Exploring How Your Childhood Affects Your Eating Habits

Wherever you are at with Intuitive Eating, there have likely been triggers you’ve experienced when doing this work on yourself. This can be a time where you are recalling how your caregivers made you eat certain foods against your will. Or the silent but clear facial reaction a childhood friend gave you about your body size or shape. Or comments you overheard influential women in your life making about their own relationship with food. We have all be influenced by these encounters, and they will replay in our minds to drive our decisions and actions.

You want to know that you don’t have to be defined by how you were brought up, or hustle to be the person you thought you would grow up to be. You want to be able to tell the little child in you they can be at peace with how you are made. 

We have both done inner child work while restoring our inner intuitive eater, so we wanted to share what we have learned while in the messy middle. We will share some facts and suggestions to work through potential roadblocks you encounter.

Intuition Quote

  • We’re all born intuitive eaters. 

We are born knowing how to trust our bodies to tell us when we are hungry and stop eating when we’re full. Some of us just lose the ability to trust our own intuition. People who diet around us used jargon that would make us think that we needed to change ourselves too. We internalize their messages as truth, and our thoughts affect our beliefs. In our culture’s pursuit of health, they’ve lost the important realization that we are all supposed to be different. The Health at Every Size® movement celebrates size diversity and is backed by research that heredity and overall lifestyles like stress management, mental health, and behaviors are what influence our health more than just what or how much we eat.  
If a child grows up hearing how bad carbs are for you, they will ultimately end up having a weird relationship with carbs, believing that since they are bad for you, therefore you are being bad. I {Tonya} grew up with a mixed message that exercise is making up for what you ate and you will have to punish yourself by working extra hard later. So I often didn’t like eating the food I was eating because it came with a side of guilt or shame, and didn’t want to have to make up for it with punitive exercise. If you grew up with a battle at the table with portions, such as finishing your plate of food, you might have difficulty understanding where your last bite threshold is, and how to honor your fullness. Take some time to learn from our episode about how shifting our mindset can help you learn to trust your body again. 

childhood affecting eating habits

  • Poor body image is learned behavior. 

But it can be rerouted. Your thoughts can have a powerful effect on your feelings. How you feel about your body has been impacted by all of the thoughts you have had and the messages you have heard. 
I {Tracy} think in my mind I always knew that my body was just the way it was, I remember having those thoughts but back then I wasn’t as in tune with my intuition, I didn’t know that it was my body’s way of asking me to love it as it was. Instead, I was influenced by the media and influential women in my life. There would be comments like of course she’s happy to look at her body or have you seen how much weight that person has gained with a disapproving look. I mean these things coming out of our mouths they feel inconsequential because they are so commonplace in our society. I had these deep-seated beliefs about the obligation to work out or look a certain way. Just like you learned to have a poor body image, you can learn to have a good body image too. 
I {Tonya} learned early on that I was going to have to “work hard” to not have the body I inherited from my grandmothers, so I learned that their bodies were considered “bad” and “unhealthy”. This was a tough message to dismantle as an adult. When I worked on accepting my genetic blueprint, there was a freedom to just be. 

Narrative Quote

  • You can rewrite the narrative of your childhood eating experiences. 

Perhaps you feel triggered if there is a dessert served at the same time as the rest of the meal because you were told to finish all of your regular food-especially vegetables before you could eat dessert. Intuitive Eating means giving yourself permission to eat until satisfied, so you might really want to sample the dessert while you’re still hungry. You can rewrite the narrative that you had to “earn” your food, especially fun food. Tell yourself that all foods fit, and you have the unconditional permission to eat. If you didn’t grow up with much variety, consider how babies begin learning to eat solid foods. It is encouraged to expose them to lots of tastes, textures, temperatures, so they can develop their palate. You might need to go through a season of trying different foods again. Rather than just approaching it as foods you like and don’t like, or foods that were previously forbidden and ones that are considered “good”, you can look into how you feel when you eat them.

childhood affecting eating habits

  • When we have childlike reactions to life, it is likely because one of our basic needs is not being met. 

By childlike reactions, we mean helplessness, being indecisive, unable to process emotions in a healthy way, cranky, moody, sad, defensive, stubborn…basically any form of displaying an inability to act like an adult. 
We need to have our basic needs like shelter, safety, sleep, and nourishment to be met before we can tackle the outside world. 
We don’t know anyone that hasn’t had a rough year so far. The stress that we have been under as a society certainly sets off some triggers and people have been throw off of their routine. This makes us fall back into our childlike fears or uneasiness of life, and we will need to focus on our basic needs. 
If you have found yourself craving your version of comfort food –remember it’s different for everyone  then you might have an emotional need that can be addressed. 

The following are the reasons we turn to food: 

  • Connection
  • Stress/anxiety/depression relief
  • Frustration or anger
  • Love
  • Boredom
  • Soothing
  • Excitement
  • Bribery or Reward
  • Sensory gratification
If any of these reasons resonate with you, ask yourself if you can NAME your feelings at the moment. If you’re having trouble naming them, we have some emotions to draw upon in the download guide we have created. The next question would be, what does my inner child need in order to deal with these current feelings?
While our childhood experiences with food and body do influence us as adults, we also don’t have to be defined by these experiences. They can be a part of our story but not the whole story. We hope this post has encouraged you to stop “weighting” and show up exactly as you are. 

About Tracy & Tonya

Tonya Beauchaine and Tracy Vazquez have been friends for over a decade, they have been through ups and downs, weight gains, and weight losses together. Their podcast, We’re Not Weighting started out because they were both fed up with waiting around for their lives to start. Waiting to be a certain size, lose a certain amount of weight, or waiting to look a certain way. They have conversations about life, weight, Intuitive Eating, Health at Every Size®, the pressure to be thin, and live up to these standards of society. Tonya is a Certified Intuitive Eating Coach, Health at Every Size® advocate, and Nutrition Counselor. She’s working to break the mold of who and what a nutritionist is. She works with others to find freedom in their relationship with food. Her favorite part of working with clients is helping them set up an Intuitive Kitchen. Tracy is a Body Image Coach. She helps women find confidence in the bodies they have. She’s no longer waiting to be a certain size but accepting my body the way it is. She’s on a mission to help women feel confident and comfortable right here and now.

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