This month we have dived into food rules instilled in us as children and how they impact our relationship with food as an adult. In my article, Pantry Filled With Deprivation, I shared how I grew up in a diet household. I lived in a fat-free Snackwell’s nation, and the rules of what was okay and what was not seemed to change, depending on what diet was current in my house. I grew up feeling like dieting was normal. It was just what you did. It is not ironic that I chose a career as a dietitian. Somehow, this kept me safely routed in dieting and diet culture. Until I broke away.
The Carryover of Food Rules
Until we do the work to look at how the food rules impact us, we get buckled into the non-stop ride of the roller coaster of diet culture. We have rules to follow-what is “good” and what is “bad,” how much, and when. It’s all taken care of. And if those were rules that were there when we were a kid, then it feels pretty easy to follow. Right? Well, if you did grow up in that sort of household, you might remember those adolescent and teenage years where you started to rebel. Maybe not openly because there was a risk to that (this is shame), but that is where the sneaking and hiding of food started. It’s the F-you. I’m going to eat this, and you can’t stop me. Well, that carries with us. That’s why sometimes you can feel such a spiral when you go “off” the diet. That little rebellious teenager stays with you. She comes out when she feels deprived, restricted, triggered, and all of those old feelings are met with the present and BOOM-disaster.
It is how we tend to the disaster that matters. Are you continuing to contribute to the causes of the disaster, or are you on the cleanup crew? A big part of the clean up is to look at those rules. Look at how they keep on the never-ending diet ride that only fuels more guilt and shame. The shift is permission. It is kindness with loving boundaries. It is listening and connecting into your body to help calm the storm that gets created in the on/off diet frenzy.
How the Mirror Gets Fogged
The impact of body image is one of the deeper scars that are left growing up with a dieting parent. You are taught that body matters. And not in the way of taking care of your body matters, but the size of your body. I can remember hearing my mom make comments about her body. Her being boastfully happy when she lost weight and feeling shameful when she had gained.
This is how the critical body eye is developed. You are taught to judge your body. Now, you are not entirely unscathed if you did not have a dieting parent. Diet culture does a good job of getting its claws on you. You are taught to find morality not just with what you ate, but also what size body you are in. Are you good or bad? Am I less worthy because I am in a bigger body when there seems to be so much talk about bodies being bad when bigger? The desperation to just feel worthy. To be good enough. It can feel conquered, only to slip away again.
I have spent a lot of my years critiquing how my body looks. Times where it took up WAY too much of my mental space. And you can bet that growing up in a diet household, surrounded by diet culture, and being a dietitian flourished my critiquing. I have been taught to judge not just my body but others. Especially bigger bodies. In my training in school, those are the bodies that I was taught to “fix.” I was to help them to become “better.” What a mind screw to realize everything I was taught was just feeding diet culture. I grew up in diet culture, but then it was like my eyes were opened that my profession was seeping diet culture. This was when I knew there had to be a different way.
I feel fortunate to resonate with the women that I sit with every day. It is a part of what makes me understand them. I see in them the same wounds that were in me. The details are usually different, but there is the same underlying belief system. Worth being so tied up in how your body looks. Part of my own work was looking at all of this. Looking at what I was taught by my mom, by diet culture, and by my industry. Of those three, only one has been the easiest to extend understanding, compassion, and forgiveness to. My mom was only continuing what her mom taught her. Remember the generational traumas that are passed down? This was one of them. I am stopping them. I am healing the trauma so I do not pass it down to my daughters.
I am also one of the lucky ones that have a mother who can see it too. She can see the damage and the scars left. But not just on myself and my sisters, but also on her. She is a woman, who like so many, fell prey to diet culture. Sometimes we just don’t know better until we know better. This is forgiveness. The letting go.
Depending on your relationship with your parent, is forgiveness something you can extend?
Can you look at your parent’s upbringing with food and with body and understand why they are the way they are?
Can you forgive yourself for continuing the belief system that your body is worthy based on its size or how it looks?
How different would your life look if you could give yourself this forgiveness?
The fact that you are reading this and open to shifting your relationship with your body and with food puts you ahead of where your parent was at your age. Maybe your parent will never understand you wanting to feel okay in the body that you are in. Perhaps you will always feel the judging eyes on you. The shift is how YOU start showing up for you. What is it that YOU need to hear? What is it that makes YOU, YOU, that has nothing to do with your body? What are the aspects of yourself that need to be seen rather than the size of your body? That is what you need to feed. That is what needs to be nourished. Because that is YOU.