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Drop Your Food Baggage This Year

By Jen Arnold

Lugging-food-baggage - CopyI’m ready to drop my food baggage in 2017. How about you?

We all have baggage we carry related to food and eating. At a very early age, the adults around us and other external factors start shaping our food behaviors. I often hear well-meaning family members tell my 3-year-old to eat all his food, ignoring his instinctive ability to eat when he’s hungry and stop when he’s full. My mom is especially likely to do this because of her own relationship with food.

My mom is, and has been, a yo-yo dieter with binge eating tendencies throughout my life. Growing up this way, I was exposed to her cycling between eating large quantities of food in secret and a restrictive phase of drinking tons of water and eating an abundance of fruit and vegetables. Growing up with a mother in constant peril about her emotions, body image, and dieting influenced me in both positive and negative ways.

I can thank my mom for exposing me to eating raw veggies like bell peppers and cucumber and the pleasure of enjoying a crusty baguette filled with amazing tasting meat and cheese. Her “attention” to food led me to study nutrition and become a dietitian.

On the negative side, between my mom’s bingeing/dieting cycles and my brothers being “bottomless pits,” food always seemed to be scarce. I remember looking forward to eating some chips when I got home from school, only to find the bag was already gone. No matter how many times I tried to “reserve” my food, it was always gone. I can’t even talk about my disappearing Halloween candy!

My Food Baggage

Growing up this way led me to become territorial about food and adopt a food scarcity mindset. For example, I have problems sharing food with my husband. He eats so fast that I find myself getting anxious about the food running out instead of enjoying what I’m eating. When I see him start to eat “my” snacks, I have to bite my tongue so I don’t tell him to make sure he saves me some. I can’t say I’m always successful. And forget the romantic sharing of dessert… I’ll get my own thanks!

Although I’m a work in progress with my husband, I try very hard not to impose my food baggage on my 3-year-old. I encourage sharing of food and don’t make him clean his plate. I hope to raise children that have a healthy relationship with food without imposing my baggage on them.

I’m a dietitian who teaches mindful eating but that doesn’t mean I’m perfect at instinctive eating. I am addressing my food baggage just like everyone else. My goal for 2017 is to adopt a mindset of abundance when it comes to food. If my husband eats my last bit of chips or wants to share dessert, I’ll tell myself I can always get more. After all, food is everywhere!

Are you carrying around food baggage that generates negativity and prevents you from living a full and vibrant life? Are you tired of lugging it around? Please comment below. I’d love to hear from you!


About the author

Jen Arnold is a Registered Dietitian that delivers Mindful Eating workshops to both employers and individuals. In her career, she's seen countless people yo-yo diet only to feel worse about themselves afterwards. Personally, she grew up with a mom who had (and still has) deep and unhealthy emotional ties to food. Her goal is to help as many people as possible ditch the diets and live a full and vibrant life.


  1. Inez says:

    Thank you for sharing your story, Jen! I experienced similar things: I got four siblings and most of them are also bottomless pits. They just eat everything, even if you label it with your name. When we had dinner together as a family, it wasn’t possible to take just a small serving first and see if it is enough, because there was never a second serving left. So I adopted this scarcity mindset as well and it’s so difficult to let go of it! I am still learning the beauty of sharing food, it is actually quite rewarding. But this journey took me YEARS. And there’s still a lot more to learn.
    Btw, I think it is awesome you are trying to be a good role model in terms of food for your 3-year-old. I think it is often overlooked in parenting how important it is to teach a healthy relationship with food.

    • Jen Arnold says:

      Thanks for sharing your story Inez! I’m learning about the beauty of sharing food but you’re right, it takes time. I’m definitely trying with my 3 year old, especially when it comes to having him regulate his hunger/fullness and with not putting dessert on a pedestal.

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