Although your childhood is long past, your hunger for good mothering never goes away.
Is your mother the real reason you struggle to get into your skinny jeans? Well, maybe…
When love isn’t available, food becomes the next best thing. Then, before you know it, food becomes the problem.
5 clients reveal how their mother issues became food issues
As an adult, Susan didn’t automatically connect her mother issues to food. She just knew she was either on or off a diet. She was forever starving herself or gorging herself. As a kid, mom had strict ideas about what it meant for her to be good. In fact, truth be told, she couldn’t remember a time when she didn’t declare a day good or bad based on the number registered on her bathroom scale. The number scolded her or praised her accordingly.
On my psychotherapy couch, Carol thought back to her earlier life when mom had all the power. “Mom regularly looked at my search history and read my text messages, but she never seemed to find the candy bars hidden under my t-shirts on the closet shelf. She lived in fear I would drink or use drugs, but completely missed the way I was abusing food. I just wanted a mom who could accept me, and stop trying to fix me. I didn’t have that, but I did have chocolate whenever I wanted to tap into my stash.”
Divorced and bitter, Emily’s mom was forever at a bar trying to meet a man. “Mom left me to watch my younger brother while she was out. The best way to numb out, and forget there was no mom at home, was to veg out in front of the TV with a big bowl of ice cream smothered in chocolate syrup.”
Struggling with anorexia, Jenn internalized her mother’s rigid ideas of good and bad. Starving herself became a way to be good. “Overall, life with mom was divided into good or bad. I was either good or bad. Polite, obedient, studious and chaste were all good. Mouthy, independent and sexy was bad. In mom’s eyes, there were good girls and bad girls. Guess which one I wanted to be? Being good meant controlling food. A strict punishing food regimen made me feel safe in the world.”
Intrusive and controlling, Deb’s mother was always trying to fix her. “It’s never good enough for mom. Look good. Be good. Make mom look good. That is all that matters. I got so sick of it, I just wanted something that felt good and tasted good. I needed a break and a way to push back. Eating what I wanted drove mom crazy and was my way to rebel.
If you are trapped in the role of the “Good Daughter” of the Narcissistic/Borderline/Difficult mother, there are some distinct ways your mother issues are the root cause of your food struggles.
Here is how this works
- Identifying with your insecure mother’s self-loathing, you go to battle with your body. Stuffing it or starving it – your body is the enemy, and food the weapon of choice.
- Starving for good mothering- acceptance, love, warmth you overdose on comfort food as a poor substitute.
- Swallowing mom’s mixed messages of backhanded compliments and “for your own good” critiques, you take in toxic food expecting it to make you better.
- Denying your hunger for affirmation and acceptance, you keep taking in junk food expecting it to be satisfying, nurturing and good for you.
- Having little to no control over your life, you take the only corner that’s left to you. Whether it’s binging, purging or depriving yourself of food, at least it’s your choice.
How do past mother/daughter dynamics still affect weight issues in the present?
Desperately thirsty, the person lost at sea drinks the salt water even though it will make them more parched. Taking in a mother who is toxic, or partially toxic, may have been your only choice in childhood. Paradoxically, doing so left you thirsty and convinced there was only salt water for the taking. The same is true for most childhood issues, and weight is no different. We are hard-wired to make it work with the mother we are given, we take what we can get and tell ourselves that’s all we deserve.
Thanks to the psychological powers of repression and displacement, past emotional pain remains frozen in time (repression) and hangs on as unwanted pounds ( displacement).
The emptiness that makes your heart ache can make your stomach growl. In a never-ending quest to fill yourself up, you turn to food to satisfy the unresolved longing for the love and acceptance you didn’t get from mom? The problem is, one can never satisfy the other.
Besides, it’s easier to focus on food. Food doesn’t talk back. Food doesn’t micromanage and criticize you. Food never abandons you. Not until your relationship with food turns on you does it become a problem.
What can you do now?
1. Know sorting through your mother issues can pay off big dividends and may well relate to food struggles. Heal your mother issues and you may loosen the stranglehold your food issues have on you.
2. Re-establish your relationship to food as a sustenance rather than love.
3. End the battle with your body. Work to be mindful of your body’s inherent wisdom.
4. Learn how full/satisfied feels.
5. Commit to discovering or rediscovering other sensual delights. Touch. Smell. Listen.
Your mother issues might not be the sole reason for your weight issues, however, attending to them might just set the table for shedding those unwanted pounds.
Find out if you suffer from other symptoms of the Good Daughter Syndrome- here.