I survived an eating disorder. When I was 16, I developed anorexia, quickly followed by bulimia. The next decade of my life was a rollercoaster of illness.
At times, I was "doing well" and at other times, usually coinciding with stress and trauma, I would sink deep into my sickness. Finally, in my mid 20’s I accepted that I needed help with my eating disorder and reached out to the professionals.
I was one of the lucky ones who managed to get back to a relatively normal relationship with food. That being said, it’s something which I still very much struggle with. I view myself as an addict, maintaining my sobriety. One day at a time.
I know the dangers of disordered eating and my biggest fear in life is that it’s something which could affect my two daughters who are aged two and four. But even now, at this early age, I am keenly aware of how I speak about food and body image in front of them.
I have never once talked about my weight in front of my kids, and I never plan to. The way we speak about ourselves has a direct impact on how they view themselves. As parents, we are their idols.
Children do not see size or a number on a scale when they look at us. All they see are the people who are perfect to them. If I convey to them that I think I am worthless, because of what I weigh, how will that impact on them?
Most of us grew up in an age where it was standard practice for women (in particular) to be on one diet or another. Weight Watchers was almost synonymous with being an Irish mammy, always trying to shift a few pounds. I remember being a teen, and family and friends would suggest that I went on a diet. It was never meant in a bad way, it was simply the culture of the moment.
At that formative time, those comments stuck to me like glue. I began to think of myself as "big" and "worthless". Something which no person should ever feel. And from those seemingly insignificant comments and other events which unfolded, there sprouted a deadly mental illness which controlled me for much of my adult life. So no, I don’t talk about diets. I don’t talk about weight. And I certainly don’t do it in front of our girls.
And even though there are plenty of days when I feel far from adequate, I make a conscious effort to speak about myself in a positive way in front of them. There are plenty of things I want to pass on to my kids... but body image issues ain’t one of them!