5

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What was your family's relationship with food growing up?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created May 10, 2012 at 2:01 PM

I'm curious about learned behaviours with regards to relationships with food.

This is a long post, but I'm asking for personal stories and it's only fair to share first.

As a child, there were a lot of "off-limit" foods. My parents were constantly dieting (they are weight watcher lifers) and sweets, desserts, fast food, salty snacks and sodas were very rare "treats". (Funny I would not consider them treats not, but I certainly remember them feeling special). I can also clearly recall that I always felt unwell after eating, from elementary school onward. Unfortunately this became so common place that I stopped complaining and didn't look into it until university when I was finally diagnosed with celiac disease.

On those occasions, I can recall gorging myself until I felt sick. At the time, I didn't analyze it. I can clearly remember really pigging out at Brownie/Girl Guide potlucks on desserts and chips. I was very active in student life in junior high and often pizza was brought in as a reward- I can recall eating 8-9 slices on these occasions.

Something changed around the time of highschool: food rules went out the window at home. I recognize now that this is because we relied on fast foods and Chinese buffets when my grandparents were on their deathbeds (we lost all 4 within a 2 year period), and shortly after my family moved across the country. It became commonplace to go out for ice cream to bond, or pick up 2-3 chocolate bars and 3-4 varieties of chips and pop to watch a movie together at home.

My twin sister and I were both uncomfortable with our weight physically and emotionally, and in out last year of highschool she became anorexic. Her weight fell off, and friends and family commended her. I remember Christmas: she wrapped up her dinner in a napkin and threw it away. I was so worried for her I fished it out of the trash to show my parents, and was told to mind my own business.

I went off to university, and finally took charge of my health. I was diagnosed with Celiac disease and really educated myself about nutrition. My family has come along for the ride and eat primarily whole foods. They will not give up gluten. grains dairy, but I believe that this is their prerogative. N=1 after all!

Please share your experiences- what have you learned from your family unit, room mates, mates- both good habits and bad.

65bf1ca7071028018c6d8305d0ddcd76

(3049)

on May 11, 2012
at 06:42 AM

Thank you all so much for sharing, I appreciate it so much! Chris- my sis is doing well, she still struggles but is a relatively healthy weight, with 2 children of her own :)

2fd93e91bb14e641a2bac9c6033e84e2

(1614)

on May 10, 2012
at 10:17 PM

Thanks for sharing, and I hope your sister is ok.

E36cb992cf0a5eba8b97a359c15f38b3

(4347)

on May 10, 2012
at 09:52 PM

Mine didn't. My mother taught me how to bake, and my dad taught me how to cook. And to enjoy doing it. Now, we had very little extra money (ate ramen and mac 'n cheese a lot for lunches), but my parents did care about whole foods whenever possible. They weren't fanatics, though. We did eat chocolate and ice cream and chips. I only ended up with an ED and other issues because of my family's OTHER problems (alcoholism, abuse). I appreciate that my parents TRIED to feed us well and to instill a love of cooking good food, even if they couldn't do it all the time.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on May 10, 2012
at 09:42 PM

(cont'd) a little chubby and i put myself on weight watchers, which worked. The weight watchers version of 'nutrition' stayed with me for the rest of my life until I found paleo. The theory resonated with me and I wanted to find ways to get fitter and manage my depression so I tried it and I will never go back.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on May 10, 2012
at 09:40 PM

Mine didn't scar me for life. I don't even remember what, if any, rules we had about food. I never had to clear my plate, my parents never instructed me to eat or not eat anything. My mom typically made meals with a protein, a starch and a veggie. We had tons of processed sweets around always (the other kids came to our house to pig out!) but I never binged on it. I remember feeling pretty autonomous and just sort of eating three meals a day and snacking on junk if I was hungry in between, but not really thinking about it. There was one point when I was about 13/14 where i got (cont'd)

Medium avatar

(10601)

on May 10, 2012
at 05:57 PM

Nothing as cheap and rewarding as box macncheese with hot dog slices mixed in. Cheap tasty food leads very easily to overeating and obesity later on.

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13 Answers

3
1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

on May 10, 2012
at 09:55 PM

Mine was terrible from the ages of 5-15, and from 12-15 I was severely anorexic. I had an anorexic mother, and my father has very high standards (not a bad thing, just can be a lot of pressure at times). our refrigerator kitchen looked like this, seriously- fat free or low fat plain yogurt, fruit, nuts, reduced fat swiss cheese, whole grain bread, protein powder, vegetables, eggs, wine, diet tonic water. We did go out and get ice cream many nights in the summer time and grill chicken, fish, lamb burgers, and hamburgers not infrequently as well.

For a long time I would eat yogurt with fruit in the morning, a tuna/cheese melt on whole grain bread for lunch, fruit as a snack, and then dinner (vegetables and meat, an apple with cheese, or scrambled eggs), and then at age 12 I switched to eating just these foods; yogurt (sometimes cottage cheese), fish, almonds, fruit, and broccoli, as well as exercising compulsively. By the time I was 13 I was full blown anorexic. Recovered at 15 and nearly died a few times between there.

It is now 7.5 years later and I am over 100lbs heavier and without relapse. I have a good relationship with food, although it was better before I started reading about paleo, mostly because of all the fear tactics employed. I have been paleo + yogurt (without knowing the term) since I was 13, with the exception of 2 years spent in junior and senior year of High school trying to gain muscle with the inclusion of oats and protein powder to my diet (the combination made up probably 20% of calories, which makes it not technically paleo anymore).

3
B4b56fcc5ebad76ed8e1709dedf01f86

on May 10, 2012
at 05:44 PM

Overall, "cheap" describes what I ate growing up, but I think it was normal food for the time (80s). Hot dogs, Shake n Bake pork chops, creamed chipped beef on toast (my dad's specialty), and "breakfast for dinner" (pancakes with eggs) come to mind. I recently asked my mom what we ate for vegetables and she said "frozen peas and corn". : / Vegetables were not important, it was the meat was considered the item that you couldn't leave on your plate (I assume because it was the most costly), and it was the meat that I liked the least. I remember flushing food down the toilet on a regular basis.

Cut to Middle School: I decide to be a vegetarian for ethical reasons (surely just to avoid eating meat). I don't remember being questioned about this - I assume my parents were too busy worrying about money. Cereal for breakfast, bagels with cream cheese and a New York Seltzer for lunch (anyone remember those?). We definitely weren't sitting down to dinner most nights by then. We just did our own thing (read: more cereal).

Around 9th grade, my dad is diagnosed with high cholesterol. We are all fully and completely terrified into not eating fat. I switch to dry bagels and eat only fat-free candy. We switch to skim milk and my dad is told not to eat eggs so I don't either. The good news: broccoli makes an appearance around 1990.

I start working in a restaurant at 16 and find I have a knack for cooking (which is really just a knack for being organized, IMO). In culinary school at age 21 I start eating meat again after 2 years of living on my own and subsisting on dry Gardenburgers and tofu. The first things I try are lamb chops and duck pate. I'm sold. In fact I can't believe how good meat tastes, considering I thought I hated it. My theory is that I was completely fat deprived. I added fat slowly over about 10 years, switching to 2% and then whole milk and cheeses and eating "rich" meats more often. About a year ago I realized that I still had several habits that were causing me to inadvertently limit my fats, so I've consciously made even more pro-fat changes. Pastured cream in my coffee, eating only fattier cuts of meat, etc..

I feel like my parents just ate to get full because they were broke. I don't think they cared about it much other than the basic notions of the time (milk=good eggs=bad). I have never really been able to connect my interest in cooking to their lack of it. I really think it was just a path that opened up that I took. Or maybe I was just starving!

My parents have a lot more money now. My dad has come around in these last 10 years and is into grilling and sausage making, which is awesome. Mom, not so much. She still has balloon bread toast with Blue Bonnet margarine (it's the cheapest!) for breakfast. I keep asking her to buy Kerrygold, but no dice. Even when I come to town and want to cook, she says "you spend way too much money on food" (we're talking about a twice a year $50 dinner here - and I'm paying!). Mostly now, I worry about her health, which is potentially related to feeling like she didn't worry about mine for so many years (?)

Great question. Enjoyed reading everyone elses responses, too. Thanks!

Medium avatar

(10601)

on May 10, 2012
at 05:57 PM

Nothing as cheap and rewarding as box macncheese with hot dog slices mixed in. Cheap tasty food leads very easily to overeating and obesity later on.

3
63a390e394971bd87e12b706fdb8456e

(309)

on May 10, 2012
at 02:46 PM

I grew up with parents who always did the low carb thing. They were never extreme, but breads & pastas were never a part of our routine meals. They were also big on whole foods. There were ups & downs with money, so sometimes our food quality reflected it. My parents each suffered from a wide variety of health issues that were always lessened or disappeared when carbs were cut and whole/fresh foods were abundant. I think this is a large part of why Paleo was the obvious lifestyle path for me.

3
Ebcbbdcb8b727e69e06eaa102d49a84c

on May 10, 2012
at 02:34 PM

Nobody in my family ever made a big deal about food so I didn't really have a "relationship" with it growing up. We were allowed to eat whatever we wanted. My parents were both semi-broke so it was a lot of easy, SAD food, but we never thought much about it. We weren't taught what healthy was.

I feel what I have now is definitely a relationship with food - we are officially going steady. I care about it more, put more effort into it and actually think about how food affects my body. That's what I call a relationship.

IMHO, Not thinking about it all and putting whatever is around into your body - that's not a relationship, that's just convenience and going through the motions, aka friend with [no] benefits.

2
Da7e812dfbc1d5ada748c1baa67f47c4

on May 10, 2012
at 03:30 PM

My family was constantly on and off of diets my whole life. It pretty much went from weight watchers to atkins to south beach and back. We pretty much lived off of diet sodas and fat free everything. When anyone would lose any weight, it was very short term. We always had a garden every summer, so that was probably the time of year that we ate the best foods. But, for every other season it was all pre packaged junk. My mother hated to cook so she took a lot of short cuts. Being raised in a way that i was always "on a diet" but still overweight, once I heard of Paleo, it just made sense to me. I have always been lactose intolerant, but even when I didn't have dairy my stomach would get upset after eating, especially eating out. Now that i eat Paleo, my stomach is never upset, I am losing weight in a healthy way, not just crash diet, and I have so much more energy!

2
Bbd349fe334481d99c091333b87cacb5

on May 10, 2012
at 02:53 PM

I learned nothing but terrible habits from my family! I think it really stems from a lack of information and the constant barrage of nutrition fallacies from the media and mainstream programs like Weight Watchers. How could fat not make you fat?

I grew up never eating red meat and eating lots of gluten and processed foods. Throughout my whole life, I would wake up in the middle of the night almost once a week and get sick. I had test after test done with no answers as to what could be causing this. I was prescribed acid reflux medication from our pill-happy primary care doctor and took that from ages 10 until 15. It didn't help. Doctor suggested cutting out caffeine, which made me turn to 7up and Sprite as my sodas of choice. I had an eating disorder throughout my adolescence and ended up with an iron deficiency. I felt like complete crap constantly. My mother is not very educated and follows the "ignorance is bliss" mentality. She continued to feed me garbage and dismissed my complaints of not feeling well.

When I was 19 I read a book about the dangers of processed foods and pesticides. I went completely organic and I have not gotten sick like that since. I think I was allergic to high fructose corn syrup from the sodas I was drinking, if that's even a possibility. I continued to eat gluten and little to no fat. I heard Robb Wolf on a podcast I listen to about 6 months ago and decided to try Paleo. I have never felt better.

I'm still having a difficult time shaking the habits that were instilled in me by my family. It's hard to make my brain understand that red meat is okay and the iron makes me feel so great. I instinctively buy turkey bacon instead of pork bacon and have to remind myself "No, this is okay." I've noticed that the more I educate myself about the physiological side of nutrition, the easier it is to believe in it.

Coincidentally, I am convinced that my mother has celiac disease. She has had the catch-all diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome for over a decade and takes medication daily to treat it. I suggest Paleo and she dismisses it, saying that she can't live without bread and pasta. It's a losing battle. I know how you feel, people can grasp the concept of whole foods but for some reason they can't handle the gluten and dairy side of things.

1
Ba20b502cf02b5513ea8c4bb2740d8cb

on May 10, 2012
at 11:40 PM

Haha...great question? I'm pretty sure my mom had a eating disorder and was an emotional eater, and my dad was a health freak, so the combination of the two-under one roof-probably spawned a food neurotic.

1
Bc3f04f68d0c67a32e95904d0628d610

on May 10, 2012
at 11:15 PM

I was raised on the health food of the late 1970's/early 80's.. snacks of whole fruit (here, have an orange!), shredded wheat, peanut butter, banana and honey sandwiches on whole wheat bread, putting brewer's yeast on popcorn and smoothies, carob instead of chocolate, and absolutely NO sugar or fast food allowed.

My dad is Japanese, so EVERY meal had the ubiquitous sticky white rice as a side, even if the meal itself wasn't particularly Asian. We ate mostly chicken or fish for dinner, usually with a side of broccoli or another veggie, and ALWAYS had milk with dinner. We eventually discovered that both my sister and I were lactose intolerant, so we drank that sickly sweet yellowish lactose-free stuff in its place.

I wasn't a terribly picky eater as a kid - I loved eating spicy Indian food, salmon, sushi, tofu, you name it, and I'm grateful that I was exposed to a variety of foods at a young age, as it's made me more of an adventurous eater today.

I went through a vegetarian phase in middle school, which basically consisted of me mooing obnoxiously at the rest of the family while they ate their meatballs. I even went vegan for awhile, but it was actually a strong craving for tuna sashimi of all things that broke me.

The No Sugar rule was definitely a struggle, and my sister and I would sneak candy whenever we could. My parents stressed to our teachers and friends' parents that we couldn't have sugar, so there were plenty of adults who assumed we were diabetic and freaked out when we managed to sneak half a slice of birthday cake before they stopped us. We even had to turn over our Halloween candy to our parents! We compared our lot to our friends, who could seemingly eat whatever they wanted, and declared life unfair. Enter college, and the realization that I could now eat as much junk food as I wanted. Cue diagnosis of IBS. Looking back at the crap I was eating, I shouldn't have been surprised that I was often laid up with horrible stomach pains. At the time, though, I had very little understanding of nutrition. Junk food had been this forbidden fruit all my life, but now the leash was off, and I was free to gorge myself to my heart's content.

Gradually, my eating shifted back in a healthier direction. Cooking was fun - I liked those projects that took hours and impressed people I wanted to feed. I rediscovered fresh produce. My appreciation for real food started to return, but my IBS continued to nag at me.

Many years and many dietary changes later, I've realized that I feel my best eating a Paleo diet. (What IBS?) But, boy, it took some getting here!

Essentially, there was a rebellion/rebound trajectory to my finding my own way with food in relation to how we ate as a family growing up. Making some foods off limits made them irresistible at the time. However, I'm grateful to my parents for laying some of the groundwork, as it doesn't feel like a sacrifice or too much of an adjustment to eat real food today. Who knew that all these years later I'd actually be thanking them for the No Sugar rule?

1
4b05d725a8332e8e917a4ca58b6e8a1e

(1239)

on May 10, 2012
at 10:03 PM

I grew up on a diet that, at the time, my parents were sure was healthy. My mom and dad were (are) both excellent cooks. We ate out rarely and convenience foods were not staples in our household. But I recall a lot of pasta, rice, bread, baked goods, and other crap mixed in the the fresh vegetables and fruits. Even still, none of us were ever overweight. Maybe the thing that saved us is that we are all so active. My parents were (are) ardent runners and bikers (my father at the age of 55 is still running marathons), my brother was a strong athlete, and I've dabbled in just about every sport I could.

Now that I'm more aware, however, I'm constantly wondering if the conditions that have manifested in my immediate family are diet related. My mother has chronic high blood pressure, my brother suffers from severe depression and anxiety (I am 95% sure he is gluten intolerant, but he has never been tested), and my father is managing MS. I am lucky that the worst thing I have to deal with is anemia.

Fortunately, my parents have completely changed their diets to include a huge amount of high-quality, organic meats, fruits, vegetables, and starches. I wouldn't call them paleo since both indulge in wheat products on an infrequent basis, but compared to where they were even a couple of years ago, it's a vast improvement. My mom has been able to reduce her blood pressure medication by 75% and my dad has ZERO MS symptoms (he hasn't been on medication for going on two years now). Is this all diet-related? I couldn't say, but it's an amazing shift nonetheless.

1
F5f742cc9228eb5804114d0f3be4e587

(7660)

on May 10, 2012
at 09:28 PM

I'm kinda curious after reading these responses so far. Anyone else's upbringing not scar them for life?

My childhood consisted of Domino's pizza, KFC, McDonalds, Taco Bell, huge bowls of whatever chocolatey cereal we had (Mmm...Cocoa Pebbles and Cookie Crisp were faves), big glasses of chocolate milk, liters of Coke, Pop-Tarts, Fruit Roll-Ups, chips, Little Debbie's snack cakes, Twinkies, candy bars. You know.

When we did cook it was huge vats of chili, spaghetti, or maybe a roast. All veggies came from cans.

I'm lucky I didn't have a weight problem or an eating disorder, and maybe that's the difference, because as soon as I was out of the house, I began to explore healthier eating and cooking. Which of course still ended up sinking me in the end until I found Paleo.

I'm curious about this topic not for my own upbringing, but for my daughter's. What will she think of all this? Will she someday be on a forum talking about her horrible Paleo upbringing and how wrong her silly parents were to think saturated fat was okay? I wonder.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on May 10, 2012
at 09:42 PM

(cont'd) a little chubby and i put myself on weight watchers, which worked. The weight watchers version of 'nutrition' stayed with me for the rest of my life until I found paleo. The theory resonated with me and I wanted to find ways to get fitter and manage my depression so I tried it and I will never go back.

E36cb992cf0a5eba8b97a359c15f38b3

(4347)

on May 10, 2012
at 09:52 PM

Mine didn't. My mother taught me how to bake, and my dad taught me how to cook. And to enjoy doing it. Now, we had very little extra money (ate ramen and mac 'n cheese a lot for lunches), but my parents did care about whole foods whenever possible. They weren't fanatics, though. We did eat chocolate and ice cream and chips. I only ended up with an ED and other issues because of my family's OTHER problems (alcoholism, abuse). I appreciate that my parents TRIED to feed us well and to instill a love of cooking good food, even if they couldn't do it all the time.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on May 10, 2012
at 09:40 PM

Mine didn't scar me for life. I don't even remember what, if any, rules we had about food. I never had to clear my plate, my parents never instructed me to eat or not eat anything. My mom typically made meals with a protein, a starch and a veggie. We had tons of processed sweets around always (the other kids came to our house to pig out!) but I never binged on it. I remember feeling pretty autonomous and just sort of eating three meals a day and snacking on junk if I was hungry in between, but not really thinking about it. There was one point when I was about 13/14 where i got (cont'd)

1
5e63e3fa78e998736106a4a5b9aef58c

on May 10, 2012
at 08:50 PM

My mother knew we were supposed to get "well-rounded" meals, but vegetables in our household meant peas, carrots, corn, iceberg lettuce salads, and (until us kids mutinied) lima beans. A salad made with romaine was a big deal. Since my dad didn't like most veg, and my mom was forced to eat too many unpalatable, overcooked vegetables when she was a kid, she didn't push us to try different things. And, to be honest, I don't think she knew how to cook them. At any rate, I didn't eat spinach until I was a teenager, asparagus and Brussels sprouts until I was well into my 20s, and kale in my mid-30s--and yet I was a vegan in my mid-20s. Go figure.

We ate a lot of hot dogs, spaghetti, Tuna Helper, Kraft Mac & Cheese, chili, and various things served over noodles or rice. When my mom stopped buying white bread in favor of wheat, it was the kind of wheat bread that is really just white bread in "healthy" drag. We went through huge jars of jelly in no time flat, and cinnamon-sugar toast or Maple & Brown Sugar-flavored instant oatmeal were breakfast staples. We also ate a lot of canned fruit in heavy syrup. But there wasn't much in the way of junky snack food on hand, except Fritos for my dad, and we never drank sodas at home.

I think part of the reason behind this was because my mother ended up cooking two dinners every night for a lot of years. My dad often didn't roll in until very late, and was picky about his dinner--whereas us kids weren't. Also, she spent several years skimming money from the grocery budget so she could afford to divorce him, and she had to economize on our dinners (hot dogs) because she couldn't do it with his (steak).

I was a chubby kid, and grew up hearing all about it. I went on my first serious diet in 4th grade. I was miserable and became a comfort eater, sneaking food whenever I could. And while my dad and I had a difficult relationship, he was a fellow unhappy glutton, and food (especially huge platters of Mexican food) was one of the few things we could bond over. (I now make a killer machaca con huevos, and it's one of the few father-daughter bonding foods I can still eat with impunity. That, and carnitas.)

However, I can also remember him sitting there, with his big, soft double chin, looking at me and asking, "What would it take to get you to lose weight?" when I was about 10 years old. Eating was pleasure and solace and companionship--but it was also shame and failure and everything that was wrong with me. And the women in my family were no help there, because to be fat was the worst thing you could be, especially if you were female. By the time I was 12, everyone in my family was playing Food Police with me. I couldn't put anything in my mouth without it being judged fattening or not. It was made clear that I was going to have to spend the rest of my life like my (slim) mother--eating salads, pasta, rice cakes, egg-white omelets, and other "light" foods in tiny amounts--because everything I actually liked to eat (including lots and lots of meat) was too fattening.

What my mom made for dinner didn't change--it was still the same cheap, processed food she'd always made. And when I didn't lose weight, it was my fault for being a piggy. So I hardly ate anything at home, then binged on sugar at school (we had vending machines even then, in 1985, and a student store that sold candy and sodas at lunchtime). And I stayed an endlessly-dieting sugar junkie until just over a year ago.

These days, my mom's a low-carber and it's easy for us to get together for a meal (though I wish she'd eat more fat; she could use it). And ever since my dad was diagnosed Type 2 he's more careful about what he eats, but he's still a binge waiting to happen as well as a "can't give up bread and pasta" type. My kid sister, who has always been zaftig, is married to a guy who was raised vegetarian and is really neurotic about food; she's following his lead for now, eating lots of soy, lots of grains, no dairy, and using canola and flaxseed oils (seriously, there's nothing I can eat in their house), and wondering why she can't lose weight. She's not in a headspace where I can talk to her about it, and to change her eating habits would cause a lot of friction with her husband, so I just keep doing what I'm doing and stay the hell out of it. When she's ready, she'll change.

1
5759bd89db5f73cabe0a6e8f8e6e1cb9

(1467)

on May 10, 2012
at 04:59 PM

I remember my mom was always on a diet; the grapefruit diet, food combining diet and the low carb diet. None of my parents ever cooked..My father was always eating spicy food, my brother couldn't eat spicy food, I was allergic to several things and my sister was fussy so the cook would always have to make several different dishes for all of us.

My parents have never been overweight and my father did/does not like fat people so it was inconceivable that any of us would be overweight and not surprisingly that my sister ended up with anorexia at some point. (Not that I am blaming my parents as it's much more complicated than that)

I remember my grandmother with her bag of vitamins and supplements, then my mum had a bag of vitamins and supplements then I had a whole bunch of vitamins and supplements.

We've always eaten 'healthy' as a family. I.e the traditional notion of healthy; low fat, whole foods, avoiding deep fried foods but ALL of us; my mum, dad, sister and brother had stomach problems, allergies and felt crap. My grandmother died of cancer.

Interestingly enough, the closest to paleo in my family is my grandfather; Only ever eats when he's hungry, small meals, fruits, vegetables..low carb..and he's 90 in a year or so.. And he never had a vitamin or supplement bag.

1
8e10b687e328468783a72c55b64710e8

on May 10, 2012
at 02:56 PM

I was taught that if I didn't die from eating food, it wasn't an intolerance or an allergy. Since young, a lot of us are taught to think that we are invincible; we can do anything, we can eat anything without getting sick. Once I acknowledged my vulnerability and that I may actually have food intolerance, that's when I became healthier.

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