I grew up in a typical southern household, where dieting habits were certainly never a discussion at the dinner table. On one hand, I’m grateful for this. It taught me not to look at food as calories, or dieting as a way to live. I loved my Kraft mac and cheese with a side of homemade mashed potatoes and fried cube steak or chicken, just like most kids my age. And my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on white bread with a side of Pringles and a boxed juice drink were a daily favorite I'll never forget. I’m grateful I got to experience food freedom on one hand, but I never realized just how much my upbringing or my family, influenced my dieting habits for years to come. Later on, when I was a teen, I still saw junk food and fried food as true food, which clearly, they aren’t. I couldn’t understand why I gained weight when I hardly ate anything except a few pieces of fried chicken for lunch, or a fast food meal for dinner. Later on, this led me to unhealthy dieting habits that took years to overcome. Many people never think about how their family surroundings influence their dieting habits. Then, the evolution of this habit continues generation to generation, while diseases like diabetes and heart disease continue to rise. In good ways or bad, whether like mine or not, your family’s dieting habits can affect your own. To take care of yourself and not turn your back on your mom’s good cooking, just keep these little things in mind, and learn to strive for balance above all else.
Tradition is one of the most influential aspects on your dieting habits of all. Tradition above all else will influence your beliefs about food, your feelings about food, how you believe food is meant to be eaten, and your family’s beliefs about how you should eat. All these things affect your dieting habits. Just like most people in America can’t imagine having Thanksgiving without the turkey and stuffing, people from other countries can’t imagine eating meat at all. See, it’s still Thanksgiving without the turkey or the stuffing, but it’s the family traditions that affect what people put on their plate.
Another way your family influences your dieting habits is their acceptance of your diet, or your wanting to be accepted by your family. If you turn down your mother’s cooking, or want to cook something that your family might not like, you might hesitate out of wanting to be accepted instead. Sound familiar? For example, I learned to cook for myself at age 18, and quit eating like my family. It did come with a bit of disagreement from them, but only at first. They eventually got used to it, though it took a lot of time. Many people also eat to feel accepted by men or women. A woman might order a dainty salad and piece of fish for her meal, when she really wants to chow down on a burger and fries, all to be accepted by her date. These are, of course, just examples, but all serve as ways acceptance plays a part in the way your family, or even your partners and friends, influence your dieting habits.
3. Dieting Parents
On the flip side of the way I grew up, you might have grown up with parents that emphasized healthy eating and dieting. Or, perhaps, you have family now that does this, even as an adult. It might make you feel tempted to diet, or eat low calorie foods. Or, if they eat a certain way to lose weight, you might feel you should too.
One other way that many people are affected by their family when it comes to their diet is money and financial resources. If your family has an abundance of money, you might be more apt to eat out at restaurants, where sodium and calories are always higher than most meals cooked at home. Or, you might come from a low income family, where your family purchases cheaper, more processed meals. If you’re lucky, your family might even have the money to purchase organic, local foods, grass fed meat and eggs, and wild fish, which would influence you to have an incredible healthy diet. Or, they may make financial sacrifices elsewhere to make this available to your family for your best health. We all know money is powerful, and it directly affects your dieting habits one way or the other.
I can’t smell spaghetti without getting a huge sense of love come over me, because it reminds me of Monday nights as a kid, which were always my favorite. Spaghetti night was hands down the best night of the week for me. My mom knew this and always prepared spaghetti, garlic toast, and sweet iced tea, freshly made of course. That smell will always remind me of love, even though I know eating it would make me physically sick since my diet is much healthier now. I can still appreciate that smell without having to eat it, but it wasn’t always that way. For years, I associated food directly with love. I ate foods because they reminded me of memories associated with that food. It took years to see that the food didn’t make the love happen, my family did. Spaghetti will not automatically make me any more loved, but being with my mom and experiencing that same feeling will. It’s okay to love food, but don’t equate food directly with love. They’re both wonderful, but in very different ways.
Eating with your family provides a sense of nurturing, and what a great gift! I love to cook for other people, and bake goodies for anyone I can think of. It gives me a sense of nurturing I don’t get to experience most of the time. Your dieting habits are almost always affected by this generous gift from others as well. Does someone else prepare meals for you? That’s not a bad thing, but it will affect how you eat. Or, do you provide meals to serve a large group of people and usually eat what you fix? That, too, will affect your dieting habits. It’s okay not to eat something someone fixes for you if you don’t feel it’s right for your health needs, or your body. It doesn’t mean you can’t be nurtured, but food isn’t the only way we can provide nourishment to others. Give someone your time, extend thanks to them, prepare them a healthy meal, or go on a walk with them. We can nurture and nourish people in different ways than just by baking them cookies and cooking them a hearty, heavy meal.
This is similar to being accepted, but somewhat different. Your family’s opinion of your diet might also have an effect on your dieting habits. Do you often ask your family for advice on eating? Or, do you think about how your mom or husband will feel about how you eat, and make choices from there? Do you think about what they would want you to cook, instead of what you want to cook? For instance, many women cook to make their husbands satisfied because they care about their opinions. Definitely not a bad thing necessarily, but think about how others’ opinions are affecting your diet. If changes need to be made, talk to them about it, and tell them how you feel. Most likely, if they love you, they’ll support you, no matter what food is on the table in the process. Food is always secondary to fellowship with others.
Our family and even our friends can affect our dieting habits, all in different ways. Does your family affect your dieting habits? How so?