Lessons on Guiltless Eating and Body Image from “Eat Pray Love”
by Christine Scarcellosource
For those who have read or recently seen Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love,” you’re familiar with the basic premise of the book (woman in mid-30s leaves her husband, job, and the U.S. in a journey of self-discovery) and the themes tackled throughout this travel novel (feminist independence, sexuality, artistic expression, religion and spirituality, finding balance in life and relationships, etc).
One of my favorite themes of the book (and also the movie) is Liz’s detachment from guilt. This is most expressed during her stay in Rome, Italy. It is within this four-month stay that she discovers the Italian passion for eating… and subsequently, an abandon for any guilt associated with the indulgence.
As an Italian-American, I can easily say that most of my life revolved around food: buying it, preparing it, cooking it, presenting it, and lots of eating it. My grandmother had me helping her in the kitchen since I was a child, and we enjoyed fresh, homemade dinners with our extended family almost weekly.
Perhaps I recognized something about my childhood of guiltless eating similar to Liz’s adopted style of eating in Italy in “Eat, Pray, Love,” when she was enjoying every morsel of the food on her plate and every drop of wine in her glass. There was a passion, an excitement, and an experience free of guilt during these indulgences – something that we don’t often see here in the U.S. “Dieting” is a multi-billion dollar industry, and magazines, news reports, and web articles are always offering the latest way to lose weight. For Liz, this experience of pleasure was just what she needed following a difficult divorce that left her feeling guilty and hopeless about everything. For those of us reading and watching her, perhaps we can adopt some of that healthy passion into our own lifestyle as well.
Furthermore, “Eat, Pray, Love” tackles issues of body image. There is a scene when Liz confronts her Swedish friend Sofie, who refuses to eat her pizza when they are visiting Naples because of the weight she has been gaining while in Italy. Liz tells her that it’s time to “give up the guilt” and stop obsessing about calories and foods. She even makes a “date” for the following day to go shopping with Sofie so that they can buy bigger jeans to accommodate the weight they’ve gained from indulging in so much Italian food.
While I’m not a proponent of over-indulging on a daily basis, I am a big supporter of living in the moment and enjoying oneself. In “Eat, Pray, Love” Elizabeth Gilbert learned the importance of living and eating with passion. It’s not a lifestyle we can maintain daily, because eventually all those tasty Neapolitans, pizzas, and glasses of red wine will add up. But she jokes about gaining weight, and in the book (as well as in the movie) she buys beautiful lingerie to celebrate her body and herself, though she makes it more than clear that she has no one to show it off to.
Loving your body and appreciating it for yourself are important lessons that women and men must accept. Amid the glorified supermodels and images of what we’re “supposed to look like,” we must always remember that we are beautiful - no matter what. It’s okay to eat pizza when you’re in Italy… it’s okay to eat pizza even if you’re not in Italy! The key is to find balance and to listen to what your body needs during those moments in your life when you need it. So enjoy life. Enjoy your body. And enjoy food! Bon Appetito!