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The Fear of Food in Motherhood

blog Mar 29, 2018

Supermom Series Guest Posts

By Melodye Phillips

Being a mother is one of the greatest joys of my life. Motherhood is amazing. But motherhood is hard. All of it is hard, but in our culture one of the most difficult areas of motherhood is centered around feeding our children.

It starts from day one.

Breast feed or formula?

Purees or baby led weaning?

Homemade baby food or store bought?

Organic or non-organic?

Processed or whole?

The decisions go on and on and on (and that doesn’t even include the stress around legitimate food allergies.) So you step into an area of motherhood (like many others) that is fraught with judgment, shame, insecurity, anxiety, fear, arrogance, pride. 

If we allow ourselves to step out of the frenzy of our thoughts, emotions and expectations around feeding our little ones, we give ourselves permission to become curious instead of judgmental and shameful and fearful. And then we can begin to explore the core of this chaos around food. In this exploration, we will realize that the core of this battle has to do with our own relationship with food and our bodies.  

Our Own Stuff

Our culture is absolutely food obsessed. We are food obsessed because we are a society obsessed with thinness (which is now under the guise of "health"). And that bleeds over into our parenting.

The parenting adage “Do what I say, not what I do” doesn’t work. It doesn't work in ANY area of parenting, but especially with regard to food. 

The best thing we can do for our children is not to serve them what we (or someone else) deem to be the “right” or “good” foods in the “right” or “good” ways. The best thing we can do for our children is to teach them that food is just food and show them a peaceful relationship with food and body. Food intake and the physicality of our body is not a barometer of our worth as a person or our moral character.

"The best thing we can do for our children is to teach them that food is just food and show them a peaceful relationship with food and body." --Melodye Phillips

What we choose (or don’t choose) to eat has nothing to do with the essence of our hearts.

What we choose (or don’t) to eat has nothing to do with the quality of our parenting.

Allowing ourselves peace around food, which includes a peaceful relationship with our body, is one of the best things we can do for ourselves and our children.

Freedom from Mommy Shame

So now you’re feeling mommy shame, right?

*Side note, most people use the term “guilt”. I don’t because guilt is about our behaviors, shame is about who we are. Most of the time, our mommy talk is shame based “I am such a terrible mother”… etc*

Mommy shame is our familiar friend. Well, that’s not the purpose of this blog, so let me give you some quick tips for finding a new relationship with food and free you from the mom guilt to get another thing “right”.

1. Challenge yourself to let go of food labels and allow food, no matter what kind of food, to just be food.       

Food was made to fuel our bodies and it was made for pleasure. Diet culture has made food into a war zone that it was not meant to be. So challenge yourself to let go of the labels you have around food- and please, mama, don’t judge yourself for those labels! We all have them!

2. Be curious when you feel like you are engaging in a “problematic” food behavior OR when you notice “problematic” thoughts around food.

In my work as an eating disorder therapist, one of the greatest tools to use in recovery is curiosity. We are really good at judging our behaviors, our thoughts, our emotions, our appearance, our everything. Instead of adding something else to stop doing or change about yourself, just be curious! Curiosity frees us from the paralyzing shackles of shame and allows us to openly explore what’s driving our thoughts, our behaviors, our emotions. For me personally, it’s fun to discover what’s underneath and it often frees me when I feel trapped.

3. Experiment with different foods!

This is great for children to see! Diet culture has deemed certain foods good or safe and certain foods sinful or bad or unclean. This is garbage and a gimmick to get us to buy into the billion dollar diet industry. Allow yourself to experiment with different foods and discover which foods you truly enjoy and which foods you don’t enjoy. It’s fun to do this with babies and young children because they don’t have diet culture bias! Also, let the nutrition obsession go! We gain nutrients from all foods and one or two days or weeks of eating a certain way aren’t going to put you in a nutrient deficit. Plus, studies consistently show us that nutrition isn’t the be all, end all to health.

4. Notice, challenge, or reframe self talk (silent and out loud) around food preparation, meals, and your body.

I mentioned we’re really good at judging (aka shaming) ourselves, especially around food and our bodies. So when you notice that self talk- whether its silent thoughts mulling your head OR you say something out loud- just take notice and then if you can, challenge or reframe it. Challenging and/or reframing are often the last to come and that’s okay! This is a new way of thinking about food and your body, so noticing self talk is the first. And then see #2 and be curious! You’ll get to the challenge and reframe of self talk.

5. Be kind to yourself! 

Motherhood is hard! I’ve said it once, I’ll say about 500 more times!!! We don’t need to add to the difficulty of motherhood with our own shame and self judgment. Don’t know what being kind to yourself looks like? That’s okay- just think of how you would talk to your most precious friend, or your daughter, or partner, or someone else you love. We are often much kinder to the ones we love than ourselves. So if being kind to yourself is difficult, act like you’re talking to that loved one. It can do wonders.

 "We don’t need to add to the difficulty of motherhood with our own shame and self judgment." --Melodye Phillips

6. Reach out for help.

This is crucial in motherhood, but especially when we’re working towards a new relationship with our body and food. And this is a tricky area, so I encourage you to reach out to an Intuitive Eating/Health at Every Size (HAES) professional (dietitian, therapist, doctor, psychiatrist).

Diet culture is tricky and can sneak in without us realizing. These professionals are trained to notice and fight diet culture. Search podcasts, Facebook groups, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter for support. Seek out face to face or virtual appointments. Find online e-courses or support groups. Read body positive books. The possibilities are vast and wide, so don’t take this on alone- we aren’t meant to do life that way.

*I don’t really recommend friends and family because they often have their own diet culture issues, but don’t even know it! Because that’s how tricky diet culture is!! We all just think these are the facts. They can help you and I encourage openness, but I really encourage you to seek out trained professionals in some aspect.*

Motherhood can be a beautiful gift. It is also a time of significant growth- for us and our kids! Instead of using this time as another way to shame yourself (or others), use this time to see yourself and the world around your in a new light. The gift of motherhood is not only in those sweet, sloppy kisses, but also the times we hit our knees crying because we saw a piece of ourselves we aren’t crazy about. Let’s show our children what it means to be curious and kind to ourselves, so they can be curious and kind with themselves!

Melodye is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a candidate to become a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist and writes at The message of her blog was created to support women in eating disorder treatment, who deeply desiring to see the integration of the recovery, intuitive eating, health at every size, freedom from diet culture messages, and their Christian faith. 





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