Food and FamiliesFood and Families

It is clear to see how some people get their eyes, smile, or even sense of humor from their parents. However, it may be equally true but perhaps less obvious that our relationships with food are connected to our families. Often the behaviors taught and reinforced in our family system contribute to how we act and the decisions we make long after we leave our family home.

How Families Influence Food Relationships

An example of how families contribute to how other family members relate to food includes how nutrition and types of food are discussed in the home. When certain foods are repeatedly labeled “good” or “bad” people often feel good or bad when eating them. An example of this would be if fruit were labeled as “bad” within the family. If a family member is repeatedly taught this, they may avoid fruit, which causes this person to miss out the nutritional benefits fruit has to offer. Instead of labeling foods “good” and “bad” it may be helpful to use a more inclusive, nutritionally balanced diet approach to eating. This helps the family see the benefits of foods rather than associating certain foods with negativity or guilt.

Another example of how families influence food relationships is through the discussion of body image especially body dissatisfaction inside the home. If a parent is dissatisfied with his or her body and often complains by pointing out body “flaws”, children may start to look at their own bodies for “flaws.” Though it is normal to have insecurities, instead of teaching children to be dissatisfied with their bodies it beneficial to teach children about the positive effects of a healthy body. Focusing on the positive attributes of your body and being thankful what your body allows you to do may turn children’s attention away from looking at their flaws and towards accepting their bodies.

Healthy Relationship Between Food and Families

Children often learn the amount of foods to eat from their parents. If one of the parents does not finish their plate or skips meals, children tend to notice and may mirror this behavior. Parents who model healthy food habits including eating the necessary amount of food set a positive example for all family members.

Unhealthy and damaging food relationships are commonly associated with eating disorders. Eating disorders are complex disorders that require specialized treatment. Signs of unhealthy relationships with food may include restricting food intake, avoiding certain foods, experiencing extreme guilt after eating, eating beyond feeling full, bingeing and purging.

Creating positive food relationships in families can be challenging but with a conscious effort, these significant changes can help make all foods family friendly.



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