What are some of your insecurities and deep wounds? What behavioral and emotional cycles do you unwillingly repeat? My husband and I often speak about maladaptive intergenerational patterns we’ve acquired and how we want to change them. We both believe in the importance of therapy and introspection, and we’ve spent ample amounts of time and resources to create healthier patterns for ourselves and our children.
One particular pattern we have tried to change is our relationship with food, health, and body image. We have both struggled with our weight intermittently throughout our lives, and it has negatively impacted our self-perception. We’ve spent the last few years engaging in healthier lifestyles and working on body positivity.
My husband’s journey began in Communist Russia where resources were limited, and they often grew their own fruits and vegetables. Not only was the quality of their food better, but everyone found exercise simply by taking care of the land. When my husband came to America, he had a hard time transitioning to the processed foods and removal of daily of exercise from his lifestyle. His family also had access to many more resources here, and methods of cooking that were once used for survival were no longer adept at keeping the family nourished.
The entire family had to adjust, but my husband really struggled. And after a life changing car accident and ensuing back injury, he struggled even more to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
I struggled for very different reasons. I grew up in a family where weight was very important. My dad works in television; my mom works in fitness, and I just never had the same kind of body my other family members had. In an attempt to make sure I had the best opportunities, my parents unknowingly helped create a cycle where I developed pretty severe body image issues. I know they were simply trying to make sure I was healthy, but the consistent concern about my weight in childhood, led to a lot of insecurities in adulthood.
I’ve since found out I have a lot of food sensitivities which make me gain weight and feel ill, and I’ve refocused my efforts on feeling great, instead of looking skinny. I spent years seeing a nutritionist and a therapist to work on improving my body image and finding balance in my life, before I had children. I went with one goal: I wanted to break the cycle my family of origin had unknowingly passed down to me. I remember walking in and saying, “I want to change how I feel about myself because I never want my daughter to feel the way I feel about myself right now.”
Little did I know I would soon have three beautiful daughters, and I am so thankful I did the work. I knew that if I didn’t create a new pattern, my daughters would struggle in the same ways I did. What started as a promise to my future children became a journey of self-discovery where I traced the impact food has had on my life. I saw where I used food as a coping skill; I saw where I restricted; I saw where I binged; I saw how my priorities had become misaligned. I was drinking way too much with friends and eating too many desserts to cope with my feelings.
I was out of balance, and I was unraveling. I began to work on myself from the inside out, with the help of my nutritionist and therapist. This experience trickled down to my family. My husband and I started losing weight without dieting, simply because we were dedicated to drinking less, focused on feeling good, and resolved to remove shame from food. We reframed our experience. We focused on food being fuel for our bodies, and began choosing foods that made us feel good and gave us energy.
We still eat dessert and drink wine (or beer), but they are no longer coping skills. We enjoy them in moderation, and we’re setting the best example we can for our children. I am so proud of the progress we’ve made. Our kids love all foods. They eat fruits, vegetables, different types of protein, and whole grains, and I am so thankful we have been able to give our kids a great launching point for their overall health.
We’ve given them a palette for healthy foods and a love of exercise like yoga and dancing, and that’s all I ever wanted. I never wanted them to be strict with their diets or exercise regimens. I simply wanted them to have an appreciation for wholesome foods and enjoyable activities, so they had a great foundation to decide how they wanted to live their lives as they matured. We’ve focused on removing stigma from food and exercise, and instead, we strive for balance where our body tells us what it wants to feel great. We try to teach our girls how to listen to their body cues and how to live balanced lives that make them happy.
All parents want to give their children is opportunity. Yev and I do everything we can to set our children up for success, and food is part of the foundation. With proper nutrition, and a healthy body image, our kids are one step ahead in achieving their dreams. You may think I’m placing too much emphasis on food and weight and body image, but how many of you have felt inadequate simply because of your weight? How many of you have been cruel to yourself just because of your size?
Society places way more emphasis on how we look than what is important or even good for us. So in this one regard, I have begun to teach my girls to respect their bodies, and that is one lesson that will grow with them as they mature into women.