Mothers and Daughters: Healing Your Relationship With Food


Mothers and Daughters: Healing Your Relationship With Food

Alice Baker, MS, RD, CEDRD, LDN

The relationship between parents and children, but especially between mothers and daughters, is tremendously powerful, scarcely to be comprehended in any rational way.
— Joyce Carol Oates

A significant part of recovery from disordered eating is knowing what you are healing from and peering into your Mother’s relationship with food and her body can offer deep insights. Moms can have profound impact as to how we feel in our bodies, how we feel about food, and how we feel about pleasure. One way to explore your mom’s impact is to think back to your mealtime experiences with her. Did she enjoy her food and eat a full variety, or did she only choose low calorie low fat foods? Did she eat until satisfaction, or did she eat less than she wanted and say things like “I need to stop now, or I will gain weight.” Did she eat past the point of fullness and beat herself up afterwards, or did she overeat at times and trust her body to make up the difference?

As you ponder those questions, notice what messages you received about eating and inhabiting your body. For example, if she only chose low-fat low-calorie foods, a message could be “I need to eat low-fat and low-calorie foods, or I have eaten something bad.” Or if she ate less than she wanted, a message could be “I can not give myself what I truly want, the price is too high.”

If you have a mom that has fallen prey to the diet culture, you are not alone. We are all saturated in a culture that says we are to watch what we eat, and we must keep a certain figure to be acceptable, and moms are not immune. The good news is once you begin to name your mom’s influence, you have a choice. Identification is the first step towards freedom and breaking the cycle. As you identify the specific dieting attitudes and behaviors your mom lived, you are free to decide the path you want to take.

One powerful activity is to make two columns. On the left side, write all the verbal and non-verbal messages she gave you about food. On the right side, write out if you would like to carry on that same message, or choose something different. Then, as those old thoughts rear up (and they will), you can refer to the list on the right, and remind yourself what you have chosen. You truly honor your mom when you become your own woman, carrying on her food attitudes you want and cherish, and letting go of the ones that are not who you are.

If you are reading this and happen to be a mom on the healing journey, I celebrate you! As you continue to press in, take inventory, and embrace freedom with food, your kids will benefit. Yes, even if it is imperfect and messy, as then they too will know when/if they have a battle, they can overcome.

I am reminded of Brené Brown’s words, “When we own our story, we can write a brave new ending.” As you courageously look at your mom’s role in your story, you get to create something beautiful and new.    



Joyce Carol Oates, I Lock My Door Upon Myself
Brené Brown, Rising Strong
Leslea Newman, Some Body to Love

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Alice Baker

Alice Baker, MS, RD, CEDRD, LDN has 20 years’ experience in the field of Eating Disorders. Due to her own recovery and the freedom she found, she was passionate about eating disorders from the beginning; therefore, did her field work in eating disorders and presented her case study on Anorexia Nervosa. Alice has served clients with eating disorders through the full spectrum of care from inpatient to outpatient. Throughout, her passion grew into creating structure for her clients to heal. This includes creating nutrition protocols for multiple eating disorder programs. Alice currently sees clients in private practice in Orlando, Florida, facilitates support groups, and supervises new dietitians in this rewarding field. Visit her website.