4 Important Things My Mom Did for Me in Her Eating Disorder Recovery
“Just try it, one bite,” my mom laughed, sticking the biscotti towards my mouth. I was 7 and we had just stopped at Starbucks for a light snack before heading to my brother’s baseball game.
“No, no. I won’t like it. It’ll probably get all crumbly and my hands will get sticky,” I said, shaking my head in refusal.
“You know the rule, Zo. Just one bite — and if you don’t like it, I’ll never ask you to eat it again,” my mom bantered back.
I grabbed the plastic-wrapped biscotti and noticed it was dipped in chocolate (I love chocolate). I hesitantly opened the clear packaging, peeled back just enough so that only one bite was exposed and so no crumbs would get all over my new dress. I crunched my teeth into the hard cookie.
“You like it, don’t you?” she said, seeing the look on my face. She knew in just one look as I was deciding whether I had too much pride to take another bite. “Of course you do, she said. “We’re Italian, we like biscotti.”
I smiled and silently munched on it for the rest of the drive.
I grew up learning to celebrate food. Food was to be explored, crafted, a way to honor tradition. But, sadly, food wasn’t a positive experience for everyone in my family like it had been for me.
For 10 years, my mother had bulimia nervosa. So for a good portion of her life, she was fighting a constant battle with the very thing that unified the rest of my family. She has been fiercely in recovery for the last 30 years and is the sole reason I never developed an eating disorder despite being genetically and environmentally predisposed.
Since she is so strong in her recovery and vowed to never allow me to go down the same path she did, when I was growing up she fostered my healthy relationship with food by doing four important things:
1. She taught me to explore many types of foods.
My mom was open with me. I always had to try food once. This prevented me from becoming a picky eater and helped me become curious about food rather than afraid of it. My mom would also try many different foods — modeling a healthy exploration of food for me.
2. She didn’t diet and she didn’t talk about dieting.
Although we did grow up eating relatively healthy in our family, no food groups were ever restricted or eliminated from our diets. We all ate the same foods together and I appreciated having role models teaching me how to interact with and appreciate food. This taught me to eat intuitively, to listen to my hunger signals and understand that no food is off limits.
3. She taught me food is a source of energy.
Learning about the importance of food as an energy taught me to respect food and not use it to engage in emotional eating. Restricting, binging or purging was never something I correlated with my emotional state. I ate when I was hungry and didn’t eat when I was full. This helped me not use food as a control mechanism. Rather, it was fuel for my body. I didn’t judge myself on days I was hungrier than normal — it was just what my body needed.
4. She talked openly about eating disorders.
My mom shared information about eating disorders with me and I researched information about eating disorders myself on the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) and Eating Recovery Center websites. Reading and learning as much as possible can help you and loved ones understand the warning signs, red flags and symptoms of an eating disorder. You could be helping so many individuals who are struggling in silence. (By reading this article, you’re already doing this now — go you! Help someone else learn about eating disorders and share this article!)
I am so grateful I had an entire family who engaged in this mindset; it facilitated such a healthy relationship with food and our bodies. Together, we were each other’s motivation and support — especially on days the insecurities in our head seemed to be speaking a little louder.
Parents, by opening the line of communication, you and your family can continue to do the same for each other!
Zoe Ross-Nash is an Elon University alum about to begin her PsyD in Clinical Psychology at Nova Southeastern University. She writes about eating disorders because it’s a disease that claims the lives of so many but goes unnoticed.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.
Photo via contributor.