“Women Food and God” by Geneen Roth

Recommended to me by: a client.

The opening scene drew me in immediately. Geneen Roth shows eighty women furious at her because she is not yet letting them eat their tomato soup at a retreat about food and mindfulness. A few women bravely share their process of connecting to old pain and realizing that their adult selves can tolerate the pain without numbing themselves with excessive food.

Roth’s core message is transformative: how we relate to food is how we relate to our image of God. Until we bring conscious awareness to our process, how we relate to food and God is likely to be modeled on how our earliest caretakers related to us, and to themselves.

When we realize that we don’t need fixing, that our core self is already radiantly sacred, our obsessions and addictions fall away.

In my twenties, I hated my body, dieted regularly, and obsessed about food. In my thirties, I declared a moratorium on diets. I make my choices about food and exercise, and my body weighs whatever it’s going to weigh. It did that anyway, even when I counted calories.

Sometime after that, I declared that I don’t need fixing. I had hit bottom with allowing others to tell me what might be wrong with me. The message is spreading through me over time. Some parts of me continue to believe that it’s helpful to criticize or shame myself.

I wonder if Geneen Roth is experiencing something similar. Her overt message is about self-acceptance and compassion. At the same time, the book is sprinkled with half-joking self-denigrating comments.

There is a subtle negativity about being fat as well. One example: In the prologue where eighty women are waiting to eat their soup, one woman’s “tiny body” is described as “delicate, perfectly erect.” No one else’s body is described at all.

I hear the message as, “When you are self-accepting and self-aware, your healthy food and exercise choices will cause you to arrive at your natural weight, which will not be fat.” It is hard to be self-accepting as a fat person, while also believing that healthy, “natural weight” people are not fat.

I love Geneen Roth’s message that our adult selves can handle pain that was overwhelming in childhood. We’re not broken after all. I hope her next book will include more self-acceptance and compassion for compulsive eating and all our other “negative” avoidance behaviors.

I recommend Kate Harding’s blog Shapely Prose for more about fat acceptance. Two relevant articles are But Don’t You Realize Fat is Unhealthy and Why I Still Use the Term Fat Acceptance.

Previously reviewed: “When Food is Love” by Geneen Roth.

Available at Powell’s Books.

2 comments to “Women Food and God” by Geneen Roth

  • renee

    I am also currently reading this book. I made it about 1/3 of the way through and suddenly stopped reading. I’m not sure why, or what bothered me, but I’m hoping to be able to find enough courage to dive back into it and see what triggered me. Thanks for the review, Sonia.

  • Sonia Connolly

    Hi, Renee! Thanks for commenting. If you decide to go back to it, I look forward to hearing what you think.

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