Women Food and God
by Geneen Roth

Scribner, 2010. ISBN 978-1-416-54307-7.
Reviewed by Duffie Bart
Posted on 08/25/2010

Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Food/Cooking/Kitchen

Geneen Roth's incisive and well-written book Women Food and God is a timely book. Eating problems seem to have proliferated in this current generation.

Mercifully, this is not a diet book. In Women Food and God, Roth explains that food, and the way we eat, reveals how we connect to spirit, to spirituality, that "...our relationship to food is an exact microcosm of our relationship to life itself":

When we inhale Reese's peanut butter cups when we are not hungry, we are acting out an entire world of hope or hopelessness, of faith or doubt, of love or fear. If we are interested in finding out what we actually believe—not what we think, not what we say, but what our souls are convinced is the bottom-line truth about life and afterlife—we need go no further than the food on our plates. God is not just in the details; God is also in the muffins, the fried sweet potatoes and the tomato vegetable soup. God—however we define him or her—is on our plates.

Interestingly, Roth writes about her own struggle with overeating; "Overeating was my way to punish and shame myself; each time I gained weight, each time I failed at a diet, I proved to myself that my deepest fear was true: I was pathetic and doomed and I didn't deserve to live. I could have expressed this despair through drugs or shoplifting or alcohol, but I chose chocolate instead."

How she changes how she thinks about herself, how she comes to believe in something greater than herself, "a world beyond appearances, a vast expanse that we cannot penetrate with our minds," how she brings about these realizations to her retreat participants is what she offers on every page.

Roth explains that it is better to feel our unhappy feelings than to avoid them by eating. "If you don't allow a feeling to begin, you also don't let it end." She teaches that what we eat and how we eat are potential doorways to our psyche, to that place in our psyche that lets us hide. However, if we are willing to enter the doorway, we will find a great opportunity right in front of us...on our plates, in our snacks, our second helpings, our fantasies of what to have for dinner.

Okay, so how do we do this? Roth introduces us to the process of Inquiry, the philosophy of Hameed Ali and his Ridhwan School. Inquiry is exactly that: asking questions. We need to sit down, take time with ourselves, and a question will occur. It is important to question if the beliefs ingrained in our psyches, for perhaps an entire lifetime, are really true; only then does change begin to be possible.

The good news is—there is humor throughout. She writes about her retreat participants who hate her for insisting that no one pick up her fork until everyone is seated. Though the nutritious food on their plates (lettuce, cherry tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, grains) does not thrill them, they are nevertheless hungry and impatient. "They don't care about stunning breakthroughs or having ninety pounds to lose..." Their obsession is food; food brings them comfort and they will fight, if fight they must, to keep eating.

I encourage women to buy it so they may discover the skill with which Roth deals with the problems of food.

Geneen Roth is the author of eight books, including a memoir. She has been teaching groundbreaking workshops and retreats for more than thirty years. She lives in northern California with her husband. Visit her website.

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