Geneen Roth's Why Weight?
Bookmark and Share

Geneen Roth's book 'Why Weight'

Why Weight? A Guide to Ending Compulsive Eating is a book by Geneen Roth. Both the Why Weight and Normal Eating methods are meant to help people overcome compulsive eating, stop dieting, and eat normally, so of course there are some similarities. But there are also some significant differences.

A Focus on Weight Loss

The most important difference is that Why Weight focuses on weight loss as a goal. In fact, this is the biggest difference between Normal Eating and all other non-diet approaches.

Focus on weight loss as the goal is the single biggest reason that the non-diet approach doesn't work for many people. You can't listen to your body and trust what it's telling you if your mind is constantly trying to second guess it.

Lacks Effective Tools

Geneen Roth went through a process of recovery with a therapist and can accurately describe the emotional issues that drive compulsive eating. But she's not a therapist herself, as she's the first to admit. Her expertise is not in helping people to apply this knowledge; she only can describe it. Her descriptions are movingly eloquent - she's a great writer - but a general awareness that you eat, for example, when you're angry does not help you to not eat when you're angry.

The Why Weight suggestion to write essays about each generic trigger (for example, anger) is not an effective tool for recovery. Deep insight about triggers doesn't happen in after-the-fact reflection; it happens in the moment you're experiencing the trigger.

The moment of craving is when you have an opportunity for insight that is actionable. That's why Normal Eating so strongly emphasizes the importance of pausing before acting on an urge to eat. Sitting with the discomfort of the compulsion for long enough to realize what's triggering it is how you get well.

A Description, Not a Map

Why Weight and Normal Eating both have four stages, but the only similarity between them is the count. The Why Weight stages simply describe the recovery process - for example, you'll be able to eat when hungry before you can stop when full, and the whole process will take 1-2 years. All true, but that doesn't explain how to get there.

The Normal Eating stages, in contrast, provide tools to move you through the process. They are not just a description of recovery, they are a roadmap for getting there.

These are the Why Weight stages:

  1. Acknowledgement there's a problem.
  2. Reaction against deprivation.
  3. Identifying and solving the problems that cause you to eat compulsively.
  4. Joy in recovery.

Stage 3 - identifying and solving the problems that cause you to eat compulsively - is the part that people have trouble with, and the focus of the Normal Eating stages.

It's easy to say "Just eat when you're hungry", but it's very hard to do if you're an emotional eater. An emotional eater has to do a lot of internal work to be able to "just eat when hungry". Most people find it difficult or impossible to do that level of internal work without guidance. This is what Normal Eating provides.

Normal Eating breaks the process into stages, with each stage building on the previous stage. That lets you focus on one thing at a time, which is much more manageable. The exercises at each stage greatly improve your odds of success, as well.

Many people who loved Geneen Roth's books but still couldn't stop eating compulsively find success with Normal Eating.

This is an excerpt from the book Normal Eating for Normal Weight: The Path to Freedom from Weight Obsession and Food Cravings by Sheryl Canter