Geneen Roth at Spirit Rock on her latest book: “Women, Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything’’

Authored by Ondina Hatvany in Body Image

The title of Geneen’s latest book is big and bold. I had to finally meet this woman whose older book; ‘When Food is Love’ had such a big impact on shifting me out of my own eating disorder more than 15 years ago. After all she was coming to my neck of the woods; Spirit Rock, less than 10 miles from my home! My expectation mounted as I got to the Spirit Rock parking lot, which was overflowing. The meditation hall was the most full I had ever seen it. And there she was, this tiny blonde woman with a big smile. I liked her instantly. She seemed friendly and accessible. This initial impression was confirmed once she began to talk.

She was very open about her struggle with compulsive eating and “trying every diet that had ever existed; including the fried chicken diet!” She confessed to believing she would never get out of “my personal food and eating Hell ever.”

The breakthrough for Geneen it seems is when she started to listen to herself and trust herself. This became “the open secret to almost everything.” She went on to say; “The thing we most want to get rid of is actually the doorway out. Nobody thinks that their issues around food are going to lead to the center of both yourself and everything!” She encouraged us to be curious and explore what happens in our relationship with food rather than judge ourselves. She is actually talking about applying mindfulness (a Buddhist meditation technique) to our relationship with food and our bodies. Mindfulness is about being with our experience rather than our ideas about an experience.

She advised us to try and understand what was shaping our beliefs about food because “the shape of your body obeys the shape of your beliefs.” Beliefs are based on a combination of past conditioning and what it took to survive. Beliefs lead to thought, which leads to action. To really change we have to start at the unseen level. She goes on to say; “spiritual hunger can never be solved at the physical level.”

It all sounded like a good idea but what really started to bring some of these concepts home was when she had us try a few exercises: We had to write down 3 beliefs we had about food and share them with the person next to us. The hall was buzzing and later there was tears and laughter as people shared their beliefs about food: “It’s dangerous!” “There is never enough.” “It’s my best friend.”

The next exercise was a visualization of a table loaded with our favorite foods. This revealed more self limiting beliefs. Furthermore the connection between physical nurturing and emotional nourishment became abundantly clear as people shared their experience of the exercise: “I had to walk away, it was too much.” “I felt so guilty!”

My personal favorite was the eating exercise where we practiced mindful eating with a raisin, a chip and a piece of chocolate. This was aptly timed just before lunch. I love chocolate but that piece of chocolate eaten mindfully was pure nirvana! The smell, the taste, the texture were extraordinary. I saw how I could make much more room for mindful eating in my busy life. When someone complained about how much effort it took to eat mindfully. Geneen pointed out: “It takes effort to become effortless.”

Geneen emphasizes that breaking free of the obsession with food is our birthright. She encourages us to look for the emotional reality being played out in our physical battle with the food and weight. She then dares us to take it to the next level; what if it’s really about our spiritual hunger?

She is a powerful role model for people who struggle daily with food, weight and their body image. She too was once someone with these struggles. She found a way out and it became her doorway to curing not only her food and weight issues but also healing her emotional life and opening her  spiritual life. Her message is strong and heartfelt. She is living proof of its’ validity.

Plenty of food for thought… pun intended…: )


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