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“When I was fourteen and a sophomore in high school (I had skipped a grade), I was nominated for homecoming princess. My mom bought me a a long red satin gown with a sweetheart neckline, spaghetti straps, and sparkly crystals in the front. I loved it. It fit, but was a little tight around the tummy. We could’ve gone to a dry cleaner or tailor to have the dress altered, but she got me a gym membership instead. (I still remember the personal trainer who showed me around the gym looking at us like we were crazy when my mom explained that we just wanted me to lose three or four pounds before homecoming.)”

This is an excerpt from Food: The Good Girl’s Drug: How to Stop Using Food to Control Your Feelings* by¬†Sunny Sea Gold, who blogs at HealthyGirl. While I was reading this chapter, it got me thinking about how our families can affect how we view food and our bodies.

Maybe you can relate to a mom’s good intentions gone wrong?

(If not, maybe you’ve had similar experiences of wanting to mold and manipulate your body to fit into an outfit – instead of the other way around. Or wanting to lose a few pounds in time for an event.)

Was thinness highly prized in your family?

Sunny recounts how her grandfather received a scale for Christmas and had each of his daughters stand on it in the middle of the living room.

“Then he said things like ‘That’s my beautiful daughter!” or “Whoa, you’re packing on pounds” and even “Oh, you’re too skinny!”

Sunny and the other grandkids were too young to step on the scale, but this no doubt left an impression on her.

Did your mom or dad yo-yo diet?

Sunny writes that her family would go through wildly different phases, from being “vegetarian health nuts for a month or two” to eating big portions of pizza and dessert.

This taught her to associate food with “fun, family and comfort.”

Some kids might mirror their parents’ eating habits or attitudes about their bodies. But others rebel against the rules.

Maybe your mom worried and watched what you ate, and made comments like “Are you sure you want to eat that?”

Maybe your dad made comments about your weight.

So you ate to spite them. Or you worked on your body image because you wanted to love your body.

Or maybe your parents have always celebrated food and the art of purchasing and preparing delicious meals. And you developed a healthy and happy relationship with eating.

How our parents view their bodies and take care of themselves can also have an impact on us. So if our parents hated their bodies, we might, too.

While families don’t cause eating or body image problems, they can color our view on food, how we express our emotions and how we see our bodies and ourselves.

Like other lessons in life, our parents can teach us how to relate to food and our bodies.

What lessons did your parents teach you? How did your parents affect your relationship with food? Or your body? What did food symbolize in your family?

P.S., I’ll be featuring an interview with Sunny in early April! If you have a question you’d like her to answer, please include it in the comments below.

P.P.S, Thanks so much for your awesome comments on yesterday’s post about the ever-exasperating world of health magazines.

* I received a free copy.