Are You in a Food and Body Competition with Your Daughter

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Do you have beliefs or habits around eating that seem like they have been a part of your life for as long as you can remember? If you trace these aspects of your relationship with food back to their origins, you might be surprised to learn that their roots reach even farther than your own birth. So many of us learn how to relate to food, eating, and our bodies from our parents.

But when our parents weren’t fully loved, nurtured, or cared for when they were children themselves, they’re likely to pass their unresolved issues on to their own kids – often without even realizing it. If you’ve ever felt frustrated or hurt by the messages you’ve received from your parents about your body or your relationship with food, or if you want to help your children develop healthy, loving attitudes toward themselves, please tune in to this illuminating and heart-felt new video from #IPEtv.

Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, will share some insights into the unique characteristics of mother-daughter bonds and how these special connections can shape our attitudes toward food and eating for life.

In the comments below, please let us know your thoughts. We love hearing from you and we read and respond to every comment!

Below is a transcript of this week’s video:

Greetings friends, this is Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating.

Now this might sound a little odd at first. After all, what mother would want to compete with her own child around eating, weight or anything for that matter?

But I think this is something very useful to consider, because there are lots of mother daughter relationships that are challenged, strained, and filled with unspoken emotions, disappointments, and a fundamental lack of synergy and real understanding.

I meet women in their 50s, 60s and 70s who still feel shortchanged and resentful of the poor mothering they felt they received, or indeed did receive. Likewise, I encounter plenty of girls in their teens and twenties who are in a psychic battle with their moms, and feel they aren’t seen and understood.

And one thing that so many of them have in common is that their relationship with food is fraught with struggle, and they feel ashamed of their own body.

I think there’s a powerful connection here that needs to be brought into the light.

Here’s what I mean:

When a woman becomes a mother, but hasn’t yet stepped into true “adulthood” – the mother/daughter bond will be predictably problematic. Stepping into adulthood means we no longer function as a child or youth, we’ve integrated to a good degree our early life and have grown beyond our youthful immaturity and into a sense of dignity, authority, responsibility, and mentorship. Stepping into adulthood means we have the ability to unconditionally love and accept – to a consistent degree.

But when a woman hasn’t had the kind of healthy parenting and upbringing that she needed – she can unknowingly lay that all in the lap of her own daughter.

And what that looks like is competition. There’s a constant critique and judgment of her daughter. She wants her daughter to have what she didn’t have – but another part of her doesn’t want this because she was short-changed herself.

A mother in this position literally can’t help herself, because her character development has been stunted. She’s still waiting for her own experience of being loved, adored and nurtured.

The criticism often shows up around weight, size, shape, looks and eating.
Girls are exquisitely vulnerable to such criticism. It cuts to the core. And it can live inside her for decades if she doesn’t, at some point, take notice that her inner world has been sullied by a mother who didn’t have the understanding or the maturity to steer her body and soul in a loving and thoughtful direction.

Here’s the punch-line:

When girls don’t feel unconditional acceptance and approval from their mothers, they’ll often follow a path of trying to fill this empty void. And food is what so many girls will turn to.

This can look like all kinds of unwanted habits with eating – especially turning to food for comfort and connection and love – exactly what they wanted, and should have received – from mama.

This can also look like getting a sense of empowerment by controlling their weight – which is the same as controlling their food. The result could be chronic dieting, extreme exercise, or eating disorders.

So if you’re a mother, here’s a tip:

First and foremost, you’re not your daughters peer, not her friend, you’re not her sister – you are an adult who has been given the role of mother. This is a very specific role unlike all others. Don’t compete with your daughter. Watch your level of criticism of her. Make sure to exude plenty of praise for your daughter – her body, her beauty, her life. Make her feel that she is loved by the most important woman in her life – you.

And if you’re a woman who has felt a bit short-changed by the mothering you received – if your mom was overly critical or even hurtful towards you around food, body and your looks – or anything for that matter – do your best to let it go. Really. Begin to see your mom as someone who never got what she needed. Invite some forgiveness. Who knows how difficult a time your own mother had? Do you truly know her story, her childhood, and what she endured? This isn’t easy work, it won’t happen over night, but it’s a beautiful goal to set you sights on.

I hope this was helpful, my friends. Please email us at if you have specific questions and we will be sure to get back to you.


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