As I was writing the headline for this article, I reflected on how polite the word “influenced” was in this context. The reality is that we often let the people in our life control the food we eat. That control over our food choices may be relinquished to someone else consciously or sub-consciously, depending on how deeply the habit is embedded.
Understanding how and why the people in your life are controlling what you eat is one of the many steps that you can take to initiate change and create new, more sustaining habits. As clients go through this process, I often see them grow personally too, as they take back their power and recognise and honour their own needs and desires.
Today, I am going to look at just one group of people who may be adversely affecting your relationship with food and your health – and ultimately your ability to lose weight and keep it off, if that is your goal.
This is not about blaming your parents! But it is about acknowledging their role in your eating habits.
Part of a parent’s responsibilities when you are a child is obviously to feed and nourish you well. Depending on your personal circumstances, the quality of your food as a child can vary greatly from one person to the next. However, most parents reward babies and toddlers with a huge smile and hugs and clapping when they eat their food – rather than throw it on the floor.
So at an early age, we are trained to associate eating food with love. We experience that when we eat our food as asked, it makes the most important person in our life at that time, very happy. If this type of reward system continues as you grow older, it can start a long journey into using food to make you and others feel good.
This is obviously a deeply complex area and one I often spend much time exploring with my clients. We work together to help them to find new, non-food ways to reward themselves. We still need rewards, but they don’t always have to be food-related.
Another key area that parents influence our food intake is in portion control. I was brought up in a household where I was not allowed to leave the table until my plate was clean – regardless of how hungry I felt. And I know I am not alone in this training! Anyone who was brought up with this mantra, or whose parents are very conscious of the levels of poverty in the world and use this as their mantra to encourage you not to waste food, will have experienced how difficult it is to leave food on your plate at the end of your meal many years later.
How often do you find you keep on eating until your plate is empty, regardless of how full your stomach feels? When eating in a restaurant it is a common refrain at the end of a rich meal to hear people say “Gosh, it was lovely, but I feel as though I’ve eaten too much!”
Learning to reduce the quantity of food you eat and really getting to feel how much you need to eat at each meal is not just about re-educating your stomach, but your mind also. Coming to terms with eating less can be strangely challenging, but with practice it does not take long to develop new habits and a new mindset.
To start with, try leaving something on your plate at every meal. And this is not a license to put more on your plate in the first place!
There are likely to be many other people in your life who have influence over your food choices – either from your past or currently. And of course, there may be people who influence you in a positive way too. These people deserve to be loved and cherished as they hear your needs.
In future blogs I will discuss other people who may be making your food choices for you, plus some of the other factors that may be affecting why you eat the way you do.
If you are fed up (interesting phrase!) with having an unhealthy relationship with food or have been trying to lose weight and failing, this is just one of the avenues we will explore when you work with me through my coaching programmes. I look forward to meeting you soon and helping you on your food journey. Bon appetit!