A few days ago, teen actress and singer Demi Lavato was on the Ellen Degeneres Show. She was talking about her struggle with Anorexia, Bulimia, cutting and all around self-loathing. She spoke of the impact being bullied had on her. She also touched on how some people in her life did not have her best interest in mind, but only that of their own. Her family and close friends kept telling her that she needed to get help. Her handlers, those who were making money off of her, told her otherwise. She eventually went into a drastic downward spiral that she almost did not come out of.
Later that day, I had a talk with my Gracie Girl who is eight. I told her that there was a 19-year-old girl on the show talking about how people in school were really mean to her and made her think she was fat so she stopped eating and when she did eat, she would make herself throw up. I explained to her that it made Demi really, really sick and she almost died because of it. I told her about the damage it does to your body when you deprive yourself of food and how making yourself throw up does a ton of harm to your body. I let her ask as many questions as she needed to. She wanted to know if I knew anyone who had eating disorders. I do know some who did, who do, and who died because of it.
The reason I felt it was so important to bring such a big thing like this to my little girl is that these issues are starting with kids younger and younger. I remember going to the drug store with my best friend and buying Dexatrim and water pills when I was ELEVEN! One of our friend’s aunts knew & just told us not to take the water pills when we were on our period. WHAT?! The fact that the clerk sold it to us is infuriating! Yeah, so some people in your life have no clue. But there are people whose voices you need to listen to. I remember feeling fat because a boy at school told me I was. I had never viewed myself that way until he said it. I remember hating that I loved to eat. So, I would eat and then take diet pills, hoping the food wouldn’t stick to my thighs.
The other reason I had to tell Grace was because I don’t want her to have a bad relationship with food. She has multiple food allergies (gluten, dairy, soy, peanuts, egg whites & cod fish). I don’t want her to resent food. I want her to embrace the joy of researching and learning about new foods and alternatives to things she had to give up. It’s not always just about bullying when someone has food issues. I think food addiction is the worst to have to recover from. If you are addicted to drugs, you can detox and hopefully never touch them again. If you want to quit smoking, there are tons of resources to help you never light up again. If you are addicted to food, be it not eating enough, purging what you have eaten or binging on a regular basis, you cannot just stop. We have to eat. You can’t go cold turkey off of food. You can’t wean yourself off of it. We need it to thrive. So there is a battle every time you put food to your mouth. You have to convince yourself each time, I deserve this. I need this. It is OK for me to enjoy this. It is not OK for me to allow this to kill me.
I think every parent has the responsibility to talk to their kids about eating disorders. We sit our kids down and address all kinds of topics; drugs, alcohol, illegal activity, bullying. All of these things are important to issues that kids need to hear from us about, but I think eating disorders are often left out. I think a lot of parents think it won’t happen to their kids. Or they don’t know how to deal with it if it does, so ignoring it will make it go away. Wouldn’t it be nice if that really worked!? I found this article that I think is very helpful. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/when-parents-are-partners/201105/crisis-manual-parents-how-talk-your-kids-about-food-and-weight