Yes, we get it. Your relationship with food is complex. It’s more that eating and enjoying nutritious food that gives you the energy to live a healthy life — it’s tied up in body image and self-esteem and societal expectations. It’s enjoyment, moderation, too much and too little, and everything in between. Take a hard look at those eating habits, both healthy and less than, and consider the messages you are sending to your kids. And you thought an apple was just an apple — sliced very thinly and arranged just so with a measured teaspoon of sunflower butter? Nope.
Even the woman who appears to be the healthiest, most balanced mom can have quirks with food, whether occasional or ongoing. Even if it “works” for you, do you really have only a certain kind of salad dressing because it’s the only one you like or for some other reason? Is your personal rule about only enjoying treats in micro bites really “normal?”
Because things like that can be called quirks — and if some quirks are employed because of body image issues and become as or more important than the actual eating, they could be called disordered eating even if they are not full-blown eating disorders.
You are what you eat — and how you eat
Just like your mom told you and you tell your kids, you are what you eat. You are the healthy and the less then optimally healthy, the veggies and the sweet treats. You are also how you eat. You are the rituals and the latest diet and the rules about carbs and fats. Are you sure you want to be all that?
Why did you engage in those rituals anyway? Are they born of fear? Honestly, if you do have more than that measured teaspoon of sunflower butter with the apple, what is going to happen? Routines and habit may have been put into place to create balance, but are they now so rigid a part of your eating that they have created an imbalance?
Your kids are watching
You know how kids watch everything and pick up on things you didn’t think they saw? Yup, that includes eating habits. Even if you think you are so careful you are only modeling healthy eating behaviors in front of your kids, they are picking up on your habits and issues, even those you think you are hiding well. Maybe they can’t articulate what’s going on — but they sense it. Just like you know your kids, your kids know you.
Break the cycle
You can show your kids what it means to eat healthily and normally, with appropriate moderation and appreciative enjoyment — but you need to be conscious about doing so, and be willing to break cycles of less than optimal habits. If you’ve fallen into some quirks of eating that embarrass you a little (or a lot), things you wouldn’t do in front of your kids much less out in public, it’s time to take a hard look at why it’s happening and take steps to resolve the underlying issue.
You might need some help breaking these habits, and that’s okay. Better to model not only healthy eating and better self image through some recognition and self work than let quirks and disordered eating go on any longer than necessary.