How can my relationship with my family affect my relationship with food?

Brooke Randolph
Marriage & Family Therapy
Your relationship with food may be directly related to your relationship with others, including, and possibly primarily, your relationship with your parents. Infants learn that the world is safe and form bonds with caretakers by having their needs met consistently and promptly. These needs are sleep, comfort, cleanliness, and food. It is the first way that we experience love, caring, and by extension personal value.

When a child's basic needs are not met consistently and lovingly, a child may develop an attachment disorder. Deborah Klinger wrote, "Eating is inextricably entwined with being fed, nurtured, protected and loved." I am sure I am not the only one with a grandmother (and a mother and aunts) who still nurture and express love, at least partially, through food.

When those needs of love, protection, and nurturing are not met by others, many revert to their very first lesson on the subject to meet the needs themselves. Although there are many ways to nurture ourselves, it makes sense that we would first consider the method we first learned. In those cases when you are turning to food, it is probably because you are feeling unvalued, unworthy, or inadequate. You will likely never be able to eat enough to meet those needs because you are not addressing the real feelings. You may also turn away from food because you feel unworthy of love and nurturing.
Yogi Cameron Alborzian
Alternative & Complementary Medicine
Here in the West, we have ready access to many different sources of food. All we have to do is go a store a few blocks or a mile away and we have more food available to us than we could eat for the next year. Given how readily food is available, it is very common for us to relate to eating not as a source of sustenance but as a way to relate to our emotional state. If we feel particularly stressed about a work situation, we might eat a lot to comfort ourselves. If we encounter a particularly traumatic incident, we might not eat for hours or even days because we're in shock. And, of course, if we feel a lack of fulfillment or experience some form of frustration as a result of one or more of our relationships, then we will often compensate with some less-than-ideal eating habits.

Most commonly, when we experience a lack of fulfillment from a relationship, we will often look to fill ourselves up in a different way -- namely with food. This often means eating poorly, eating often, and/or eating far more than we need. But again, just because we have large amounts of food available to us, we don't need to sustain ourselves with such abundance. In fact, eating a smaller amount will be far less burdensome to us than eating a lot--even if we don't struggle with being overweight or obese.

Your question is, how can your relationship with your family affect your relationship with food? Consider flipping the question around, and asking yourself how your relationship with food can affect your relationship with your family. If you ate less, and if you ate natural foods of greater nutritional value, might you lighten up yourself? Might stressful encounters with family members seem less important? Might your newfound peace somehow inspire your family to follow suit? Given how emotional of eaters we are here in the West, you will do well to regard your diet as a way of changing all aspects of your life -- including your relationship with your family.

Continue Learning about Eating Habits and Nutrition

Eat Here to Eat Less
Eat Here to Eat Less
When it comes to losing weight, it's not just about what you eat. It's also about where you eat. And nutrition experts think that if you chow down in...
Read More
Can I eat comfort foods and sugar while maintaining a healthy diet?
Ms. Ashley Koff, RDMs. Ashley Koff, RD
We understand the need for certain comfort foods and sugar on occasion; sometimes we give in to envi...
More Answers
6 Mealtime Mistakes You're Probably Making
6 Mealtime Mistakes You're Probably Making6 Mealtime Mistakes You're Probably Making6 Mealtime Mistakes You're Probably Making6 Mealtime Mistakes You're Probably Making
Do you clean your plate, pick the wrong sides and skimp on treats?
Start Slideshow
How Does Pepsi Make a Difference in Global Hunger?
How Does Pepsi Make a Difference in Global Hunger?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.