Do you ever just wish your family was “normal’ when it came to food and body image stuff?

Especially as you start to learn more about Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size, you can’t help but grieve what could have been if only YOUR mother had learned to break the diet cycle so that you didn’t have to. 

What would life be like if diet culture weren’t such a big part of your family’s story? I think about that all the time for my own family. And the truth is, we both may never know. What I do know is that grief around your experience with family diet trauma can feel more tender around the holidays as you may be spending more time back inside the family unit your diet trauma came from. 

How do we allow differences within our family’s healing journey work while also protecting our peace and calm as adult children of chronic dieters? Are  we doomed to stay stuck in our family diet trauma? 

With Thanksgiving this week and the holidays around the corner, Melissa is taking you beyond “boundary setting tips” by helping you consider:

  • What does it mean to have a “normal” family when it comes to food and body image?
  • What generational diet response are you most likely to experience over the holidays?
  • What boundaries can- and cannot – do for your Intuitive Eating practice
  • How to cope with kindness while practicing boundary setting with family stuck in diet culture (who might not understand…)
  • The pros and cons of different types of boundary setting techniques you see on social media

If this episode made you realize it’s time to get more support in your Intuitive Eating work, dm me @no.more.guilt on Instagram for more information about my current programs or apply for coaching at

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This episode was sponsored by No More Guilt with Melissa Landry. Reminder that though we are dietitians, we’re not *YOUR* dietitian. Podcasts don’t constitute treatment. If you have concerns about your dieting behaviors, seek out guidance from a medical or mental health professional. And if you’re looking for the process, support, and focus you need to live life without food guilt apply for a coaching program from today’s sponsor. No More Guilt with Melissa Landry is currently enrolling clients into 1:1 programs, group programs, and, recently added a do-it-yourself learning format: the Ex-Dieter’s Guide to No More Guilt.

why can’t my family be “normal” about food? transcript

Melissa Landry  0:02  
Hi there, I'm Melissa, a registered dietitian specialize in intuitive eating for on again off again, chronic dieters, and I'm here to help you take the guilt and stress out of eating so you can be the first in your family to break the diet cycle. I'm interested in helping you unlearn generational diet trauma, so you can be who you are without food guilt. Be sure to follow on Instagram at no more guilt for more support between these episodes. Are you ready? Let's jump in.
 Last episode, I told you that I was having a throwback preteen style girls night with my best friend. She was coming over we were going to watch father of the bride starring my beloved Gloria Estefan. That all went down and something surprising happened. We're watching the movie. And there's a scene where darling Gloria, the matriarch of the family in this movie is sitting at a table with her entire family. And they're laughing. And they seem to have this shared language and inside jokes, and the table is beautifully decorated. And one member of the family is acting a little bit difficult and stubborn and challenging. And the rest of them just seem to look at this challenging person and they go, Oh, ignore it, there seems to just be this levity to the whole thing. And I felt a little twinge inside of me as I was watching this scene. And I know that twinge. That twinge is grief. That night, I spoke out loud, I said, Gosh, you ever wish your family acted like that? If my friend goes, I was just thinking the same thing. And that's when it hit me, more of us than we think, struggle to feel like we have a family that is the one we imagined. And I think the more that you learn about intuitive eating, and food freedom and anti diet work, the more that you understand what's possible for your family, the more grief you can feel that your family is not there. 
If you resonate with my message of generational diet, trauma, by default, you come from a family who didn't have this come naturally to them. They didn't have intuitive eating and body acceptance come naturally to them. And how could they in a society that does favor the thin ideal that has all sorts of expectations on women and how we look and act and behave. Today I want to talk about boundaries and tips for that because I think they're important techniques. But more than that, I want to just make a little space for any grief, you're feeling anxiety or hurt. Knowing that you are someone who might have to set boundaries with your family. In the past, I have felt real loneliness around the need to communicate with family members. Any type of boundary, it made me sad because my, my thought of the place I was coming from was that I wish they just knew I just wish we were the kind of family that didn't have to set boundaries. In that way. I just wish we were like the family on TV. But I don't know that any family is like the one on TV that family is written and edited. There's no awkward silences. There's no weirdness, we don't feel what they feel. There's a set designer, there's all these things. And I mean, if you are grew up with movies and TV, that means that you have an image of families in your mind and how it's going to look and feel. And if you layer on top of that what you're learning as a new intuitive eater, now you're putting a new expectation and maybe going oh, I didn't know I was supposed to have had that too. 
And I'm here to tell you, many people did not grow up in a family, where they were encouraged to be intuitive eaters, and differences between everyone's bodies were accepted, myself included. We're going to talk about boundaries, we're gonna talk about things you can do to kind of preserve your peace and calm. This is Thanksgiving week, we're about to enter into the holiday season, I want to get us on that same page, feeling confident about all that. But before we do, I don't want you to bypass the grief work. Setting boundaries does not mean that you're going to change your family members. It doesn't mean they're going to become the person you thought they would. And it doesn't mean you're not going to feel sadness or anger or hurt about the history of generational diet trauma in your family or the ongoing generational diet trauma in your family. That's not what boundaries are for boundaries are about creating space, because it's really healthy for you as an adult to have your own point of view on how you feed yourself. and how you look at your body. It's healthy for you as an adult to differentiate your stuff from your moms, your aunties, your grandmas. And it's healthy for you to start asking, What do I want? Instead of what should I do? 
I have a memory, one Thanksgiving of sitting at the table. And you know, all the desserts are there, actually, my mom is really funny. She's kind of a control freak about what foods are prepared, so she's going to make the whole meal. But if you want to help, she says we'll bring a dessert. So very comically, at my Thanksgiving each year, there's like 12 guests, they bring six or seven different desserts, there are so many desserts and my mom can't help herself, she buys desserts as well, there are just so many desserts available. And it creates a condition where I notice everyone in my family getting very fearful and very anxious and how my family copes with that fear and anxiety and guilt and shame around desserts as they start talking about it. So me and my mom are sitting next to each other. I'm in my 30s. I'm a straight size woman, my mom is in her late 60s, she is a plus size woman. And we're behaving the exact same way. I'm looking at the pies going which one do I want? It's pecan always who and there's some brownies too. I think I might like a little square of that. So we're kind of making up our little plates. And all of a sudden I hear my aunt across the table Say, Enjoy that while you can. You're still skinny, not for long. In these moments. So torn. There's a part of me that's angry, like I'm eating my desserts, leave me alone. There's a part of me that's embarrassed, it can tap into the fact that I'm a dietician, and what do people think about how I eat, I can feel sad, because I can see out of the corner of my eye, my mom, it creates an unsafe environment for all of us. And I know that my aunt struggles to accept her body. And she's thinking to herself that she shouldn't have any desserts and maybe even envious folks and smaller bodies get to eat desserts in a way that they aren't judged, not in the moment, and not when they walk around in the world. And she would be right about that. Clients I work with usually find this type of culture a little toxic to their ability to find food freedom. And that's why I'm a really big fan of you stepping back and figuring out what you want. My three step guide does give you this process. By the way, if you haven't downloaded it already, it gives you a process where you can step back, write out a future vision statement of what you want for your nutrition, your health and your body image. And then it starts giving you tools to observe your thoughts, your feelings, your hunger, your fullness. Because when you do that, when you know what you want, and you start observing what's going on right now, your brain is much better at forming insights. And that's what we really want. As intuitive eaters, we need to be able to form insights about our body cues and how we hope to feel and what choices link those two things together. We can't do that. We're an environment of reaction to other people's stuff. And we can't do that when we're living our lives in a way of pleasing everyone else around us or protecting ourselves from everyone else around us. 
I did a post on Instagram last week in my stories. And I think I also shared this in my newsletter for those of you who are on the newsletter. If you experienced generational giant trauma, that means that there is some type of word action culture that hurts you emotionally or it hurts you in that it disrupts your sense of safety in your ability to eat enough satisfying food. It might not feel like a big deal. When someone threatens your emotional safety and your access to food on a regular basis. That is traumatizing. And what can happen is to cope with that hurt, we can get reactive and there's four ways that you might react. You might be more of a restrictor, or you say, oh, you know what? If I'm hurting over, over this trauma that I experienced around food in my family, maybe I should cut back. That's one way. Another way might be rebellion or binging well, I'll show them. You want to you want to restrict me, guess what? I'm gonna go get my food, I'm gonna go eat it the way I want to watch me. The third way might be numbing, without hurt becomes so big and so overwhelming and so shameful, that we use food or exercise to help take the edge off of that feeling. And then the fourth way I see it happening is people pleasing, which might mean around the time of events or parties you get really preoccupied with being "good", and pursuing nutrition and movement. Maybe it means in front of other people you eat one way versus away from them don't. Maybe you look to your mom for compliments, or you're saying things like, Oh, I'm, I'm starting a new yoga class, and you're kind of just peppering that out there hoping they'll notice and give you that pat, on the back, give me that safety give you a break. So those are the four ways that the family culture can be really toxic, and create eating behaviors that have nothing to do with you. They have nothing to do with you and your body cues, or what you want, and everything to do with creating safety and peace and calm against the forces of the trauma. 
If we know that we are grieving, we're grieving the family we deserved, that could have created the culture. And this doesn't mean that it's our family's fault or not. It's just that's the reality. We all needed a space where we could eat safely and feel safe in our bodies. And maybe we didn't get that. And now we're going back into that exact same environment, we need to understand that we are grieving. And we need space for that grief to happen, which is emotional, we need to feel it and cope with it, let it out of our bodies, we need space for that grief work to happen. And that is separate from setting boundaries with our family, we can talk about ways that you can set boundaries, how you know, you need to set boundaries. But one thing I want to encourage you do this week, and maybe every week leading up to New Years, is acknowledging any grief that you feel. So if you're feeling really sad about the fact that you need to set boundaries, or you're feeling really lonely, like you're the only one I've been through all those feelings, I want to tell you, you are not the only one and it is really a big capital F freakin bummer that you need to learn these skills. I wish that you didn't need to learn these skills. I wish that for myself, I even I'll say this for myself, I wish members of my family could just look at me and know what I need and just be that person to me. But that's not possible. And it doesn't mean that you're bad or broken, or you did something wrong. And I like to tell that to you. Because personally for me, it has not been helpful for me to hear oh, set a boundary like this, because what my brain would do is say, Oh, well, when I use the boundary, then I'll feel better and they'll change No, that's not what boundaries are for. We have to make space for these grief feelings in some way. And Intuitive Eating gives us skills for that it's called Coping with kindness. 
So if you notice, if you can acknowledge, like, Yeah, I'm grieving the fact that my family is not necessarily a safe environment for my eating disorder recovery, or my chronic dieting, recovery, or whatever you're calling your food freedom work. If you're grieving that, let yourself set up some sort of space, support system, sad songs, whatever you do, to feel your feelings around that. Let it out. And what that's going to do for you is make you a little bit less reactive, the less tender, it's going to bring the temperature down that inevitably, when diet talk or whatever it is that triggers you or activates you happens, you're going to be in a better place to do the boundaries that you hope to set. The reality is, is that without attention to changing it within your family, the diet talk is going to remain normalized. So if you really want to heal your relationship with food, and maybe plant some seeds, for some positive family culture down the line, boundaries are going to be the way to get there. What are some reasons you would want to set boundaries, if you know that some action by your family members, maybe they don't respect your opinion, maybe they don't respect your personal space, I had a client once who their mother would grab fat rolls on their body and pinch them. And that was really really invasive. Of course it would be your personal space is yours. Maybe it's a feeling of being judged in some way. 
Whatever, whatever activates you, I want you to think about how it impacts you. So are you the kind of person who's likely to restrict? are you likely to binge? are you likely to numb are you likely to move into that people pleasing mode, whatever it is, that's going to be your language of body disconnection. And when you're disconnected, that means you can't practice your intuitive eating. That's what we're hoping our boundaries are going to do. They're gonna create a space for you to practice intuitive eating, not to not hurt because this might still bug you and not to change them because we can't do that not without their permission. So if you're working on your intuitive eating skills, I want to give you four strategies you can use to help yourself, create space and stay connected. So the first one is changing the subject. Any time you hear or observe or experience your trigger, you're allowed to change the subject, you do not need to acknowledge whatever is happening, you can hopefully redirect the conversation towards something more aligned with a more positive environment you hope to create. I like this technique for people in settings that don't really feel safe or appropriate to get into a deeper conversation. So let's say your cousin who you don't see very often you're not that close with says something diety. It might be the right move to say nothing. And ask. You've been watching the crown on Netflix lately?
Another strategy you can use is to put yourself in the seat of an educator. This one is not for all scenarios, educating does not mean that someone's going to want to or accept what you have to say, I can tell you that from years of being on Instagram, doing what I do, and setting up some expectations here. For some of my clients, it takes multiple coaching sessions for them to really wrap their head around what intuitive eating and Health at Every Size work really is. And that's when they want to learn and they're learning with an expert, registered dietitian who's taking them through it every step of the way. And so if you decide to do this technique of educating people around you understand that you may not have the dose or the influence or the power, or the readiness to really be heard. Still, you can try it. So this looks like something like saying, you know, what did you know that a lot of dieters who attempt to lose weight regain it back within five years, who talked about how that information shocked you and how you're working with intuitive eating now. That's something you could say you could even point them to resources that you found helpful, including this podcast, if you want. 
The next strategies I'm sharing with you, I think are the most effective, being transparent with your expectations of how other people can engage with you better. Being direct with your expectations, puts you up for better success, having that boundary heard and respected. Your family has a system. And particularly if you're setting a boundary with your parents, they're not used to that. How old are you? That's how many years they've been used to doing whatever they want, and you responding the way you usually do. So the first time you set some type of boundary, some parents have the personality or the temperament or the ability to say thank you for telling me I'll change that in the future. But if you're laughing right now, it's probably not your parent. And that's okay. It's hard to get feedback. And it's hard to change within relationships, know that if someone doesn't take it well or is resistant to your boundaries on the first go. That doesn't mean it's over. It doesn't mean it's failed, it doesn't mean you're bad, it means the change is hard. You have to figure out for yourself, what is the amount of repetition that you want to engage with here? And if people lapse on your ask, how much support are you going to give people to coming back to the boundary you set? And if they don't? What does it look like when they cross that line? boundaries don't need to be one and done rigid. You know, I made a joke on another podcast recently. It's not like we're putting the salt around our body in a ring like, Don't you dare cross this no matter what, if effective boundaries might look more like a conversation with the other person, it might be you supporting them in some instances. But not all of you are going to be in a place in this journey where you're feeling strong enough to engage with that. So I want you to do a gut check right now.
Where are you at in your process? Or things feeling so hot to trot and tender? That you don't have it in you to do all that? Because if so, you might want to lean on the strategies I just mentioned, which was to change the subject. Maybe think in advance how much time or whether or not you want to spend time around people who maybe you're not ready to have this conversation with or don't make you feel heard. So these are maybe less direct, more environmental types of changes that help give you space because remember, that's the purpose of the boundary to give you space. If you want to give direct feedback. You could do it two ways. One way is just to say it straight. I don't find diatomic helpful. Can we avoid this topic in the future? Don't talk about my weight in front of me, thank you. It could be simple and straight. If you're feeling more vulnerable, you could say something that does link more to you. In your experience. I used to die, it really wasn't working, I had a super disordered relationship with food. And I'm learning every day, what types of things are helpful for me, in recovering from all of that, can I count on you to support me in the following ways, and those ways are up to you. 
Not all families are going to accept your vulnerability with compassion, be ready to cope and move forward in the way that protects your food freedoms. A lot of times people are going to repeat harmful diet talk and triggers, that they themselves indoor growing out of. So if you suspect someone in your life wants to evolve with you find those people and lean on them. And for the people who don't want to, that's where these boundaries are going to become incredibly useful tools for you. Over the holidays and beyond. This is so personal and tailored, and it really depends on you and your intuitive eating work. So I want to remind you that if you need support in any time, right now, the doors are open for the gentle nutrition intensive. For those of you on the wait list. So if you have that offer in hand, you are welcome to join us through Black Friday. Otherwise, I am here to talk through any of this stuff through my one to one coaching program. And the beauty of the work is that we use our time to help you connect with yourself. Your body cues, your values so that when you're around people who are stuck in generational diet trauma, they have a lot less power to trigger you because you feel so confident in what you are doing. It doesn't really matter what they think and feel. 
So in the meanwhile, I want you to use boundaries as a tool to create space for you to get clear in your own values, to build up your intuitive eating skills and let some of these parts of you that are hurting to heal a little bit more. Remember that boundaries are important this holiday season. But they are not going to change your family members and they are not going to make this less hurtful. They're going to give you space from that hurt so that you can connect with your body and practice intuitive eating. You're not alone in the work that you're doing out there. I am doing the same. And I just so glad that we have this time of the podcast to just level set on what it's like truly, to be inside of a family who's stuck in generational diet trauma. 
You can DM me on Instagram. Let me know how it went for you on Thanksgiving. Otherwise we'll be back next week with more interviews. Next week. We have an interview from a past client I'm so excited to share her story with you. I hope you have a great Thanksgiving no matter what your family looks like chosen biological, or maybe you're spending Thanksgiving all on your own. Do what you want. Set your boundaries by starting that question What do you want? Take steps to go get it you're worth it. You deserve it. Until next time, be good to your good body.
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