6 Things I Want My Kids To Know About My Complicated Relationship With Food

Ad failed to load

I love to eat, but I have a ton of other emotions surrounding that love, like disgust and shame and self-consciousness and disappointment. In other words, my relationship with food is complicated. As I do my best to be a good role model and promote body positivity and body acceptance and body confidence while, there are some things my kids will know about my relationship with food. If honesty truly is the best policy, my decision to be open and honest about my own struggles with eating disorders and self-love, can only help my children learn to love themselves and develop a healthy relationship with the food they need to survive (as well as the food they should totally feel comfortable enjoying).

I don’t want my children to see food as anything other than delicious and satisfying. Although I have absolutely no time to cook elaborate meals for the family, my partner and I do our best to serve tasty, healthy dishes (among the occasional take-out and fast food option). Our kids come food shopping with us and they understand why we choose certain kinds of yogurt (you know, the ones without the chocolate topping) and they delight in being able to pick out the week’s dessert or their favorite fruit for a snack. I can’t help but look back at my own childhood and think that maybe, just maybe, if I had been included in my family’s decisions about food I might not have developed my love-hate affair with all things chocolate.

Navigating food choices when you’re troubled by body image issues and/or an eating disorder, is a hellacious experience. I want my kids to know food’s place in their lives, and to never, ever, hate themselves for embracing that place. They should never feel bad about what, or how much, they eat. I think if I had a healthier relationship with food when I was younger, I could have avoided falling into the binge eating/binge exercising trap that consumed me throughout my 20s.

Ad failed to load

So, as I continue to recover from my disordered eating habits, I simultaneously try to model healthy behavior for my kids so that their relationship with food is vastly superior to my own. And as they get older, and more observant, I’ll be completely honest in my answers to any of their questions about my food choices and why my relationship with food is, like I mentioned, pretty complicated. Here are some things I’m prepared to share with them, should my kids want to know about my relationship with food:

Ad failed to load

I Take Small Portions Because I’m Conditioned Not To Be Wasteful


I was raised as part of the "Clean Plate Club," which meant I couldn’t have dessert until I finished everything on my plate. It took me years before I realized that my behavior wasn't healthy.

First, it might force a kid to eat too much, and to eat for the wrong reasons. Second, it uses sweets as a reward, something to be coveted for having to suffer through an earlier part of the meal. Eating should be pleasurable, regardless of what you are eating. To break myself out of the habit of devouring everything on my plate like I’m clearing a Pac Man screen, I use small plates and take appropriate portions. I help myself to seconds (or thirds) if I’m still hungry, but at least I’m regulating my intake to correspond with my appetite. If my kid doesn’t finish what’s on his plate? I let him know that’s perfectly fine, but that there won’t be any snacks in an hour if he decides he’s hungry. After all, I don’t run a diner.

I Don't Think Of Dessert As Holy Grail


I was seven, at my aunt’s wedding, and I was so psyched to dig into the triple chocolate wedding cake. I ate around the decadent frosting first, saving it for last. I got up for some reason and, when I returned, my plate (with all my frosting) had been cleared. You would have thought my best friend moved away, that’s how devastated I was. Dessert was, for me at the time, the whole point of getting through a meal.

Once I had moved out of my parents’ apartment and into one of my own, the freedom of food shopping solo, with no one to tell me what I could and couldn't buy or eat, felt amazing. Junk food and sugar cereals were mine. All mine. After a while, thought, the thrill was gone. If I could have anything I wanted, there was no glory in it.

So when I had kids, I decided that there would be dessert. I didn’t want them getting hung up on it the way I was. I guess it’s working, because they have no problem deciding not to eat an entire piece of cake, and they actually complain that something is “too sweet.” I sometimes wonder if they actually are my kids.

I Eat Everything In Moderation


A lot of sweets were forbidden when I was growing up. Kids didn’t really like playing at my house because after-school snacks were usually granola pouches. Subsequently, I became obsessed with junk food and would sneak it whenever I could.

I came around when I became a mom, though. Nothing needs to be off-limits, provided you don’t over-indulge. We keep some snack foods and treats in our house, and the kids get a small sweet in their lunch boxes and after dinner. I don’t want them to develop the unhealthy obsession with candy the way I did, and view it as something rare and to be coveted. It’s always available, just not in super-sized portions.

Ad failed to load

I’d Rather Eat My Calories Than Drink Them


I am not judging, but I honestly don’t get America’s obsession with coffee drinks. These concoctions usually pack as many calories — or more — than a full, balanced dinner plate. I would rather eat a panini than drink a frappé; it just satisfies me more. To that end, we don’t have a lot of beverage options in our house. We’re big on water, and maybe seltzer (and some adult drinks for the parents, of course), but that’s it. I buy juice boxes for birthday parties or whip up some lemonade at the start of summer, but my kids know better than to expect us to provide them with anything more interesting to drink (though that never keeps them from whining about how everybody else gets sports drinks in their lunch boxes. Sigh).

Hot Sauce Is A Vegetable Game-Changer


I’ve given up trying to sell my children on the goodness of veggies. In fact, touting the health benefits of food may (and usually does) backfire when it comes to getting kids to eat their greens. So, instead, I focus on taste. After all, why eat anything if it doesn’t taste good? I believe that is why condiments were invented, right? I don’t care what fixings my kids douse their veggies in: ketchup, cocktail sauce, guacamole. The broccoli becomes the vehicle with which to transport the flavor and, well, I’m fine with that.

I Would Often Eat Too Much And That Made Me Feel Bad


It took me a long time, but I have made significant progress when it comes to having a warped body image. I was a chubby kid, and young adult, because I was a binge eater. It was my way of dealing with anxiety, insecurity, and fear. It was cyclical: feel bad, overeat, feel bad about overeating. I hated that I was overweight, but my weight wasn’t the problem (as it was not posing a health risk). My problem was how I felt about myself, and my body. I don’t want my children to grow up hating the shape of themselves, like I did.

Which is why I refuse to police their food intake and make them fear some horrible physical result of overeating, other than they will probably get a stomach ache. It's exactly why I plan on being open and honest with my kids about my own struggle, because they can (and I'm hoping, will) learn from my mistakes and love their bodies. I won’t tell them that I hated my stomach fat, I will tell them that I hated how my stomach felt. (And it’s true, because I felt physically sick when I’d eat too much.) By learning that they can eat pretty much everything and anything they want (in moderation), I hope my kids won’t ever use binge eating to cope with their emotions.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

The Pressure To Worry About The Gap Between Kids Is So Bad For Moms

"Two under two is absolutely crazy," a friend recently told me upon hearing the news that I was expecting a second child. "Why would you do this to yourself? Seriously, why?" However harsh her words, she was only echoing the same feelings I'd been ba…
By Marie Southard Ospina

To Be Honest, I Couldn't Survive Motherhood Without My Job

The decision to work outside the home once you've become a parent can be a complicated one. Some people don't really have a choice, and go back to work because they're either a single parent or can't sustain their family on one income. Some choose to…
By Priscilla Blossom

I Feel Guilty That My Kid’s Dad Is A Better Parent Than Me, & That’s Bullsh*t

I was scared, and he was sure. I was clueless, and he was well-researched. I was making mistakes, and he was picking up the pieces. From the moment I found out I was pregnant until just last night, when I threw my hands up in the air and left the alw…
By Danielle Campoamor

These Millennial Parents Are Taking Gender-Neutral Parenting To An Entirely New Level

A woman on the subway looks at my bulbous shape and asks, “What are you having?” I take a deep breath and throw a glance to my 5-year-old. “I’m having a baby,” I say to the woman. “No, no” the woman says laughing as she pushes further. “Are you havin…
By Madison Young

I’m Registered At Babies “R” Us, & I'm Freaking The Hell Out

Hi. My name is Abi, and I’m registered at Babies “R” Us — and I’m freaking out. This may sound silly, but after being a die-hard Toys “R” Us kid, I was so excited to register at their baby store once my husband and I finally got our big fat positive …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

My Daughter Is Obsessed With Being "Pretty" & I'm Way Past Terrified

Last week, when I picked up my daughter after school, she immediately wanted to know if I liked her hair. "Is it pretty?" she asked. Her hair was pulled up into two ponytails that were intertwined into thick, long braids. A shimmering pink and purple…
By Dina Leygerman

7 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 20s, But I Will

I was 24 when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. The pregnancy was a surprise, since I was on birth control (side note: antibiotics and birth control don't mix), but my partner and I decided to continue with the pregnancy and committed to m…
By Candace Ganger

Women Who Miscarry Early Deserve To Grieve — Here's How Hospitals Should Be Helping

When I lost my baby back in 2013, it was because of a very early miscarriage. Because of the little amount of time I spent being pregnant, it was though my child had never really existed, which made the next few years hard — I felt like they had been…
By Risa Kerslake

7 Things I Wish My Partner Had Said To Me In The First Hour After Giving Birth

I don't know if it was the buzz of the surrounding machines, the non-existent cry of our son as the doctors tried to resuscitate him, or the fact that I'd already been through labor and delivery once before, but I knew something was missing after I h…
By Candace Ganger

Moms’ Groups Weren’t For Me, Sorry

I go to my moms’ club everyday of the week, but not usually on weekends. My moms' group is a place I can always count on finding fellow mothers who understand the daily struggles and triumphs of parenthood and of juggling life’s responsibilities. Dep…
By Samantha Taylor

Millennial Women Are Getting Married Later Than Gen X, & The Reasons Why Are Pretty Badass

The battle of the generations seems to come up when it comes to every lifestyle or career choice people make. Women, especially, are an important demographic when it comes to analysts looking at the lifestyle choices we make or the expected milestone…
By Josie Rhodes Cook

I've Had 3 Miscarriages But *Please* Keep Telling Me About Your Pregnancy

I can feel the tension the moment my friend announces her pregnancy. I can hear the forced nonchalant attitude she's willing herself to exude as she fishes for the ultrasound. I know why I was the last to learn that she was expecting; why she keeps l…
By Danielle Campoamor

7 Early Signs You're Going To Need An Epidural, According To Experts

Even if you've constructed an elaborate birth plan, it's impossible to control every aspect of labor and delivery. Complications can occur, proactive measures might be necessary, and your mind is subject to change when those damn contractions really …
By Candace Ganger

I'm Pregnant & I Refuse To Read Any Parenting Books

I didn't read any parenting books when I was expecting my daughter, and I refuse to read any parenting books as I await my second child now. I'm the first to admit that I don't really know what I'm doing when it comes to raising my daughter. A good d…
By Marie Southard Ospina

7 Reasons Why March Babies Are Total Badasses

From the moment you become pregnant, you begin to wonder what your little one will be like. Will they look like you, your partner, or your Great Aunt Edna? Will they be the quiet, thoughtful type or arrive on this planet raring to go? It's fun to ima…
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

12 Overnight Face Masks To Use To Wake Up Feeling Pampered AF

Spring is right around the corner, and as far as I'm concerned, the sunshine and warm breezes can't come soon enough. But now that we're about to say goodbye to winter, it's a good time to take stock of your facial skincare routine. You know, in the …
By Katie Malczyk

11 Essential Products To Pack In Your Hospital Bag, According To OB-GYNs

The minute you go into labor (or think you're going into labor), chaos ensues. You and your partner are likely to get a little frantic, just like in the movies, so you most definitely want to have a hospital bag packed before the day comes. This prec…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

7 Photos You *Must* Take In The First 6 Months Of Motherhood

In my experience, becoming a mom is like becoming an amateur photographer. There's just something about the need to capture every single coo and sorta-smile that leaves you obsessed with all things photography. I know I couldn't stop taking selfies w…
By Candace Ganger

Here's How Early An Ultrasound Can Actually Determine Your Baby's Sex

From the moment you see those two lines on a pregnancy test, there are a few markers along the way that stand out as especially exciting. Amongst them are hearing your baby's heartbeat and feeling that first, sweet little kick. And if you are finding…
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

9 Easy Kid Foods To Turn Green, Just In Time For St. Patrick's Day

The best part about having kids is that you get your own personal crew to celebrate the holidays with, in all your color coordinating and matching glory. And with St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, you are obviously working on turning everyth…
By Mishal Ali Zafar