tumblingdays: B&W Photo of a little girl hugging an elephant (ed)
I've started reading a new book- Women Food and God by Geneen Roth. Several people have recommended this book to me, but I've been reluctant to read it. My main reluctance comes from the fact that I don't believe in god, making it unlikely that this book is the right next step for me and my Intuitive Eating journey. Still, SO many people recommended it that I finally added it to my queue.

I read the prologue earlier this week and even that gave me quite a bit to think about. Several people in my support group have blogged each chapter as they've read it, or used the Book Club questions to blog. I'm not sure that I am going to do something that structured, but I suspect that I will be writing it about it as I go.

So far I've finished the prologue and chapter one. It took me the better part of a week to read chapter one, because I knew that reading this book meant digging into my emotional eating, and this is not a fun thing for me to do. The premise, as laid out in the prologue is pretty straight-forward. Our relationship with food is a perfect reflection of our relationship with life. How we treat food is an expression of our deepest convictions, "...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, or love or fear."

In response the prologue, I have been trying to experience one of my meals each day mindfully- no distractions. Phone put away, music off, no tv, no talking. It's challenging to sit alone with my food. Like most people, I am a multitasker. Given how fraught my relationship with food is, it is really tough for eating to be thing that I focus on absolutely. I can't say that I was completely successful at it. Even with nothing to distract me but my own mind, I would still have moments when I ate in a fugue, when food disappeared off my plate and into my body with no conscious thought. I have had good moments though, when I could be present in my eating. And, if I can be present in my eating, where it is so hard to still my mind, maybe this will help me be more present in my life generally.

Chapter one focuses on "god." Roth quickly establishes a definition of god that encompasses everything from my atheism to something closer to the traditional patriarchal western god. Frankly, I find such broad definitions of god pretty meaningless. It doesn't really matter to me since it means that I can read the book without feeling like it wasn't written for me. It does make me wonder why she bothers with the whole god concept at all instead of just acknowledging that she is talking about life.

Some of what she says here strikes a chord with me, or at least with the child I used to be. She talks about praying, and when her prayers aren't answered feeling like it is because she is not worthy of having her prayers answered. The part of me still connected to my deeply religious upbringing gave a sharp intake of breath at that idea. When I think of all the time spent listening to well-meaning people tell me that faith can move mountains and then to have my own prayers met with nothing.... well, for a big part of my early adolescence it made sense that the only reason that this should be the case was because no matter how fervently I believed and how sincerely I prayed, my faith wasn't enough. I wasn't enough.

She also describes how she hated the act of praying; how it felt like, "begging for love that I already knew I couldn't have." This, along with the pain of feeling like my prayers weren't answered because I didn't believe enough, was my first real feeling of shame. I also felt like the things I asking for weren't worth god's time. He had falling sparrows to count and crops to make grow. My loneliness, my adolescent confusion, my doubts had no place in a world full of hungry people and natural disasters. I was ashamed of asking for love, ashamed of asking for peace, and ashamed that the god I'd learned cared about every little detail of our lives seemed uninterested in my pain.

There are things from my religious upbringing that still make me angry, and one of the biggest things is this: SHAME. Here I am, with that time more than half my life ago, and I still find it difficult to approach the child that I was and tell her that she didn't do anything wrong in asking for love and acceptance - not from the people around her, not from her parents, and not from the god who never spoke back.


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October 2011

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