Do you ever wonder when your relationship with food got so messy? Me too.
I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently and it’s so frustrating to me that I can remember moments as a little child where I shake my head and think, “But I was only a kid.”
We became hyper-aware of food and body image as children in our culture.
Here are 4 things you learned as a child that are ruining your relationship with food now:
“Clean your plate.”
Wow. We do such a disservice to children when we tell them to finish everything on their plate. Babies and young children are able to tell when their bodies feel full, yet we teach them to continue eating until all the food is gone. Many of us lose the ability to feel comfortably satisfied over time and are only able to feel full once it becomes uncomfortable. Eating everything in front of us is a learned behavior. We have forgotten that eating food is simply about fueling our bodies.
We need to relearn how to listen to our body’s hunger and fullness cues. There is freedom to stop eating our food when we are full- even if there is more food left on the plate.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
I hate that BMI is a primary measurement tool that is being taught in schools and in health and physical education. Like, I really hate it. How can you appreciate a tool that puts people in very narrow and solidified categories? Anyone who doesn’t fit in the 7 point “healthy weight” region is either deemed underweight, overweight, obese, or morbidly obese- as if weight is the only measurement of health.
What about the 12 year old girl who loves play soccer and hasn’t hit her growth spurt yet? Or the 25 year old woman who loves lifting weights more than she likes doing cardio? How about the girl who is “obese” but feels incredible, has perfect numbers in all her blood tests, and is completely average looking?
It is unfair to teach young people to measure their health quantitatively when we should be teaching children how to pay attention to what their body is saying. We shouldn’t scare kids into eating veggies by telling them sugar makes them fat. We should teach them how to recognize when their body is actually craving carrots instead of Cheetos. It would serve them much better in the long run.
“We’re on a diet.”
Diet culture is killing society. Literally. Did y’all know that eating disorders are actually the most lethal psychiatric disorders? They kill more people than suicide. And the idea of “dieting” is main culprit of developing eating disorders in young people.
Children learn about dieting from people around them. As babies and kids we associate food with fuel. Food is just food. But when kids start seeing their role models and their main influencers start treating food like anything more/less than just food, they learn to do the same.
If Mom goes on a diet to lose weight and talks about it in front of her daughter, then the daughter will soon begin to think about food like her mother. She will begin to associate food with gaining weight, and has learned that gaining weight is “bad.” Soon this 10 year old girl is afraid of Mac & Cheese because Mom won’t eat it either. Soon this 10 year old girl is terrified of weight gain and thinks that food is the enemy.
Don’t go on a diet in front of your kids.
Food is more than just food.
Food is just food. Nothing more. Nothing less. Yet we make it so much more than that.
It is how we socialize. Food is celebrated. Food is feared. It is comfort in times of grief and sorrow. Food is the reason we gain weight, and a tool to lose weight. It is reduced to numbers and grams and calories. Food is obsessed over in so many different ways. But food is just food.
Food is a good gift from God. Don’t get me wrong. He tells us to share it with each other and come together to enjoy it in a feast. And the we are told to fast from it. The reason? Because we shouldn’t rely completely on food in any way. Whether that is for emotional comfort or physical sustenance. But we should also rejoice in the fact that we have it and we are free to celebrate it. It’s a beautiful balance that sin has destroyed. Food is meant to be just food. Just fuel for our body. The stuff we put inside of it to continue living life… and not just a life that revolves around the next time that you can eat.
There is still hope.
We learned this things as children, but we can always relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food. Hopefully we can be the generation who doesn’t pass on the diet culture to the next. Check out my page on Intuitive Eating for all the info, tips and tricks you need to know about a healthy relationship with food.