Not Oprah’s Book Club: Women, Food, and God

When I was researching my book, Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, awhile back now, one of the authors that I found most enlightened in her approach to talking about women’s relationship to food, fitness, and success was Geneen Roth. Roth is widely known as the thinker who popularized the idea of “intuitive eating”; just as it sounds, it is the idea that we can be most healthy (body, mind, and spirit) if we reconnect with our organic hungers, investigate when we feel full, what our body really wants to eat versus our emotional subconscious etc.
It freaks people the fuck out, as you might imagine. What, you mean I can eat anything? What will prevent me from eating Oreos for every meal for the rest of my life? Well, your body will silly. As soon as the forbidden charge is taken out of a food it becomes an innocent food again–lard and chocolate and whatever. Not so appetizing anymore (or every once in awhile).
Anyway, Roth’s new book, Women, Food, and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything, is an extension and deepening of her previous work. In this case, her main argument is that our relationship to food is a reflection of our relationship to God, or the divine, or spirit, or whatever you feel comfortable calling it. Roth takes the reader through one her retreat experiences as the narrative vehicle, dipping in to talk about meditation, emotional self-awareness, food, and, yes, God along the way.
Truth be told, the last thing on earth that I want to do these days is read another book about body image. Having written one myself, I’ve read enough for a lifetime. But I thoroughly enjoyed and learned a great deal from Roth’s new book. She’s a beautiful writer, for starters. She’s also funny, and humble, and unafraid of looking at the darkest places in the human psyche. She also has an uncanny ability to take the most complex phenomenon and lay them absolutely bare until you see the shining truth underneath. An example:

There is no way back to the body; the body is the way. You leave and then you return. Leave and return. You forget and then you remember. Forget. Remember. One breath and then another. One step and then another. It’s that simple. And it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been gone; what matters is that you’ve returned. With each return, each sound, each felt sensation, there is relaxation, recognition, and gratitude. Gratitude begets itself, ripens into flowers, snow falls, mountains of more gratitude. Soon you begin wondering where you’ve been all this time. How you wandered so far. And you realize that torture isn’t having these arms or these legs; it’s being so convinced that God is out there, in another place, another realm that you miss the lavender slip of the moon, your own awakened presence.

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