In psychology, who says food also speaks of attention, of care, of affection. In other words, who speaks of food also speaks of childhood, of dependence, of mother’s love. Food carries with it an emotional charge; it is given and received inside a relationship, the most fundamental of relationships, between mother and child. Due to the long process of growing up with a speaking, nurturing mother, in humans, eating and (not eating) are not just biological needs but are profoundly wrapped up with words, emotions, thoughts, feelings.
Hence, there are words stamped inside each of us, around this question of food and the delicious things we received from our mother (or similar person). And here lies the origin of the mysterious craving in bulimia, or its opposite in anorexia. To make a change, you have to go to this part of the personality, to the hidden marks that were left inside us around the question of food, during our relationship with our mother. (We psychoanalysts have a hypothesis that a deep psychological relationship between the mother and baby occurs around each of the orifices of the baby and the functions involved: the mouth and eating, the eyes and seeing, the ears and hearing, the excretory orifices and the acts of urination, defecation and sex. And the whole makes for the final personality of the boy or girl. What is important to understand is that this process of nurturing a baby into a sexed little boy or girl is not automatic or biological. Each mother (and a few others) have to put all the pieces into place, step by step, with words. So that a blueprint, a software, is laid down in the child's mind allowing him or her to function autonomously as a speaking, thinking, sexed boy or girl. This is a real, concrete, step by step process and things can sometimes go wrong.
Sometimes the mother child relationship can go wrong
Sometimes the mother child relationship can go wrong. For example if the mother herself has certain needs around food and being fed, around seeing and being seen, around talking and being heard, or of a sexual nature. In this way a mother can pass on her blind side to her children. There are mothers who talk too much or too loudly. There are mothers who need to be seen so much they cannot notice others... This is one sort of mechanism involved in traits we inherit from the mother. Such a phenomenon is fairly often seen in bulimia and anorexia, when the mother’s own problems with food, weight control and shape are passed on to the adolescent girl child. Some mothers are too generous with food, force feeding the child. There are other mothers who can be stingy with food. These traits of the relationship leave a mark. But usually the basic setup is fine, the psychological machinery is more or less correctly put into place between mother and child. And the satisfaction of all eating, and especially binge eating, recalls the comfort of this early relationship with the good mother.