Break the Cycle: Diet Culture and Its Effects on Parents and Children


Brigitte Gentil-Perret

date published

March 10, 2021, noon



Trigger warning: weight talk, diet talk, negative self-talk

My mom and I have a very strong bond. We always have. She was the first person I told about my bulimia. She immediately took action. She had no idea it was going to be a long, painful, and frustrating journey. I'm fortunate that my mom and I can speak about our past openly now, which has allowed us to overcome some of the resentment and hurt that we both had toward each other at the time. I do not want to shame or blame her but rather shed light on a prominent issue when I was growing up, and still is to this day! I want us, especially as women, to stop the cycle of personal body shaming, fat fearing and emotional numbing. We are better than that, and we can do better.

When I was younger, my mom would regularly talk negatively about her body, her weight, how she needed to exercise, and get on another diet so that she could feel better about herself. She was either in the pits about how she hadn’t lost any weight or celebrating her success after stepping on the scale. I recall one afternoon, she was doing it again, and I’d had enough. I finally had the courage to say ‘’Mom, you look fine. There is nothing wrong with your body” and she looked me straight in the eye and lifted up her shirt to grab her body and said “This is not okay! I hate this!”

I knew that I NEVER wanted to be that way. I wished to never have to struggle with my body weight for the rest of my life because I saw just how unhappy and ashamed she was of hers. It wasn’t just my mom who was obsessed with weight loss and dieting. It was every woman I looked up to as a young woman. They used to say “wait till you get older, you will understand”, or “just wait until you have children of your own.”

At 15, my body began to develop and I noticed that my breasts were getting bigger, my legs were getting thicker, arms rounder. I was experiencing the beautiful transformation into womanhood and I was scared to death! One afternoon, I remember sitting cross-legged beside a friend of mine in gym class and I looked over to scan her legs as I had noticed I’d gotten a few stretch marks on the inside of my thighs. I wanted to know if this was normal or if I was getting fat.

She had none… 

I’m not mad at my mom. Having a tumultuous relationship with food and struggling with an eating disorder was the result of a combination of things. My mother grew up around the same type of influence and women of the same perspective. They took care of their husbands, their kids, their homes, their gardens, their jobs, and never themselves. That’s just the way it was. She didn’t know self-love because she had never witnessed her own mother living that way. I wish she had known that she was gifted, that she was enough, and that she was worthy of a happy life.

Parents, the self confidence and love you have for yourself today will have a huge impact on your children as they grow into adulthood. They love you, look up to you, and don’t recognize the flaws in you. You have to remember that the compassion and love you give to yourself is the love and grace your children will learn to give to themselves. 

Talk to your children about having a healthy mind as well as a healthy body, not prioritizing a thin one and lead by example. Encourage them to pursue their goals and celebrate their successes. Teach them how valuable their bodies are and to be thankful for what it allows them to do on a daily basis.

Help them to overcome their struggles in healthy ways through meditating, art, writing, music, exercise, sewing, dancing, and sports. Inspire them to find an outlet, something they can be passionate about and proud of. When they’re struggling, remind them that sometimes we fail, and that’s okay! There is a lesson to be learned everytime we fail. We eventually get back up even stronger than before. Take care of yourselves, mind and body. 

Build a foundation of love, acceptance and gratitude for your body. Be the role model you wish you’d had growing up. 

Break the cycle!

About Brigitte

I am 32, a mama of 3 beautiful little people. I am a full time newborn photographer in Aberdeen, Saskatchewan soon returning to school as a nursing student. I am a multi-passionate individual who is curious about all things art therapy, mental health, self love and women empowerment. I am a recovered bulimic who has been called to share pieces of my story. My hope is that it will encourage women and men to try recovery for themselves so they too can achieve their greatest potential.  

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