Katie Couric — mom to two girls — recently confessed she had been bulimic during and after college.
While it certainly isn’t ground-breaking news that a strong, smart, beautiful and powerful woman could have battled an eating disorder in her past life, upon reading this, I couldn’t help but wonder: did she ever talk to her daughters about her past issues, or did she keep it a secret from them, too? And either way, how did she encourage them to have a healthy relationship with food? Was it hard to lead by example given her history?
Granted, I’m not BFF with Katie Couric and I’ll never have the opportunity to ask her such questions, but it does bring up a question I’ve been asked quite a bit, especially in light of some of the press I’ve done in my role as an advocate: do I plan tell Maya about my disordered eating history?
I’ve long been a believer in transparency … hell, my entire blog is a window into my thinking. Back in 2008, it was a scary, disordered mind. Then a recovering mind. Then a recovered one. Then a pregnant one. Then a new mom-with-baby-weight-to-lose one. You’ve seen it all.
So since I do believe in transparency, I’d prefer to have a conversation with her — when she is older, of course — rather than find out she came across my name on a Google search one day and was surprised to hear about her mom’s past life.
I know I could keep mum about that life. She has never seen me get on the scale, and aside from this one “oops” moment where she saw me body-checking myself, I don’t think she’s ever seen me or heard me make a negative comment about my body. (If I have thoughts, I keep them to myself).
And I really do feel like I lead by example now. I work out — but not obsessively anymore. I journal, but I’m free from the chains rigidity that made me unpleasant to be around. And I eat relatively healthy … but I also enjoy previously “forbidden” foods.
[Side note: this weekend I enjoyed a wine tour with friends where we ate and drank all day. I didn’t think twice about it; just enjoyed the moment. And just today at lunch, I ate a grilled ham, swiss and apple sandwich for lunch on amazing crusty Italian bread from a new cafe in town that surely was smothered in butter … and guess what? I’m totally OK with it! The “old” Melissa would have 1) not ordered it 2) asked for a million modifications and 3) discussed what she was eating). Instead, I just savored it. Every. Last. Bite. 🙂 I don’t have Zumba and I’m not going to “burn it off.” And that’s OK.]
There’s something insanely freeing about this shift I’ve experienced the past three years. Sure, I haven’t lost any weight … but I’m much happier. Fuller. No, I won’t ever be thin or skinny again … and I recognize that. But I don’t want to live that way ever again … not for me, and certainly not the example I want to set for my daughter!
So the question becomes “when”? When does a parent open this can of worms? In middle school? Before that? Do they at all? Or do they wait til their kids ask questions about certain topics? (like drugs, alcohol, sex, etc.). I really don’t know.
I certainly don’t want to put ideas into her lil head, but lord knows she’ll be subjected to things I can’t protect her from at school, in the media, from her friends. Part of me thinks sharing my story — when she’s old enough to understand it — could be a good thing; a teachable moment. I want to be able to be frank with her and tell her that her mommy used to have issues but doesn’t anymore … and to let her know she can talk to me at any time.
But the other part of me doesn’t want to create an issue where one doesn’t exist, and that’s a legitimate concern, too! I could end up with a really strong girl who doesn’t succumb to peer pressure and doesn’t lose sleep over the size of her jeans (girls like this — though few and far between — aren’t unicorns; they do exist!).
It’s a tough nut to crack and I realize I don’t need to know now, right.this.minute. when she’s only 21 months old. But I’ve read about 4 and 5-year-olds engaging in fat talk and body snarking … it’s starting younger and younger and I guess I’d like to be as prepared as I can be before the time comes when either I bring it up to her, or she comes to me with questions.
How about you? How do parents talk to their kids about this stuff? (could also include drinking, drugs, sex, etc). Proactively before there is a problem? Or after the fact? When is it “too late”?