When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair

emotional eating disorders


Why is feeling fat as common among size four women as among size sixteen's? Why should you carry a chunk of chocolate everywhere? What is the "suffering contest", and why is losing it so important? When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull up a Chair is bestselling author Geneen Roth's witty tell-all about the secret ways we sabotage ourselves every day, as well as an inspired book on how we can learn to live, love and celebrate life no matter what.

Roth, known for her pioneering books on women, food and losing weight without dieting -- The New York Times bestseller When Food is Love, as well as Feeding the Hungry Heart, Appetites, Breaking Free from Compulsive Eating and Why Weight? -- has been teaching workshops nationwide for twenty years to dispel the myths and undo the damage of diets and deprivation. Her work has been featured on "Oprah," "20/20," "NBC Nightly News," and "Good Morning America." Over the years, her students have asked her to create a book -- something small enough to be slipped into a purse or pocket -- to help remind them that true nourishment can be found in unexpected -- and non-caloric -- places.

With its creative arsenal of techniques, When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull up a Chair helps readers successfully find their way to a better understanding of life's bumps and bruises, and teaches them how to bring beauty, power and joy back into their lives without paying for it in unwanted pounds or bills. Roth proposes a radical shift in our thinking about what being "thin" really is and what it allows us to be and feel.

She has seen time and again with her tens of thousands of students that being thin doesn't automatically lead to happiness (shocking as this may be!), and that there are direct, effective and practical ways to feel joy, strength, power and value daily. In this new book, Roth teaches how to find contentment without conditions ("I'll be happy when I lost those ten pounds, find the right job, have the perfect house...."), and how to stop waiting for your life to begin. With advice ranging from the physical to the metaphysical, she teaches how to put insight into action, figure out what you're really up to in your life, as well as providing a simplified approach to eating--guidelines that actually lead to weight loss without dieting.

Among its fifty succinct chapters are:

  • Three Ways to Stop a Fat-and-Ugly Attack
  • Retail Therapy is as Important as the Other Kind
  • Whenever You Feel Fat or Worthless, Ask Yourself Whose Instructions You are Following
  • Eat Enough Fat
  • Do Not Sneak Food or Feelings
  • Be Willing to Lose the Suffering Contest
  • When You are Not Hungry, Beauty is Better than Bonbons

By turns practical, whimsical, and spiritual, When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull up a Chair sends a clear message: Stop waiting for the day when you are finally thin enough, good-looking or buff-enough, smart or smartly-dressed enough, and start living now! Frank and funny, it transforms the way we perceive not only food, but the entire way we live our lives.

Questions & Answers

1. What does the title of your book refer to? What does it mean, When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull up a Chair ?

Most of the people with whom I work "graze" at the refrigerator while standing up. They pretend they are not really eating, they just happened to pass by the fridge on their way to the phone and thought they'd check if the contents have changed since the last time they looked. My message is: If you are going to do something, bring all your attention to it and enjoy it for all it's worth! Pleasure is good! Stop sneaking around. You wouldn't think of inviting a friend over for dinner and standing with her in front of the refrigerator picking out of Tupperware containers with your fingers--there is no reason to treat yourself that way either. Also, people eat MUCH less when they allow themselves to focus on, taste and enjoy their food.

2. What inspired you to write it?

I receive thousands of letters every year; I've worked with over thirty thousand people in my Breaking Free workshops, and everyone is longing for the same thing: they want to know how to be happy, how to let go of their suffering and how to have a great body while they are doing it! I wanted to write something short and accessible enough to pick up right in the middle of a disaster. I wanted people to have an immediate reminder that they don't have to punish and deprive themselves to lose weight, and, just as important, they can have the things they believe that ONLY BEING THIN will give them by focusing their attention directly on those things NOW. They don't have to wait until they have it all together to feel joy, strength and love.

3. This book is a departure from the kinds of books you've written in the past. From your perspective, how is different?

This book is purposely written with a light touch. It also has a decidedly spiritual approach, which has been the basis of all my work, but have never written about.
My other books were serious and much longer. Also, each of those books were about particular aspects of the relationship with food, dieting, bingeing and the emotional havoc they play on our lives. This book ties together everything I've written about in my first five books.

4. What did you hope to accomplish by writing it?

Although there has been a mountain of evidence to the contrary, people still believe that if only they could summon enough willpower and stay on a diet, if only they could MAKE themselves stay on an exercise program, they would lose weight and keep it off forever. A corollary to this is that most of us mistrust anything that feels good. This "No Pain, No Gain" mentality extends not only to how we treat our bodies, but also to what we believe about living our lives. We want pleasure, but we mistrust it. We want our lives to be easy, but we mistrust any method that doesn't make us suffer in the process.

I wanted people to understand the huge amount of power, hope, longing and expectation we've given to being thin that has nothing to do with body size, and that body size cannot possibly accomplish (Otherwise everyone who has ever been thin would be fabulously happy). I wanted people to understand that they will never, ever keep weight off until they change their inner lives--what they tell themselves, how they attack themselves, what they believe about themselves that is no longer true.

I wanted to be explicit about the connection between how we eat and how we live. I wanted people to understand that they have an inner life that profoundly affects them every minute of every day--and that they can do something about it. Transformation really is possible! And I wanted to provide very practical and effective ways to make that change.

I also wanted to debunk the myths that anything that gives pleasure is bad, and that self-kindness leads to self-indulgence.

5.  Who do you think is the audience for this book?

The people who spend sixty billion dollars a year on diet products and gain weight just the same. Every person who looks at her body and feels it is not good enough. Every person who believes that being thin will make him happy. Everyone who regularly utters "I feel FAT!" as a way of not only describing the size of her body, but everything else that is wrong in that moment. The women who gather at lunch time in their offices and compare diet notes -- and inevitably fail at what they are doing. The size four women who still believe they are too fat. The size eight women who won't leave themselves alone. The size eighteen women who are desperate and lonely and have given up hope. In short: The immediate world!

6. How did you decide on the chapter topics?

I laughed alot while I was writing this book, and deciding on chapter topics was part of my glee. I wanted to address topics from the sublime to the ridiculously mundane, and I wanted people to have a good time while reading about them. I wanted outrageous chapter topics! I wanted to write about the things I know people think about but wouldn't dare say. In addition, I categorized the questions I've been repeatedly asked in the twenty years I've been teaching -- and I answered those. I also examined my own life carefully, and addressed issues I believe are crucial to having a life filled with joy, wonder and pecan pie.

7. "When You Eat...." is pocket-sized. Did you set out to make a smaller-sized book? If so, why?

I wanted to write a book that people could carry everywhere, keep by their beds, stick in their suitcases, put in the glove compartments of their cars. I wanted this book to be like a best friend who is instantly available with the kind of wise, irreverent and truthful advice you've always longed to hear -- and since best friends don't charge for their help, I wanted the book to be cheap enough for everyone to afford.

8. Since you began your work in the field of eating disorders, have you noticed any overall changes in the way people view their relationship with food?

Since 1978, when I led my first workshop, the word "eating disorder" has become commonplace. But the problem itself has only gotten worse. According to a recent article in The New Yorker, the number of Americans who are obese has risen 350% in the past thirty years. Sixty BILLION dollars a year is spent on diet-related products and we keep getting fatter and fatter.

It's crucial that the word "eating disorder" be removed from descriptions of this book (and others like it) that involve the soul and heart as well as the body, otherwise the great majority of the dieting public will dismiss it as something that has only to do with people who are anorexic or bulimic or who have "real problems with food." Living in our culture, almost every one of us has a shtick with food and the size of our bodies--this book addresses the normal, everyday shticks.

9.  What do you think is the most important lesson from this book? What do you hope your readers will come away with after reading it?

It is my work in life (and in this book!) to teach people that the heart, spirit, mind and body are all connected. You can't maintain weight loss without addressing your inner world, and conversely, paying attention to your inner world (beliefs you have, outdated instructions you are following, etc.) will greatly affect the size of your body.

We're going about this diet-thing backwards! People are trying to work from the outside in, as if changing the shape of their bodies will actually affect the state of their hearts and souls. It doesn't because it can't. A body-size is a physical, concrete thing. Love, value, self-worth, strength, joy must -- and CAN -- be developed by focusing attention where they are located: inside, not outside your body. Being thin without dieting is possible. In fact, it is easy. But that is just the first step. The next step, and the one that will make all the difference in someone's life, is living with an abundant measure of love, contentment, and happiness. Also, chocolate and fabulous clothes.