Mommy, I’m Fat:: How to Prevent Eating Disorders in Children

Eating disorders in children create a silent pain for many hiding behind self loathing, body shaming, feeling awkward and not really liking the skin they are in. How do we teach our children body positivity and keep them from this destructive road?

Mommy, I'm Fat:: How to Prevent Eating Disorders in Our Children

The Reality of Eating Disorders

I wrote about this very subject last year as I too had an eating disorder growing up. It has taken daily effort and affirmation to try and reprogram how I see myself and how I think and believe others see me. As a little girl, I took a healthy body and I slowly broke her down, fed her, hated her, threw an onslaught of insults her way, wracked her body daily by force feeding her food, and then purging. And when that did not work, I turned to pills. It has taken 30 years to look in the mirror to see behind all the scars and to embrace this powerful body that can accomplish so very much. And this, even though it’s not the thinnest or the prettiest, and has a list of imperfections.

It took 30 years to love the skin I am in.

Eating Disorders in Children

I now have two of my own. Little girls. Kid One and Kid Two. With permission of Kid One who is now 9, I am writing a little story of kids and their bodies. When people talk of eating disorders, they automatically think they start when you are older. It might have been the case in years past, but this is no longer a reality. The sad reality is that our kids are looking at their bodies critically from a very young age. Their friends are looking at their bodies and commenting. Social media is all up in their faces, the magazines show what they deem to be perfection and all images digitally changed. Nothing is real.

My darling sweet Kid One cries sad tears most nights looking at me sobbing, “I am fat, Mommy.” She grips her strong beautiful thighs and squeezes them until she leaves her little finger imprints on the skin. “What is this? Just look at this”. Tears streaming down her face. “How do I get rid of it?” The slew of words:: ugly, fat, too tall, not pretty enough stream from her mouth faster than I can catch them.

In my eyes I see a strong little girl who can run fast, swim, and has a mean volleyball serve. She is kind, sweet and funny. She is beautiful both inside and out, and all I want to do is shake her little shoulders and say, “Look in the mirror my love. Can you see what I see?”

Do you know that they grade each other in class according to their beauty? At age 9! What does one do with that when you are not emotionally equipped to stand up for yourself?

Unfortunately, at that age, what you do is you start believing it. 

What We Can Do

Moms. This a hard one, but it so important to prevent eating disorders in children. I know many woman who will not put on a bathing suit and swim with their kids at the beach for fear of criticism. Our kids watch us and they mimic what they see. Put on that bathing suit and FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT!

In our home we do not use the word FAT. We use the word STRONG. We do not use the word DIET. We say MAKE HEALTHY CHOICES. We do not use the word LAZY. We use the word REST. There is no BIG kid or SMALL kid – there are PETITE and TALL kids. Use your words. 

What I am hearing from my girls more times than not, is kids are just NOT NICE. Kid Two, who thinks she is the best in the west, and it takes a lot to shake her ground was told not too long ago by a boy in her class that muscles {specifically hers} were ugly. UGLY??!! Is it ugly because he does not have any, or is it ugly because he wants to hurt her? Either way it made her question her body. She is 7. It made her come home crying asking if it was true. Were her legs really ugly?

The day after we had our conversation Kid Two took herself off to school and wore shorts just to show off how fantastical those muscles were. Now if that were Kid One we would still be having a conversation about how strong those legs are and how far they can run, but it would sadly be a comment that she would hold onto for life.

Each child is different yes, but they all hurt and they all need guidance and they all deserve to have self love, body love and body appreciation. Let’s stop the body shaming of ourselves or others – in schools, at parties, on social media, in the workplace and at home. 

The ugly words and self loathing become part of the daily thought programming, and this could lead to early eating disorders, self harming, anorexia, mental health issues, depression and suicide. The statistics are higher than ever especially in our kids.

If you see your child making drastic changes in their daily lives, take notice. Are they suddenly eating far more, or far less? Do they visit the bathroom after meals? Is there a sudden mood change? Talk to your children about their bodies and how they feel about them, and speak to them about eating disorders. Be encouraging, and most of all use kind words about yourself and about others.

Make Healthy Choices 

Our kids are being faced with impurities in our foods far more than when we were growing up. Growth hormones and corn syrup are literally in everything. Fast food is available on every corner that is more cost effective for families versus organic shopping. Parents working far more hours than ever before and are having to rely on faster food options, eating out etc. 

Read the labels without counting the calories. Kids in elementary school do not need to count calories. Do family outings, take the bike, run the dog. Incorporate energy into an everyday lifestyle so that it becomes second nature and fun to do. My Kid Two isn’t terribly keen on typical sports; however, she loves being on her roller blades or scooter. She is out playing. Do what works for your family, what works for your children.

Make powerful your new love language. Strong your new mantra. Kind your new inner love. 

You do not need to define who you are by your body, but you can learn to love the skin you’re in.

 

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