Parenting: eating disorders

Healthy food was always available to us growing up. If we were hungry, we ate. If it was an hour before dinner and we were hungry, we ate. If we were not hungry we were not forced to eat. If it was 2 hours after dinner and we were hungry, we ate. We were never forced to eat or deprived of eating. If we were full, our plate did not have to be “clean”. No guilt trips of “starving children” were ever used to make us eat beyond what our own bodies told us were full. We were never told we were “wasteful” by not finishing what we put on our plate, nor made to sit there for 2 hours until what we DID put on our plate was eaten. What we didn’t eat was put in a Tupperware and eaten later, or given to the dogs. Our parents never held food over our heads, never used food as leverage “if you eat this then I will give you that,” or punished us for not eating what they made if we didn’t like it. Food was meant for nourishment and if we did not like what we were given we had the option to make ourselves something else. We did not have little debbies as options because my mother did not buy that food. We had no sugar cereals either. On the weekends she made brownies or cinnamon rolls and we put syrup on our pancakes and french toast. Otherwise, if we wanted a snack it was applesauce, or raisins, or a sandwich or a granola bar, etc. 

Then I would go to a friend’s house. They put too much food on their plate and had to eat it. So our sleep over consisted of me sitting there at that table for 2 hours until it was time to go to bed until my friend ate all of her food. I mean she was only 8 so she should have known exactly how much food her stomach could handle when putting the food on her plate right? WRONG! I wish these parents had degrees in child development or just common sense. But they did not. So the power control began and the parents seemed to get some sort of joy out of this embarrassing behavior, this “sit there until it is all eaten” power trip. It seemed mean to me as a child. Even as a very young girl I could see the sadness and emotional scarring that that parental behavior was causing. 

Then I would go to another friend’s house. No snacks before dinner. Then the kid would be over hungry and nauseous and not want to eat dinner at all or not able to eat much and then be hungry and hour later but be deprived of food. WHY!?? 

Then another friend’s house where they spent all afternoon eating snickers bars and the parents legitimately seemed confused as to why the child did not want to eat a steak!

It blows my mind thinking back on it now. 

Why?

There was no: 1. Listen to your own body. 

I heard every excuse a parent could give on why they controlled food. If the child ate, it would “ruin their dinner.” The only thing that ruined dinner was the fact that the child was then overly hungry and the parent made asparagus which the child hated and then was forced to eat cold 2 hours later because they didn’t clean their plate. 

I watched as EACH of these kids had obesity issues, control over their food issues, bulemia, anorexia, and everything in between. Is that such a shocking outcome? The child was never given the ability to eat based on their own hunger. It is pretty simple. If you put leverage and controls and rules on everything food…your child is going to develop a food issue which will result in a body image issue that they will battle for many years to come. 

I will never forget my friend reaching over the table to get a roll from the basket and her parent sticking her in the hand with her fork because “MANNERS!” We do NOT reach across the table. We ask for the food to be passed. Because we are raising endentured servants and we are part of the Royal family and we are on camera being video taped right now and others watching may think our children are impolite! I mean who was this, fork stabbing, and lecture benefitting? All it did was scare the shit out of me and I never wanted to eat there again. I can tell you that it instilled fear. I can tell you that eating at that house made me nervous of what the consequences of me eating or not eating would be. 

This is not healthy!

I chose to raise my daughter eating food just like my parents raised me. When she is hungry she eats! If she is full, we put the food in a container and she finishes it when she wants. If she is hungry an hour before dinner, she has a banana. 

These choices parents make are only a part of what can potentially cause eating disorders. My eating disorder came about NOT because of food. It came about because of control. I needed to control something. I needed to control my body and by doing that I could control my food. This happened as a direct result of sexual abuse. 

So there are many potential contributors to eating disorders. As a parent we are blessed with the ability to NOT contribute to any of them. 

34 thoughts on “Parenting: eating disorders

  1. I love how your mother handled food and eating. Food/ my weight has been one of my lifelong issues. Several years ago, I realized that diets were not working for me long term, and I had to stop. Since then, I’ve healed a lot, and learned a ton along the way. My overeating has had to do with numbing internal pain. Much has been healed.

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  2. I completely agree with this … and funny, its a conversation I had with my kids recently. The ‘theory’ of manners argh. And letting them trust their babies knew when they were hungry and full. Kids know!

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  3. My brother and I were raised similar. We were never forced to finish our plates or bowls, if we wanted a snack when we got home from school or a bit before dinner we were allowed to eat. However junk food or pop was never really kept in the house besides once in awhile or like when we had a sleep over on weekends. I remember when I was 9 or 10 as kind of a treat or allowance for helping with household chores my dad would let my brother and I walk down the street(it was a really small safe town) to the corner store and get each a treat, so like a chocolate bar or a small bag of chips. I remember getting kinder surprise eggs quite a bit. Haha It was not only like an allowance but a small sense of independence we could walk to the store and pay for our little treat even if it was baby steps. But yes junk food was managed, but other than that we could eat when we want. If we were served something we did not like, we were not forced to eat it and if we were too young to make our own food we would either eat around what we didn’t like or our parents would make us something else they knew we liked. Since at a young age though your taste buds do change my parents would try to serve us the same thing that we didn’t like the first time months later to see if we liked it. Sometimes we did, sometimes we didn’t still and that was okay. Because of this I always practiced healthy eating habits and never ended up with eating disorders or obesity problems. I also thank my parents because I am now not a picky eater at all. Because they didn’t force food down our throats I eat pretty much everything and I always will try just about any new dish or food once. The only dishes or food I still cannot enjoy is spicy food. It doesn’t give me heartburn or anything or health problems, I just don;t think I ever developed the taste bud for spicy food. I eat it and all I feel is my mouth is on fire and don;t taste the food at all. But yes minus that, I am not picky. My brother is a little bit more on the picky side than me, but not like horrible. I could count the number of foods he doesn’t eat on one hand.

    Manners were encouraged always with us, not forced or we were not like yelled at or stabbed with silver ware but we were raised to say please pass the food, to say please and thank you etc. My grandparents had even more table manners like no elbows on the table, sit up straight in your chair etc. Again not forced but they were more old fashioned that way. We followed them and we knew what we could get away with at either houses. Haha

    I really agree with your post. πŸ™‚

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    • You sound exactly like us. Mom would tell us to use our napkin please or stop resting our elbows on the table but there was no fork stabbing!!!! It was just table etiquette and not being rude but we sat around and discussed our day and did not get critiqued about everything.
      Sounds like we had a lot the same! Thank you so much for sharing your story!

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  4. Oh I forgot to mention that the encouragement of exercising is another issue that goes along with what you eat that parents often to forget to teach their kids especially now adays. They are like go ahead and eat all this junk food and sit on your butt all day being babysat by xbox or the tv.

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    • Oh i forgot too. I love that you got to go get a treat.
      We got paid allowance too and extra if we washed the car or weedeated the gardens. But we had our chores of clearing the table and things like that and we could spend our allowance usually with Nana, my mother’s mother who would take us to our little town and I could pick out what I wanted. We had a “drug store” that is what it was called because it was the only store with a pharmacy that had a bar that you could sit at and get a milk shake and that was always fun.
      YES about running around. My daughter was in the sprinkler, jumping on the trampoline, doing dog agility with her dogs or she was horse back riding. I grew up swimming and waterskiing so we never just layed around and did nothing ever

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  5. A friend of my grandson’s was forced by his grandmother to eat an enormous plate of food for dinner. She tried to force my grandson to do it too, but he refused and went home. This boy felt abused by his grandmother and was depressed.

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  6. We always had to eat everything on our plates. Once our great aunt was babysitting and my younger sister who would only have been 4 or 5 didn’t like some of the food she was given and was taking too long to eat, so she was sent to the bathroom to finish her dinner and told not to come out until her plate was clean, and she just flushed it down the toilet. And my great aunt who is nearly 90 still tells people this story repeatedly and says how naughty my sister was, because of that ONE time. No surprise, this sort of attitude by my family had consequences. My sister finally admitted to herself last year that she had a problem and started going to Overeaters Anonymous.

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  7. Kudos to your mom! She handled food perfectly πŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌ. We were raised somewhat similar, although I see a few of the mistakes you mentioned in my family. Nothing major by any stretch, but little echoes here and there πŸ’™. I don’t know who is responsible for any of the mistakes in our family, but I think it had more to do with my grandparents than my parents. My mom would advise us not to fill up on snacks before dinner, especially if she saw us eating a lot, but she wasn’t all helicopter about it 😁. She figured if we were eating, it was because we were hungry, and that was that. As a result, we didn’t have any issues with food, either πŸ’—. I agree wholeheartedly with the entirety of this post! πŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌπŸ’“πŸ’“

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  8. I agree with you! I never understood why parents say, “Finish your plate!” If the child is not hungry, then they are done. Why force them to eat? The same holds true if they are hungry, do they need to starve until the parent is ready to feed them? What food habits are they creating for their child?
    Your choice of a banana for a snack or to place unfinished food in a container is exactly what should be done! Bravo!

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    • Thank you very much!!!
      I have put my heart and soul into my daughter as I think all parents should. Every decision was thought out. I also got my degree in Early Childhood Development which I wish all parents had so they know what is normal/typical behavior and what is appropriate correction for behavior that you do not think is appropriate. So many parts of parenting are life long lessons for our children.

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  9. My parents raised me very similarly to yours and I am grateful. Unfortunately I am proof that parents can be literally perfect and not be able to prevent certain things. I still had problems, most of which are untraceable in origin but I still believe in the importance of good parenting. When adults pass their own unresolved issues onto their children it’s often because they don’t take the time to really examine their own behavior. I see it all the time and it’s really heartbreaking. Thank you for taking the time to bring attention to this because it really matters! This issue is especially important to me because I almost lost my life because of an eating disorder. 20 years wasted on slow suicide. I was one of the fortunate ones, I have scars but I survived. I know many who did not. They were said to have died of mysterious heart diseases but the truth was it was their relationship with food. Surviving this way was excruciating and if any child can be spared by healthy parenting I can add that it may actually save that child’s life! Growing up is hard enough, guilt and food is a lethal combination and has no place at the family dinner table!

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    • Thank you for such a heart felt message and sharing your story.
      I am so sorry to hear you almost lost your life to an eating disorder. So many don’t know how serious they can be. How they can create imbalances and life long bone problems, blood sugar issues, etc. and how that kind of depression and control over food can bring a person to their lowest.
      I also went though this in my late teens and have struggled with body image issues.
      You are so very right that growing up IS hard enough. I would love for parents to take food and control over it out of the equation.
      Gosh but 20 years for you. 20 years is a long time. I am so glad you survived! So you can be an inspiration to others through your story of healing and recovery and showing that a person can survive such depths

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      • I am grateful to you …for a lot of reasons lol but one is reconnecting me to some of this. I have been stuck in “should” for so long (I should be, I should have, I should do etc) I have lost sight of the reality of the fact that I didn’t give up. My story is a dark one lol food was only part of it but pretending it doesn’t exist doesn’t fix anything. I’ve learned a lot but instead of using it, I hide and try to distract myself. There are changes I need to make to get the life I want but they are scary. Acknowledging what I’ve done well is better than regretting my mistakes. It’s easy to fall into an abyss otherwise. You help remind me and many others that whatever we go through, we’re not alone and we have a choice about what we do next.

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      • I forgot to mention, in regard to the original post, I think it’s SO important for parents to see this and hear how they may be able to help prevent eating disorders from happening! Even though my parents weren’t able to prevent mine there are SO many that could if they know this information. Watching me go through this was the most devastating to my parents. Words can’t even describe it. My mother especially. Avoiding this not only saves the child but the entire family!

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      • It must have been painful for you to go through and for those who loved to you to go through too. I can only hope they loved you and supported you through it. It sounds to me like if your parents were devastated then they loved you and you mattered to them. All children should be cherished like this.
        I developed an eating disorder too, and not because of my parents because where food was concerned my mom was perfect. Abuse led me to controlling my body with food. My story is also dark but I have shared it on my blog so the darkness didn’t consume me. It was my hope that by sharing the darkness and my search for the light in the little things that others would join me in the healing process and know they aren’t alone in any of it. Thank you for validating that my blog made you feel not alone.

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      • It does! and at a vital time, I really should tell you! It’s been a few years now that my life has calmed down. On the outside I looked “better” so you would never even know I went through anything really. My last traumatic event was about 3 years ago. Then I got Jersey and she gave me purpose. I was ok for a while. About 2 weeks ago I started getting major panic attacks, which I’ve had but never like this. Totally out of the blue and for “no” reason. I really thought I was having a heart attack more than once. Because they eventually subsided every time I now think it’s my anxiety disorder coming back. No one forced denial on me but I chose it I guess which is inexcusable. since things calmed down I’m in a strange state. Not long ago someone asked me a question about my life. A normal person would have seen it as a sensitive subject but I just blurted out the incident in gory detail like it was no big deal. I felt nothing. So I guess detached is a better word. It’s a sign I have to address some things to say the least! You’ve helped to motivate me at a time when I obviously needed it the most. And sure there are countless others also! Going along thinking my attitude about my life was ok could have truly ended in disaster. Most of the time we don’t know when we help people and it’s only one small example, but you absolutely do!

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      • I don’t think we choose denial. I think our brain knows what we can and cannot handle and so it puts us in a form of denial to protect us. Sometimes dealing with it all and facing it all can be too much for our mind and body to handle.
        Having jersey i am sure has been such a gift. They are so calming and distracting and intuitive and loving unconditionally.
        I am so sorry that the anxiety came back so intensely. Maybe you do need to address some things but as you do just do it slowly and as your mind and body can handle it. Don’t push too hard. Give yourself understanding and love for what you have overcome and face what you feel may be holding you back but gently.
        I would have seen you blurting everything out as just someone who needed to release what was holding them back, and being detached from it is really just a coping way of not feeling the full magnitude of its intensity.
        I chose to not face anything and I do believe it would have killed me. Then I chose to face everything head on at one time and that could have killed me too and that was WITH a therapist who I believe made me “feel” too much at one time when I had not allowed myself to really feel at all the things that had happened.
        Right now, I am in a “be aware of how you feel, write it down, be mindful, look for the good, practice gratitude, keep a list of things you want to work on” state of mind.
        I’ve realized that as strong as I am to have survived, my heart and mind are a bit delicate and they deserve to be treated delicately as I go through this healing.
        My brain isn’t letting me live in denial anymore. I have nightmares, PTSD and dissociation because it has all come back. BUT I am working on coping skills and allowing myself to feel but slowing down the process a LOT.

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      • You not giving up is empowering! It is a light in all of the darkness. It is something that others can look to when they think they cannot come out of the darkness.
        My story was silenced and I started my blog to speak about my life shedding the shame others had put on me and deciding to face all of the denial and minimizing and move forward as best I can sharing that journey. It has not been easy but in the truth there has been a liberation from the binds of the secrets.
        Thank you for your kind kind comments. I truly appreciate them and you

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  10. About 2 weeks ago I started getting major affright attacks, which I’ve had but never like this. Then I chose to cheek everything heading on at one fourth dimension and that could stimulate killed me too and that was WITH a therapist who I think made me “spirit” too much at one fourth dimension when I had not allowed myself to really spirit at all the things that had happened.

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