As I have mentioned in ‘My Story,’ this book really did change my mind about eating and was instrumental in helping me to stop dieting.
Susie Orbach sets out quite clearly and concisely why we have anxiety around food and why we either overeat or undereat (compulsively eating or compulsively dieting). She helps the reader understand why they have problems with food and ‘body image’ and sets out ways to start thinking differently when around food and what the body should look like (generally the thought is that I need to look like that ultra thin model in a glossy magazine).
Susie Orbach first wrote this book in the ’70s at a time when feminism was an important cultural concept. Reading it now the book may feel slightly old-fashioned. Once you get past the feminist ideas and ideals (how the husband viewed his wife and how she should act and look like), the book is really helpful. The reader starts to understand how they perceive food in terms of their emotions and behaviours, which in turn leads to how hey view their body image. The practical exercises assists the reader in moving on to a more healthy way of eating.
“Compulsive eating is a very, very painful activity. Behind the self-deprecating jokes is a person who suffers enormously. Much of her life is centred on food, what she can and cannot eat, what she will or will not eat, what she has or has not eaten and when she will and will not eat next … Much of her eating is done in secret or with eating friends, while at meals she is the professional dieter and much admired for her abstinence.”
When I first read this book I kept thinking she was writing about me! The extract above perfectly described me back in the late ’70s. Although I was a dieter, I was also a compulsive eater. It was a terrible, yo-yo, day-to-day existence.
The book is very good at explaining the link between feelings and eating. Once a binge eater or dieter starts to understand this link, they are on the path to recovery. There are exercises such as “Exploring your Feelings” and ‘Expressing your Feelings.” For instance, Susie Orbach suggests to the reader that they ask a Mars bar what kind of feeling they are wanting the Mars bar to suppress. Invariably, whenever I asked a ‘food’ this question it was generally the feeling of fear or anger. These are the emotions that I always want to hide from the world. As Susie explains, you can’t get rid of the feeling – and you definitely can’t get rid of the feeling by stuffing yourself with food – but if you can understand what is going on and allow the feeling to be experienced it is much easier to stop the impulse to binge-eat.
It’s a hard road to recover from compulsively eating or dieting, and if the reader wants to benefit from this book, they will have to do some of the exercises. If they read the book in conjunction with doing the exercises I believe readers will want to throw away the weighing scales – like I did – and live a life without the constant thought of food getting in the way – other than to eat and enjoy!!
Find it: Fat Is a Feminist Issue