10 Inspiring Geneen Roth Quotes & What They Mean for Your Journey Beyond Compulsive Eating

10 best geneen roth quotes to inspire your journey beyond compulsive eating

I always have been and always will be a Geneen Roth fan. Her book, “Women, Food, and God,” was the book that started it all for me. It was my first glimpse into a world where dieting is not the answer and intuition trumps all.

In an ode to this bestselling author in the emotional eating space, I gathered 10 of my favorite Geneen Roth quotes and unpacked them together with my experience as both someone living in recovery from compulsive eating and an eating psychology coach.

If you want to be inspired by eloquent phrases and relatable tangents, read on.

The Best Geneen Roth Quotes of All Time

You won’t be surprised to know that I’ve read Women, Food, and God many, many times. I even own two copies — a water-damaged copy to read by the pool and a pristine-condition copy to cherish always.

Whenever I’d feel the dark clouds of compulsive eating brewing overhead, I would stare at my bookshelf and pick the Geneen Roth book that most called to my soul. Although I haven’t picked up her books in quite some time — a testament to my life in recovery from compulsive eating — I always enjoy reading inspiring Geneen Roth quotes.

Here are my absolute favorite ones:

#1 Favorite Geneen Roth Quote

We don't want to EAT hot fudge sundaes as much as we want our lives to BE hot fudge sundaes. We want to come home to ourselves.

- Geneen Roth

In this quote, Geneen hits on a very important element of eating psychology: if we don’t get joy from our lives, we will compulsively seek it through food — aka, “hedonic eating,” or eating for pleasure rather than nutritional need. Many times, dieters attempt to pursue a double negative: depriving themselves of their favorite foods (e.g. dieting) while slaving away on the treadmill. This is an unsustainable recipe for burnout and compulsive eating.

When many people think of weight loss, they think of subtraction. “I need to eat less, I need to stop eating sugar.” But we forget that we also need some addition — particularly the addition of joy. When you think back to a time in your life where compulsive eating was at a low, chances are your life was brimming with joy.

In other words, if food is the only thing that makes you happy, you won’t be able to do any subtraction until you add non-food forms of happiness into your life. Of course, overcoming compulsive eating is much more complex than the single plane of joy, but it’s a non-skippable step.

#2 Favorite Geneen Roth Quote

We eat the way we eat because we are afraid to feel what we feel.

- Geneen Roth

I’ll never forget the first time I turned inward, curious about my emotions, in the precise moment that I was craving sugar after a meal without hunger. I thought it was just sugar addiction, but within 2 seconds of sitting still and turning inward, I burst into tears. That was the moment where I realized that compulsive eating, no matter how far removed it may feel from an emotion, is almost always a result of unmet emotion. Which brings me to the next Geneen Roth quote…

#3 Favorite Geneen Roth Quote

Most of our suffering comes from resisting what is already here, particularly our feelings. All any feeling wants is to be welcomed, touched, allowed. It wants attention. It wants kindness. If you treated your feelings with as much love as you treated your dog or your cat or your child, you'd feel as if you were living in heaven every day of your sweet life.

- Geneen Roth

All our emotions want is space and attention. They don’t want to be ignored or suppressed. But that’s what many of us do when we feel the urge to eat without hunger and press on with something else — a distraction; a preoccupation to keep the emotion at arm’s length but never for long.

As I worked through my own emotional eating — relying heavily upon my Stop, Drop, & Feel®️ technique for stopping a binge in its tracks — I found it essential to focus on making space for the full spectrum of my emotion. It became important to stop insisting that life be happy all the time and embrace my loneliness and fear of rejection, amongst many other unfavorable emotions, with open arms.

The more we resist our emotions, the stronger they get. Of course, most of us know this, but when compulsive eating is so easily written off as food addiction, we never have the opportunity to drop in and explore the potential emotions stirring beneath the surface.

#4 Favorite Geneen Roth Quote

If you don’t allow a feeling to begin, you also don’t allow it to end.

- Geneen Roth

If you’ve been following my newsletter for any length of time, you know that the Stop, Drop, & Feel is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. As someone that was (and still is, to a lesser degree) adverse to any kind of negative emotion — “Loneliness? Make it go away! Stress? Get me out of these obligations! Sadness? Clearly something is going very wrong!” — I’ve been amazed by how much negative affect loses its power once you give it space to exist.

#5 Favorite Geneen Roth Quote

When you ignore your belly, you become homeless. You spend your life trying to erase your own existence. Apologizing for yourself. Feeling like a ghost. Eating to take up space, eating to give yourself the feeling that you have weight here, you belong here, you are allowed to be yourself -- but never quite believing it because you don't sense yourself directly.

- Geneen Roth

Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt like a floating head, completely detached from a body that you’ve otherwise written off and rejected… I’m raising my hand right now.

When you struggle with feeling fat and low about your self-image, it leads to self-rejection, which makes it even harder to be willing to turn inward in the precise moment that you want to overeat. If you feel edgy and uncomfortable simply from feeling your physical body, what happens when you invite all those emotions in too? It’s simply too much, and I feel anyone that resonates with this struggle.

At the risk of adding too many related guides... Read this next: “I Feel Fat and Ugly:” How to Cope with Poor Body Image & Excessive Self-Criticism

While there’s too much to unpack in a single blog post, I will say this: When you give up dieting and stop warring with yourself over food, you decrease the “airtime” that you give to self-critical thoughts. They don’t go away (that’s for sure) but you rehearse self-criticism less and less. This creates a space where self-compassion can finally emerge, slowly but surely.

#6 Favorite Geneen Roth Quote

Diets are based on the unspoken fear that you are a madwoman, a food terrorist, a lunatic…The promise of a diet is not only that you will have a different body; it is that in having a different body, you will have a different life. If you hate yourself enough, you will love yourself. If you torture yourself enough, you will become a peaceful, relaxed human being.

- Geneen Roth

Restrictive diets don’t work, plain and simple.[1] Depriving yourself of beloved foods only heightens your desire for them through reverse psychology.[2] Eating below your body’s physical requirements for fuel causes a cascade of hormonal adaptations that motivate you to eat and seek out high-calorie foods.[3]

Losing weight by restricting your diet often leads to regaining the weight, sometimes even “overshooting” your baseline weight in a frustrating cycle of restriction and binge eating.[4] I can point to dozens and dozens of clinical studies to back up these points — settling for just five more for the sake of space[5], [6], [7], [8], [9] — but I’ll go back to the phrase that I started this post with: intuition trumps all.

Doesn’t it intuitively feel like a step in the wrong direction to deprive yourself of the foods you love? Doesn’t it intuitively make sense that, when all foods are allowed, you end up eating less junk food in the long run? Never mind the intellectual fear of weight gain — that’s normal. Pushing intellect aside and focusing on intuition: doesn’t it just make sense that when we listen to the body’s cues, our weight will stabilize on its own?

Kindness is the way. Compassion is the way. When in doubt, do the kind thing. And the kind thing is rarely to hop on a restrictive diet and minimize your life down to managing the size of your body.

#7 Favorite Geneen Roth Quote

What you pay attention to grows. Pay attention to your loveliness, your magnificent self. Begin now.

- Geneen Roth

Do you struggle with self-compassion? I sure did — for a long time. And while there were many long-term self-care tasks that helped me eventually get there, I believe that giving up dieting was a huge factor.

When we’re dieting (and also binge eating as a result of that restriction) we are mentally rehearsing negative thought patterns like beating ourselves up for “falling off the wagon” or berating ourselves for giving into sugar cravings.

The brain “gets good” at whatever you repeatedly practice (thanks to neuroplasticity). When you mentally rehearse self-critical thoughts, that’s where your brain begins to wander on autopilot.

Now, imagine what happens when you give up dieting and end the war with yourself. While self-criticism won’t magically stop, you’ll wind up rehearsing those negative thought loops less and less, and your brain will spend less time there naturally.

#8 Favorite Geneen Roth Quote

For some reason, we are truly convinced that if we criticize ourselves, the criticism will lead to change. If we are harsh, we believe we will end up being kind. If we shame ourselves, we believe we end up loving ourselves. It has never been true, not for a moment, that shame leads to love. Only love leads to love.

- Geneen Roth

This quote is another reminder of why diets don’t work. When a practice is built on the belief that you can’t be trusted around food, how is it supposed to end in a good place? How can we build an authentic life without self-trust? And this leads right into my next favorite Geneen Roth quote…

#9 Favorite Geneen Roth Quote

Who you are on the way there is who you will be when you get there.

- Geneen Roth

Add this to the list of reasons why I am so passionate about giving up dieting. Because if you use stress, force, and non-joyous ways of pummeling your body into submission, you will end up a stressed-out, non-joyous person in the end.

Let’s use an example with two people: Person A and Person B. Person A has deep-seated relationship problems, but chooses to ignore them and focus on weight loss. Through brute force of counting, logging, and tracking every calorie, Person A gets thin — and they must continue to count, log, and track every lick, bite, and taste for the rest of eternity. Pile this on top of an unfulfilling relationship, and this person might be thin but still feels deeply unfulfilled and stressed. (Add this to the list of reasons why Weight Watchers doesn’t work — along with any other counting-based program like Noom.)

Now take Person B. This person also has relationship problems, but before addressing that, this person decides to give up dieting and turn inward to address the emotions that otherwise push them to overeat. Through this introspective journey, Person B also realizes that life is utterly void of joy, so they find a new hobby that nourishes their needs. From this place of healing and abundance — coupled with the hard work and grit it takes to do the Stop, Drop, & Feel on a regular basis — they now have the energy, emotional tolerance, and willingness to work on their relationship problems. And all of this is happening while their weight is slowly but surely regulating itself.

Who is in a better position to live their best life, Person A or Person B? Who was embodying the “end result” along the way?

#10 Favorite Geneen Roth Quote

If we think our job here on earth is to fix ourselves, we will keep looking for the broken places. If we believe our job is to be kind, we will keep lavishing love on ourselves.

- Geneen Roth

Where focus goes, energy flows. Dieting focuses our energy on scarcity: all the things we can’t eat in search of the thing we don’t have. Giving up dieting frees you to focus your energy on things that matter: adding joy to your life, finding new ways to nourish yourself both through your diet and throughout your life.

If you resonate with these Geneen Roth quotes, then you will love my toolbox for healing your relationship with food — because there’s no food or exercise advice. It’s all about the inner work. See for yourself below:

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Ready to dive even deeper into your journey of self-discovery? I proudly present my most celebrated workbook, Why We Do the Things We Do. This 75-page digital workbook reveals your unique psychological blocks to compulsive eating. By actually putting pen to paper, you’ll be surprised by what comes up.

Some say ‘feel it to heal it’ but this workbook takes it a step deeper and helps you ‘see it to heal it.’ If you’re the kind of person who logically knows how to live a healthy lifestyle but you compulsively do the opposite, this workbook will illuminate what’s standing in the way. Then, you know exactly where to focus your energy.

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2 thoughts on "10 Inspiring Geneen Roth Quotes & What They Mean for Your Journey Beyond Compulsive Eating"

  1. Jen Smallsays:

    WOW Kari. This is a powerhouse article. The GR quotes are stunning and the way you frame them really increases the relatability. It is deeply sad to me that self-kindness and love is so elusive not just for me but for so many others. Thanks for being an articulate change agent. I appreciate you.

    1. Kari Dahlgrensays:

      Hi Jen! It’s so nice to hear from you, and I really appreciate what you said about being an ‘articulate change agent.’ THAT is a powerhouse of a compliment!! And you are so sincere. When I, too, think about the elusiveness of self-kindness and self-love it also lands heavy. My hope is that by simply knowing about our shared humanity, that self-compassion becomes more accessible. Thanks for sharing your own relatable story 🙂

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