Interview: Suza Scalora

Geneen Roth, the New York Times bestselling author of Women, Food, and God, writes about two hot button issues: food and money. The power of Geneen’s books is her unflinching honesty and humor. Geneen struggled with dieting and binging for seventeen years—gaining and losing 1,000 pounds. Her suffering and desperation were so intense that she was three days from death. Then, an internal shift saved her life. In her latest book, Lost and Found, she details lessons learned from losing her life savings to the infamous Bernie Madoff. In a culture that revels in the idiom, “You can never be too thin or too rich,” Geneen offers a fresh perspective that could change your life.

Suza Scalora: You’re so honest in your books, and I think that’s why your work resonates with so many people.

Geneen Roth: I feel like it’s been important for me to use my own personal experiences with food and money to help people to not feel ashamed. I felt so much shame about my own experiences.

SS: In Women, Food and God, you wrote that your relationship with food mirrors other aspects of your life.

GR: Yes. How you eat is how you live. How you do anything is how you do everything.

SS: Food can be used as an escape. What are the other ways that we try to escape, and what are we trying to escape from?

GR: What is pronounced these days is staying on the Internet for hours. It’s really about distraction. We are living in such an over stimulated culture. There’s a nervous energy of always having to be focused out there. People have a hard time just being happy, settled, and content. We’re not taught how to just be by ourselves, be present. We always want to change the channel in our minds because we don’t like what’s going on. It’s uncomfortable. We start eating, watch television, surf the Internet, or go shopping and buy something. That gives us a rush of feeling, some adrenaline and excitement. There have been many articles about the top regrets that people have when they’re dying. They are always, “I missed the ordinary moments.” We miss those ordinary moments, and yet, that’s what we’re trying to distract ourselves from at the same time.

SS: An interesting dichotomy. Why do we have this need to distract ourselves?

GR: We’re always looking for the Big Love, the Big High, the next Big Thing to happen. We miss what’s in front of us. There’s a basic feeling of lack that we want to distract ourselves from. We want to fix it by looking outside ourselves, as if it is going to fill us up.

It’s the same with people and money, as I wrote about in Lost and Found. My closet was full, yet I was always focused on the sweater I didn’t have, or on the next pair of boots. I wasn’t allowing myself to take in what I had. I could never experience what “enough” was.

SS: How do we go about changing this dynamic within ourselves?

GR: It’s important to focus on the good in life and appreciate it.

SS: How does this feeling of not being enough manifest in our lives?

GR: It can be through money or food or compulsive eating or your beliefs about yourself. Women look at their bodies, and they’re never thin enough. The financial advisors that I’ve talked to say they ask their clients, “How much money do you need in order to feel secure?” “X amount.” Then, as soon as the client got the amount, it would double automatically. Enough is always in the future.  It’s never based on what I have in the present moment. After initial needs are met—enough food, shelter, comfort—there is no correlation between money and happiness. That’s a difficult thing for people to believe.

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