NEDAwareness week continues...
There's a genetic component to eating disorders. My best guess is that it's similar to how alcoholism runs in families that there is the brain chemistry aspect of it, but also the environment where drug use is encouraged. It's hard to separate out these two influences. Today, I'm going to talk a little about my experiences growing up, and tomorrow I'm going to talk about what I'm trying to do about the environment my girls are growing up in. I think it is important to acknowledge that there's no way of changing or "fighting against" the genetic aspects of this disease.
I was a small kid. Although my parents fall into average heights, I was always the smallest kid in the class. Smaller than some of the kids in the neighborhood who were 2 years my junior. From the time I was about 10, my brother Ben - who grew to be quite tall - was bigger enough than I to be mistaken for the older sibling.
One of the things I didn't understand until very recently is that right before girls go through puberty, they gain weight. There's a set point required for the menses to occur. I remember at age 11, I was suddenly huge and walking into everything. It seemed as if overnight, the girth of my hips became tremendous. I was an athletic kid - I swam breaststroke and freestyle for the town swim team and played soccer. It was at this point I began thinking that my thighs were too wide and my calves too thick. It was around this time that I went to my mom and expressed that I thought I needed to lose weight.
Perhaps it was her way of being supportive that she let me start calorie restricting, because her own mother probably dismissed her own pubescent concerns with "You'll grow out of the weight". Perhaps it was that she didn't think there was any real harm in her pre-teen not drinking cola and eating oreos.
I can't recall my mother every saying anything positive about her body, or ever being happy with the way she looked. At my lowest adult weight - achieved through a combination of a crash diet and starvation - that my husband tried to elicit her support in putting an end to "Please tell her she should stop dieting", my mother managed only "She could still lose 10 pounds". It certainly doesn't compare with my sister's path, it is only my way of relating to it. I won't say that my mother caused my sister to have an eating disorder, but I have to think that things might have been different if there wasn't a constant overtone of self-hatred.