I'm Trying Not To Pass On My Food Issues To My Kid, & It's Not Going So Well

Ad failed to load

Like a lot of adult women in the United States, I've had issues with food for as long as I can remember. I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t feel weird about food. I was a picky kid, so I was constantly at war with my parents to be allowed to eat nothing but cheese and pure sugar. The tension made each and every meal stressful. On top of that, I was small for my age, so my parents were constantly concerned about whether I was eating enough. By the time I was 5 years old, I felt like eating was this high-pressure activity that I wished I didn’t have to deal with. Why couldn’t I just photosynthesize?

Nowadays, my relationship with food is complicated: at times it seems fine, and other times it’s like walking through a minefield. But to be honest, I never spent much time thinking about it until I became a mom. With a child to feed, however, everything became totally different. I wanted my kid to have a happy and healthy relationship with the food that he eats, to eat when he’s hungry and stop when he’s full, and to eat a wide variety of foods to get a wide variety of nutrients. Most importantly, I wanted him to fully enjoy his food.

It’s a beautiful goal, but now that I spend so much time thinking about my son's relationship with food, my own food issues have been brought into sharp relief. Now, one of my primary objectives in feeding my child is not to pass my own weird food hangups onto him, and it isn’t exactly easy.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy of Katherine DM Clover

Part of the reason why I have so many food hangups is because there was always junk food in my house. My mom hated to shop for groceries, but when she did force herself to go to the store, she always came home with a pile of snack crackers, candies, chips, and individually packaged cakes. These foods were always more exciting than anything else in the house, so they were gobbled up within a day or two. When I describe my childhood issues with food to others, I often joke that I grew up in a “competitive eating household” (which is a term sometimes used to describe animal eating patterns), because there really was the sense that if you wanted, say, Oreos, you’d better eat as many as you could as fast as you could.

Then I hit puberty, and I felt the sudden pressure to stay as small as possible. Whereas before, I had been chided for not eating enough, in middle school half of my friends were already on diets and questioned why I ate at all. Over time, all these factors — from childhood shame for being “picky," to moralizing about whether or it was “bad” to eat the foods I really enjoyed — compounded to make me the person I am today. I’m a 31-year-old woman who eats mostly healthy food, but feels the obsessive need to consume every bite of ice cream as quickly as it comes into the house.

Ad failed to load
Giphy

I’ve worked hard to give my kid a better shot at a healthy relationship with food. I offer him a wide variety of meals and snacks, including tons of veggies and fruits, and yes, sometimes cookies. We sit down for family meals together, and we never, ever shame him over what he likes or does not like. We don't use food as a reward, and we try not to make a big deal out of things like sugary foods, so they won't feel "forbidden" and therefore more tempting.

Here’s the thing: I make a big show of sitting down at family dinner and doing everything right, but in reality it’s a lot more complicated than that.
Ad failed to load

My son is nearly 2 years old. So far, it seems like we have a kid who loves food. He’s especially fond of avocado sushi, tofu, mashed potatoes, and blueberries. But he’ll also eat ketchup by the forkful and he’s a pretty big fan of chocolate in all forms. Basically, he’s just a kid eating food, which is exactly what he should be.

On the surface, my plan to keep my food issues to myself is working. But I can't help but wonder if maybe it isn't. Because here’s the thing: I make a big show of sitting down at family dinner and doing everything right, but in reality it’s a lot more complicated than that. I hide my favorite foods from him, and sneakily eat them after he’s in bed. I’ve even been known to snack on cookies while preparing him a well-balanced lunch. And while that might not seem like the biggest deal ever, I think it’s illustrative of something. When I started feeding my kid solids, I immediately realized how messed up my own relationship with food was. I figured this would be a “fake it till you make it” situation for me, but it’s been a year and a half now, and honestly, I’m still faking it.

Courtesy of Katherine DM Clover
Ad failed to load

I still use food in place of comfort when I’m stressed, and I still avoid eating when I’m really, really down. I still binge on sweets one week and then eat no sweets the next week. I still find that it’s a lot easier to eat if I have something to distract me from the act of eating. As much as I love the fact that my kid loves sitting down for family dinner, the whole thing still stresses me out.

I worry that my son will normalize all the same crap that I normalized as a kid.

If it were just me, I probably wouldn’t stress about my eating habits. Hey, we can’t all be perfect pinnacles of wellness on every single level. So I have issues about food? So what! But someday soon, my kid is going to find me hiding in the pantry eating Oreos. He’s going to catch on to the fact that I don’t eat all that much at dinner, preferring to snack at my laptop after he’s asleep. He’s going to realize that all the healthy eating habits I’ve been trying to model for him are, well, to some extent, a lie.And then what happens?

Ad failed to load

I worry that my son normalize all the same crap that I normalized as a kid. I worry that he, too, will have a weird scarcity mentality about food, and that will drive him to eat more than he wants or needs to. I worry that maybe not even his assigned gender can protect him from all of the weird and complicated food issues that I could so easily pass down to him. This stuff gets passed down from generation to generation. I grew up hearing about how food was evil, but also the most amazing thing in the universe, but also you know, evil. I’ve watched how that affects people, and how it affects me.

I want better for my child.

Katherine DM Clover
Ad failed to load

The only conclusion I can draw from all of this, is that it’s time to stop faking it. That means diving in and actually addressing my own weird issues around food and eating, rather than just pretending it’s fine all the time. I’m a busy working mom, and I’d honestly much rather not deal with it. I’d rather continue to try to hide my hangups, as I have enough crap to deal with already. But if I’m really serious about wanting this to stop with me, if I don’t want all the work I’ve already done to be for nothing, I have to try something else. Because what I’m doing right now just isn’t sustainable, and it isn’t working.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my kid just finally went to sleep, and I’m suddenly starving.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

The Entire Family Can Enjoy These Movies & Shows Coming To Netflix In June

It's just one of those sad facts of life: every month, shows and movies vanish from Netflix, their varied excitements no longer at your fingertips. But luckily the streaming service is always prepared to fill that content void with lots of new things…
By Megan Walsh

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills
)}