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What your childhood can tell you about your eating habits

January 31st, 2014 | no comments

Growing up, dinner was always at 5:00 on the dot. Mom made sure we had a balanced meal: a little bit of meat, some veggies and a starch like potato or rice. Sometimes we would even get fruit cocktail for dessert! Mom and dad also made sure that my sister and I cleaned our plates—and of course we couldn’t get up from the table until the mission was accomplished. I tried everything to fool them: spread the food around my plate so it appeared I ate more than I actually did, slip some food to our beloved pooch who could always be found resting his little white head ever so gently on my lap (too bad he didn’t like broccoli or asparagus) and even pretend I was sick.

One day, mom and dad got smart. They hatched a brilliant scheme to assure the “Battle of Clean Plate” would soon cease to exist. Sending us to the bathroom to wash our hands after dinner, they would slide a penny under our plate…but only if it was clean. It was so exciting! I mean, what child wouldn’t get excited by a monetary reward for doing something they had to do anyway? But at that moment, eating became something other than nourishment– it became, well, a job! Clean your plate…make money.

Becoming an official member of the “Clean Plate Club” taught me to ignore my precious innate signals of fullness. Before, I could easily sense when I had just enough to eat—it’s as if a gentle bell would ring in my brain, signaling me to put the fork down. But I was forced to ignore that bell and keep eating (after all…there was money in the game now). Soon, my eyes became my stomach: Clean plate = full. Never mind that I was physically overfull. Repeat this process day after day and year after year, soon overfull felt normal. In my opinion, this is precisely the reason for the obesity epidemic in this country today. Sure, fast food and gigantic portion sizes don’t help, but if we were tuned into our bodies like we were when we were small children, we would eat just what we needed to feel satisfied and then put the fork down.

Take some time over the next few days to explore what your relationship with food was like when you were a child:

  • Were you forced to become a member of the Clean Plate Club?
  • How were meals spent? Together with the family? Alone? In the car? Watching television? Arguing?
  • Did you view food as a reward? Nourishment? Both?

This simple exercise will give you valuable insight into where some of your current eating behaviors originated. It will bring awareness to them. It will challenge your self-talk of “this is the way I am and I can’t change it!” All I am asking you to do is explore. Shine a little light on your childhood—don’t bury it. With awareness comes healing.


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