Body image. Food. Perfectionism. The relationships we have with our bodies and the food we eat are shaped by factors such as childhood environments and societal messaging. Throughout life, the conscious and unconscious choices we make around food have the power to impact us mentally, emotionally, and physically. When we pause to notice the negative thoughts that often push us into unhealthy actions, we can mindfully create new, empowering dynamics that foster positive change. Join Dr. Carla and expert Bri DeRosa of The Family Dinner Project to explore the little shifts we can make in our mindsets to create lasting, healthy patterns of self-love, positive body image, and mindful eating. The Family Dinner Project is a non-profit initiative of the Massachusetts General Hospital Psychiatry Academy.
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Boosting Your Body Image and Eating Habits with Expert Bri DeRosa
Let Go of Perfection and Embrace Eating as a Wonderful Way to Connect with Yourself and Others!
Body image, food, perfectionism, how we eat and what we eat, and the conscious and unconscious choices we make around food impact us mentally, emotionally, and physically but what if we can make little changes in our mindsets and our habits that allow us to create a healthy relationship between ourselves and food?
In this episode, we’ll focus on this reader’s real-life question, “Since I was a kid and my dad teased me about being chubby, I’ve struggled with a poor body image. I have a terrible relationship with food. I’ve gone from starving myself to binging. Now I’m worried that my attitudes and behaviors are affecting my two young daughters. Do you have any tips?”
That question is the focus of this episode. I’m joined by a very special guest Bri DeRosa who will be sharing her expertise on food, family, and body image. Bri comes to us from the Family Dinner Project and she has a wealth of real-life experience around food. Welcome to the show, Bri.
Thanks so much for having me. It’s fun to be here.
It’s a delight to have you. Before we dive into the question of the day, can you tell us a little bit about what makes you, you?
There are so many things that make me, me but I’m going to say family dinner is a huge instrumental part of what makes me, me. I’m very lucky to come from a very long lineage of a huge extended family where food, family dinner, and sharing moments around the table was important. My mother’s side of the family was culturally Swedish. They were immigrants. They used to welcome us to Fika, which is afternoon coffee and sweets, every time we were able to visit them. That was a very important ritual to them.
My parents and my grandparents had family dinners every night. No exceptions. I grew up that way and I was fortunate to marry into a big Italian-American family that does family dinners and Sunday dinners. My husband and I both come from that tradition of being with the people who matter to us and taking that time to share food, fun, and conversation. That’s a huge part of who I am, why I work for the Family Dinner Project, and what makes me, me.
Thank you. Before I ask you about the Family Dinner Project, I loved it when we were going before the episode. I saw some of your paperwork and when I asked you what helps you be your best self your response was hugs, long walks, good food, and coffee, all non-negotiable.
My husband will tell you. He doesn’t drink coffee. He learned to make coffee when we got married because he wakes up before I do usually. He knows that just give her coffee and give her a hug to start the day and life will go 100% better for everybody.
I love that you led with the sleep, smiley face, and hugs. I love that we’re leading with hugs. Tell me please about the Family Dinner Project.The choices we make around food can impact us psychologically and physically. When we pause to notice the negative thoughts that foster unhealthy actions, we can create empowering dynamics. Join Dr. Carla and expert Bri DeRosa to explore how self-love… Click To Tweet
The Family Dinner Project is a non-profit program of Massachusetts General Hospital Psychiatry Academy. We were founded well over a decade ago. Our entire mission is to bring food, fun, and conversation to families so that everybody can access the research-back benefits of shared meals. We say to people, “Family doesn’t have to mean your family of origin. Family can mean anyone who makes you feel like you, anyone who is special to you. It doesn’t have to be dinner even. It can be any meal or any opportunity to break bread together. It doesn’t have to be perfect.”
It’s that opportunity to take some time intentionally out of your day to share those three ingredients, food, fun, and conversation about things that matter so that your family knows that you matter as a unit and they matter to you. That’s important for the social, emotional, academic, physical, and health of everyone in the family unit.
It’s beautiful and simple. It’s interesting that you were talking about your background. I’m half Italian, so food was a very big part of life and round the dinner table. Sitting down in front of the TV with a meal wasn’t going to happen. Maybe one night a week snacks, in front of a half-hour TV show but that was it. That’s increasingly uncommon. There’s no judgment here. I’m just pointing it out. Many people are running to and froze. They’re eating in the car, driving through fast food or restaurants.
They’re watching a series on TV while they’re munching away at food. Often, even during dinner time, I’m sure we’ve all been out to eat. We’ve seen a family sitting down and everybody’s on their device. Everybody’s ignoring that opportunity and maybe they never were raised that way. They’re missing that opportunity for conversation, connection, and shared meal time, allowing the food to digest and be nourishing.
I know we’re a little off topic for the reader’s question but this is an important piece to set the stage for it. What would you offer to families who find themselves in that predicament? Again, in a non-judgmental way, I get that sometimes we are exhausted. We want to collapse on the couch, throw some prepackaged pizza at everybody, and be done with it. What little shifts can we make to create?Body image issues? Healthy eating concerns? Join Dr. Carla and Bri DeRosa of The Family Dinner Project of Massachusetts General Hospital to explore how we can shift our mindsets to create lasting, healthy patterns of self-love, positive body image, and… Click To Tweet
It’s maybe a great segue into our topic because as you point out, no judgment. By the way, I’ve done it myself. We are overloaded and exhausted. It’s takeout and a movie on the couch. Forget it. The important thing is not whether or not you have tech at dinner. The important thing is how the tech is impacting your dinner. This is where we get into heading toward our reader’s question. Family dinner is about making the connection and making the table feel safe and welcoming to everyone.
There are a lot of reasons why technology might show up at the table and might feel safer for some members of the family to bring a device to the table. Some people need that as a way of getting into the environment. We’re making that shift but what we can do is then use the TV show or the phones to connect with the people who are here now instead of connecting with people who are far away.
For example, if you’re texting a friend at the table, not the best use of your tech and your family dinner time. If you’re using phones to have a selfie challenge together or to look up trivia questions to quiz each other or to show your parents, “My Instagram page has some funny moments. I took snapshots with my friends. I’m going to share that with you.” You’re using technology in an affirming way that brings everybody into the environment and makes it safe and comfortable.
That’s one of the key pieces that our question needs to address. How do you make the table safe and welcoming? There are lots of ways to do that but if you do find yourself in that technology trap, try turning it around. Don’t take the phones. See if you can turn around the use of the phones before you start phasing them away.
I love that distinction. You’re saying tech devices are fine as long as it’s being used in a connective way, not in a self-isolating way.Rushing through mealtime? Not sure how to make time for conversation with your family? Press pause to create time for safe, fun chatter. Join Dr. Carla and Bri DeRosa of The Family Dinner Project explore why the love provided at mealtime matters far… Click To Tweet
Is it enhancing our ability to be together? That’s great. If it’s contributing to our family dinner environment, I’m all for it. If it’s taking you away from our family dinner environment mentally, then it’s not for now.
Beautifully put. I can’t add a thing to that. It’s so well said. Let’s make a shift now from that because that is so beautiful and holds itself. Let’s take a look at the reader’s question. I see it has quite a few components to it, the one being shamed early on by the father. The reader is letting us know it wasn’t a safe childhood environment. It was likely emotionally abusive. We have the component now that shame and all of that pain. It’s connected with food.
Now it’s coming out. It sounds like it’s been with her for a lifetime, and now she has two daughters. I don’t know their ages, but she’s concerned that her mindset, thoughts, and actions are affecting her daughters. You do a lot of work and have worked with body image issues. It’s a perfect opportunity to look at all of those pieces. Dive in wherever you like.
You’re so right. You were reading that question and I was hearing the same things you were hearing. This is so rich with so many facets. I want to be upfront and say that I, like almost every woman of a certain generation, had my own messaging around body image and food coming from various sources, from the media and my family. A lot of us have those stories of a well-meaning parent or maybe sometimes a not-so-well-meaning parent but I’m not going to make that judgment call here.
A parent who had something to say on the topic of our body shape or size, our appetite, and eating choices. My mother used to tell us how many calories were in a certain new recipe every time we ate. It was draining. It’s like, “I don’t care if there’s 200 calories in this thing. I’m just hungry.” The point is, we all, or many of us hear that. There’s an emotional connection there because we have had that happen to us in some way, shape, or form.
It is a hard pattern to break and a hard thing to not pass on to your own kids at the table because if that’s what you were raised with, you find those things coming out of your mouth without thinking about it unless you’ve done a lot of work. I’m so admiring of this question because it’s somebody who’s recognizing that pattern. It sounds like maybe pretty early in her parenting journey and that’s great because it means you can break that.
We have done some work. We’ve done a whole special section on eating disorders, body image, and how you navigate these things at the table. We’ve talked to a lot of experts in the field. People who are far more expert than I am, clinically speaking. It does come back. You correctly identified it. This is a person who didn’t have a safe experience at family dinner growing up.
What she’s seeking now is, “How do I feel safe to make my children feel safe?” That’s where we can key in. The biggest thing is we have to make the mental shift that family dinner is not about food. Food is the thing that sets the stage and brings you to the table but the experience of family dinner is not about food. If it’s scrambled eggs and toast because it’s a crazy night and that’s what you’ve got, great. It doesn’t matter. If it’s take-out pizza but you’re all connected, great. It doesn’t matter. It’s not about what you’re eating. It’s not about what anybody is or isn’t eating. It’s not about how much you’re eating. None of that belongs at the table.
I pause for a moment, Bri, because I would like to ask you a question on behalf of me and our readers. When we’re talking about dinner, we can extrapolate from that to be talking about lunch, brunch, breakfast, or snacks. It’s any meal and it can be a half-hour meal or 20-minute meal or a 2-hour meal but whatever that meal is, it is not about the food on the table, but I’m hearing you say, the quality and the connection and dare I say, the energy of love and the meal.
By the way, we should name right there. That energy of love is mutable. There are days where you might want to bring the best energy of love to the family dinner table and none of us are perfect. None of our families are perfect. You’re going to have that thing that goes haywire. You’re going to have that night where everybody’s grumpy and it’s all wrong. The thing is, it’s never 1 meal or 1 opportunity that defines the whole experience.It's never one meal, it's never one opportunity that defines the whole family dinner experience. Click To Tweet
It’s important that we always have in mind that you can do better. You can repair and move on. In the case of tension at the table or realizing that you’ve said something or done something that maybe was not what you want going forward for you and your children, you can say to your kids, your spouse, or to whomever, “I messed this up.” in my house, there’s a phrase we often use, “That didn’t go as intended.” It’s okay to say, “I’m sorry. I want to do better. Here’s what we’re going to do going forward and let’s try together to do that.”
It’s so beautiful that you’re bringing that up because of the idea of ruptures, which can happen at a dinner table at any meal and outside of meals. It’s ruptures if we look at them correctly. Rupture meaning a hiccup, a mock-up, or whatever you want to call it. It’s not the mock-up. It’s how we repair it. Ruptures are inevitable. In my next book, The Joy of Imperfect Love, ruptures will happen because we’re imperfect beings but if we lean into it and say, “I’m sorry,” authentically for exactly what happened, how we’re going to strive to do it differently and ask, “What can I do to heal this?”
We’re right back on the track of creating that connection because where love exists, it allows for the ruptures and it awaits the repairs hungrily and eagerly. That’s what brings us closer when we know. That’s where the safety is. The safety comes from, “I got it. I stepped on your toes. I hurt you. I called you a name. I saw you cringe. I don’t want to do that again. Calling you chubby or whatever it was, I saw the look on your face and I noticed. I’m so sorry and I will not do that again.”
One more piece when you said women of a certain generation or people of a certain generation, it’s interesting how, whether I’m working with somebody in their 20s, teens, 30s, or 70s, this is a persistent issue. You, so many of my Gen Z and Millennial clients will say, “When my dad did this, my brother did this, or my mom said this.” They still cringe and are still working to create a healthy relationship with their body image and with their eating. It’s an issue that deserves so much attention.
There are so many things to unpack there but one thought that comes to me and thinking about our questioner as well, there is so much of this that is rooted in the pursuit of perfection, which, by the way, social media has not made better. That’s part of what even makes family dinner daunting to a lot of people because they see all these people Instagramming these perfect meals. They’re like, “What are you doing every night?” I’m like, “I don’t do that every night. Are you kidding me?”
We’re not doing perfection but the body image thing is rooted in so many things. It’s rooted in privilege, White supremacy, and all kinds of cultural biases. We could go on and on but it’s rooted also in this search for perfectionism. One of the things that I hear in this questionnaire is the potential for this to be a person who is so worried about getting it right that the family dinner could become a place of pressure.
We don’t ever want that to be the case. This is somebody who might be so worried about saying or doing the right thing that now everything feels stiff and stilted and might be so worried. Reader, if you’re out there, I’m just making guesses. I’m casting, but I could imagine that you might be so worried about the body image thing that, “I’m only going to serve what I perceive to be the healthiest foods so that I never have to make a comment or a judgment about what my child is eating. Also, my own personal programming is you can only eat these things and not these things because you’ll be chubby.”
All of that needs to go away. We’re not looking to make mealtimes perfect aesthetically, perfect nutritionally, or perfect in any way. All of the pressure around, “You eat or you don’t eat. Manners. You sit this way. You use your napkin. You don’t say this. You don’t do that,” all of that needs to go away. The first thing is to make this the safest, most welcoming, and most relaxed place because if it’s not, nobody wants to come back then you don’t get the benefits. What you do get is a battle that escalates over time. Don’t try too hard to do the right things because you might make yourself do the wrong things.
That is such sage advice. I don’t know if she has a partner or not, but I can see that having this dose of mindfulness, coming to the table, making whatever it is okay, whatever your best is in that moment, or you’re not best if it’s pancakes for dinner. Sometimes that’s a great thumbs up as you’re showing. It’s so important, especially when they have underlying eating issues, binging or starving.
They may certainly need the support of a clinician or psychologist who specializes in disordered eating to get her on track. The kids in our lives notice everything and they know us sometimes far better than we know ourselves. She may also benefit from some mindfulness practices, but also from some support from a specialist who can help her take baby steps toward creating some of those healthier patterns.
It’s such a great point because if you don’t, as a parent, heal your own pattern, it doesn’t even have to be around eating and body Image. Some of us have patterns around communication that need to be unlearned. Some of us have trauma responses when we come to a dinner table and that needs to be broken apart. If you haven’t sought external help for something that might warrant the external help, then you do yourself a disservice but you also do your children a disservice.
You can’t break a pattern with them unless you fully healed yourself and it’s so hard for anybody who’s had an eating issue with any kind. That is such a difficult thing to overcome without help. That is a critical thing to get right because you have one body. You have one vessel within which to live your life. If it’s not getting what it needs, then there’s nothing else but keeping yourself healthy and whole.
I’m thinking of the patterns that are most essential to us and our habits. Eating is one of them. It comes from our first taste of breast milk or bottled milk. Our relationship with food is a very primary relationship and it’s impacted by how we are nurtured or lack of nurturing, the messages that we’re by Mom or Dad or society, as you say.
All of those messages are so deeply rooted from early on in life that neurobiologically, they are more hardwired in our systems. We want to be patient with ourselves as we take steps to let go of that which doesn’t serve us or our families and create new wiring that will be very fine at first and very easy to let go awry. It will go awry because that’s part of the process then making the new patterns stronger by repetition.
Your show is called Imperfect Love. We all know this to be true and at this point, it’s almost a platitude, but I’m going to say it anyway because it applies in this case. You cannot love other people fully unless you love yourself. Unless you allow yourself to be loved. Many people, not just women but women in particular, often culturally struggle with this. That relationship to your body and loving yourself, loving your body, nourishing yourself and your body, and feeling okay. How many of us have been like, “I shouldn’t eat that second piece of bread?”
Do you want the piece of bread? Eat the piece of bread. It’s that thing that stops us from being able to fully engage. If you’re spending your time thinking about that second piece of bread and whether or not you should have it, I’m extrapolating here but calculating your calories for the day. A lot of us had that wiring. If you think about that, can you be thinking about connecting with the people you love? Are you giving them your full attention? If you’re then worrying about, “I got a track what they’re eating. Is she eating too little? Is he eating too much?” that’s not a platform for love and it’s not good for connection.
The energy is focused on monitoring rather than the energy. Again, it’s hard to cultivate these new patterns but if that piece of bread is calling to you, it’s because we are programmed as children, “Don’t eat that extra piece of bread or don’t have that butter,” especially if you’re a more chubby side or a more curvaceous side and a parent is criticizing you. That becomes the known and the forbidden. You don’t learn to pay attention to your hunger. For so many people, they’re raised as I was, “Whether you’re hungry or not, eat all the food on your plate.”
I knew I was going to be a vegetarian very early on in life. They would feed me liver and I would feed it to the dog under the table until our chihuahua was very fat. It was getting food from 10 different plates or 12 because the parents weren’t feeding. Anyway, you get what I mean. We were taught not to pay attention if our bodies were hungry or not, but we were told to eat because there were children starving in various parts of the world and I get that.
It is a simple shift that we can offer to this reader. Maybe one key tip is to slow down. If she wants to reach for that extra piece of bread and show her children, it’s like, “Is my body hungry? Is my physical body hungry or is my heart hungry for some nurturing or is my heart hungry for a sweet rather than my body being hungry for that extra whatever it is?”
I would say to also be okay with your children just eating the bread. That’s another thing. We start to worry. Children have their own ingrained food preferences and eating habits. I want to make it very clear. I’m setting aside here children who are neurodivergent or who have feeding issues. Maybe we’ll do an episode about that sometime. We have a whole day, but setting that aside. Developing children have the ability to follow their innate hunger and fullness cues. They’re born that way. We messed that up. Culturally, “Eat everything on your plate,” or like, “Are you sure you need that second helping?”
Both are equally bad in terms of what they do to our ability to sense our own bodies, be in our own bodies, and deal with our own hunger and fullness cues. One of the things that happen is little kids especially, but kids of any age at various points in time, it’s universal, “I made a whole Thanksgiving dinner and all you ate was one roll?” Sometimes kids just eat the bread, the chicken nugs, and yogurt.
For this parent in particular, that has to be okay. It has to be okay that you made chicken, broccoli, and rice and your four-year-old only ate the rice. That is fine. If the four-year-old eats the rice and wants more rice, your job as somebody who’s trying not to program diet, culture, or body image issues, is to go, “If you’re still hungry, you can have more rice.”
Don’t pressure about the chicken and broccoli because at some point in time, across a whole month’s worth of meals, that kid is eventually going to eat the chicken or the broccoli. If you have to deprogram all of this from yourself or your children, don’t listen to the voice that says, “I have to monitor. I have to control. I have to say what and how much.” None of that is helpful to an eating environment. You’re typically developing kid will eventually sort out their own relationship with food. All you have to do is provide it. That’s it.A developing child will eventually sort out their own relationship with food. All you have to do is provide it. Click To Tweet
I remember an older study where kids were given the opportunity to choose from two tables. One table was laden with sweets and the other one with healthy foods. At first, they were all going for the sweets then by the end of the study, it was a couple of days long. They were ignoring the sweet table because they got the forbidden stuff out of the way and they naturally wanted the good stuff. It’s fortunate yet unfortunate that when we’re raised, we’re taught that this is what the plate of food needs to look like. It has this much protein, green, or carbs in this space or these many carbs.
We are told if we don’t eat that at that meal, we are bad or wrong. The body doesn’t work that way. As you said, the body is looking to get its needs across a day or series of days. If we’re paying attention to what the body wants, there are days like you said where we’ll want some extra carbs, only protein, three apples, and a piece of cheese if we listen to the body.
What your child is learning, if you are making this an environment where it’s okay to just eat the rice and nobody’s going to say anything to you about it. Nobody’s also, by the way, going to then withhold dessert after, like, “You only ate rice. You didn’t eat chicken while your brother ate all of his, so he gets and you don’t.” Don’t ever do that. Many of us are programmed that way. It’s neutral. Food is morally neutral.
Any insinuation of, “This is good. This is bad. This is right. This is wrong,” is only going to make the family meal time feel less safe. What your child learns if you let it be, “You can have rice and you can still eat the ice cream,” is that they are safe to listen to their body and they are safe with you. That’s what you need to foster. It’s critical that you do that and most of us have messed that up at one point or another.Boosting Your Body Image and Eating Habits with Expert Bri DeRosa Click To Tweet
Also, you said the word monitoring and, for me, that’s a keyword because across family meals and different ages, the feeling of the table being a place where we’re being monitored is a huge issue. Body image and eating aside, if you have older kids, particularly if you have teenagers like I do, a lot of times, we use family dinner as that moment to check in about all things.
Instead of having a conversation about the day, it becomes like an interrogation about the day. They suddenly feel like you’re monitoring their every move. You’re monitoring how they did on the science test, whether they did their homework, how much homework they have, when they are going to get that done, or whether they put in that application. That also doesn’t lead to connection. That leads to frustration and shutdown because why am I on the hot seat?
Anytime you’re at the dinner table, the idea of being in your head asking yourself, “Am I monitoring now? Am I monitoring food? Am I monitoring manners?” That doesn’t mean it’s not a free-for-all. Some things are not acceptable and you’re going to intervene. If your child is putting spaghetti on the dog, you’re going to go like, “No. Let’s find another way to get your needs met now.” Ultimately speaking, if what you’re doing is trying to control something or feel in control of something at the table, you’re probably in a monitoring state and that’s not going to help anything.
Agreed and another piece to add to it is I’ve noticed that when we offer choices, we all like choices, and kids like choices. If you’re concerned that your kids aren’t getting enough vegetables instead of offering broccoli, sometimes it’s about offering corn, broccoli, and green beans and seeing which one they pick. I’m a big person on leftovers, so I love taking whatever’s not eaten and either freezing it or making it into something else the next day that’s a little bit disguised with something that people like.
We can use it also as a way to be more creative sometimes. Use our creative energy to make dinner or make any meal look a little prettier. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s not about perfect. It’s about colors. It’s about putting it in pretty dishes or an old dish that’s pretty. It doesn’t matter but making that atmosphere very connective and appealing, not just with the food but as you’re saying with our energy. Make sure that we don’t use that as the time to do the quizzing.
As you were reciting that litany of questions, my heart was going, “Hot seat.” We know we don’t digest as well. We don’t even realize we’re full and we may lose our appetite together or get extra hungry if we feel like we are on some hot seat. I’m so glad you brought that piece forward about making it a time of almost leisure and comfort again going back to the part of safety.
Taking safety and let’s pivot because I could keep going for ages. It’s time to start wrapping to a close and focusing a little bit more on the body image. For our reader, what are some tips other than what you’ve already offered about psychotherapy, getting the support she needs, eating more mindfully, and listening to her body? What are some things she could do to feel better and to get rid of that voice that I imagine sits in her head, “You are chubby. You will never be thin enough. You will never be perfect enough. Chubbyness is not okay?” when in fact having some curve on your body can it be more than okay. It can be your body type.
I don’t know if I even have the right answers for that. All of us struggle to a certain extent with that even if we know the right things to say and do. It’s some things that can be helpful. I mentioned before social media is not real helpful in terms of perfectionism but it can be helpful in terms of curating a world of diverse images.
One thing that you can do for yourself is to look for body-positive influencers of all shapes, ages, genders, ethnicities, races, and sizes. Look for people who look different from each other and people who bring forward images of people who look different from each other. If you are looking at that thing much more frequently and positively than the thin Caucasian ideal that is pushed forward as the right way to be. If you’re looking constantly at a feed that is curated with a lot of diversity, your brain starts to ease up around what is normal, healthy, or right. That’s one thing that you can do for yourself.
Another thing you can do for yourself is this. I don’t know if it’s just me. I’ll just be vulnerable. There’s a certain body part of mine that I don’t like that and I have always not liked, probably not who incidentally. The part of my body that most people, when I was growing up, unhelpfully focused on, “If you could just do something about that, you’d look pretty.” We’ve all had somebody.
It occurred to me thinking about all of these things, I have spent a lifetime worrying about that, being uncomfortable with that, and wanting to change that. This is something that my body has been this way since I was a toddler, at least. I can look back at the photos. That was my body. Why in God’s name would I try to spend the rest of my life changing something that has been a part of me all this time? I’m still alive, healthy, and happy. I have a family and a career. Things are going okay. What am I putting my energy towards?
I don’t know if that’s helpful to our reader at all but it was helpful to me to have that sudden epiphany of, “Your body is your body. It’s carried you this far. You might as well try whatever you can do to respect it and thank it for that.” The last thing I would say to this reader and I’m going to let you, I promise, is to look at your children.Your body is your body. It's carried you this far. You might as well try whatever you can to respect it and thank it for that. Click To Tweet
If they grow up thinking that there’s something wrong with looking like you, they’re probably going to look like you. They’re your kids. Would you want somebody to speak to them the way that you speak to yourself? I would maybe sit with that and think, “Am I saying things to me that I wouldn’t say to them? Maybe I need to talk to myself the way I speak to them or the way I want to speak to them,” in an ideal world.
I love that tip. It is one that I often use with clients. I’ll say, “Think of talking to your child. Even if you don’t have a child, your imaginary child. Think of how you talk to them and talk to yourself that way. Talk to your younger self who might have been a little on the round side and say, “Aren’t you beautiful? Aren’t you perfect? Aren’t you amazing?” When we grow up with that, even though as you spoke earlier about love and loving yourself, we may never love ourselves perfectly but we can always work on loving ourselves a little bit more each day. Accepting ourselves a little more each day, those parts of us that might be a little imperfect.
Certainly, there are going to be a little imperfect because we’re human. Allowing ourselves to give those parts extra love and care the way that we would if we love a child and we’re telling them, “You are perfect.” Watching that, we can continue to evolve as loving ourselves and continue to love other people more because the more we are able to love ourselves imperfectly, the more we can love other people in a heartfelt accepting way.
I want to close by bringing it back to the dinner table. For this reader, I would love this person to be able to move forward using family meal times as an opportunity to re-nourish that part of herself. Let family meals be the opportunity to eat in a way that you maybe didn’t feel allowed to eat. Let family dinners be a place where you allow yourself to give your children permission that you were not given.
Maybe sometimes break the rules. Maybe it’s ice cream Sundays for dinner just because somebody should have done that for you once when you were eight and now, you’re going to do it for your kids. Let it be the place where you heal the wrongs that were done to you so that you can pass on a new and different legacy at family dinner and make it feel like what you wish you could have.
Let it be a place where you heal the wrongs that were done to you and carry it forward in a different way. What a gift and a blessing, Bri. Thank you so much. Where can our readers find you?
You can find us at the FamilyDinnerProject.org. We are on the socials, @TheFamilyDinnerProject on Facebook, Threads, and Instagram. On X, @FDP_Tweets. We are out there and if you are looking for resources around this particular topic, if you go to our site, just search body image and eating disorders. All of that content will come up for you. If it doesn’t, message us. Let us know if you can’t find it. I’ll send it to you. The last thing I would say is we also do have a book. The proceeds from that book support our nonprofit community programming to help more families. That book is Eat, Laugh, Talk: The Family Dinner Playbook. You can find that anywhere that books are sold.
I happen to have that book and love that book. It is phenomenal. Thank you, Bri. It’s been such a delight to share time with you and I can’t wait to have you back so our readers know more about what you do, especially when we were talking about working with kids and neurodivergent issues around the table. We’ll have you back. It’s such a blessing and a joy.
Thank you. It was great to be here.
Thank you and this is Imperfect Love.
- Family Dinner Project
- Massachusetts General Hospital Psychiatry Academy
- The Joy of Imperfect Love
- @TheFamilyDinnerProject – Facebook
- Threads – The Family Dinner Project
- Instagram – The Family Dinner Project
- @FDP_Tweets – X
- Eat, Laugh, Talk: The Family Dinner Playbook
About Bri DeRosa
Bri DeRosa is a freelance writer and communications consultant with a background in creative and dramatic writing, arts education, and service learning. She’s spent over a decade working in program development and creative initiatives, largely for non-profits and small businesses. Bri has been the Content Manager at The Family Dinner Project since 2014, has contributed to three cookbooks, and practices her family dinner skills every night at home with her husband and two teenage sons. Founded in 2010 through teh Massachusetts , The Family Dinner Project is a non-profit initiative that champions family dinner as an opportunity for family members to connect with each other through food, fun, and conversation about things that matter. The Family Dinner Project is offered through the Massachusetts General Hospital Psychiatry Academy.