Many of my clients and Food and Feelings message board members turn to food when they feel powerless, especially vis a vis their parents. That’s because they ironically yearn for and spend time trying to gain power—the ability to get things done—that they already have (and have had for years).

For sure, when we’re children, we’re seriously powerless. We can’t reach the top of the dresser, go places by ourselves, or get to run the show. Not only are we too physically small and weak to have much leverage, but we don’t have a completely formed, functional brain (that doesn’t happen until our late 20s!). So it makes sense that we’re forced to rely on adults, specifically our parents and older family members, to get virtually all of our needs met. Because they have power, we must adapt to their needs (crazy as they often are) in order to meet ours. Such is childhood.

But the power differential changes radically when we become adults who are as large as (or larger than) our parents and have mature thinking capabilities. At that point, we arrive at possessing equal power to that of our parents because we have joined the ranks of adulthood. Fully formed, we are as smart as they are (and often smarter), and understand the workings of the world. They may have more experience, but that does not give them more power. As I said, when we are fully grown emotionally and physically, we have as much power as they do.

So, why is it that some of you still act as if you need parental approval to do what you want? Bulletin: they don’t have to like what you do for you to do it. Goodness, if, as adults, we all did what our parents wanted us to do, the world would never change. Bulletin: it’s fine and normal to displease your parents, no matter how they fuss about it, because you have the power to take care of yourself. It may be difficult for them to give up taking care of you or bossing you around—such is the nature of parenthood—but the truth is that as an adult you have free reign as an entity unto yourself.

Knowing that you have power over your life is a secure feeling. It doesn’t mean you always must do well or make the best decisions for yourself. It means that you have the right to do things however you want, even make mistakes, because it’s your life. I don’t care what they tell you: you get to do what you want whether they like it or not. So go out and use your power and stop seeking parental approval. You’ll turn to food less as you please yourself more. I promise!