Thursday, May 13, 2010

Food and other demons

One of my favorite authors, Geneen Roth, is apparently Oprah's newest person. One of the people whose wisdom hits home with her, so she scoops them up and promotes the hell out of them, a la Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz.

It happens that I'm reading Roth's When Food is Love right now, but she has a new book out called Women, Food & God. The books sound like they have similar messages, that being that the reason many of us eat compulsively stems from issues from childhood, and eating is a way of stuffing feelings down because we have no idea how to deal with them, and actually fear they may kill us. Which is a pretty strong way to feel -- that painful emotions may kill you. Because as logical humans, we know that's probably not true.

Don't ask me how you're supposed to work through these emotions without just getting really pissed off and sad. I'm hoping Roth tells me how before I finish When Food is Love.

I'll let you know if I ever figure that out.

But in addition to dealing with the wrongs done to us in childhood instead of gorging on brownies, Roth also suggests we abandon dieting. Because, as she explains in When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair, every diet eventually goes horribly wrong. Every time we lose weight on a diet, we gain it back, and then some. I am living proof of that fact.

I lived for years on 1 egg for breakfast, 1 apple for a snack, half a sandwich for lunch, and lean chicken and vegetables for dinner. Almost every day. For YEARS. I was hungry almost constantly. I ran five days a week. And then ... I slowly gained 60 pounds. This particular diet rebound is the most dramatic in my life, but unfailingly, the same thing has happened on every single diet I've ever been on.

But here's the thing: I don't trust myself to succeed on an un-diet. Maybe I am in denial and simply using food to shove my feelings down, but given the freedom to eat whatever I want ... I mean, the prospect is terrifying. Does Roth realize what I WANT? I want macaroni and cheese and chocolate cake. I want enchiladas and ice cream. I want bacon and fried chicken. Or is it that I want to use those foods to numb myself?

Do you see how this is a vicious cycle?

Anyway, I watched Roth on Oprah yesterday, and something Oprah read from Women, Food & God, struck a chord. I'd already been crying through the whole episode, anyway (hormones), but then Oprah read the following, which I am paraphrasing:

My life has more meaning than losing and gaining the same 30 pounds over and over for 80 years.

Because it's ludicrous to live that way. Always obsessed about losing weight, and then realizing once you hit your goal weight, that although you may look better, you don't feel any better.

But if I don't have dieting and obsessing about my weight, what do I have? 

Constant dieting is so all-encompassing and distracting. Hating myself is exhausting. Being kind to myself is so foreign. Eating is such comfort and it's always been there for me. So making a change sounds really, really hard.


  1. I think we all deal with these same issues. Right now I am going through a signifficant "un-diet." And I constantly think of what I should be doing, while contradicting it with damn near every action. But ultimately I keep going back to this question: Am I happy?

    Happiness does not come at a certain weight. Hell, I lost 80 pounds after college, gained 30 of it back, lost another 25, gained back 30, lost 15, gained 25, etc. It's an ongoing struggled that some of us will deal with our whole lives. Some people are just meant to be gymrats who run 3 to 5 miles a day and munch of veggies, and others are just normal ass people who like sweets and other food mixed in with the healthy meals.

    Is this to say that we should stop trying? No. I suppose we should just not make it our sole purpose to work out, just as we should not make it our being to gobble down choclate cake every time we want it.

  2. I agree everyone has compulsions, whether it's food, shopping, exercise... And I also agree that weight loss does not bring complete happiness.
    I would love to find a healthy balance with food and exercise, without feeling like I'm over-thinking it and without feeling deprived. It ain't gonna be easy.

  3. You forgot automobile purchases in your list of compulsions