Our relationship with food is a reflection of other relationships in our lives. It is these areas that become wonderful doorways for us to walk through to help us discover the things that can cause our discomfort around food, body image or weight. As women, one of the most impactful doorways to walk through for exploration is how our relationship with food is a mirror of our relationship with our mothers.
This is a concept that for me, was a game changer in healing my relationship with food. I was extremely close to my mum, from when I was a small child, she was comforting, reliable, always there in a way that nothing else was. I couldn’t distinguish where I ended and she began. For me, we were one and she always had the answers. From as far back as I can remember, food for me was the same, something safe and reliable and always there for me.
When I lost my mum ten years ago, my relationship with my body and with food was spun out of kilter too. I turned to food to fill the void that I had. When I first discovered this link, I stepped through the doorway to explore deeper the relationship I had with my mum, and I discovered that I continue to use food to connect with her. I feel comfort and connection when I eat meals that she used to make for me, or baking that we used to make together. So now when I am making something that links me to my mum, I acknowledge her as I’m cooking, I pay close attention and enjoy the cooking process as I think about the times when we made those things together. When I serve up my meal, I take the time to set the table and savour the experience of eating that food, whatever it happens to be. Food is about so much more than food, it represents love, despair, pleasure, pain, joy, guilt and everything in between.
When I ask my clients about their relationship with their mum and if they can see a connection with their food struggles, there are many ways that this reflection is recognised and identified, from those who say “yes, I love my mum so much”, “yes, my relationship with my mum is very up and down”, “yes, I feel disconnected from my mum”, and “yes, I need to invest more into the relationship with my mum” and they are describing exactly what they have earlier described about their issues or concerns with food.
Exploring and Healing Activity
A great activity to do to help you walk through this doorway into your relationship with your mum is to take a piece of paper and divide it into two columns. In one column, write down all the words that you would use to describe your relationship with you mum. In the other column, write down all the words that you would use to describe your relationship with food. Take a look at both your lists and see if any of the words are the same, or if any of the words could be moved from one column to the other.
Write a letter to your mum, describing these links, thanking her for the positive aspects, the love that you have and the positive words that appeared in both your lists. Use this letter to describe what you feel about the words that were more negative emotions, disfunction, frustration, or misunderstanding came up for you. You may like to send this letter, or open up a conversation with your mum about this. You may rather like to keep it somewhere safe for you to re-read when you need to. You may like to dispose of the letter by burning, shredding or any other method that feels cleansing for you.
When we heal our relationship with our mother, we help to heal our relationship with food and with ourselves.