Your Food Past Influences Your Present

Key Takeaway: Your childhood food experiences influence your current eating habits and mealtime behaviors. Reflecting on these connections is necessary to make mindful changes for a healthier family relationship with food.

Did you Have a Trapper Keeper?

If so, you’re probably a child of the 80s (like me. Tubular!).

When I was a kid, I often heard the directive “Clean your plate before you get dessert.” The Clean Plate Club (which, incidentally, was established as a propaganda campaign during food shortages of World War I) was a common phrase uttered by many parents. Often tied to the notion of there being “starving children in the world”, eating everything on your plate was used to instill gratitude and prevent waste

Positive and Negative Food Memories

Our childhood food experiences can be both positive and negative.

  • I have fond memories of gardening with my grandmother and making pie with my mom. These positive experiences can shape how I think about food in wonderful ways.
  • Negative or traumatic food memories can also linger and influence our behavior. My mom still refuses to eat certain things because of negative childhood experiences tied to those foods.

Habits Carry Forward

Many of us continue these practices with our own children. These past experiences shape how we feed our families today, for better or worse.

But we don’t have to let past experiences dictate our current behavior. By reflecting on our childhood memories and the emotions they evoke, we can make conscious decisions about which behaviors to keep and which to leave behind.

Here’s How

Use the MEAL framework to reflect and reevaluate.

1. Memories: Identify key significant food-related memories from your childhood.

2. Emotions: Note the emotions tied to these memories. How did you feel then and how do you feel now about those experiences?

3. Approaches: How do you personally eat or feed your family today? What is your approach to eating, planning, feeding yourself and those that you love?

4. Learn: From these three previous questions, what did you learn about eating/food/mealtime practices from your past, and what would you like to conscientiously carry forward or leave behind?

Practical Steps

Pause and Reflect: When you notice yourself enforcing a rule or habit, pause and ask if it’s a conscious choice or a relic from the past.

Evaluate and Adjust: Consistently reflect on your choices and make adjustments that better serve your family’s needs.

Bottom Line: By doing this consistently, you can break the cycle of inherited eating habits and create a healthier, more positive relationship with food for yourself and your family.

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