When we reflect on our early childhood experiences with food, it can provide clarity on why unhealthy patterns we developed are so hard to break.

Examining Your Family’s Relationship with Food

An eating disorder can develop for a variety of reasons, including the environment we grew up in and our parental figure’s own relationship with food. Consider these aspects of a primary caregiver that may have affected your connections with food:

  • A primary caregiver constantly dieting and restricting certain foods
  • Primary caregiver eating different food or meals than the rest of the family
  • Speaking negatively about his/her weight
  • Not allowing certain foods in the house
  • Gave food as a reward or took it away as a punishment

The Effect of Temperament

Temperament is defined as a person’s mental, physical, and emotional traits, or one’s natural disposition from birth. Consider the questions below to gain clarity on how your temperament may have affected your predisposition around food and eating habits:

  • Were you told you were a calm and easy-going baby or an agitated and anxious one?
  • Did you have a difficult time expressing your emotions as a child?
  • Did you find that food was more comforting or soothing to you in times of distress or anxiety?
  • Was food used as a reward when you accomplished a task or did well in school?
  • Do you have any affiliations with foods that are particularly soothing or comforting because of fond childhood memories?

As children, we are observers by nature and are therefore much more likely to emulate a parental figure’s actions as opposed to what they tell us is right or wrong. We begin to form our own ways of interpreting good and bad, right and wrong. These interpretations stay with us long after childhood and even into adulthood. 

Empowering ourselves to recognize how childhood influences impact our body image and relationship to food can greatly deepen our recovery from disordered eating.

Written by Shrein Bahrami, MFT & Emily Bachmeier, MA

Excerpts from “Stop Bingeing, Start Living: Proven Therapeutic Strategies for Breaking the Binge Eating Cycle”