It’s National Eating Disorders Week – a week to raise awareness and educate the public about these devastating and often fatal mental health issues. For those of you who are new to this blog space, I don’t talk about it often, but I fought like hell for five years with an eating disorder that eventually landed me in heart failure. I’m not proud of it, and it’s not something that’s easy to talk about or wins me many fans, but that journey and that struggle is part of my testimony, so I own it. I worked hard to recover and move on, and by the grace of God (and thanks to an incredible team of therapists), I did.
I can finally say it no longer defines me, and I no longer feel shame in talking about it. I’m so thankful that anorexia was simply one chapter of many in my life. I was able to move on and turn a page to a new chapter, unlike so many women who fall victim to this terrible disease. Anorexia is the most fatal of all mental illnesses, and this week is a week to shed light on it.
It’s time to talk about this.
If you haven’t already read my full story, you can do so HERE.
Being a mom, especially a young girl mom, the truth of the matter is that these issues start YOUNG. Like, REALLY young. So, I’ve been very strategic about the way I talk about food, exercise, and health since my children were born, and I thought it might be time to put it out there in the world. My prayer is that these action steps might help us re-frame the little things we do every day that can add up to big impact for our kids.
ACTION STEP: Drop the black and white talk.
ACTION STEP: Focus on strength for adults and growth for kids.
Two or three times a week, we head up to our neighborhood gym to work out (okay, okay, and to use the free childcare…), and I’m often asked by the little two why we have to come to the gym. And every single week, my answer is the same: because exercise keeps Mommy healthy and strong. Never once have I said anything about weight or my jeans or how much queso I ate the night before. I may have had those reasons in my head, but you’d better believe I wasn’t planting those seeds for my kids.
All they need to know at this young age is that exercise is healthy and makes us strong. Period. Don’t make it complicated. Because truthfully? It’s not.
ACTION STEP: Eat meals and exercise as a family.
Before I go into family meals, let me just preface by saying I GET IT. With 832 different schedules and practices and homework and jobs, I know this one’s hard. And it certainly doesn’t have to happen every night…but at least a few nights a week, enjoying a meal together is critical to developing a healthy relationship with food. There is so much more that happens at a dinner table than dinner. There is eye contact, conversation, taking turns, laughter, and, okay, a little bit of chaos if yours are little like mine. BUT! BUT! It’s worth fighting through the chaos to share a healthy meal when you can. And bonus points if your kids help you with the cooking!
Last, but not least…
ACTION STEP: Just stop talking.
And I’m calling it out today: STOP.
Our bodies were created to DO. When God created us thousands of years ago, His primary focus was not on how we looked, but what we could DO with our bodies. We were created to work, to learn, to carry children, to feed children, to travel with our families. We were supposed to feed and nurture that body to keep it strong so we could continue to work. We were never meant to focus so much on how that body looked…but that’s part of our fall as human beings.
That stretched out tummy that now resembles a frowning face? It grew a human. Or two. Or twelve if you’re a Duggar.
Those saggy boobs? It kept a few tiny people alive for a year.
That thigh gap you constantly covet? Screw it! Your thighs ran a half marathon.
Enough complaining, you guys. Enough fixating. Enough battling something that was never meant to be fought in the first place. Let’s get over it already.
And here’s why this is so critical when you have little ears around…they hear everything. And repeat everything.
The other night, my husband was telling me a story about something scary (or maybe exciting…I can’t be sure as I was only half-listening…) that happened at work, and without thinking, I replied, “Oh, damn!” Can you guess what the next two words out of our sweet baby boy’s mouth were? Yep. You know it. He looked right in my eyes and said, “Oh, damn.”
I’ll leave my “Mother of the Year” trophy on the door step for collection.
When you look in the mirror and verbally criticize those laugh lines on your face with your little girl standing at your feet, do you really think she’s not paying attention? She’s looking at you, who in her eyes is the most beautiful woman in the world, and you’re feeding her negativity. Whether she’s aware of it in the moment or not, you’re teaching her how to be a woman, and what she just learned is this: women criticize themselves.
Is that really the message we want her to learn?
I want to see my little girl looking in the mirror admiring how strong she is, how much she’s grown, or, better yet, moving her focus away from the mirror and into the eyes of people. I want to teach her that it’s more important to look out than to look in. I want her to learn that we focus on others, not fixate on ourselves.
So, those are my thoughts for this NEDA week. We can plant seeds now that can create change later, and I hope you’ll join me as we fight for our kids.
If you or someone you know is struggling in this area, I’d highly encourage you to check out https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/ or find a local therapist who can help you. If you’d like to contact me directly to help you find resources in your area, you may always do so at firstname.lastname@example.org.