The Past as Prologue? Not Necessarily…

I’ve mentioned a few times that Kate, a grad student at Columbia has been interviewing me for her thesis on disordered eating recovery and pregnancy.

One of the things we spoke about (during one of our many wonderful conversations this summer) was if there was any fear I’d pass along my disordered past to my daughter.

I’ll be honest; this is something that weighed on me long before I ever got a positive on a pee stick … or found out we were having a girl.

And while I can’t make any certain statements about the future, what I do know is this: though I realize I might always have some food issues — I still sometimes emotionally eat; sometimes mindlessly munch; sometimes have to stop myself from using exercise to “undo” a heavy eating weekend; sometimes have to remind myself that it’s OK to eat formerly “off-limits” foods without guilt — I am going to do my damndest not to actively pass on my insecurities to her.

So here’s the million dollar question … HOW?

Well, for starters, I don’t want her to see me staring/poking/prodding/preening in front of the mirror. (I sometimes catch myself doing this now — especially being pregnant, it’s all about preening and admiring my growing belly — as evidenced by my BUMP page–updated Friday!!)

I don’t want her to hear any “fat-talk,” period –by me or anyone. (I will need to remember this post-baby because, well, I will inevitably have some baby weight to lose that isn’t lost immediately post-partum!)

I want to lead by example — continuing to exercise and providing healthy, balanced meals for my family to enjoy together. (Confession: I need to cut back on my own candy consumption in order to be a good role model; this is something I need to work on. Moderation! Candy every day is not the best example!)

I want her to see Mommy enjoying an ice cream cone with her and Daddy and Rocco, without commentary about how caloric/fattening/sugary it is. (This I have been really good about the past two years–no commentary when I eat!)

I don’t want her to see me counting/journaling/etc. (It doesn’t mean I won’t do it … I still plan to journal, but I’ve gotten far more discrete about it and sometimes wait til the end of the day now to tally up my day.)

I want her to always feel LOVED, special, confident, smart, and beautiful … as my parents always made me feel, no matter what I looked like. (Even when I struggled to find clothes that fit my curvy body from my pre-teen years and on, my mom always helped me find things that flattered my figure and made me feel confident and beautiful.)

Of course, I realize even if I am successful at doing all these things, I can’t protect her in a bubble; society will inevitably influence her to some extent — and that influence can be a great life-lesson, depending on how we approach it. I’m hoping maintaining an honest dialogue with her (as my mom did with me) will be the way to go as she grows up.

And, as I noted to Kate, while I don’t plan to just ever bring it up out of the blue, there could come a time down the road where it becomes relevant for me to share my disordered past–mostly in the vein of overcoming it and how I did it; what I learned through my experiences. I also would want her to know that the prospect of her (or any future children) was really what got me to a place where I knew I was ready to put aside my own selfish issues to become a mom.

Ultimately, I don’t think the past needs to be prologue to the future. It doesn’t mean it won’t influence my future (how could it not?!) but if anything, I hope it’d provide a jumping off point for the future.

I also don’t think it has to mean that history will repeat itself — for me or my future daughter. And I think being hyper-vigilant and so ridiculously aware of my own short-comings and issues will be helpful so I don’t go down that ugly path ever again … and naturally I hope she never finds that path, herself.

But if she does, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I have to have faith that she won’t; I know a lot of my habits stemmed from anxiety related to perfectionism. And if she does, hopefully we will be able to nip that in the bud if we see a Type A personality manifesting itself in her — or at least try! At the very least, I’ll be armed with the tools I’ve learned along the way.

What’s most important to me is that she loves herself and is proud of who she is, every day, regardless of the size of her jeans (though I do hope she inherits her mama’s ample booty ;))

How about you? If you have children or have thought about having children, will you share your journey with them? What lessons would you like them to learn?


11 thoughts on “The Past as Prologue? Not Necessarily…

  1. I think your plan is a good one. As the daughter of someone who loved me to pieces and always told me I was smart and beautiful, I know the damage that can be done unintentionally by a loving mother. She always claimed she was “fat” and “ugly”, I followed her example. Actions speak volumes.

    You’re definitely going to have a child that’s going to have a head start to a great self-esteem. They will indeed be blessed to have you for their mother. 🙂

  2. This is a tough one. My sister is a recovering ed-nos sufferer and I am worried about the genetic component. I also struggle every day with the messages I send, from drinking Diet Coke to the Weight Watchers cookbooks on my shelf. And you can’t control everything around you (My sitter launching into how her daughter needs to lose weight, Mrs. Incredible looking at her thighs in her costume and heaving a huge sigh) I think being on the lookout for warning signs and not being afraid to take action are both huge.

  3. I feared having a girl, partly because of these reasons. It seems like such an uphill battle, not to only fight your own influence and habits (which you may still struggle with) but also society/the media’s. I think being aware of it all is more than half the battle. Being a cognizant, thinking mom will really fight the battle for you. Helping her be aware of the unfair pressures and pitfalls but also teaching her that it can all be ignored will be so important. I like to think that girls that grow up like that will help other girls, and they’ll help others… and maybe it will all spiral out and we’ll get a handle on this. We can dream, right?

  4. Coming from a mother who has driven me crazy from a young age about weight and dieting, I can honestly say that walk the walk, don’t talk the talk (like my mom). Set a good example and love your child (no strings attached). Beware, it is a slippery slope…my mother still can’t stop talking about it and I’ve been listening for almost 45 years. Blah! Good luck. I’m sure you’ll do well, because you are aware and that’s half the battle.

  5. As the mother of 3 girls (20, 17, 13), I have to say that one of the right things I did was not pass along my body/food issues. It was a conscious decision back in 1990 when I had my first girl.

    I did not want them going through what I did (my parents making comments about my body and what I ate, etc) so I made sure to NEVER comment negatively on my body or anyone elses–to never make comments about “bad” food or dieting or losing weight, etc.

    I have been a runner my entire adult life so they saw that, too.
    I am proud to have broken the cycle for 3 more girls. The problem, of course, is when they visit my family and my parents want to start in on them like they did on me but that’s another story….

  6. I’m a new reader to your blog so I’m just getting caught up. But as I’m pregnant (17 weeks) and expecting a girl this is a concern I’ve recently started to really have. I never thought I’d be the type to care about getting bigger while pregnant, but as I see myself gain more and more weight I find myself turning more and more to food. When before I was pregnant I thought I had a handle and was finally getting somewhere with it. I look forward to keeping up with your blog and how you get on. Thanks for being so open and candid. 🙂

    1. Hi there and thanks so much for commenting and joining the conversation. Congrats on your pregnancy!! 😉 I don’t promise to have the answers (as I’m experiencing this live before your eyes …) but I’ll do my best to remain open and candid! 🙂

  7. I’d highly recommend picking up just about anything from Ellyn Satter on feeding children – and the blog is excellent. As someone recovering from compulsive eating disorder, I was desperate NOT to pass on my issues around food to my son and I feel like I’ve done that pretty well based on the above approach.

    I would say…children are exceedingly sensitive to parental moods. If you’re journaling/calorie counting/restricting, it’s quite possible she will pick that up, so that’s part of your journey you should continue to look at 🙂

    Also…consider what you will do if she WERE to get fat (or, heck, what you’ll do if she’s in the upper percentiles of weight for her size as a newborn/baby/small child). How would you react? How will you accept her size, regardless of what size that is? If you are in therapy, now is the time to work through those issues 🙂

    All things to think about, before she’s born – I know I struggled a lot when my son, who was the 25th centile when he was born, went up to the 50th percentile after about six months. It was very traumatic, and very triggering for me, and I had to work hard to deal with that as MY issue, and not his!

    He’s four now, bless him, and I have learned more from him about intuitive, non-calorie-counting eating than I could ever have imagined.

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