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4 Steps to Embrace or Change Eating Triggers from Childhood

Inner Savvy Wellness Blog

Childhood experiences affect your health today. That may be a bold statement, but I have found that to be true in my life, as well as in my clients.

As I was pouring my bone broth into my Dallas Cowboy cup for lunch, I started to think about why I will always be a Dallas Cowboys fan.  I haven’t watched football on television in years. However, if I hear the Cowboys are playing, I will root for them.  Why, if I don’t watch the NFL, does it matter?

I had a “rush of remembering” of sitting on my Dad’s lap in his favorite easy chair on a Sunday afternoon, watching football.  At the time, we only were able to get one channel. (I can’t image that now in the days of 100s of channels available, but one it was, and only through rabbit ears, poor reception and all.) It was the 1970s and the Dallas Cowboys were a dominate team, so they were on CBS most Sunday afternoons.  I don’t remember if my Dad had a favorite team, but watch the Cowboys we did.  As I grew older, I would watch as I put together jigsaw puzzles while he relaxed in his chair.

After reading the paragraph above, can you immediately see the connection…why the Cowboys will always be my team? Even when I lived in Seattle, Washington, I would cheer for the Seahawks unless they played the Cowboys. Yes, watching and cheering for them is a part of me, a part of my past. One small thing that makes me who I am.  I could change my love for the Cowboys, but why would I want to?  My Dad has been gone for 17 years now.  When I catch a glimpse of the Cowboys, it brings with it comfort, contentment, safety, and my Dad’s presence, so I will always be a Cowboy fan.

What does this have to do with health?


What you ate when you were little effects what you eat today.  What time you ate, how much you ate, and for what reason you ate still influences you today. How much you moved, if you had fun when you moved, or if exercise was a chore or part of what you did, all make difference as to how you view movement and exercise today.

Why should you care?  Because knowing your triggers can help you embrace them, like I do with the Cowboys, or change them if they aren’t serving you any longer.

How Can You Embrace or Change Your Eating Triggers from Your Childhood?

1. Spend 15 minutes thinking about your childhood and food. Write it all down.
What did you eat?
Why did you eat?
What were your comfort foods?
Did you parents make you finish your plate?
Did you eat meals as a family or did you eat by yourself?
Did anyone make fun of you for what you ate?
What is your first memory of eating?  Describe it.
What foods did you dislike, but had to eat anyway?
Did you ever get rewarded with food? If so, what food was it?
Do you have a fond memory of eating while enjoying the presence of one or both of your parents?
Are your food memories mostly good or not-so good?
Write down any “bad” food memories.

2. Compare those memories to how and why you eat today.
Can you see any triggers that currently influence you from your past?

For example. I love eating ice cream.  My Dad was an ice cream lover. After a long day in the summer out on the farm, he would have me scoop up some ice cream in the evening to relax and enjoy with.  I love ice cream.  It is filled with good memories.  I used to eat ice cream most evenings.  When I realized why, and that it was no longer serving my health needs, I made a change.  Now I don’t buy ice cream to eat at home.  Occasionally we go out for ice cream.  When I do I usually take just a second to think of my Dad and honor his influence on my life.   I will always love ice cream. However, now I use it bring up great memories, but don’t let the comfort feelings from it over take my healthy eating habits.

3. What are 2-3 eating habits or triggers that serve you well?
How can you use those habits to increase your health eating habits. How can you incorporate more of those good things? Those comforting things? Those things that make you happy?

4. What are 2-3 eating habits or triggers that are no longer serving you?
How can you still honor the memories, feelings or people, yet not let them ruin your health or be in control of what you eat.  You are the only one who can take control of your health.  Start here.

Just by going through this process, it will empower to you to own and take control of triggers from your childhood.

“I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday. ” Eleanor Roosevelt

The above quote is definitely true, however, we are also who we are today because of choices others made for us during our childhood.  Embrace the good things and habits you have, and face the ones that aren’t working for you, head on.  Acknowledge those influences and find a way to honor those people in healthier ways.

You can also do this process for how much your move and/or exercise.

You will be on your way to taking charge of your own health.

Comment below with a food memory you have as a child and how has it effected you.

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    • Karen G says:

      Thank you. Can you find other things to give you comfort instead or can you do something at night to honor your family as a way to remember, but not hurt your health?

  1. hilkayaker says:

    Wow this is a very cerebral post and really requires delving into your youth. What a great way to try to change trigger behaviour and self-improve.

  2. Jessa says:

    I am amazed at the emotional connection with food and nutrition. My mom always made me put wheat germ on my yogurt. I hated it then, but now it’s a total comfort food.

    • Karen G says:

      Yes, even though you hated it then, it was a sign of your Mom taking care of you. Great that you see that. When you pay attention you will notice many more things around food that you do because of your childhood.

  3. Chantal says:

    This is a really interesting post. My parents did a wonderful job but my husband had a very different childhood in terms of creating healthy habits. I need to be more careful about what I am showing and feeding my daughter because I know that it is my job to set her up for a healthy life. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Celeste says:

    What a thoughtful and helpful post! It made me think through my childhood and remember that I had great experiences with food as a child and very few negative ones! I had great parents. It also makes me SUPER nervous in thinking about how I deal with my 3 kids and their eating. It can be so frustrating when they are so picky, but I’m afraid I’m giving them many bad food memories in how I deal with this 🙁 How can I help them overcome picky eating while still making their memories of and relationship to food a positive one?

    • Karen G says:

      Glad you are thinking about it. I think all Mom’s worry about their kids and eating. I know I made a lot of mistakes with my kids (they are teens now), but you do your best. Remember they won’t go hungry and they usually listen to their own bodies if given nourishing food.

    • 'Becca says:

      Did you ever read the book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk? It’s about communication in general but can be helpful with food-related arguments. Sometimes if you show that you heard what the kid is saying, he will move forward with MUCH less resistance. For example, you say you’re making a delicious soup with beans, sweet potatoes, and kale, and your kid says, “Blech! I hate kale! I can’t eat that soup!!!” So you say, calmly, “You’re not a fan of kale.” Kid says, “It’s so icky how it drifts around the soup and feels slimy!” You say, “It’s the texture that really bothers you.” Kid says, “Yeah! And I don’t like beans and chunks of stuff! Soup should be smooth!” Now you know the real problem: It’s not that she’s rejecting your lovingly prepared meal; it’s not that she dislikes the taste of kale; it’s about the texture. If you have an immersion blender, you can solve this problem by offering to puree her soup. If you don’t, just saying, “Hmm, you prefer a smooth soup,” can help to keep the peace enough that the kid might move on to negotiating for her favorite crackers. 🙂

  5. 'Becca says:

    This is a very insightful post! I’m lucky that my parents modeled mostly-healthy eating, lots of cooking from scratch, and “dessert” as a separate small meal of fruit, toast, yogurt or something kind of treat-like but not super-sweet. The interesting thing is that when I was becoming able to prepare food on my own, one of the ways my mom encouraged this was by buying more convenience foods with printed instructions, and we gradually slid into routinely eating things like ramen noodles, American cheese, instant stuffing, lunchmeat, and packaged cookies…but for both my brother and me, a diet totally devoid of vegetables never felt acceptable even in college, and in our 20s we gradually ate more and more “real food” because it just feels better. I guess our sense of what to eat ultimately was influenced more by our very early experiences than the later ones.

    • Karen G says:

      You are lucky and I am sure as you move toward healthier eating you will find you will be doing things similar to how your Mom did them. This can be positive or negative ways that influence us. Keep the positive and work to change the not so positive.

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