My mom makes me feel guilty for eating
As children, our relationship with food is deeply influenced by our parents. Unfortunately, some parents transmit unhealthy attitudes about eating to their kids, whether consciously or unconsciously. If your mom makes you feel guilty about what or how much you eat, it can negatively impact your self-esteem, body image, and eating habits.
Understanding where the guilt comes from
Before figuring out how to address the guilt trips from your mom about eating, it’s helpful to understand the root of her behavior. Here are some common reasons why mothers make their kids feel guilty about food:
Projecting their own food issues
Some moms unintentionally project their own dieting tendencies, body image insecurities, or eating disorder histories onto their child. Making comments about your food choices may be their way of trying to protect you from struggles they’ve faced. It’s misguided, but often comes from their own inner wounds around eating and self-image.
Societal beauty standards
Moms are not immune to the unrealistic beauty standards that equate thinness with health and value. Making weight loss suggestions or limiting food may be their attempt to “help” you align with media imagery that defines female worth by numbers on the scale.
Though less common, some moms use food and guilt about eating as a way to assert control in the parent-child relationship. This unhealthy dynamic undermines kids’ autonomy and sets up disordered eating patterns that can last a lifetime if not addressed.
The impacts of food guilt trips
If your mom regularly says things that make you feel guilty for what you eat, how much you eat, or your body size, it can cause significant psychological and physical problems. Research shows that parental comments about weight and eating during childhood increase risk for:
- Disordered eating patterns including chronic dieting, binge eating, purging, excessive exercise, etc.
- Clinical eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder
- Body dissatisfaction and poor self-esteem
- Obesity and weight cycling
Mothers may think pointing out what kids eat and advising them to lose weight will motivate healthy changes. More often, it does the opposite by sparking shame, rebellion, and unhealthy eating behaviors practiced in secret.
The most supportive thing a parent can do is create a home environment where a child feels unconditionally accepted. This allows kids to develop a healthy body image and learn to eat intuitively in response to internal hunger/fullness cues.
Setting boundaries around food criticism
If your relationship with your mom is otherwise caring and supportive, you may be able to have an open discussion with her about how comments about your eating affect you. However, some moms get defensive when confronted about hurtful messaging so proceed with caution, especially if you are financially reliant on parents for housing, school, etc.
If possible, find a quiet moment to tell your mom:
- Exact quotes of things she says that are hurtful
- How specific comments make you feel (ashamed, sad, angry, etc.)
- That you want to have a healthy relationship with food and your body without guilt or judgment
- Ask her to stop comments about what you eat or weigh
The key is sticking to “I feel…” statements to avoid putting your mom on the defensive. Share the impacts on you, not accusations about her intentions. Give her examples of how she can support your efforts to honor your hunger and respect your body.
If your mom responds defensively or refuses to change, you may need to implement coping strategies and boundaries on your own. Some options include:
Leave the room when food criticism starts
Calmly exit the situation every time your mom makes an inappropriate comment about your eating. Make an excuse if you need to, but do not engage by defending yourself. Over time, she may associate guilting you about food with losing your presence which can motivate change.
Limit discussions about food or body
Avoid initiating or participating in conversations about eating, exercise, weight, dieting, etc. Change the subject or say you do not want to discuss it if she brings it up. This may help curb her comments over time.
Challenge inner critical thoughts
Parents’ critical voices often become our “inner critic” about food and body. When you hear your mom’s judgment replay in your mind, consciously counter it with positive truths like “I deserve to enjoy food free of guilt” etc.
Confide in allies
Speaking to friends, other relatives, or even a school counselor about your hurt feelings over your mom’s food criticism can help release the emotional burden. Getting validation that her messaging is unhealthy may assist you in not internalizing guilt about eating.
Seeking professional help
If your mother frequently makes intense, shaming comments about your eating that cause significant distress, it may constitute verbal or emotional abuse. In those cases, seeking counseling, meeting with a school nurse, or contacting authorities to get support for the family system may be warranted. Those measures would only apply in extreme situations of parental mistreatment.
Seeing a mental health professional provides objective support and healthy coping strategies. Having a nurturing space to process hurtful dynamics with mom can be very relieving. A good therapist helps identify dysfunctional communication patterns and improves self-esteem constantly damaged by criticism.
Registered dietitian (RD)
Consulting an RD who specializes in intuitive eating and health at every size approaches provides an expert counter-perspective to your mom’s weight stigma. RDs help people of all sizes feel good about food and their body by focusing on self-care rather than external appearance standards. Getting sound nutrition advice tailored to your unique needs enables you to reject your mom’s misinformation, shame, and control around eating.
Coping with ongoing food guilt trips
In a perfect world, your mom would respond empathetically when you share how her food-shaming makes you feel. You could have open dialogue about both wanting what is healthiest for you. Sadly, that is often not the case when a parent’s own issues drive criticism about eating.
When hurtful messaging continues despite your best efforts, utilizing coping strategies helps prevent internalizing your mom’s warped perspective:
Seek self-validation outside mom’s approval
- List qualities and talents that define your worth outside of appearance, food choices, or body size
- Keep a journal highlighting positive aspects about yourself to counteract criticism
- Spend more time with friends who accept you as you are
Limit exposure to toxicity
- Only eat meals with your mom if/when she can refrain from inappropriate commentary
- Politely excuse yourself if she makes critical statements around food
- Find other relatives or trusted adults you can share meals and feel supported
Reframe mom’s narrative
- Assume comments come from her issues versus your own shortcomings
- Remember guilt trips often unintentionally reveal the other person’s inner wounds
- Her judgment does not need to become your self-judgment
With time and growing self-confidence, you can learn to allow your mom’s food messaging to roll off your back without sinking into shame or question your own worth. Staying grounded in your innate right to enjoy food and feel comfortable in your body will help you eat intuitively long-term.
Looking toward the future
As you get older and gain more independence from your mom’s direct influence:
- Consider seeking therapy or nutrition counseling
- Read about intuitive eating and Health at Every Size (HAES)
- Surround yourself with friends and chosen family who provide safe spaces for authenticity and acceptance
- Experiment with eating styles free of external rules and restrictions
- Appreciate your body’s capabilities instead of appearance
- Explore interests, passions and purpose that have nothing to do with food, exercise or weight
While hurtful parental messaging leaves wounds, your future is bright when you channel resilience and self-care. By healing your relationship with food and body, you pave the way for the next generation to grow up free of shame and comparison.
The path is long, but each step you take through self-education and securing your right to eat without guilt loosens your mom’s grip on dictating your self-worth. Progress feels slow, but you will get there. And it is so worth it!