few and marked the pages so that I would find them again. I think a lot of the points will be helpful in all kinds of situations, not just for over eating. My favorite was something about a person who is imagining she's about to be eaten by 1000 tigers. Someone asks her what should you do? The answer was "stop imagining!" I think that will come in handy because I get myself worked up over all kinds of imaginary situations sometimes and I think the message is to just stop doing that. Very good tip.
There are no lists of what to eat and what not to eat in this book, in case you are expecting that. She pretty much says to eat whatever you want, but only when you are hungry and then stop when you are full. There is a set of guidelines in the back of the book - things like eat in a calm environment, don't watch TV or read and things like that. Again, you have to be the type who will take your time and think things through, I think, before the tips will help you.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I purchased this book because Oprah endorsed it; also the title caught my attention. I have been dealing with emotional issues with food for as long as I can remember, and think this book brings insight to why we eat when we are not hungry. To really internalize and absorb the message of the book, I am reading it again. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who is a chronic dieter, obsesses about their weight, has an eating disorder or eats when they are not hungry!