Eat Pray Love - The Art of Self Care
by Elizabeth Gilbert
Published in 2006
If there is food anywhere on the cover of a book, I immediately have to pick it up and read the summary because there’s nothing quite like looking at, reading about, or seeing pictures of food. When the first portion of the summary tells me about the author’s time eating through Italy, I knew I may have found my soulmate because I love Italian food. On top of that she would detail her trip to India and Indonesia and I was pretty much sold and ready to begin my new book Eat Pray Love.
Eat Pray Love begins with a 34 year old Elizabeth Gilbert who seemed to have it all… only to discover that she doesn’t. After initiating a difficult divorce, she started a rebound relationship which also fell apart. With no lover, no motivation, and no idea what she wanted to do with her life, she decided she will do the thing she had always told herself she will do, but never had the time for - travel. She decided to take a year to travel to 3 places around the world to work on self-healing and gaining new experiences. Luckily, right before she began the trip, she got a book deal to document her travels in a memoir where she could use the pay as an advance to help fund her trip.
Italy: Her first four months is spent traveling around Italy. She begins in Rome and takes time living in various regions in Italy and doing the thing we should all do when we visit - eat EVERYTHING! Even though she is by herself, she quickly begins making new friends who introduce her to new experiences and different foods and wine. While she is still haunted by the depression that made her begin this journey, she is slowly starting to see it lift as she gains weight from all the delicious food and begins appreciating this experience. She also begins learning Italian while she’s there. She sees that in Italy the culture of how people take their day to day is different than in the United States. Everyone seems to really appreciate everything around them and the delicious cuisines and their time with family and friends.
India: The next four months, Elizabeth decides to go to India and stay at a temple where she learns to pray and meditate. At first, she thought praying and meditating should come easy but finds right away how difficult it is to clear the mind and get comfortable and is afraid she’s “not doing something right”. She immediately feels discouraged when she notices everyone having these incredible spiritual experiences while she’s sitting there trying to figure out if she’s sitting right and bombarded by a million thoughts. It isn’t until the end of her trip that she learns how to properly meditate and listening to the physical and spiritual needs of the body.
Indonesia: The last four months, Elizabeth goes to Bali, Indonesia. She had visited before and met this incredible healer and she goes about looking for him again. He teaches her how to meditate Balinese style while also encouraging her to continue with the meditation she learned in India. While there, she also meets Felipe who she falls deeply in love with over this short course of time. By the end of her trip, she realizes that most of the remnants of her depression are gone as she has learned the art of self-love. She also decides to spend her life with Felipe where they will travel all around the world together.
Final Rating & Thoughts: 9/10
Did anybody else want to jump on the first plane to Italy after reading this book? Even though I am sure taking a look at our bank account brought us back to reality. I could read all the different dishes she tried in Italy all day long. I love how she kept herself open to all experiences as if she was a blank canvas. I also loved that she tried to remain celibate in the beginning of her trip to make sure she wasn’t distracted by any men on this journey to self-discovery. In Italy, surrounded by all those gorgeous men you stayed strong!
In all honesty though, just re-reading and reviewing Eat Pray Love at this point in my life is very bittersweet because I feel like I relate to Elizabeth on so many levels. I don’t have a divorce going on but I am recovering from a case of depression, anxiety and sickness. In March, I was in and out of the hospital with Gastritis and on the most intense antibiotics of my life to get rid of H. Pylori bacteria from my system. Even with the antibiotics that would eventually get myself better, it sent my entire stomach for a spin as any and everything I ate made me feel extremely sick. Add on the flu I caught from my husband, I was in immune system HELL. When speaking to my PCP, she found that it was most likely extreme stress that caused my immune system to be in this weakened state and susceptible to sickness. When asking me about what kind of stresses I was experiencing, all I could think about was the new job I began while juggling 4 Graduate level classes while juggling the new blog I started while juggling home and personal life maintenance. I was, in one word, just broken. My PCP told me that the antibiotics could get rid of the bacteria, but it would take some major lifestyle changes from eating right to stress reduction to prevent me from getting to that point again. I feel like telling someone to take care of YOURSELF is always easier said than done. I felt exactly like Elizabeth felt in the beginning of her journey: depressed, unhappy, and hopeless.
While I couldn’t go to Italy, India, and Indonesia like Elizabeth did (no major book deals in my pipeline), I felt like I had to learn self-care. What I admire most about Elizabeth in Eat, Pray, Love was her complete honesty. She didn’t just paint this perfect picture of living it up in Italy and being the meditation guru of India and finding perfect love in Indonesia. She was honest about her feelings and thoughts and how there were times when she thought she was getting better and other times where the depression snuck up on her like a thief in the night. I loved reading her inner thoughts when she first practiced meditating and how she was like “seriously what the fuck.. Am I sitting right? What are we going to eat later? Wait what is everyone else thinking”. I started taking up yoga to help with stress relief and found myself having THOSE EXACT SAME THOUGHTS the first several times I would try a session. I remember, like Elizabeth, thinking everyone else must be having these crazy mental and spiritual experiences while I was sitting there wondering if I should go buy milk that night or if it could wait till tomorrow. I applaud Eat, Pray, Love for it’s combination of beautiful scenery, incredible experiences, and honesty about self-care. I think it’s a book that everyone can see themselves in because we all know that experience of hitting rock bottom and the difficulty of getting out of that hole. I think this is a must read for all, if not to enjoy the story, then to know that you are not alone.