Eating Disorder Recovery Reminders from my Daughters

I am grateful for the incredible opportunity to witness firsthand how true it is that children are born intuitive eaters and with fascination towards their bodies. I worry about the day when my daughters are taught that their bodies are not “good enough” and that there are “rules” with food. For now, I want to hold on tight and record some of their experiences that have been unbiased and true expressions of self-love, body appreciation, and neutrality towards food.

I have two daughters, one who is 3 years old and the other is 7 months old. They both love to look at themselves in mirrors and in pictures or the camera on my phone. Recently, my 3 year old was washing her hands and looking at herself in the mirror. She made a comment and said, “I have such big eyes”, and I agreed and smiled. She continued to look at her face and said, “I have such a big nose,” and I paused for a moment. The immediate thought in my head was, “no, you don’t”. I realized I have been conditioned to believe big noses are bad and small noses are better and I was about to “reassure” her that her nose is not too big while also invalidating a belief she just shared about her own body. As soon as I realized this, I quickly provided the same response I made to her comment about her eyes. I agreed and smiled. She was smiling as she said both comments and was excited about her big eyes and her big nose and I decided to share in that delight. She was excited about noticing and connecting with her body. She isn’t aware of standards or expectations of what her body should look like so she is just celebrating her body. And she reminded me I can do that too.

The 7 month old has recently starting finding her hands and her feet and she loves to stare at them and wave them around in front of her face. It is so adorable to see her looking so curiously and with awe at her body. I can also look at my body with curiosity and amazement. The 7 month old also made her preferences for nutrition very clear after she was born while in the NICU. It is common for NICU babies to struggle with eating as this is one of the last skills to develop while in utero. So, it is something she needed to practice in the NICU. We attempted different types of options for feeding: nursing, bottle feeding with breastmilk, and bottle feeding with formula. She made it very clear to everyone that she wanted to nurse and if that wasn’t an option she still wanted breastmilk. It was amazing and a little funny to watch her so adamant about nursing as the nutrition she desired. She has increased her flexibility and will now accept all those forms of nutrition and is just starting to explore some purees too.

As for my 3 year old’s relationship with food, she is an intuitive eater and much more in tune with what her body wants than many adults are. She eats when she is hungry and stops when she is full. The only time she stops early is if she is excited to play and usually it doesn’t take too long for her to return to her food and finish complete to her own sense of fullness. Additionally, she listens to the different needs her body has at each meal. For example, it has been interesting to watch her eat a McDonald’s happy meal and how it varies each time based on her body’s needs that day. One time she might eat half of the burger, all of the apple slices, and none of the fries. The next time she might have all of the burger with cheese, none of the bun, all of the fries, and some of the apple slices. She also has all types of favorite foods and even when presented with a favorite food during a meal she is still eats in a way that incorporates balance, variety, and moderation rather than only eating the favorite food item. I don’t have to guide her to finish her meal or to eat more of this or that. She is able to determine what her body needs and has a natural instinct to do so. She listens to her body and focuses on what it needs. I can do that too.

I can do all these things that my daughters are reminding me. I was once this way too. It may be harder for me to live this way now because I have to unlearn and continuously remind myself that my automatic judgments or beliefs about my body and food are biased thanks to diet culture. I can choose to reject these beliefs and instead allow my daughters to be my role models so that I can continue to be a role model for them when diet culture tries to teach them to dislike their bodies or be afraid of food. I want to thank my girls for this reminder. It is incredible to see the world through their experience.

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*The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders and not intended as endorsement by iaedp™ Foundation, Inc. or its Board of Directors.*

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