Collective Family Food Lies
Every family has known truths. Often they are undeniable, such as everyone on my Father’s side
of family has blue or green eyes, while some can be flat out destructive, especially when it
comes to food and body image.
When I was 14, I had decided to lose my baby fat and I was visiting some relatives in the middle
of my efforts. My well-meaning (I like to think), yet misguided male relative said to me “I don’t
know why you are bothering, no one in our family is thin” as he took a giant bite of roast beef at
a family dinner. It was unreal, not just the irony of being told such a thing over a meal, or how
rude and insensitive it was. I was being encouraged to buy into the collective lie to not even
bother to get a handle on my excess weight, to just accept it and while I was at it, could I pass the
Now why do these things occur in families? Are they even true? And what can do about them?
“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives.”
Lady Caroline, Oscar Wilde’s A Woman of No Importance, act 2 (1893)
First the Why
Let’s face it, when it comes to Thanksgiving, the Turkey is the Star Act. The stuffing, the bacon
wrapped dates and even the yams are the warm-up acts, and the desserts are the encores. The
weekend is revolved around THE meal, and the meal is about the Turkey. To take away all the
distractions, families fly from across the country for a big chicken, as my daughter called it when
she was 3. We know that is not the whole story, we come together to give thanks for all we have
been given, to honor the traditions, the Mayflower, watch some football, the parades, oh and eat
a lot of tan fast acting carbohydrates.
Food brings us together, it is the centerpiece of Holidays, Weddings and Baby Showers. Families
have many traditions around food. I always make a certain pie style of Pecan pie for
Thanksgiving, my children now refer to as “Nut Pie”. In years past, we would take one to friends
for the Holiday and I would make another for us. Two years ago, we were in another state
for the big day and my son was very firm in his belief that I needed to make a Nut Pie there as
Families also have traditions about how food is prepared or eaten. Some families are stuffing in
the bird types, while others are stuffing in a side dish. I know families who get the entire meal
catered, while some like to go out, then there are families where everything is a potluck and the
ones where one family member does everything. My Grandmother liked to eat at around two, I
prefer to eat around 5 or 6. Different styles, not one way to do it is better than others.
Are They Even True?
Things can get dicey when it comes to how we look at weight and food with families. Sometimes
we are told every woman in your family has a big butt, so don’t even bother fighting it. Now,
women in your family might be genetically predisposed to carry their body weight differently
than other people, see the Kardashians however, that does not give you a free pass to throw
health out the window. A woman can still be a healthy body weight and have more body fat in
her derriere than another woman, who has a different genetic code. Let’s take Kim Kardashian
for example, she isn’t “skinny” and if her body fat was tested it would probably be in the healthy
range. Now, let’s all think about Britney Spears currently, her body fat is probably significantly
lower than Kim’s. She has a very different body type. Even when Britney was heavier, remember
her Gimme More 2007 VMA performance? she carried her excess weight differently. Body types
matter in these things.
Remember as a rule 70% of health comes down to how we treat ourselves, and 30% is genes.
Our bodies are capable of amazing things, and what I want you to remember is the concept of
epigenetics. It is a fancy way of saying , just because your genes say one thing, it doesn’t
necessarily mean it will happen. For example, you might be more genetically prone to an
autoimmune disease than someone else, but based on your lifestyle you might not actually get
So, for all the annoying relatives who tell us not to even bother trying to be healthy, feel free to
tell them the concept of epigenetics over Thanksgiving. You might need to say it slowly, as we
know they don’t like to listen.
And what can do about them?
Family food lies have to be agreed upon to keep being passed on. I did not agree with my male
relative when I was 14 and I especially do not now. Then I was mad at him for being such a jerk,
and now I know he is clueless and insensitive and flat out wrong. Either way, I didn’t buy what
he was selling. Remember, we always have a choice in what we believe to be true. I am not
advocating getting a knock down drag out fight with your relatives unless that is your crew’s
idea of a good time, then by all means, go for it!
It took me a very long time to stop buying into the collective lies I was told about my own body.
The crazy thing is I didn’t even know they weren’t my thoughts. When we grow up always being
told how life will be for us, it makes sense we would listen to our relatives. However, it isn’t
always as simple as I was told that fateful day over the roast beef. I did have a choice, and I still
do. As we all do.
It wasn’t until I started implementing the Food Plan in my book “Why Can’t I Stick To My Diet”
was I able to simply live. I am not on a diet, nor on some crazy food frenzy, just at peace with
food and life. I want this for you as well. My book is now on Amazon. Here is the link