This week marks Eating Disorder Awareness Week. A time to raise awareness, reach out, and promote recovery. It is also a time to reflect on our own behaviours, views and practices, and in some cases, a time to look back at our own ED experiences.
Although I don't talk about it much, I am on the recovery continuum**. It has been almost a 14 year journey with several bumps and detours. I like to think of myself as recovered and done with my ED, but as any recover(ing) person knows, the journey is never truly over. In fact when you view and ED as an addiction, which some schools of thought do, your journey will likely be life long.
I thought I would take a moment to share with you an experience that sticks out in my mind where my ED began to surface. On June 14th we went in for our ultrasound that would reveal the gender of our baby. I didn't enter that day with any particular hopes or preferences. Of course I was ready to love our baby unconditionally. The gender didn't matter at all. However, as the technician pointed out to us that we were having a boy, I felt a wave of relief rush over me. Relief that I wouldn't have a little girl looking up at me for the rest of her like and following my every move. Relief that I wouldn't pass on lingering ED behaviours to her. Relief that I wouldn't have her ever look at me and thing her thighs, stomach etc. came from me. And then I felt guilt at the realization that I was afraid and how this probably meant on some level, that I was still struggling. That stung.
I have spent the past months trying to learn how to install a positive body image in Weston. I know that EDs are becoming more and more prevalent amongst boys and men so I want to protect him as much as possible.
Here are some alarming statistics:
4% of boys in grades nine and ten reported anabolic steroid use in a 2002 study, showing that body preoccupation and attempts to alter one’s body are issues affecting both men and women.
In a survey of adolescents in grades 7-12, 30% of girls and 25% of boys reported teasing by peers about their weight. Such teasing has been found to persist in the home as well - 29% of girls and 16% of boys reported having been teased by a family member about their weight. (source)While now person cannot change societal body norms, there are ways to teach our children to be ok in their own skin. NEDIC has some valuable pointers for families. Here are a few of my favourites:
- Teach children that their self-worth is not related to how they look - Thinking back, how early on in life did you equate pretty with good?
- Give children healthy choices, and teach them to make informed decisions about what they eat.
- Emphasize the positive aspects of healthy eating, rather than focusing on the effects of unhealthy eating.
- Do not use food as a reward or punishment.
- Live with a positive attitude to body image - NEVER complain about your body in front of your children.
- Regularly participate in exercise you enjoy - Don't slave away on a treadmill that you hate. You are sending a message that exercise isn't fun.
- Work toward identifying and resisting all forms of discrimination - In our house we are trying to never comment on body size. Sizeism is real and hurtful on both ends of the spectrum.
If I were to be 100% honest with you I was also terrified about how my body would change. In the first weeks postpartum I told my mom I was thankful that I bounced back quickly because I want sure how I would handle the body changes mentally. Pregnancy can be a hard time for any woman, but I feel it is a little bit harder for those with an disordered eating history. If you are pregnant right now and feel these thoughts lurking, please talk to someone. It is better to air them out than to reach those roller coaster postpartum weeks with the additional burden of ED thoughts. Although it feels like a very lonely place to be, it doesn't need to be.
**note: I don't like to talk about my own ED experiences because I believe in some cases over-sharing can be a trigger. If you have any questions or need someone to talk to feel free to send me an email.