Insights and Awareness from Geneen Roth’s Books and Work
If there is one thing I took away from reading Women, Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything
by Geneen Roth, it is that our bodies are our generator of feelings. I sometimes convince myself that my bodily feelings (tightness in chest, racing heart, etc.) will just pass if I ignore them. I will occasionally fall asleep to the television to avoid my feelings that crop up in the silence, or I will procrastinate certain things that I am too fearful to face, such as a large bill or tough conversations with those I love. This book is a good reminder of the importance of listening to our feelings without judgement, and more importantly, to take care of ourselves in these difficult moments. Rest assured though that the habit of numbing our feelings is TOTALLY NORMAL, but the goal is to start tuning into our feelings.
Our bodies are where our feelings stem from and our minds generally react to these feelings. We are most often our harshest critics, including talking down to ourselves internally or judging our own feelings. This is the trick! If the feelings stay in the body and we acknowledge them, no harm done. If we let our minds judge those feelings, however, harm may be done. Just like Geneen Roth says in her book, “our minds are masters of blame but our bodies don’t lie.” Our thoughts turn to habits, some of which surround our relationship with food. Depending on our certain thoughts and personality traits, these habits can become binge eating or restriction, sometimes both, as a way to escape the raw and uncomfortable feelings in our body. Our response to uncomfortable feelings is sometimes avoidance and instant satisfaction, our relationship with food, or distracting ourselves with television for example. Begin to challenge the avoidance and instant satisfaction by not letting your mind take over those feelings in your body. Let your body handle the energy of your feelings.
Tuning into our feelings without numbing them is not easy, and requires patience with ourselves and practice. I have been working on this for years and am still far from mastery. Again, patience and practice. Next time you have an overwhelming feeling of sadness or anger, instead of drowning it out, name your feeling (as psychiatrist Dr. Dan Siegel says “name it to tame it”), in order for your strong feelings to remain in check and not take hold of you. Once you sense an uncomfortable feeling in your body, acknowledge it: I feel anxiety and tightness in my chest. Maybe ask: Where else do I feel anxiety or tension in my body? Be sure to use the words “I feel” instead of “I have” to keep these feelings at bay. Next, sit with the uncomfortable feeling and self-soothe: It is okay that I feel anxious, that is my response to the events that have just occurred. If you drift towards the cravings of binging or abusing your relationship with food, ask yourself: Why do I feel the need to binge right now? What will that binge bring me other than instant satisfaction? What will I feel in 15 minutes? Externalizing these cravings and thinking aloud gives those urges less power over your decision-making process. It is okay if you are unable to resist those thoughts that lead you to over-indulging, but do not let that discourage you. Continue practicing your acknowledgement of your feelings. Take extra good care of yourself.
Ideas to feel feelings, not feed them:
- As Geneen Roth suggests, welcome all of your feelings with tenderness and acceptance, free of judgement.
- Create a list of questions that you can use as prompts to help you sit with an uncomfortable feeling, like above. I personally like to create a mind map to understand my feelings.
- Consider meditation or pockets of your day to dedicate to calmness and introspection. Our true feelings often get lost in the busyness of the day.
- Lastly, pick up Geneen Roth’s Women, Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything. This is an engaging and quick read for all who need the next push into food freedom.