Breaking Free

I have just finished “When Love is Food” by Geneen Roth and again, blown away.  I wanted to make a few notes about the parts that really hit me.

She writes :”For 17 years I ate compulsively.  For 22 years I involved myself in relationships that left me feeling the same as eating compulsively: always sick and always empty.  I had no idea how to take care of myself with food or with people.  I didn’t know eating a meal was an act of kindness and would give my body the fuel it needed to think clearly, and move fluidly.  I didn’t know that choosing a kind, available partner was an act of kindness.  I thought it was naughty and exciting to eat donuts until I was sick and to be with men that made me live on the edge of myself, balancing disaster.  Lovers with whom I could not rest.”

For 20+ years I have also lived this life.  I’ve been with much older men who treated my early developed young body like a thing instead of a person.  I married an emotionally unavailable and emotionally abusive, selfish man child.  I had an affair with another boy who was icing on a cake I couldn’t ever eat, nor really wanted to.  I dated two emotionally unavailable men who used me for sex and loved to confuse me into thinking I was only theirs.  I had an affair with a married man who professed love but instead gave me only selfish confusion.  My entire love life has been for the benefit of the other person and completely confusing to me.  Sickly, sweet donuts.  Basically a mirror to my relationship with my parents, namely my biological father.

Lovers with whom I could not rest, indeed.  She writes, “Women get a crumb from their fathers, so when they get two crumbs from a man, they accept it.”  I’ve been living on crumbs and donuts for all these years.  No wonder I feel like a lost woman in a fat suit.

She goes on to say: “Many of the women said they associated eating sweets with being with their fathers, with the way they were treated by their fathers. Underneath the liquid cherry-filled nights were mad cravings for mashed potatoes, rice and vegetables, whole-grain muffins.  The sweets didn’t satisfy them; they needed something more substantial.”

So where do I go here?  I’m very delicately trying to live the Eating Guidelines she proposes in her books.

  1. Eat when you are hungry.
  2. Eat sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car.
  3. Eat without distractions. Distractions include radio, television, newspapers, books, intense or anxiety-producing conversations or music.
  4. Eat what your body wants.
  5. Eat until you are satisfied.
  6. Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others.
  7. Eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure.

I have been doing this for the past week, including two weekends and I must say it feels weird, but good.  Mostly it feels right.  I overate a few times where my body was clearly done and I didn’t stop and as soon as I started to feel shame, I stopped and talked to myself about what was really going on.  It was the first Monday I didn’t feel shame that I wasn’t starting a new diet or exercise program.  I saw someone bring in the Tuesday donuts and I started to go follow them and thought “wait, I just ate breakfast.  What is going on?”  Turns out I was procrastinating about working so I turned around and went to my desk.  I didn’t have breakfast at home one morning and had a few extra minutes so instead of eating in the car from a drive-through, I went into a cafe and ate.

The one problem I am having is eating without being distracted.  I like to read and it’s about my only time to read, when I’m eating breakfast.  I’ll work on that.

The other area the book(s) go into is intimacy.  Along with the Eating Guidelines she talks about these rules for intimacy, as well:

  1. Commit yourself
  2. Tell the truth
  3. Trust yourself
  4. Pain ends, so does everything else.
  5. Laugh and cry easily
  6. Have patience
  7. Be willing to be vulnerable
  8. When you notice you are clinging to anything and it’s causing trouble, drop it
  9. Be willing to fail
  10. Don’t let fear stop you from leaping into the unknown or from sitting in dark silence
  11. Remember that everything gets lost, stolen, ruined, worn out or broken; bodies sag and wrinkle; everyone suffers; and everyone dies
  12. No act of love is ever wasted.

She writes, “A relationship is not about finding peace by being with another human being.  It is about making a commitment to maintain contact and not run away when your partner is a mirror for the hardness in your heart.”

“The hard part wasn’t meeting the love of my life.  The hard part is staying with him.  The hard part is staying anywhere.  If I’m always leaving, I can’t be left.  When I’m still and quiet I’m a target.  When I’m moving no one can catch me, hit me or hurt me.”

I spend a lot of time in therapy talking to her about my yearning to pack up and leave, take my kid and move and just live alone so I don’t have to deal with men or relationships or anyone else.  I look at it as focusing on me, but that’s not all it is.  It’s also running.  I want to change jobs all the time, I get bored easily and want to move.  ALL of this hit me as my truth when I read it.

I can’t wait to start the next book, and ultimately, my life.




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