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Resource List


Favourite Books

Where the Roots Reach for Water: A Personal and Natural History of Melancholia by Jeffery Smith, 1999

In his highly engaging memoir Jeffery Smith elaborates the history of depression by weaving personal stories with ancient and contemporary perspectives on depression. Smith describes depression/melancholia as an exceedingly complex, yet common experience among many. Smith's book offers an exceptionally hopeful narrative; a wide, full, and embodied view of depression as "gift," not always a state to be denied or medicated, but an opportunity for a "sometimes profound, often astounding encounter to reach beyond the self to restore a lost soul." Each of us will have a differing response to Smith's memoir, but I suspect that since his style is honest, vulnerable, and open, readers will find a connection with him and his story. Often people struggling with eating and body issues experience what might be known as depression in its many forms. Many times I read our stories in Smith's narrative. I include several quotes from the text to inspire you to seek out Smith's work as a means for greater self-understanding and peacefulness. Above all, Smith's moving testimony created a space for self-forgiveness, of which I consider his most profound offering.

My Favorite Quotes...

"Always and always, long as we live and breathe, this is what we need: more stories" (p. 114).

"Art is useful - whether or not creativity confers any reproductive advantage, there's no mistaking our visceral and historical need for stories and songs and painting. It seems it must be wired into us. So the melancholic could bring the gifts of her temperament to something absolutely necessary to any community. The songs and stories of a people and their place are diversion, yes; but also they are instruction and worship: they carry tradition and history and place and ethics. They are in themselves a force of nature" (p. 159).

"How to make the apparently isolated story of one invisible life, with its perplexing desires and compulsions, fit into the larger ongoing story of unfolding creation? How do we negotiate between biology - what is given to us - and spirit - our yearnings to rise above the often selfish demands of our bodies and minds?" (p. 208).

"…aboriginal ancestors saw melancholia as an instance of grace, a nearly unmatched opportunity to learn to reach beyond the self to restore a lost soul" (p. 219).

"Melancholia forces that "sometimes prolonged, often astounding" encounter with that stranger, that other self.
That encounter cannot be passive. The practice of surrendering the self, requiring as it does ongoing attention and mindfulness, can only be passive - entirely given to us - on rare and blessed occasions. Most of the time we must work at it. And the protean, store-bought self will not do. One must meet with the self as given, and not evade it" (p. 221).

Smith, J. (1999). Where the roots reach for water: a personal and natural history of melancholia. New York: North Point Press.
(Review provided by Jacqui Gingras, July 2005)

Eating in the Light of the Moon by Anita Johnston, 2000

The publisher of this book states "By weaving practical insights and exercises through a rich tapestry of multicultural myths, ancient legends, and folktales, Johnston explores the themes of empowerment and self-discovery that help women overcome food obsessions." Eating in the Light of the Moon is one of the most compelling, beautifully written books I've encountered in the area of disordered eating. The premise of this book explains that in each of us there is a masculine and feminine spirit. As women living in a Westernized appearance-obsessed culture, our feminine spirits have been silenced, neglected, and overshadowed by our more highly prized masculine attributes of productivity and success. This imbalance creates a sense of not feeling like we are able to "fit in", a crisis whereby food and the body themselves become the battleground on which women desperately attempt to be seen and heard. Johnston brilliantly incorporates stories of myth, metaphor, symbolism, and ancient archetype to remind us of our powerful female intuition, to reconnect us with all of our hungers, to embrace our femininity, and to speak our truth. I highly recommend this book for those who are convinced that disordered eating can't be quantified through the use meal plans, monitoring weight changes, or counting calories; that there is something far more complex, brilliant, and meaningful beneath our relationships with food and ourselves.

It's Not About Food by Carol Emery Normandi & Laurelee Roark, 1998

I've found this book to be incredbily meaningful for women who want to connect with others who struggle with food, weight, and body image issues as it contains many vignettes from women who have participated with the authors in 'Beyond Hunger' workshops. This book gives you the tools and the understanding to break the destructive cycle of bingeing, dieting, and self-starvation. The exercises and meditations described in this book will help you determine the differences between what your body craves to eat, what your mind thinks you should eat, and what your emotions are driving you to eat. The authors understand that there are a multitude of factors working on women that shape their relationships with food. Chapters such as "Letting Go of Judgment" and "Embracing the Physical Body" permit readers to go deep and explore alternatives to body and food distrust. I highly recommend this book as a companion for anyone doing the work of healing the food-body relationship.

We gratefully acknowledge receipt of this book review from
Victoria Pawlowski, Registered Dietitian, Springwell Nutrition Group Inc

Fed Up: Women and Food in America by Catherine Manton, 1999

Dr. Manton examines the place of food in women's history through the lens of a feminist anthropologist. In particular Manton looks at the life and changing roles of women and our relationship to food and self image. As Professor Manton makes clear, the so-called epidemic of eating disorders at the turn of the twentieth century really is no accident; specific cultural/economic/ political conditions make disturbed eating practically inevitable for many women.

Although I am quite familiar with the literature on the socio-cultural aspects of disordered eating, I was fascinated to read this book, which approached the subject from a different angle. Throughout the book Manton alludes to the evolving role of dietitians in government and industry and the impact on women's self-concept. Dr. Manton feels that in the past, dietitians have unwittingly worked against women's empowerment. Under the heading "Domestic Science Withers Women's Appetites", Catherine Manton suggests that domestic science was utilized by governments, universities and public health to direct women to forget what they once knew about food (particularly new immigrant women) and to direct themselves to convenience learning about a western way of eating and managing a home.

Despite this challenging look at our profession, I believe the book is valuable for dietitians to read. We need to know our history, from different perspectives, before we can consciously decide our future. Manton suggests that women can heal themselves through feminist principles. I would go one step further and suggest that through feminist principles of empowerment and equality, we can work with our clients to transform ourselves and our community.

Feminist principles of empowerment and equality; they were not part of the curriculum when I studied dietetics. How then do we incorporate feminist principles into dietetic practice?

  • We can talk about how the personal is political and acknowledge the relationship between eating disturbances and the cultural forces promoting thinness.
  • We can talk about how the political is personal. With the power of our fork and our purchasing power, we do have control over food sources to improve our health and the health of our food supply.
  • We can commit to the empowerment of women by continuing to acknowledge women's intuition, women's ways of knowing, women's food skills and women's history with food.
  • We can support women's economic self-sufficiency.
  • We can try to understand the connection between what is happening to women's bodies around the world (eg genital mutilation) with the same oppressive forces that encourage women to hate themselves and their bodies here in North America.
  • We can look closely at ourselves and our practice and reflect.

(This book review originally appeared on the Dietitians of Canada website.)

Goddess Cards by Anne Baird

It was a serendipitous chains of events that brought Anne and I together and introduced me to Goddess Cards. In August I received an e-mail from VenusDivas in the USA seeking support and feedback about a website that had been removed from the Internet only a week after it had been launched because the host felt the material was pornographic. Being thrilled by activism of any sort, I discovered Goddess Cards and contacted Anne to express my outrage that her glorious art was being censored. Through our email conversations we discovered that we were living in the same city! As soon as she returned from Mexico, we met for tea. Anne inspires me with her courage and her creativity. She has a new home for her website and I encourage everyone to share her story (and her cards) with friends, family, and colleagues. Her art is a celebration of women's bodies and the magic of self-expression.