How Eating Disorders Run in the Family

Renae Nicole
6 min readJan 8, 2020

I thought I couldn’t lose weight because I grew up overeating. What I didn’t know was because of my heritage, I was able to persevere and lose weight after my eating disorder.

Years ago, at a family gathering, my nine-year-old cousin emerged from the basement every twenty to thirty minutes to grab a monster bar (oats, peanut butter, M&Ms, chocolate chips, etc.). We were there for about two or three hours, so she probably at half a pan of bars in that time. Though everyone was perfectly aware of what the kid was doing, no one said anything. No-one stopped her.

I didn’t realize until recently that my family has a history of bad eating habits.

Image via Certified Pastry Aficionado

My great-grandma showed her love through food. Great-grandma and great-grandpa immigrated to the United States in the 20s (to the best of my knowledge). They became farmers in Iowa. I know they went through the Great Depression but still built their farm into an empire, which now supports over ten families. When my mom and her cousins were little, great-grandma would cut food in half to try to get people to eat more. My great-grandparents have never been overweight, but they learned the value of food.

That became the stick with that side of the family — food was the celebration. The holidays were just an excuse to get together and eat. Vacations were all about the local restaurants and their indulgent food. There is nothing wrong with that! Food is excellent, and we should enjoy it, but now we have some health problems. More specifically, I developed an eating disorder.

I have tried a few diets throughout the years, and I could never stick to them because I was always hungry. I considered “diets” or even just eating the right amount of calories a controlled starve — eating just enough to get through the day. I always told myself, I can’t diet. I can’t eat a reasonable amount of food, because of the way I grew up.

Yes, I overate as a kid. My childhood consisted of terrible eating habits passed down from my family, but that’s not why those diets failed. Bad habits can break. Binging and emotional eating can stop. But hunger can’t be cured. There was no way to fix the fact that eating the “right” amount of calories a day left me hungry.

Renae Nicole

Certified Personal Trainer | Health Coach | Nutrition Coach | Worldview: Christianity