Mothers, Daughters and Food

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A girl is sitting on the grass and having a picnic among green and yellow-leaved trees.

For so many women, the reason they decide to heal their relationship with food and eating is simple: they have a daughter, and they don’t want their daughter to experience the same pain and suffering that they did.

Mothers know how hard it is to find a healthy, positive relationship with food when you live in a society that continually tells women and girls that their bodies aren’t good enough, that they need to change themselves in order to be loved, and that the wrong food choices will make them less desirable. But sometimes even the best-intentioned mother doesn’t know how to help her daughter navigate this tricky territory and come out with a strong sense of self-esteem.

In this heartfelt new video from #IPEtv, Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, explores the unique dynamics of the mother-daughter relationship and shares the number one most important thing a mother can do to guide her daughter toward a positive relationship with food and body.

Here is a transcript of this week’s video:

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

Today’s Topic: Mothers, Daughters, and Food

Let’s get real about something – women have a particularly interesting and unique relationship with food. Simply by virtue of the fact that the female of the species is the biological nourisher – she feeds her infant via breast milk – places her in an unusual position. Furthermore, a woman’s body – and in specific, her womb – literally becomes the feeding ground for the growing and yet-to-be-born child.

The process of nourishment and the connection of women to food is deep, primal, emotional, biological, cosmic, genetic, and oftentimes, a mystery.

This is a beautiful thing.

But for many women, this deep and primal relationship with food becomes problematic. It’s enough to try to heal and manage one’s own crazy relationship with food and body image and weight. And things become even more challenging when a woman with a difficult relationship with food has a daughter.

These days, I meet a lot of women who have a very heartfelt and immediate concern about their daughters and food. They don’t want their girl to have an eating disorder. They don’t want her chronically dieting. They don’t want her hating her body. They don’t want their daughter weighing herself four times a day. In short, they don’t want their daughters to be like them.

Of course, only a loving and aware mother would be gracious enough to even have such a loving thought. That’s the good news.

But here’s the conundrum: if a mother can’t heal her own relationship with food and body, and lives in constant shame and judgment about what she ate and how she looks – then how can her daughter possibly turn out much different?

This, by the way, is a very good question.

Here’s the deal:

Children are great observers, but poor interpreters. Did you catch that? Kids don’t miss a thing. They see and observe everything. They just don’t interpret what they see in a mature and worldly way. For example, a child could see mommy and daddy fighting – accurate observation – mommy and daddy are fighting. But then they make the poor interpretation called “this must be all my fault.”

Daughters model after their mothers. They want to. They have to. No matter how much you as a mother try to hide things, your daughter will sniff things out. She’ll pick things up through the invisible airwaves. She won’t even know that she’s absorbing for herself the same relationship with her body that you have. If you diet, she’ll diet. If you constantly criticize yourself in little ways, she’ll begin to do the same. If you think you’re not good enough and can’t be lovable because you don’t have the perfect body, your daughter will be happy to be just like her mommy. That’s what children do. That’s what a daughter does in relation to her mother. She doesn’t know how to relate with her own body – so she wisely watches you and models herself accordingly. And the rest is history.

So mothers have a very good reason to be concerned about their daughters when it comes to food and body. Even if a mother does every single thing correct and has a wonderful relationship with eating, our daughters are still exposed to culture, to media, to the world. They can still grow up with eating challenges and a disdain for their own physical form.

So if you’re a mother, please let go of thinking that your daughter’s experience of food and body is somehow your fault. So many factors come into play.

And, what your daughter learns from you at a young age will be with her forever.

This isn’t meant to scare you. It isn’t meant to put you on notice. It isn’t meant to make you wrong. This is meant to inspire you. This is meant to uplift you.

Here’s the good news:

The greatest gift you can give your daughter is this – do everything you can to heal your own relationship with food and body. Have a more loving relationship with these. More care. More connection. More positive regard. Look at yourself in the mirror lovingly. Speak kind words about your body. Love the act of eating. Embrace nourishment. Receive pleasure from food. Luxuriate in your own body. Move. Dance. Celebrate. Show your daughter that you’re turned on by food, by your own body, and by life.

Do your best here. You don’t need to be perfect at all this. You just need to be actively getting better and better.

Give your daughter the gift of working on yourself as best you can.

Do this really soon.

Love is immediate.

Nothing more needs to happen for you to love your body right now than to simply choose to love it right now.

Mothers pass on a legacy to their daughters. What’s your legacy?

I hope this was helpful my friends.

To learn more about us please go to

The Institute for the Psychology of Eating offers the most innovative and inspiring professional trainings, public programs, conferences, online events and lots more in the exciting fields of Dynamic Eating Psychology and Mind Body Nutrition! In our premier professional offering – the Eating Psychology Coach Certification Training – you can grow a new career and help your clients in a powerful way with food, body and health. You’ll learn cutting edge skills and have the confidence to work with the most compelling eating challenges of our times: weight, body image, overeating, binge eating, digestion, fatigue, immunity, mood and much more. If you’re focused on your own eating and health, the Institute offers a great selection of one-of-a-kind opportunities to take a big leap forward in your relationship with food. We’re proud to be international leaders in online and live educational events designed to create the breakthroughs you want most. Our public programs are powerful, results oriented, and embrace all of who we are as eaters – body, mind, heart and soul.

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

A girl is sitting on the grass and having a picnic among green and yellow-leaved trees.

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