How Your Inner Child Influences Your Eating Behaviors

As children we are learning about the world around us, and many experiences are set up for us at home. Some of these influence the way that we behave and make decisions as adults, including the way we approach food and nourish our bodies.

Reflect on the past

Our inner child can hold onto any unresolved emotions through to adulthood, where they may manifest as under-eating or over-eating (Favieri, Marini & Casagrande, 2021), ignoring your body’s signals, anxiety around food intake, unbalanced nostalgia for childhood foods, worrying about nutrients or food costs, or perfectionism in your diet or exercise patterns.

As a child, those big feelings could have been from shame, neglect, rejection, trauma, or fear. The unconscious mind creates its own understanding and protection mechanisms for its perception of these big feelings regardless of their source

Revisit your feelings

Revisiting childhood memories and recognising the needs that were unmet in that moment gives us the opportunity to meet those needs and start resolving the experiences that created the emotions and behaviours you have carried with you, including over-indulgence and control (Favieri, Marini & Casagrande, 2021).

When you connect with your inner child, you can compassionately hold space for any feelings about the amount, variety of foods, or the safety of meal time. You’re able to recognise that as the adult are in the drivers seat and will acknowledge the experience but also choose to make positive choices that may be different (Warren, Smith & Ashwell, 2017).

It may be helpful to explore this in a journal. Spend time meeting your inner child at the age of mealtime struggles and find out what’s really going on for them. What happens when you take the driver’s seat and listen compassionately to their tantrums? Maybe your inner child is more like an inner teenager with a strong opinion, but still at a vulnerable age.

Refresh your habits

Instead of hiding any childhood pain or anxiety around food and eating situations, only for them to bubble up in different ways later in life, connecting with your younger self allows you to acknowledge the coping patterns that you have developed (Warren, Smith & Ashwell, 2017). Children aren’t yet able to do this so they need some love and comfort in order to resolve their feelings.

As you start to heal and integrate past experiences, you will start to develop a kinder and more compassionate relationship with your body and the way you fuel it. This could include feeling sensations in your body, responding calmly over knee-jerk reactions, practicing self-care, honouring your own boundaries and mindful eating.

These are beautiful foundations to nurture your inner children, teenagers and your present self.



Favieri, F., Marini, A., & Casagrande, M. (2021). Emotional Regulation and Overeating Behaviors in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review. Behavioral sciences, 11(1), 11.

Warren, J. M., Smith, N., & Ashwell, M. (2017). A structured literature review on the role of mindfulness, mindful eating and intuitive eating in changing eating behaviours: effectiveness and associated potential mechanisms. Nutrition research reviews, 30(2), 272–283.




Ceri Kidby-Salom


she / her


Registered Nutritionist (BHSc), Bpsych, Health, Life & Inner Work Coach


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