Review of Women, Food and God

I finally finished Women Food and God by Geneen Roth.

I was not exactly sure what to expect with this book, but I have to say that it wasn’t really what I expected.  Does that make sense?  First off, I was put off by the title, hence the reason I waited so long to read it.  I was concerned that it might be a religious approach, which I was not interested in.  However, Ms. Roth uses the word god as more of an abstract concept, but the continuous use of the term got in the way  at first.  I think people looking for some sort of spiritual guide would be pretty disappointed in this book.

The majority of this book just seemed to be case studies from her seminars and flashbacks to her life, which led it to seem somewhat disjointed to me.

Here were the positives and negatives I found with the book:

Positives:

– Recognizing the inner voice.  This is, to me, the best advice in the book.  To stop letting that inside voice speak to you negatively.  This was key for me in my journey and I think is really step 1 for any serious life changes.

– One of the best sentences in the book?  On page 199 – “Since the relationship with food is only a microcosm for your relationship to the rest of your life… any attempts to change the food part without also engaging in the beliefs it represents will end in disappointment 100 percent of the time.”

Makes such a great point that food often times is not the issue.  So many times people think, if I can eat right, the rest of my world will fall into place.  It gives food too much power.

– The 7 eating guidelines  (although this is also a negative as outlined below), which could be very helpful if you have never heard of them before.

My favorite guideline?  #7 – Eat with enjoyment.

Negatives:

– No practical advice.  Really, she just says “once you do X, then you will see clearly about Y.”  However, she gives no real steps about how to achieve this.  Even with the meditation (which she calls ‘inquiry’), it is just “notice the tingle in your arm and reflect on that.”  Well – I don’t feel any body tingles when I meditate.  The book “Savor” is one that explains this concept much better.

– Profanity.  Okay, I have to admit that I curse like a sailor, but I certainly don’t put it in my blog.  I don’t have a problem with profanity, but I don’t know as the f bombs really had a real place in this book.  It seemed gratuitous.

– The eating guidelines at the end in an appendix.  She kept referencing the rules, but never actually stated them in the book.  You had to go to the very end of the book for the bulleted list – in fact, the very last page of the book.  And then there was no explanation on how to actually achieve the rules.  Eat when you are hungry? Fine.  But how does one recognize stomach hunger versus head hunger?  Eat what your body wants? Okay, but isn’t there a difference between what it wants and what it needs?

Finally, there is something about her delivery that really bothers me and I can’t quite put my finger on it.   She is never surprised by anything her seminar people say, like she can predict their thoughts.  She talks about how these really emotionally disturbed women are practically emotionally healed after a week at her seminar.  Some of the things these women say about themselves is really heartbreaking and really need something more in depth than a week-long seminar.  Is this egomania?  Someone help me out here.

I really did want to like this book more since so many people seem to.  I think this book is probably more of a background book to further study in the field than anything else.  I really don’t see why Opera thought it was so life changing when there really isn’t anything groundbreaking or new in it.  Or maybe it is just me.  Personally – I got way more out of Savor or The Beck Diet than I did WFG.  A lot more.

Question:  Those of you who have read WFG, what good and bad points did you take from the book?

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26 thoughts on “Review of Women, Food and God

  1. Sheri

    I never finished the book, so I can’t give you a direct answer. However, what I read I was left confused unsure of what she was trying to say to me and no direct answer. I think she had a lot to say about something in her past, but I don’t get the correlation.

    Anyways, there were a few highlights but not enough that gave me goose bumps like Oprah.
    .-= Sheri´s last blog ..Keep Going No Matter What =-.

  2. KCLAnderson (Karen)

    What I loved most about the book is what you didn’t like! HA! I got so tired of trying to follow other people’s rules and how-to’s and I finally realized that my journey starts inside of me. And your journey starts inside of you. And so on. And what Roth does is get one thinking about how and why and where our journeys might start. That said, I think WFG addresses one piece of the journey, and other books address other pieces. WFG is not the be all and end all, but it provides some guideposts along the way.
    .-= KCLAnderson (Karen)´s last blog ..What If Both Things Are True Either Way I’m In Awe =-.

  3. Cilla

    This is a great review, Lori. I admit that the title has always put me off from reading this book, and I probably won’t go out of my way to read it if the tone is somewhat sanctimonious.
    .-= Cilla´s last blog ..Today =-.

  4. Shelley B

    Good honest review. I admit, anything that Oprah gets all excited about, I usually steer clear from. So naturally I’ve not read this book, and judging from what you and some others have said, I won’t. Thanks for taking the bullet for us on this one. 😉
    .-= Shelley B´s last blog ..Friday Mishmash =-.

  5. debby

    Good review, Lori. The title and the exerpts from the book also put me off. Have to admit that I still find more concrete advice about how to lose weight much more helpful than ‘listen to your hunger’ and ‘eat what your body wants.’
    .-= debby´s last blog ..Safari Begins =-.

  6. Jane

    Excellent review, Lori. I read about halfway through the book before I began skimming. In my opinion, this book is just another of Roth’s ill-defined approaches to dealing with overweight and obesity, and if persons such as Oprah (tired of the struggle) were very taken with it, perhaps it’s because she told us how we would like things to be. The reality of the situation for most of us who have dealt with long-term overweight, obesity, and chronic dieting is something different entirely.

    I don’t know if she understands true compulsive overeating and obesity, so I think this book may be beneficial only to those people who have a lesser amount of weight to lose, but who are perpetually dieting and fretting about it. (I have friends like that, and they maintain a relatively normal weight, but are constantly on a diet.) I think her methodology is based on her own experience and philosophy and has little relevance to what true food addicts/compulsive overeaters are all about or…what they are up against.

    If this response seems negative, I guess I feel that way. Roth continues to make loads of money on her book, while providing very little in the form of concrete strategies–and Oprah paved the way for her. In my opinion, Dr. Phil’s books on dieting are much more realistic and helpful.
    .-= Jane´s last blog ..Brief Update =-.

  7. Lisa

    I am also turned off by the title–which is why i haven’t read it yet. I do agree that eating should be enjoyable! We can enjoy food and treats without ruining our whole plan!

  8. Pubsgal

    Great review, Lori! It was great to read your insights about this book.

    It’s been awhile since I listened to WF&G. I put it off for a long time, too, because I’d gotten the impression from the title that the content would be more religious. I think it was a better “listen” than a read, and I liked the more “storytelling” parts of it. Not so much the parts where she talks about her retreats – those parts *were* annoying – but those in which she talks of her own experiences, probably because there were some “Oh, I’m not the only one who does that? Interesting!” (I also noticed that her voice sounds a lot like Martha Beck’s, another Oprah guru. I wonder if Oprah chooses these people based on their compelling voices?) The things that stuck with me are more along the general psychology line, such as the “Voice,” the “urge to bolt,” the dread of painful things, thinking of how even now I “use” food like a drug at times, and how I’m glad I synthesized the idea of not “forbidding” foods. I’ve also read other reviews, and some folks prefer her earlier works, thinking this one pushes her workshops a bit too much, and that there’s nothing really new & amazing here.

    “Savor” definitely had more concrete advice. I liked the parts that were more influenced by Thich Naht Hahn (it was pretty obvious which parts are more Buddhist monk’s and which parts are more doctor co-author’s), especially about meditation and how it can be applied to mindful eating practices. I think that for someone just starting out, Savor would be an excellent guidebook. (And for me, the humbled & stumbling sustainer, I might just need to go and re-read it. And practice some more. *blush*)
    .-= Pubsgal´s last blog ..Race Report- Las Vegas Rock &amp Roll Half Marathon Weekend! =-.

  9. Miz

    It’s been a bit since I read the book but I ended up PRECISELY where you did.
    I liked it “just fine” I didnt agree with a few points (perhaps I misread? misunderstood? Im still not sure) but I came away thinking that it was nothing new—just the PERFECT moment for Oprah to receive the information within.
    .-= Miz´s last blog ..It’s all about the decadence =-.

  10. Jody - Fit at 53

    I had not heard of the book before you mentioned it & would not have gone for it like you said due to the title… it really does not sound like it is my type of thing anyway & like Cammy said, I am my own prob, not the food….
    .-= Jody – Fit at 53´s last blog ..A Special Day – NOW! =-.

  11. Rachael

    Great review! I love the fact that you have emphasized both positive and negative of this book. The sentence you picked out is spot on. I obsess so much about what I eat thinking “if I could only change, everything would be better and I would reach my goals”. Food has more power than it deserves. Thanks for the reminder. Keeping balance is crucial.

  12. deb

    Self help books are really not my thing and i guess that is what you’d label this as. So i have not read this. But you are so right about fixing that inner voice to stop berating yourself. Its a difficult but necessary fix that must be made. Practice makes perfect. Even with all your only human shortcommings you must find a way to love yourself first and foremost.

  13. Kelly

    Let’s put it this way, I can totally understand why the participants at her “retreat” got angry. Very condescending, bad organization, a woman with a savior complex = not my cup of tea!

  14. Joanne

    I haven’t read the book but I think you gave it a good review by way of enlightening us who have not read it what to expect.
    I’m more interested in total fiction books when I find time to read. I want something to take me away from reality and put me in a world of fantastical events and good endings.
    .-= Joanne´s last blog ..Weekly Running and Caribbean Jerk Tuna Salad =-.

  15. Karen Ogle

    I haven’t read the book but based on your review I don’t think it would do much for me. It sounds a lot like intuitive eating and I don’t buy that much. If I ate what my body wanted I would live on KFC and Chinese Food. That would not have gotten me to a 175 pound weight loss. I believe in logging and tracking everything and I think my mind knows better than my body what is best for me to use for fuel. I spent too many years as a morbidly obese person to believe that my body knows what it needs.:)
    .-= Karen Ogle´s last blog ..Blogging Early Again Today =-.

  16. Fran

    I haven’t read the book but after reading your excellent review I don’t think I would like it either. So nothing to say here actually 🙂

  17. Mandy

    I agree that she doesn’t give you any “concrete” steps on how to lose the weight, but I don’t think that is the point of this book. The point is to look deep inside yourself to figure out the REAL reason why you aren’t losing weight. It helps you work on the inside (self-esteem, self-loathing, the inner voice) so you then can work on the outside. Some parts did get a little “deep” for me (meditating a half hour every day-uh, no thanks!) but overall I think it is a worthwhile book, especially for obese folks that need help in loving themselves first before they tackle weight loss.

  18. Leah

    Most of my positives and negatives would be what you posted. I did not feel like I learned anything new from her book. It was interesting to read, but then she got into the mediation and that is not something I am not into. So, as I write I think that was my biggest turnoff and I ended up not finishing the book. I quit reading about two thirds to three quarters of the way through and felt I learned all of what she had to offer by then already.

    You bring out good points and I agree with you. Personally, I appreciate you not using profanity on your blog on a regular basis. 🙂
    .-= Leah´s last blog ..Im a Gazelle =-.

  19. Leslie

    I agree with you on this. I hated this book. Hated is too strong a word…but I really, really disliked it:)

    Sure do love your blog though!!
    .-= Leslie´s last blog ..One Pound =-.

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