“The feeding relationship is characteristic of the overall parent-child relationship. Distortions that show up in feeding are likely to appear in other aspects of the interactions.” (Ellyn Satter, “The Feeding Relationship”)
Today it occurred to me that I might understand more about my relationship to food and my relationship with my parents if I read Ellyn Satter’s work more in-depth. I had previously only read the little I could find that she’s written about eating and adults, but I realized that it could be helpful to read her stuff on children to see if it explains how I acted as a child and why I am how I am today. And thus far, I’ve found it gratifying (strange word choice, I know, but it’s how I feel). Just to summarize my childhood eating experiences: My parents (and extended family on my mother’s side) were extremely controlling and I was aware that everything that went into my mouth was under surveillance and judgement. I remember my grandmother saying to me once “that’s a lot of butter” when I was buttering (or rather, margarine-ing my toast). That’s just one example of many that I can specifically recall. So, Ellyn Satter’s writing is perfect for explaining what was happening in this situation. The quotation at the beginning of this post really helps explain to me why my relationship with my family over food isn’t JUST an issue of food. The way my family treated my eating was the way they treated a lot of aspects of me: something “not quite right” that needed perfecting or something I couldn’t be trusted to do on my own. And the way I reacted makes sense: sneaking food, random bursts of anger, shutting my parents out of my inner life, insecurity, inability to let people get close to me, etc. I could go on, but this post isn’t about complaining–it’s about gaining insight. Knowing that my experience was part of a predictable pattern alleviates its weight on my shoulders and justifies my reactions, while somehow not increasing my anger towards my family. I mean, I’m still angry, but this knowledge makes me feel better about myself and less guilty for not being a “good adult daughter”. It’s kind of like I’m at peace with the situation, just as long as family participation is an aspect of my life that is respected as a choice I make at my own discretion.