Diet Not Working? How Old Family Patterns Could Be Holding You Back
If you have tried and failed to lose weight, but can’t find a reason why do you get stuck, it is sometimes helpful to look at the attitude to food in your family of origin. You might still be unconsciously clinging to old familiar patterns that prevent you from making your own decisions.
Some of my clients say that they fail they diets simply because “everyone in our family is big”, so it must be the genes. Certainly, there are certain hereditary medical conditions that can cause obesity, but more often I find that it is the “psychological inheritance” that is causing the problem.
Think back to your family of origin. Were some of your family members considered overweight? Maybe your parents, brothers and sisters were all big and you just had to fit in?
“I was always fat, - said Lora, so whatever diets I try, it just does not work”. For one of the sessions I have asked Lora to bring in her photo as a child. I was surprised to see a picture of a skinny little girl with curly hair. My client was equally surprised – she obviously could not remember herself being like that. Her parents and her sister were all big and Lora, first mentally and then physically, was doing her best to fit in. The shock of seeing herself as she was made Lora completely rethink her self image. Shifting extra weight then became just a matter of time.
It is quite common for a child to play a certain “role” in a family – a “quiet one”, a “naughty one”, a “fat one” etc. Often these roles are given in accordance to parent’s own unprocessed issues and have little to do with looks or temperament of a real child.
If your nickname has been “pumpkin” or “fatso” in the past, does not mean that you have to live up to it for the rest of your life. Try to invent a new nickname for yourself!
Sometimes we simply “inherit” our weight problems from our parents. If mother has spent all her life on diets worrying about her figure, it is quite likely, that the daughter will follow in mother’s footsteps. Think about the attitude to food and eating in your family and how it is affecting your life now.
Remember a typical mealtime in your family – was a family gathered together at the table or was everyone eating by him or herself? Was a family meal a pleasant event – time to relax and connect with each other or it was a thing to be avoided?
John’s recollection of his family meals was of constant bickering, sometimes turning into violent argument. As a little boy, John always tried to eat his meal as fast as possible and then disappear into his room. As a grown up, John developed a tendency to gulp down his meals as fast as possible, hardly registering what he was actually eating.
As a child, did you always have to finish what was on your plate, even if you did not like your food?
As a grown up, Jan was still finishing everything on her plate, whilst listening to her grandma voice in her head, telling her to remember the starving children in Africa. As a result, Jan was eating way more than she needed and had to learn to listen to her body and acknowledge being full.
Maybe it was a custom in your family to express love and care via food? Or maybe sweets were used as a reward for good behavior or top marks at school?
If food was the only form of positive encouragement employed by your parents, there is little wonder that now you are having such a hard time controlling your food intake.
When you will acknowledge all the habits that you inherited from your family in relationship to food, you will become clear about your own tastes and preferences. This will allow you to work out the best eating plan, that will be suitable just for you, rather than replicating a family script.
Our family history is a great source of information. I have touched upon only the most common issues connected with body image. In depth work with a therapist will allow you to discover much more.
All names and details of the case studies have been changes due to confidentiality reasons