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My Mom Raised Me to Have a Healthy Relationship With Food

Seven simple tips and tricks I learned growing up to improve my relationship with food

By Thea Hecht

Graphic By Alicia Chiang

One of the toughest things about teaching a child to have a healthy relationship with food is this key skill: balancing choice and regulation. I am grateful to have been taught how to love my body and food from a young age – here are seven ways I learned to have a healthy relationship with food. 

  1. Eat Until You’re Full My mom always criticized the concept of telling a kid to “have two more bites.” Why force a six-year-old to stuff themselves to sickness? Why restrict a second helping if your kid is still hungry? You are the only person who can feel your hunger and your limits. These limits are something I am grateful to have explored growing up. 

  2. The Kitchen is Never Closed (Within Reason) Depending on factors such as sleep, age, and gender, your body craves different amounts of food at different times. This is why my kitchen never “closed.” Somedays, you may have five smaller meals; on others, you might have two big meals.  This did not mean we could eat a bag of chips ten minutes before dinner, but it meant we had access to food when hungry. As basic as that sounds, many of my friends had kitchens that opened and closed like a restaurant. This caused binge eating and restriction in their later lives because they were not able to choose when they could eat as a child. 

  3. Fruit and Dessert Every Night After dinner, we were always offered fruit and dessert. Many people can attest to having late-night cravings, but because I was taught how to satisfy these sweet cravings in healthy amounts, I rarely find myself binge eating at night. 

  4. Reverse Psychology: Buying All of the Unhealthy Snacks We Wanted Around second grade, my sister and I got sick of our turkey and avocado roll-ups and became jealous of the kids with Gushers and Doritos. All it took was a week of complaining for our pantry to fill up with artificial dyes and an ungodly amount of sugar. Indulging in these childhood delicacies felt like a dream – at least, it did for two weeks. We shortly became tired of these snacks.  Once we knew they weren’t “off limits,” they weren’t as appealing. Having choices in our diets made us want to eat things we actually enjoyed, and that made us feel good. This, in turn, encouraged us to treat our bodies well. 

  5. Being Educated About Ingredients I knew what high fructose corn syrup was before I could spell it, and this didn’t come from my doctor or a nutritionist. It was important to my mom that her children knew what they were putting in their bodies. There are so many ingredients in our food, such as artificial dyes, excessive salt, and caffeine. While it is okay to consume these things, not knowing about the nature of these ingredients and consuming high amounts of them can lead to poor health and could potentially lead to disordered eating. 

  6. Not Having a Scale in the House I was the type of kid who kept my baby fat until I was around twelve. This was naturally an insecurity of mine as I compared myself to my peers and the kids I saw on TV. My mom’s solution to this? Remove the emphasis. Our weight is constantly fluctuating, especially when we’re growing up. This was not something we cared to focus on or even acknowledge outside of a doctor’s office scale. 

  7. No Food Guilt One of the worst feelings in the world is eating a huge dessert or a big bag of chips and having instant regret. My mom never wanted us to feel like that. Because I was raised on intuitive eating and ate when I was hungry, I never had to feel like I didn’t deserve what I ate – I knew my body needed it!  No parents are perfect, but I have learned to appreciate the ways I was raised to have a great relationship with food. These parts of my upbringing have stuck with me and will keep me loving myself and food! 


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