Family's Affect on Eating Disorders

July 16, 2015   •  Posted in: 

The key to an eating disorder or to disordered eating often lies in relationships. For most people, those relationships lie within the family. The behaviors surrounding a dysfunctional relationship with food are often the result of another relationship—perhaps several relationships—tilting off the mark. You may be able to pinpoint immediately where and when your life diverged from what you wanted it to be. Or maybe you can trace a slow slide from the ideal to the real.

You would probably rather not take the time to discover the truth about your family, or about yourself and your family. You would rather just forget it. But your food relationship ties you to that problematic relationship. Your choices are simple: you can choose to continue with your eating disorder or disordered eating, or you can choose to examine your relationships and understand how they are affecting your behavior.

This rediscovery is not an easy process. It will require you to reconsider your childhood with an adult’s point of view. The purpose is to understand how your family interacted and how that interaction is affecting you now—to understand your relationships, but then to forgive and move forward.

Your home may have been a place where punishment was dealt out quickly, strictly, and often physically. Guilt or shame may have been used to control your behavior. If you came from such a home environment, you may have been expected to act like a little adult. If you were the oldest child, you may have been given the responsibility of raising the younger siblings, short-circuiting your own childhood. Faced with a home where there were strict rules, rigid discipline, and perfectionistic behavior. You may not have been allowed to function as a normal child—safe, carefree, and sure that you were loved.

Just because you have left the family doesn’t mean the family has left you. No matter where you go, the family continues to influence who you are and how you approach life.

Even after a person has come to understand how his family affects him, if he merely stops there, it will not be far enough. With understanding can come deep pain and an acute sense of betrayal and indescribable loss. This is not the place to stop. There is a place further on where forgiveness lies. It is a place far removed from blame. Blame only fuels the pain. Forgiveness dilutes its power.

Whatever your specific eating disorder or pattern of disordered eating, you will need to look back at yourself, and your family relationships, and come to some conclusions about where you came from and who you are now.

This look at yourself and your family must be done honestly, thoroughly, and without blame. So much of what was done in the past is set; it must be accepted for what it is and how it affects you today. If the result of this search stops at anger, resentment, and blame, it will only fuel your dysfunctional relationship with food. The goal is understanding, not retribution.

For many people, this delicate process of confronting the past requires outside, professional support. Our team at The Center • A Place of HOPE is skilled at guiding people through a whole-person, individualized recovery program, designed specifically for you and your needs. We are standing by to help you face your eating disorder and to heal. Fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with an eating disorder specialist today.


Dr. Gregory Jantz

Pioneering Whole Person Care over thirty years ago, Dr. Gregory Jantz is an innovator in the treatment of mental health. He is a best-selling author of over 45 books, and a go-to media authority on behavioral health afflictions, appearing on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN. Dr. Jantz leads a team of world-class, licensed, and...

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