Fit vs. Fiction's Blog


Why I started Fit vs Fiction and why I won’t shut up about it

BECAUSE:
We live in an image obsessed, fat-phobic, one-size-fits-all, thin is in, skinny jean wearing, thigh gap measuring, binging and purging, body hating society where kids barely out of pre-school are begging their mothers to keep them home from school because they feel like they’re just too fat to fit in!

And THAT..is NOT..Okay.

Body Image Pledges for Parents and Kids: A promise to be good to ourselves and eachother!

Body image pledge (for older kids):

I promise to believe in myself and to reject the unrealistic and unhealthy ideals that may be thrown at me by society, the media or marketers trying to profit off my bruised self-esteem. I will lead; not follow. I understand that nobody can make me feel bad about myself unless I let them. And I will not let them. I believe in myself and I am amazing just as I am.

Pledge for younger child:

I promise to always treat myself with love and respect. I promise to be proud of who I am and not let anybody make me feel like I’m not good enough. I won’t judge other people on how they look because it’s what’s on the inside that matters. I will believe in myself and follow my dreams. I don’t have to be perfect. I’m great just the way I am. I don’t need to be exactly like everybody else, because I am unique and special in my own way. I’m me and I’m magnificient!

SELF-WORTH SHOULDN’T BE MEASURED IN POUNDS!

* “The Body Image Survival Guide for Parents: Helping Toddlers, Tweens and Teens Thrive”

Available through Amazon.com and www.fitvsfiction.com

Mayor Bloomberg, do you want us to be healthy or just skinny?

The judge has spoken, the ruling’s been made and our right to drink super sized, sugar loaded beverages remains in tact.

I’ll be honest with you and say that I’m feeling somewhat conflicted by the decision. I know that the main argument against the ban was from people who just don’t want the government telling them what to do. Nobody likes to be told what they can and cannot eat or drink and people tend to get a little annoyed when they feel like their being treated like children, or fools, or foolish children. That said, who the hell needs to be drinking soda from a cup big enough to swim in, anyway? If you’re still thirsty after drinking enough liquid to bathe in, you’ve got some bigger issues that need to be addressed. I have no problem with Mayor Bloomberg wanting to limit the size of sugary drinks being sold, what I do have a problem with is that, once again, he is completely missing the mark on doing the HEALTHY thing.

An article by The Canadian Press states, ” The rule prohibits selling non-diet soda and some other sugary beverages in
containers bigger than 16 ounces.”

NON-DIET SODA.

Aye, there’s the rub.

WHY is drinking copious amounts of sugar-laden drinks unhealthy but consuming the same amount of chemical filled crap just fine? WHY are we protecting people from the evils of sugar while promoting, accepting and even encouraging the consumption of chemicals that come with risks related to health issues like depression, severe migraines, inflammatory bowel disease and Cancer?

Oh wait a minute, I know, because they have less calories! Calories are bad because they make you fat and fat is bad, because it can lead to health issues. Can you see my concern here? Why is that certain health risks are acceptable as long as they don’t affect our size? Why are we, once again, putting our weight ahead of our health?

He’s the really crazy part, some research has suggested that artificial sweeteners can lead to, say it isn’t so, OBESITY!

I have no problem with the government wanting to help us get healthier, but I do have an issue with it just wanting to make us skinnier.

I work with kids as young as 7 and 8 years old who have already started counting calories for fear of getting fat and that’s just not okay! If we want to raise healthy children we need to teach them that eating well makes them FEEL good, instead of promoting the dangerous messages that eating less makes them look skinny.

Time to stop trying to lose weight and start focusing on gaining HEALTH!

 

Why I had to write the Body Image Survival Guide for Parents:

Why did I write this book?

I always thought that if I ever wrote a book about my life, the title would be, “Who knew?”.

It seems fitting because whenever I look at old pictures of myself from when I was just a little kid, before the traumas came fast and hard, I look at the little girl in the pictures and think, “You have NO IDEA what life is about to throw at you. Get ready, it’s gonna get rough for awhile”.

Life has definitely sucker punched me in the gut on more than a few occasions and thrown a crapload of challenges my way that proved extremely hard to overcome. I’ve lived a lot, lost a lot and learned a lot. Along the way, there was one thing that was there for me through it all. My eating disorder.

Yup, when life got too hard and the pain too intense, I turned away from what was hurting me and turned to my disorder for help. At the time, it made sense. When I was 17 years old, my brother Billy died and a huge part of me died right along with him. The pain of his loss was too much to bear and my life seemed completely out of my control so I turned to the one thing I thought I could control. My body. I started starving myself in an effort to feel like I was in control of SOMETHING or else I was sure I’d go completely insane.

It was easier to deal with the pain of an empty stomach than the sadness I felt walking into his empty room.

My disorder was the diversion I thought I needed. I thought it was helping. I didn’t know it would end up robbing me of my friendships, my health and my dreams. It kept me from making new friends and made it hard to keep old ones. It encouraged me to drop out of school and give up my ambitions. It told me I was nothing without it and I believed it.

I know what it’s like to think that everything you are and everything you could ever be depends on what you LOOK like but to feel like you’ll never look good enough. I know what it’s like to feel like you could never be smart, or funny or interesting enough to matter so you sure as hell better be pretty enough, but to never feel that you are. I know what it’s like to hate who you are so much that being the “girl with the eating disorder” becomes your entire identity and even though it hurts so much, you don’t want to give it up for fear you’ll just disappear.

I know what it’s like to battle with body image. I know what it’s like to watch my mother see me in pain and feel completely powerless about how to help me. I know that this is an issue that is confusing and complicated and incredibly hard to understand.

I also know what it’s like to recover.

My body image issues may have taken me to hell and back, but the important part is that I came back.

I know that with the right tools and information, parents don’t have to feel powerless. There is so much we can do as parents to instil the right messages from the time our kids are babies that can help them grow up with the confidence they deserve. Kids younger and younger are feeling pressured to be who they THINK society expects them to be instead of appreciating who they already are. They need our help.

I wrote the book I wish my own mother had had when I was struggling. I want parents to feel EMPOWERED. I give practical, solid answers to sticky questions and suggest games and projects that build healthy body image and self-esteem. I’ve included positive internet resources and body image pledges and include tons of stories from real people sharing real experiences.

My goal is to teach people that the “Best” bodies are HEALTHY ones and that SELF-WORTH IS NOT MEASURED IN POUNDS!

xoxoxoxo

Sugar-free, Fat-free, chocolate flavored pudding..is NOT pudding!

And there is nothing cake-like about rice cakes.

Diet companies might be able to package their fat free, sugar free, carbohydrate free “treats” to look good, but nothing can be done about the taste. The sad thing is that we accept it! We convince ourselves that they are just as good as the real thing and then wonder why we’re still hungry after eating them. “How can I still be craving chocolate?” you wonder, as you swallow the last piece of the “ChocNOfat BAR” you bought at the health food store. Our bodies are smarter than we think, when we crave certain things, we can’t simply trick our taste buds into thinking we’re satisfying those cravings by eating something that’s the same color, shape or texture. What usually ends up happening is we wind up eating “around” the foods we really want. For example, you might really want a few chocolate chip cookies, but to avoid the calories and inevitable guilt that will follow, you choose instead to have something else. Maybe you choose a couple of rice cakes, but when they don’t quite do the trick, you decide to have something sweet, so you grab an apple, but when that doesn’t work, you try something a bit more substantial and grab a few slices of bread with some low fat cheese. Still not satisfied, you end up giving in to your original craving and have a few of the cookies you wanted in the first place. Only now, you’ve had the cookies PLUS, rice cakes, an apple and bread with cheese. Had you just eaten what you wanted in the first place, you would have been satisfied and gotten on with your life! Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. Now that you’ve eaten the forbidden fruit, or in this case, cookies, you are overwhelmed with guilt and feel like you’ve just blown your diet and will usually react in one of 2 ways. Either you vow never to eat cookies again and start following an unrealistically strict diet to repent for your food sins, which, in time, you will find impossible to maintain. Or, you’ll skip the diet and, feeling completely discouraged over your own perceived lack of willpower, give up on healthy eating altogether, and punish yourself by gorging on anything and everything with complete abandon while your self-esteem sinks to a new low. All this can be avoided, however, if we learn how to be patient with ourselves and realize that food is not the enemy.

Eating food doesn’t make us overweight; OVEReating food can. The simple fact is that it takes more than a slice of cake, or a few cookies or a small serving of fries to lead us into a life of obesity. A lot more. I don’t believe that we need to or should ban these foods from our lives, in fact, we need to learn how to live with them if we want a chance at living a life free of the diet and body image angst that plagues so many of us.

After years of being told that we don’t know how to eat, we’ve actually started to believe it. This makes us completely vulnerable and therefore prime targets for any and all new diet plans or products that come our way. When did we lose faith in ourselves and start putting all our trust in complete strangers, who care more about healthy incomes than healthy consumers?

I realize that there is a problem with obesity in our culture, but it’s certainly NOT from a lack of diet products available; quite the opposite actually. When we’re told to avoid fat and sugar, we immediately start stocking up on all the fat-free, sugar-free products we can get our hands on. There is a diet version of almost everything these days. Each of them promising to taste just as good as the original. What they don’t say, is that the fat free items are loaded with extra sugar and the sugar free ones are made with extra fat. It’s their way of replacing some of the lost flavor. I’m not suggesting that we should always choose the most decadent option available, but there is almost always a happy medium. Life is too short to live without flavor. Don’t settle for bland and dry over moist and delicious. While we shouldn’t make decadence the main component of our diets, we shouldn’t completely avoid it either.

Along with a Barrage of diet products telling us what to eat, are countless weight loss companies telling us HOW to eat. We are so tired of feeling like we’re fighting an uphill battle with our bodies and trying to figure out how and what to eat every single day, that we’re relieved when some diet company offers to do our thinking for us. Some of them will sell us books detailing what foods to eat, others will make their own, prepackaged foods available at most grocery stores, and some, will go as far as to offer home delivery so you never have to shop, cook or think for yourself ever again. BUT AT WHAT COST? Needless to say, these options are very expensive, but worse than that, they make us completely dependent on them. Suddenly, we can’t take a bite or a sip of anything that hasn’t been pre-approved by whichever diet company we’ve sold our souls to! That can’t possibly seem like a good idea long term. When does it end?

I understand the desperation to lose weight, but most people want to lose weight because they feel that their extra weight is keeping them from enjoying life to the fullest, but how does being a slave to a diet plan improve their quality of life? Where’s the freedom in that? We need to learn how to live WITH food, not fear and avoid it. We are all so much more powerful than we give ourselves credit for. It’s time to reclaim that power. We have to stop paying other people to do what we should be doing for ourselves. The only things getting leaner are our wallets! Instead, we need to take the foods we enjoy off our “naughty lists” and learn how to incorporate them into our daily lives. It’s time to go back to REAL food. Throw out all the fat free, sugar free, carbohydrate free, flavor free products that are filling your pantries and refrigerators and start enjoying your food again. Listen to your body, respect your body and most of all, start working WITH your body instead of fighting AGAINST it.

1306755173398

 

Childhood-Obesity is NOT the problem!

Childhood Obesity isn’t THE problem.

There, I said it and I’ll say it again: CHILDHOOD OBESITY is NOT THE PROBLEM.

While it’s become nearly impossible to turn on a TV, listen to a radio or read through a newspaper without hearing about our society’s obesity epidemic and it seems like there are anti-obesity programs and campaigns popping up everywhere, I believe we are focusing our energy and efforts on the WRONG problem. Is obesity a serious issue? Yes, it is. But obesity is just one SYMPTOM of the real issue which is unhealthy living. By focusing solely on obesity, we are turning a “lifestyle” issue into a “fat” one. By doing this, we’re completely missing out giving people the information and the tools they need to be truly HEALTHY. The dangerous part about this is that instead of encouraging people to get healthy we are demanding that they get skinny and the truth is, skinny is not always synonymous with healthy. As a result of our “war on obesity” we’re creating a generation of kids who are TERRIFIED of being overweight and because of our society’s obsession with thinness, they don’t even know what being overweight truly looks like! Watching TV or flipping through fashion magazines and being inundated with unrealistic images of unattainable physiques can have most tweens and teens feeling inadequate and insecure about their looks within minutes. When the media is telling them that they need to be skinny to be beautiful and anti-obesity campaigns are telling them they need to be skinny to be healthy, the only message they’re hearing is: YOU NEED TO BE SKINNY!
Here’s a shocker: You can’t always tell how fit or unfit a person is simply by what they look like.
Being a little overweight and active is healthier than skinny and sedentary. Weight is not the ONLY factor in a person’s overall health, and we shouldn’t be made to feel like it is.

WHAT ARE THE DANGERS?

1.Thin kids become apathetic:
There are some kids who can eat as much junk food as they want and do very little physical activity without gaining any weight. Lucky for them, right? WRONG. However, IF they’re constantly being told that OBESITY is the issue than they won’t see the risks related to their present lifestyles. Things like: Diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol and Cancer.

2.Skinny at all cost mentality:
How about the kids who are so afraid of gaining weight that they become overly concerned with every piece of food they consume? I get emails and phone calls from parents of kids as young as 5 years old who are already struggling with eating disorders! While it wouldn’t be surprising to hear our toddlers worry about imaginary monsters or witches, hearing them cry because they feel they look fat in their snowsuits is something most parents are not prepared for. More and more kids are putting their health at risk through dangerous behaviour related to weight loss and a huge part of it is because of our society’s Fat-Phobia!

Recently, many schools have tried to get on board the fight against obesity by implementing programs aimed at making our kids healthier. Unfortunately, in an effort to solve one problem, they are inadvertently creating an even bigger one by encouraging disordered eating and negative body image. While numbers and charts may offer a little insight into a person’s health status, they can be drastically misleading if other important factors are ignored.

Take for example, the recent story about the 10 year old Massachusetts boy who was sent home from school with a letter saying he was obese. This boy’s athletic (healthy) build was considered obese by the BMI rating his school was using to measure their students body weight. To be honest, I am completely against ANY KIND of program that has school faculty measuring (judging and shaming) a child’s weight and the fact that they’d use such an inaccurate system to do it, makes it all the more frustrating.

http://todaynews.today.com/_news/2013/02/27/17119287-fat-letters-sent-home-to-students-cause-a-stir

Schools need to EDUCATE, not HUMILIATE.

3.It’s become okay to point fingers at the chubby kid.

You’d think that with all the talk about bullying going on these days, we’d be able to recognize when we’re doing it ourselves, but here’s another example of good intentions lost on bad execution. By singling out the “overweight” kids we’re making them easier targets to be picked on. Some might argue that if they’re overweight, they’re probably already being picked on, but the difference is that they’ve now got school staff agreeing with the bullies. This kind of negativity will only make them feel less worthy of respect from others and themselves. HOW does that help??

We all want the same thing. We want our kids to grow up as healthy and as happy as they can be, but we really have to be so incredibly careful about how we go about doing that.

Eating with balance and moderation and being physically active shouldn’t be something we feel forced to do because we hate our bodies, but something we WANT to do because we love and respect them. We can’t lose weight in order to like ourselves, we have to first like ourselves in order to lose weight.

Enough with the “ANTIs” and bring on the “PROs”. Instead of an Anti-Obesity approach, why not try one that’s Pro-Health? We shouldn’t be fighting AGAINST our bodies but working WITH them.

FAT isn’t a bad word. It’s an essentially nutrient necessary for good health. Why have we turned it into an insult? Teaching kids that fat is “Bad”, can be a dangerous lesson. However, educating them about the benefits and risks related to different kinds of fats can be extremely helpful without being judgemental.

A truly healthy child is one that is healthy physically, emotionally and psychologically. By focusing simply on the physical, we risk damaging everything else.

The question I’m asking is: Do we want HEALTHY kids or just skinny ones?

Olympic medallist Leisel Jones criticized for being "Fat".

Olympic medallist Leisel Jones criticized for being “Fat”.

Olympic medallist Cathy Rigby.Admits that she and many teammates battled eating disorders while competing

Olympic medallist Cathy Rigby.
Admits that she and many teammates battled eating disorders while competing

Healthy bodies have less to do with how they LOOK and everything to do with how they WORK.

“Self-worth shouldn’t be measured in pounds”

Why I LOOOOVE sharing Fit vs Fiction with kids!

Believe it or not, there are still WAY too many people who don’t believe or understand that Body Image and eating disorder issues are killing our kids. These issues destroy them physically, emotionally and spiritually. They hit so deep that it can take years and years of hard work to get their mental and physical health back on track, if ever.

 

I share my Fit vs Fiction workshops at schools as a way of breaking down the dangerous myths related to fitness and beauty and get kids talking about the pressure they feel to be “Perfect”. I use TONS of pictures while discussing things like media manipulation, sexualization and the motivation behind the messages they’re being inundated with on a daily basis. I share my truth; the good, the bad and the very, very ugly so that they can feel safe sharing their own. I make them think, I make them laugh, I make them understand that they can be whoever and whatever they aspire to be and that no one has the right to make them feel otherwise. For years I put my health and life at risk more times than I can count through my negative body image and disordered eating and while I was able to find recovery, I will never get back the 20+ years the disorder took away.

I’m often told that I’m fighting an uphill battle and that our fat-phobic, youth and weight obsessed world isn’t ready to change and I don’t completely disagree. But, as hard as this battle might be, it’s NOTHING compared to life with an eating disorder.

After doing a couple of Fit vs Fiction workshops at an elementary school last week, I came home to an email from one of the teachers that was there. She had copied me on a note she sent to the V.P. following my workshops. I’m sharing it because with all of the people who are still in the dark about the severity of these issues, it’s such a joy to hear from someone who is aware and willing to help.

Hi L.,

I am so pleased that I was able to participate in this
absolutely fabulous workshop.  The students in Grade 6 and 7 were absolutely
riveted to what the presenter Marci Warhaft had to say about healthy body image.
Ms. Warhaft also showed many pictures from the media of distorted body images
using television and film personalities known to many of the students.  She used
her own previous experiences of poor self-image as an example, and spoke
eloquently of how she was able to nurture a more healthy body image as time went
on.  Her responses to student questions were excellent, and her presentation was
well-paced and upbeat.

Thank you for bringing such an effective and
timely speaker to this school! I would be glad to assist in any way possible to
publicize Ms. Warhaft’s session to the school community in
April.

Mrs.
Junior/Intermediate
French Teacher

(I edited names for anonymity)

Kids need and WANT to talk..we just need to start listening!

Young, sad, sick girls just got themselves a new role model. Thanks Amanda Bynes!

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about social media is that it makes it possible to share everything and anything we’re feeling the second we’re feeling it. While this is perfectly harmless when talking about the delicious sandwich we just ate or the soccer goal we scored or the hilarious thing our kid just did, it can be extremely dangerous when we use it to promote unhealthy behaviour and a hell of a lot MORE dangerous if you’re a celebrity.
It’s no secret that Amanda Bynes has become a bit of a train wreck recently. Two DUI arrests and a lot of erratic behaviour have put her on the “needs some drastic help” radar for some time now and this latest development just reinforces that point.
Amanda has decided that she needs to lose weight and for some bizarre reason she’s decided to choose 100lbs as her goal weight. The problem is that at 5’8 inches tall, weighing just 100lbs would make her completely unhealthy. It is just NOT a healthy place for her to be.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/15/amanda-bynes-weight-loss-100-pounds_n_2695706.html

Why do I care?

I care because she has chosen to document her feelings and weight loss plan on social media and has even posted pictures of her thighs on Instagram.

This is particularly disturbing considering the latest trend in body shaming among young people which involves measuring their “thigh Gaps”.
http://ca.shine.yahoo.com/blogs/shine-on/thigh-gap-results-teen-girls-starving-themselves-191159136.html

As a celebrity, even one whose star is fading quickly, she needs to be responsible when it comes to what she shares with the public. By saying that she needs to lose weight from her already healthy physique, and posting critical pictures of her body parts, she is sending a very dangerous message to her young fans.

I asked a couple of young women how they felt about Amanda’s goal and one teenager shared,
“I think this is going to affect a lot of young girls because so many of us grew up with her as a role model. It’s disgusting what a smart confident woman has become.”
The other said, “If a girl is 5’6 and weighs 110lbs she’ll assume she’s obese when that’s totally underweight! She’s in the media and young girls will see this and think, “Oh she’s pretty and famous, if I want to be like her I should want to be 5’8 and 100lbs.”
Amanda is obviously going through a very hard time and I’m not judging her for that. Having battled my own severe body image and eating disorder issues for over 20 years, I can certainly relate. BUT, while I’m not judging her struggle, I am having a HUGE problem with how her actions may bring a lot of young girls down with her. Like it or not, being in the public eye gives her voice and her actions more attention than the rest of us and with that comes a lot of power. Her comments through social media are reaching millions of young people and can end up causing disastrous results for some of them.

The great thing about social media is that it can connect us to almost anyone, anywhere at anytime. The terrifying thing about social media is that exact same thing.

Body image concerns: Advice for Grandma and Grandpa

A woman approached me at the grocery store the other day because she had read an article about me in the newspaper where I talked about (what else?) body image and kids. She explained that she was a grandmother and was worried that she was putting a little too much pressure on her grandkids when it came to food choices. While she didn’t want to make them self-conscious about what they were eating, she also didn’t want them to feel free to eat whatever they wanted and risk becoming overweight.

Not too long after that, I heard from another grandma who was very concerned that her daughter-in-law’s own body image issues were setting her grandkids up for their own issues and was unsure how to handle the situation.

What so many people don’t realize is that body image issues and eating disorders don’t just affect the people who are struggling with them, but also impact the lives of those who love them. Watching someone you care about obsess over their weight/ food/ appearance can be beyond frustrating and heartbreaking since it’s really difficult for them to know what they should say or do.

It’s easy to overlook the stress put on friends and family of eating disorder sufferers, which is a huge oversight since having a strong and stable support system can make all the difference when it comes to recovering from such an insidious disorder.

For my next few posts, I’m going to talk about the people around the people who are suffering (grandparents, parents, siblings, friends) and offer some tips on how to feel a little less powerless.

1. Compare notes.
Grandparents don’t usually see their grandkids on a daily basis and it may be easier for them to spot the subtle changes that may be happening than parents who can be too close to a situation to have a clear view. If you are concerned about something you’re seeing, whether it be physical or behavioral changes, don’t be afraid to bring these concerns up with the parents. Find out if they’ve noticed anything concerning and make sure there is an open line of communication so you can work together to make sure the kids are safe.

2. If you suspect that something’s not quite right with your grandkids,Talk to them directly but make sure your conversations are non confrontational and your questions don’t come across as accusatory. Instead of asking, “What’s wrong with you lately?” Or, “I know something’s going on, what is it?” Try instead to ask about things like school and their friends while you’re out for lunch or just hanging out together. For a lot of people, opening up about body image anxieties can be tough, but talking about other kinds of stress can be much easier. Just chatting about what’s going on their lives can give you a great perspective of where added anxieties can be coming from.

3. It’s time to give up the cute nicknames that may not be so “cute” anymore.
We all do it. We all have cute terms of affection we come up with for our kids and grandkids and they come from a place of pure love. Sometimes, however, it’s time to let those nicknames go. Calling your granddaughter/son “Chubby cheeks” or “Chunky Monkey” may be cute for an infant, but not nearly as sweet for an older child.

4. Cancel your membership with the “Clean your plate club”. There are still a lot of parents and grandparents who guilt their kids into finishing every last morsel of food off their plate at mealtime and this is a really bad habit to get into. It is so important for kids to learn how to listen to the messages their OWN bodies are sending them. They need to know when they’re hungry and when they’re full. If they are taught to just keep eating until the food is gone, they will end up eating for all kinds of reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with hunger. Kids need to work with their own bodies and not have them micromanaged by anybody else.

5. Love them unconditionally.
Sadly, the world can be a very judgemental place and kids need to believe that they have a support system that will always have their backs. A woman once shared with me that while spending the weekend with her grandparents when she was a child, she overheard them talking about the fact that she gained a little weight and how worried they were about her getting fat. She’s a grown woman now, and that memory still haunts her.

My #1 advice is to let your kids/grandkids know that if there is ever anyhing they need to talk about, you will be there for them and they will have your full attention. Even if they have no interest in opening up right away, just knowing that you’re there will give them huge sense of comfort.

#self-worth shouldn’t be measured in pounds

But I don’t want my daughter to be mad at me! (When you need to step in anyway)

“I just knew something was wrong with my daughter. I just FELT it.”

Yesterday, a woman approached me and shared her experience of finding out that her 13 year old daughter was struggling with an eating disorder. It’s been many years and a whole lot of therapy and hard work, but her daughter is finally walking the road to recovery. What I found really inspiring about this mom, was her ability and willingness to listen to what her gut instincts were telling her.

“There were no obvious signs. Things were subtle at first, a little gradual weightloss, small changes in her eating habits and a stronger interest in the calorie content of foods she was eating. But I just knew that something was up.”

One night, during a family dinner, this mom noticed that her daughter was indulging in way more desserts than usual and seemed a little stressed. The next thing she saw was her daughter head upstairs towards the bathroom and her gut told her to follow right behind her. When they reached the top of the stairs, her daughter turned to her and said, “Mom! What are you doing?!” Her mom didn’t explain that she was worried her daughter was about to stick her fingers down her throat in an effort to purge her body of the candy and cookies she had just consumed and wasn’t about to make it easier for her. Instead, she just told her that she was going to stand outside the bathroom door and wait for her. Thus began an angry exchange of not so pleasant words where her daughter begged her to STOP being so nosy and rude and to leave her ALONE! Her mother refused. After several minutes, her daughter went into the bathroom and walked out a minute or 2 later, unable to accomplish what she had set out to. Her mom looked her in eyes and said gently but firmly, “We are going for help.”

It is so important for parents to listen to their gut instincts when it comes to their children’s well being.

Another mother recently told me that she has a strong feeling her 17 year old daughter is struggling with something and thinks she is using food as a sort of coping mechanism. She’s worried but her daughter does not like to talk about her feelings, keeps to herself and gets angry everytime she tries to initiate any conversation.

“I don’t want her to be mad at me,” Her mom explained.

Being the mother of a teenager myself, I understand that it is no fun when our teens get moody and confrontational. They can get downright mean. But while there are times when we need to just back off and give them space, there are also times when we need to put ourselves in the line of fire and risk taking a few shots if it means saving our kids.

Vanessa was 15 years old when her body image issues started turning into an eating disorder and she was 16 when her mother figured out what was going on. Vanessa shared her feelings about “Meddling” parents with me:

“I think that kids who are suffering with this WANT their parents to know about it and to ask about it. Even if they seem mad at first, it’ll feel good to be acknowledged. They’ll feel safe. For me, my food issues got worse when I was stressed and a lot of my stress came from school. It was very difficult for me to open up about my food issues and a lot easier for me to talk about school. It was great when my mom asked me how things were going at school and about regular life stresses because it helped relieve some of the pressure I was feeling. Feeling less stressed helped with my food situation. I know it may seem like kids don’t want to talk about their problems with their parents all the time, but we really do need to know that they’re there and that they care.”

If you feel that your kids are struggling with something, step in, ask questions and let them know that you’re there for them if and when they ever need to talk. They may not be ready to share what they’re going through with you right away but at least they’ll know that you are ready to listen when the time comes.

Do NOT worry about them getting angry at you. It’s better to have an angry, healthy kid than a sick one. I promise, they will forgive you. As parents, we can’t always help our kids, but we need to know that we’ve done everything we can to at least try. You’ll never regret trying butting in, and you never want to regret staying silent.

Next Page »