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Each of us grew up in a family whose particular situation or history affected our relationship to food. Some of our parents lived through the food scarcities of the depression, World War II or other difficult situations. In many instances these experiences led them to regard the robust, chubby child as a symbol of health and plenty. Food was pushed on children in the belief that the more they ate, the healthier and happier they would be. Many of us who were raised this way never learned what it feels like to be hungry, and as adults we have great difficulty knowing when to eat and when to stop. We say to ourselves, “I ought to eat,” or “I ought to stop eating now,” rather than “I feel hungry,” or “I feel full.”
Others of us grew up in families in which the focus was on proper nutrition, a sort of scientific approach to food and feeding. This meant that each meal had to be balanced with selections from the major food groups. It was very important to have three meals a day.
Other families may have been concerned with slimness for fashion or keeping in shape.
Whatever the feelings and rules that your parents enforced with respect to food and feedings, and whatever way these were communicated to you, you can be fairly certain that your parents believed that their ways with food was in your best interest and that the ways your parents approached the situation had a strong influence on the way you feed your children.
Our childhood experiences have greatly impacted the nature and intensity of our involvement with food, but our current culture also greatly influences us. Newspapers, magazines, radio, television and the movies directly overwhelm us daily, promoting ideas that have nothing to do with our nutritional or physical needs.
Food fads and trends sweep across the country in a matter of weeks. One would wonder if the originators of Sesame Street ever dreamed that a generation of adults would pick up the Cookie Monster’s mania and join a nationwide chocolate chip cookie obsession. Ice cream enthusiasts not only stand in long lines for their Haagen-Dazs or Baskin-Robbins, but even wear t-shirts advertising their favorite brand.