Wednesday, February 19, 2003
Family Food History
posted by Julie |
Hmm… Note on the website I’m changing “Doing” to “Changing.” Readers don’t understand what I meant by “doing.” Too cute a label, I guess. The result is a change. But to change you must do. That’s what I meant, but navigation labels shouldn’t be so cute.
What’s behind that tab are articles on doing things differently, on behavior modification exercises. On thinking exercises.
Because we can change the way we think. We can change our knee-jerk reactions, especially where food is concerned.
And the way to do that is to take the time to do things differently. It means rearranging your house, rearranging your life, and rearranging your reactions to things.
Today, when you get the chance, how about taking a half hour or so with your journal, and go back to your childhood. Spend some time there thinking about how you related to food when you were a kid. What was eating like in your household? Was food scarce? Plentiful? Was it used as a reward? A punishment? Are the people in your family overweight? Underweight? Did you eat around the table together? Did you put food on your own plate, or did someone do that for you? Were you encouraged or bribed or forced to eat things you didn’t want or like?
Set a timer and spend 15-20 minutes remembering what the eating scenes were like. Just jot down phrases and fragments as quickly as you can, as many of the facts as you can remember, without judging them. Just the facts, for now. A list as long as you can.
Then go back, and look at what you’ve written. Think about how your childhood food history may be influencing your current food habits.
So, for instance. When I did this exercise, I just wrote “mom’s cookies” in the middle of my list. I’m not sure why I even wrote it, but it popped out. Here’s why:
I grew up in a household with four kids. My mom makes incredible cookies. Especially her oatmeal-raisin-chocolate chip cookies. When she baked them, our entire family descended on them like locusts, before they could even cool off. An entire batch of cookies could disappear in a day. We grabbed and ran. If you weren’t on the spot, you were totally out of luck. One of my brothers devised a clever scheme of grabbing as many as he could and then licking each one so none of the rest of us would be tempted to swipe his stash. (Silly boy. What’s a little spit?)
That is, we were pretty competitive about food. And so we horded. Most of my family members could deal with that, but I couldn’t. To this day I can feel the urge to grab the last morsel on the plate before someone else does. But… I today I am more powerful simply because I know where that urge comes from. I know it’s unreasonable. And I’m not as likely to throw an elbow at a business meeting over the last Krispy Kreme.
That is, I can smile at myself, talk myself past the urge. As I keep doing this, the urge lessens and lessens. As food competitiveness subsides, I can share a hunk of cheese with my dog now. Or even my husband…
We can attach lots of feelings to food and the act of eating. Anger. Guilt. Sadness. Competitiveness. Fear. Happiness. Desire. Jealousy. Anxiety…. Well, you name it. It’s interesting and helpful to think about where those feelings came from, whether they’re useful in your life now, and what we might do to overcome them.
If you find yourself uncovering a hornet’s nest with this exercise, consider getting help on this from a counselor trained to work with eating behaviors. Ask your doctor for a referral. This is good and important work, well worth the investment. You can’t change what happened. But you can change what you do next. Thinking through your conscious and unconscious reactions to food will help you succeed in and maintain your weight loss for the rest of your life.
So, maybe spend some time today working on that.
And maybe share your food,
Parent Soup on Eating
10 Things Parents can Do (worth reading even if you’re not a parent)