My question involves my parents, most especially my mom. I love both my parents very much, however, I do not think my mom realizes how much her words and actions affect me. I have struggled with eating for a fairly long time, at least seven years. In those seven years I have explored various forms of disordered eating. I am now nineteen years old and a second-year college student. My latest disordered eating episode was a two month 200-calorie-a-day diet which I stopped when I went home for winter break. Most recently I have gotten back into the swing of binging at night. I have been through all of this before. I am sick of it. I tried to eat normally, and realized that I don’t know what “normal eating” is anymore. I don’t remember a time when I have not been thinking about food and weight. It scares me. I don’t want to pass this behavior onto my future children. I have made the decision to see a nutritionist on campus about my eating habits, if I qualify. The problem is going home for vacation. My mom has always been on some kind of diet ever since I can remember, and every diet she tries she recommends to me as well as my sister. She has done this when I am at my highest and lowest weights. She constantly comments on other girls being thin. She never has a problem with me being on a diet, even at my thinnest. She’ll recommend I buy clothes that are too big for me, just in case. She even recently re-sized my graduation ring to a bigger size because she thought it “might help”. I am a pretty sensitive person when it comes to weight issues, and so anything she says on the issue sticks, and hurts. I have gone a long time without saying anything, and now I am afraid I have waited too long, or that my mom will tell me that I should fix the problem myself or with books instead of wasting money and time with a nutritionist. She has no idea about the hundreds of dollars I have wasted on “binge groceries”, or the times I have not left the house because I felt too fat. I am 5’6 and have never (to my knowledge) weighed more than 135 pounds, at my very heaviest. I feel, even now, that fitting into a size 4 is too fat, and I am sick of this. I don’t see myself as anyone else sees me, and I haven’t for a long time. What is worse is that my mom is encouraging my 15 year-old sister to live on Atkins, as well as commenting constantly on my sister’s eating habits. My sister has been a little over-weight since elementary school, but I don’t think having her go on a diet at her age is such a great idea. My sister and I are alike in the fact that we are sensitive about anything that has to do with weight and body size, and I can see that my mom’s good intentions toward my sister are just driving her toward over-eating and depression, and my sister now constantly thinks about food and refers to herself as fat. I am in pain, as well as scared, for her because I have struggled with food too, and I don’t want the same struggles for my sister. I know my mom doesn’t have the greatest body image of herself, either. I love her and don’t want to hurt her. But both she and my dad need to know that commenting on my sister’s and my weight and eating habits isn’t doing anyone any good. Do you know the best way to approach them on the subject? For me, because I have gained a couple pounds since I was last home and I am afraid that my mom will comment, but most importantly for my sister, because I still have hope that she won’t have to deal with the same full-blown eating issues that I have. Sorry this post was so long, but any help would by wonderful! And thank you so much for your website! – –L.M.
I must share that I found your post incredibly communicative. I read your words and felt as if I heard you speaking intimately about what it is like to be a daughter, a sister, and a young woman in your family and world. Your story is not only heard but I am moved by what I believe are already strong steps you have initiated to fight back against the drama of food/image/and the right to your own life.
– I am now nineteen years old
– I don’t know what “normal eating” is
– I am sick of it
– It scares me
– I don’t want to pass this behavior onto my future children.
– I have made the decision to see a nutritionist
– I am in pain
– I love her (my mother) and don’t want to hurt her
Yes! I stand and applaud your spirit and say I believe it is a very positive sign that you can fight against disordered eating if you realize it is an insidious thing that makes you tired and scared. You recognize you don’t want to pass this on and you want to protect those you love from its grasp. You have decided to consult someone outside the family (nutritionist) for an opinion and you love your mother but you know she is hurting you.
The following statements written about your mother made me very sad:
– My mom has always been on some kind of diet
– Every diet she tries she recommends to me as well as my sis
– She constantly comments on other girls being thin
– She never has a problem with me being on a diet
– She’ll recommend I buy clothes that are too big for me, “just in case”
– She even recently re-sized my graduation ring
– My mom will tell me that I should fix the problem myself or with books instead of wasting money and time with a nutritionist.
– My mom is encouraging my 15 year-old sister to live on Atkins
– Comments constantly on my sister’s eating habits
– My mom doesn’t have the greatest body image of herself
I believe you know the truth. Your mother did pass on disordered eating to you, most likely. She taught you a way of coping and viewing the world and living in it that is a death trap. In my opinion we were not born to win the opinion of others or perfect ourselves so that we might know favor. I, too, share your worry about your sister.
I want you to consider immediately meeting with a licensed professional counselor/therapist in your area. Perhaps the college you attend has resources for therapists. I think it would be extremely beneficial for you to build a healthy relationship with an individual outside the family system who can help you figure out the appropriate boundaries for visiting mom and dad and role modeling something different for your sister. I am in agreement that your mother and father need to be held accountable for their behavior and impact on you. However, I believe to do this before you have appropriate, healthy, and educated support when you return to school would only cause you to spiral into your own coping mechanisms which might lead to more disordered eating. Before you deliver mom a platter of insight and before you save your sister—help yourself. You deserve personal healing and deliverance from the cycle of disordered eating. A restrictive calorie intake of 200 a day is scary and does not treat your special, precious, body in a kind way.
In review, I want you to read and consider the following:
Please follow through with seeing the nutritionist ASAP and work out a suitable plan that reflects what your vital organs, skeletal system, and spirit need in order to live. You deserve to live.
Please consult the nutritionist, the University staff, the yellow pages, or your personal physician for a counseling referral. I disagree with the idea that a book could do the trick. You deserve a personal, healthy, healing relationship with another human being that offers life giving wisdom to your nineteen year old self.
I am so thankful you took the time to write. You are not alone in your plight. Your voice is one of many that contend with mother/daughter food/image/living issues. May you rise to find the truth of your value and your possibilities.