Jenna Petersen, Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor

October 28, 2020

Have you ever caught yourself telling someone else in your family or friend circle what to do with their eating? You may have made a comment about their portion size, food of choice, or time of day when they chose to eat.

We’ve all probably done this at some point. I know I have! I can clearly remember being a high school student on a road trip with my immediate family when my dad ate some candy during the car ride home around 10:00am in the morning. I made a negative comment about how I couldn’t possibly eat sugar that early in the morning and didn’t want any of the very yummy candy that we had purchased at the old-fashioned 5 and dime store near my grandparents’ house.

You might be wondering where this comment came from, being the Intuitive Eating Counselor that I am now. At the time, I was living out of a dieting mentality and very restrictive of sugar myself. I now know that my negative dieting mindset may have ruined his experience of food freedom on that family trip. One thing is for sure: it didn’t help our relationship in a positive way, and if I could, I would go back and alter what I said at the time.

This is one example of a child being restrictive of a parents’ eating patterns, but the reverse can also happen. Parents can be restrictive of their children’s eating patterns, or they can promote overconsumption of food for their children. This can be especially true when, from a young age, parents are used to telling their children what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat. This pattern does not honor a child’s natural Intuitive Eating signals.

The same would be true for parents talking to elementary, middle, or high-school aged students who could stand to gain or lose some weight in the parents’ eyes.

When we try to tell someone in a different sized body from us what, when, or how much to eat, we are often doing so because we think their body shape or size needs to change. Often, their body shape doesn’t need to change. Incessantly telling a child, parent, roommate, or friend to eat a certain way can result in a host of negative emotional, social, physical, and intellectual impacts. 

Consider this an invitation to reevaluate your approach! My approach with relationships is far different than it used to be, and it is the same approach that I use with every person who becomes a client in my private practice.

Intuitive Eating is aligned with the Health At Every Size (HAES) framework. Both HAES and Intuitive Eating provide practical steps to help you learn to appropriately respond to your loved ones.

If you have approached your family member or friend about their eating because you think they have a relationship with food that needs to be healed, send them my way! I help people manage diagnosed eating disorders, like anorexia, binge eating disorder, and bulimia. I can also help with yo-yo dieting, feeling out of control with food, and having a poor body image. I love to address these areas with my clients, and I want to get to know you and your loved one.

As I join your support team, I can give you some practical steps along the way that will help you in your relationship with the person you love, so that you can do your best to help them in their journey with food without hindering it in ways that can slow down this process of healing.