I spent almost all of my adolescence struggling with eating disorders, low self-esteem, and body image issues. I was what you might call an “in-between girl,” someone struggling with an eating disorder but not appearing “sick” on the outside. My pain went unnoticed because I didn’t look like the emaciated supermodels in magazines or on TV.
I went on my first diet when I was 11. I dieted with my mother. And my father. In our house, extreme restriction was merely noted as having “discipline.” By age 18, I was diagnosed with EDNOS—“eating disorder not otherwise specified.” I began treatment and have been on the path of recovery for the last 16 years. My childhood struggles have actually helped to inform my current career of author, motivational speaker, and advice columnist for teens and women.
In looking back on that in-between space in my life, here are a few things I wish that my parents and the other adults in my life had said to me:
*FAT is not a feeling! I heard every important woman (and man) in my life say the phrase “I feel fat.” So I picked up that phrase, too. I wish someone had told me that fat is indeed not a feeling. Rather, it’s a catch-all phrase that people use to mask deeper emotions—perhaps anger, anxiety, or sadness.
*Something I call Inner Style™ is just as important as outer style: A focus on my inner strength and not my outer wardrobe would have been helpful. I wish people had commented more about my heart, my kindness, and my ability to make friends rather than about what I was eating or not eating.
*I wish that more adults had followed the simple rule “Walk your talk.” You can say everything you think is the right, good thing to say, but if you as a parent are not walking your own talk, your words will not hold the power they could to affect your daughter’s self-esteem.
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