My relationship with food didn’t formally begin until I was a self-conscious teenager. Before that, my mother would serve a scoop of ice cream with my heavily syruped waffles for breakfast and I could still fit into the smallest jeans size at Contempo Casuals. Of course, this was the early 90s, when the word “organic” wasn’t quite as mainstreamed.
Nowadays, it seems as if our obsession with food has hit an all-time high. We religiously read food labels at our supermarkets, Instagram pics of our meals three times a day, talk about fad diets in Facebook groups, and most shockingly, develop eating disorders at painfully young ages.
I mean, really young.
I was shocked to read that actress Zosia Mamet of Girls fame battled an eating disorder that began when she was only 8 years old.
Yes, you read that right: 8!
At that age, girls should be learning to how multiply or memorizing every word to the Frozen soundtrack, not obsessing over numbers on a scale. Unfortunately, too many are doing just that.
Mamet shared her own story in a recent column for Glamour Magazine. The actress, who describes herself as “an addict in recovery,” opened up about the struggle she faced:
If you are lucky enough never to have battled this beast, let me tell you what it’s like: I was told I was fat for the first time when I was eight. I’m not fat; I’ve never been fat. But ever since then, there has been a monster in my brain that tells me I am–that convinces me my clothes don’t fit or that I’ve eaten too much. At times it has forced me to starve myself, to run extra miles, to abuse my body.
There’s so much truth to what she says, it hurts to read. We’ve all been there, in one way or another. Food is sustenance, nourishment we need to live – but too often, our relationship with it is flawed. It’s something many women, young and old, struggle with on a daily basis.
Nobody is addressing the fact that so many women wake up in the morning, look at themselves in the mirror, and, out of habit, attack what they see. Maybe that’s not an all-out disorder, but it’s certainly the seed of one.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t struggle with this myself. Honestly, I’m scared that my daughter might have a bad relationship with food because of me. She’s got a big sweet tooth, which I blame myself for. I ate like a horse when I was pregnant with her and I’ll admit that I always try to steer her away from junk food, even though I eat it myself.
I hope I can teach my daughter how to have a healthy lifestyle and appreciate her body for what it is capable of, to work to accomplish physical achievements other than fitting into a certain dress size. But it’s hard to teach something I haven’t quite mastered myself. Let’s face it — we’ve all battled those monsters.
Looking at it from a parenting perspective, it’s difficult to perpetuate the mindset that it’s what is on the inside that matters, when our society is constantly telling us how we should look. Mamet agrees:
I recently saw an ad featuring a nearly naked, thin model with the words love yourself written across her. Even this attempt at encouraging women to accept themselves was accompanied by an image telling us the opposite! We have to change the ideal.
Like she says, it’s up to us to shift the paradigm. If we Instagram our food during every meal, what does that tell our kids? That it’s ok to be obsessed with food? Rather than being worried with everything “fat” and “skinny,” I think it’s time we stop counting calories and go outside and count the stars with our kids instead. It’s only food. Our bodies need it to survive, not our minds.
Things may not change overnight, but my goal is always to improve. Eating disorders may never disappear completely, but hopefully through recovery and discovery, we can diminish their stigma by reminding one another how beautiful we really are – in all of our shapes and sizes.