Even though my mom was always naturally slim, she kept her share of calorie counting books around the house. And she used to go on weird juicing kicks—or salad-and-bread-only diets—to lose a few pounds before summer. That diet mentality definitely took a toll on me:
When I was about nine, I started playing around with her calorie books, experimenting to see just how few calories I could eat in a day. Once I logged just 800. I excitedly told my mom and she said, “That’s good, Sunny!” Looking back, I realize that if she had been thinking clearly, or healthily, she would’ve said something more like, “What the heck are you doing counting calories?” or “That’s not enough—open your mouth and eat this sandwich!” But she honestly didn’t know any better at the time.
When I was fourteen and a sophomore in high school, I was nominated for Homecoming princess and my mom bought me a long, red satin gown for me at a thrift shop. It fit, but was a little too tight around the tummy. So she got me a gym membership. I remember the personal trainer who showed me around looking at us like we were crazy when my mom explained that “we” just wanted me to lose three or four pounds before Homecoming. Looking back, I realize that, instead of altering my body to fit the dress, we could’ve just altered the dress! But that wasn’t where my mom’s head was at.
Luckily, as we grow up, we have the chance to rid ourselves of any lessons we’ve learned that do more harm that good. I used to be pretty angry with my mother for the not-so-great lessons about body image and food that she taught me. But the truth is, she didn’t know how her issues and actions, in combination with my personality and predispositions toward eating problems, would backfire. And I’m not angry anymore.
Thinking back, how did your mom’s relationship with food influence yours? And what can you do to remind yourself that her beliefs don’t have to be your own?