Women Food and God: An Excerpt

3 Jan

On New Year’s Day we posted about Women Food and God, a wonderful book by Geneen Roth. Today we are providing you with an excerpt from the book, in hopes that it will inspire all of you to read it (whether or not you have a weight “problem” or food addiction). Women Food and God can be enlightening for anyone–even, say, a thin male atheist.

Food is the example Roth uses, as she has struggled personally with a food addiction and worked for decades with people who have eating disorders. Still, her words apply to anyone who has experienced an obsessive behavior–whether food, sex, drugs, alcohol, excercise, or any other substance/activity be the drug of choice.

The following excerpt is particularly striking to me as a 27 year-old grappling with the questions, disappointments and confusions of life.

Deficiency. Emptiness. They’re just words, names that evoke scary thoughts, which then evoke scary feelings. And both the thoughts and the feelings are based on her idea of what is supposed to be happening that isn’t: “I’m supposed to be Someone Special and here I am doing grunt work and reviewing other people’s documents. This isn’t what I dreamed about. I’m never going to amount to anything. My life is a waste. What if it’s always like this? What if my dreams are just pipe dreams? I should have known this was going to happen. I should have listened to my eighth-grade teacher, Mrs. Simpkinson, when she told me I’d never amount to anything. Oh, I feel so empty. I feel deficient, flawed, like I am and never will be enough. I need to eat.”

Deficiency sounds awful, but is it? What does it actually feel like? Is it a big hole in her stomach? Her chest? Does it feel like everything has dropped away and she’s holding on to the edge of a huge abyss, about to fall in? If she stops trying to hold on and lets herself fall, what would happen? (Remember that all of these are images in her mind. She’s not really holding on to the edge of an abyss, she’s probably sitting in a chair. She wouldn’t actually fall anywhere if, in her mind, she let herself “fall.”) Is emptiness the experience of space or is it something else? If it’s space and she feels it direclty–in her body where it resides–she might notice if there is anything that is actually scary about it or if it’s just a story she is telling herself.

There is a whole universe to discover between “I’m feeling empty” and turning to food to make it go away. The problem of weight is predictable. We know what to do when we have that problem. Beat ourselves up. Make ourselves wrong. Eat fewer donuts. But staying with the emptiness–entering it, welcoming it, using it to get to know ourselves better, being able to distinguish the stories we tell ourselves about it from the actual feeling itself–that’s radical.

Imagine not being frightened by any feeling. Imagine knowing that nothing will destroy you. That you are beyond any feeling, any state. Bigger than. Vaster than. That there is no reason to use drugs because anything a drug could do would pale in comparison to knowing who you are. To what you can understand, live, be, just by being with what presents itself to you in the form of the feelings you have when you get home from work at night…

Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything, pp 56-57


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