In April I attended a weekend workshop given by Geneen Roth: "Take Back Your Life! A 7 Step Process to Break Free from Emotional Eating." Roth has authored seven books, "When Food is Love," was a national best seller.
The workshop was filled with 300 mostly lay people, with just a sprinkling of men. Roth asked all health professionals (we numbered about 20) to be present from our own context, not from the context of our clients. Our first exercise involved journaling from the part of ourselves that could not be measured or weighed, who knew that something was possible. Part II involved sharing what we wrote in small groups. My group included a 40-year-old moderately overweight binge eater, a 35-year-old who admitted to eating all of her meals standing up in her kitchen or in her car, and a 50-year-old obese woman who was visibly uncomfortable with the whole idea. After the exercise it was obvious that even though we all looked different we shared self-scrutiny, sadness and broken relationships. We all had a story.
Roth's seven "eating guidelines" basically suggest to eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full, be conscious and not distracted when you eat, don't hide when you eat, enjoy every morsel, every time and trust your body's innate wisdom with all of it. She asked, "What would your body want and need that would give it energy and sustain it?"
When someone asked her about eating what you want, she said we should differentiate between what we want and what our body wants. "Our body does not want sugar in the morning. YOU want 20 Hershey's Kisses, your BODY would be satisfied with just one or two." Roth suggests that when we cannot follow these eating guidelines, we should inquire into what's happening. "Inquiry," she said, "is an ancient, precise process, a non-rejection assessment of our experience. It is a process of discovering who you are and what you feel."
Eating when we're not hungry is one way that we avoid feelings. When we feel intense pain, we try mightily to make it go away: we shop, we exercise, we work, we drink or a combination of the above ? we do everything but feel the pain. Emotional eating works! It takes the edge off of feelings. But aside from numbing ourselves from life, it is also calorie-laden so doing it frequently makes it really difficult to maintain your natural weight. Facing feelings on the other hand is calorie-free.
Roth cautioned that you have to really want to know the questions AND the answers to your inquiry, which reminded me of a Life In Hell cartoon. Akbar poses a series of escalating bodily harm dares to Jeff (I'm paraphrasing): "I dare you to jump off this cliff. I dare you to scale that mountain. I dare you to (it goes on)?" Jeff stares glassy-eyed until Akbar's last dare: "I dare you to declare your innermost love and desire for me." At which point Jeff jumps off of the cliff.
Are you feeling fully alive? How are you depriving yourself? Are you in touch with part of you that cannot be measured or weighed? Roth quoted a prophet who said that sometimes we have to re-teach a thing its loveliness.
In the end she said that we work on issues with food to free ourselves to be ourselves. If food's not your issue, fill in the blank. Roth said we all have issues, even if they're not about food.
Fran Scott is giving a free weight loss lecture at Oak Park Library on June 7 at 7 p.m. Please RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org.