When you embark on the path to heal your relationship with food, knowing, writing, telling and finding insights from your personal food story can be an extremely enlightening part of the process. Allowing yourself to learn, access and heal your relationship with food by exploring the points of origination throughout your life where your relationship with food went awry in the first place. When you witness your own story, you are able to learn, grow and begin to heal your relationship with food from the deepest roots.
We all have a food story. We all received messages from those around us, the media, and other influences about food and how it should or shouldn’t make us feel, look or be. We all have emotional triggers that run quite deep. Food may have been used as a punishment or reward as child in an attempt to control your behavior. You may have been told to clean your plate or that there were starving children who would be grateful to eat whatever was left on your plate—implying how ungrateful you are for your full belly or maybe the undesired vegetables.
These are examples, and while they may be fairly common, remember, when you set out to write your personal food story and learn from your history with food it can bring up ALL kinds of feelings, memories and sensations. You may struggle with feelings of guilt because you do not want to place blame on others. It may bring up uncomfortable feelings towards a family member because you feel a certain way about a particular message you received from a parent, sibling, friend or bully. The fact is, no matter if your family did the best they could with what they had (or not), that does not mean that what they did was what you needed or didn’t create some of the root struggles of your relationship with food.
Just because someone may not have meant to create or exacerbate a complicated relationship with food for you, that does not mean that what they did, said—or maybe didn’t do or didn’t say—didn’t cause conflicting messages for you. They may not have meant to have caused you to experience feelings that impacted how you felt about food, yourself and your body, which ultimately deeply impacted your self-image and self-esteem. Just because a parent or someone else may not have intended to create discomfort in your life does not mean that they were able to meet your needs. Acknowledging this is a part of the healing process. Acknowledging these harsh truths allow you to empower yourself as you move forward.
While you may not want to place “blame” on someone else for your struggles, the awareness that what did or didn’t happen in your past allows you to learn, grow and make changes in the here and the now. A major part of becoming a “grown-up” is learning to re-parent yourself where your needs were not met. Maybe you were not given the opportunity to learn self-regulation skills and you had whatever you wanted whenever you wanted it. Maybe the emphasis on food was that it is a treat or a reward. This may have caused you to have a difficult time with self-regulation around food including mindset, planning and follow through. Or maybe you grew up in a rigid environment where everything was OFF-LIMITS, causing an equally troublesome message about food. All of these experiences can impact how you interact with your life, including how you view, interact with and feel towards food to this day.
If you grew up without examples of self-regulation you may feel as though it is difficult to assess your hunger and full cues, to not feel deprived and resentful if you choose NOT to eat a desirable food—even if you are not hungry—or it may be overwhelming to plan your meals—or even a grocery list—and stick to it. If you grew up in a rigid environment when it came to food choices, you may have adopted a “FORGET-IT” attitude where you feel as though you are asserting yourself as an adult to eat whatever you want whenever you want it. It could also be that the rigidity has caused a fear of food, calories, weight, and body-judgment from others.
BOTH of these experiences can be met with desiring change, a desire for a different way to be with food—to be with yourself. Both of these examples of possible experiences from your youth can deeply impact how you interact with food, your body and your life to this day.
There are many other common messages you may have received surrounding food, such as: food is love “I made this just for you”—or, food is comfort: “I knew you had a bad day so I made you your favorite ____________”—or, food is a reward: “You did such a great job on ______________ I made you this treat to celebrate!” These are just a few examples of how messages can be received that can create dysfunction within your relationship with food, especially if it is already complicated!
More subtle messages man be in the mix as well, such as a parent who feeds the family but was always on a diet and they restrict their portions or eat different foods from the family at mealtimes. Or, maybe if your family perceived your body to be overweight, they may have put you on an undesired diet or worse, even locked food away restricting what you could and couldn’t eat. This may have caused a desire to hide, sneak and steal food, eating it in secret. No matter what messages you received about food—or your body—the impact runs deep and creates complication in the process of making peace with food.
This is where writing your food story—your personal history with food—can be enlightening, empowering and freeing. Writing your food story is an exercise I have in my book, Wholistic Food Therapy and I wanted to share it here as it is an incredibly important part of your healing journey.
To begin, think about your history with food. Consider the various messages you received about food and your body that were both direct and indirect. Spend time identifying emotions that drive you to desire comforting foods. Consider memories or phrases you heard that impacted you and how you felt about food and your body. Spend time journaling and writing it out for as long as it takes.
When you complete your story, review it. If there were some particularly challenging moments you came across, picture that version of yourself and offer that picture in your mind of yourself kindness and compassion. Acknowledge that your needs were not necessarily met and as an adult you will empower yourself to meet your own needs. Thank yourself for putting in this powerful effort to heal from the deepest roots, to face and release old messages, thoughts, feelings and experiences.
When you are working towards healing and change, awareness is always the first step. Acknowledge how this increased awareness can help you change as you move forward from this process of examining your food history and writing your food story. It may be helpful to tell your story to someone you trust, someone you do not fear will judge you. Having your story to be witnessed by another is powerfully healing, and you never know how your story may inspire another person.
I’d love to hear your story! If you’d like to share this with a group of others working towards this same desired journey, my upcoming online course, Finding Freedom From Emotional Eating may be for you. The course begins on Monday, February 4th, click HERE to learn more or register today!
I look forward to walking with you along your path to healing your relationship with food.