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Geneen Roth, "When Food is Love" Chapter 1

Food is so many things. So many different things, so many contradictory things.

Food is great. The tastes, the textures the varieties. There are some favorite foods that I can remember eating for the first time. Those are great memories, like the first time meeting a great friend.

Food is a reward. Life is tough, and something delicious can make me happy, make a bad day, seem better.

Food is rebellion. No one is suppose to eat of "this" or the whole bag of "that". But I want to so I'm going to do it and no one can stop me.

Food is the enemy. I want to be thin, because thin is beautiful. Food prevents me from being thin, so I push it away. But my hunger keeps calling me back to it, and eventually my hunger and the food defeat me.

Food is a habit. When I am unhappy, anxious tired, I reach for food. It is ingrained in me after about 45 years. Food makes things better. 

Geneen Roth in her book invites us to another identity for food - Food is Love. Our compulsion, our overeating is a part of our search for love, an acting out of the belief on what makes us lovable and how love is found.

By the time she wrote this book, Geneen was already a successful author who wrote about the meaning of weight. I remember watching her on the Phil Donahue show talking about how she hadn't weighed herself in two years. That just amazed me. I weighed myself many times a day, and what the scale showed determined how I felt. How could anyone not look at a scale for two years? But Geneen was putting it together that food, eating, dieting, fat, thin - they were all a part of the same thing. Women were using food and weight to express things that weren't really about food and weight.

The author was a success, but she still hadn't found "the one". Then she did. At first they were happy, and then the fears of her childhood rose up in her - the fear of abandonment, the fear of not being good enough. As a child, none of us have very many tools. We can't make abandoning fathers present or critical mothers see our worth. But we do have food. Food gives us comfort and reward and makes  a bad day better. In and of itself, this isn't a bad thing. It is the way someone with limited resources, someone like a child deals with it. But food is connected to weight. I know I can remember the shame I felt about being fat in 7th Grade. I was huge, the fattest 7th Grader ever. Even though I look at pictures now from that time and look normal. But my parents were critical of my weight and my appetite. And some classmates would bully me. Another child might have dealt with it better, but my temperament led me to eat and to gain weight. This of course led me to dieting. But when a 12 year old diets, they will do it through starvation. But my hunger got the best of me, and being hungry I would binge. That started the cycle that has defined my life. I am unacceptable because I am fat. If I diet and will be thin and all of my problems will be over. But I need the food, for my body, and because food plays so many other roles in my life. So I binge. But I do it in secret, because I believe it is shameful to want to much food.

The quote from Chapter 1 stands out for me: "I fell like I've been robbed. My best dream has been taken away. I really thought losing weight was going to change my life...I'm still angry and lonely and now I don't have losing weight to look forward to".  Last year I reached my goal. I lost 80 pounds. But in a few months my Binge Eating Disorder came back stronger than ever. I was physically sick from the amount of food in me, Unable to sleep for the pain in my gut. Why? I was a normal weight. I got lots of compliment, and bought great new clothes. But it didn't make me perfectly happy. It wasn't a dream come true. It was just weight, part of typical, complicated life. 

I've been fighting BED for 9 months now with therapy. But picking up this book made me realize maybe I should stop fighting and listening. It is trying to tell me something. About what my life is, where I've been, and where I am going. That there are issues that aren't about what I weigh. Issues for which weight has proved a distraction. 

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