Raise your hand if you have an uncomplicated relationship with your mother.
So nobody, right? Yeah, me either.
This is one of the most complex human relationships there is. For those of us who are lucky enough to have our mothers in our lives, we may still struggle with some of the lingering issues from childhood, or fall back into the parent-child roles we know so well. My relationship with my own mother has been as tumultuous as they come. In my formative years I came to believe that manic dieting, emotional eating, and self-loathing due to a distorted body image were normal. Food was a weapon of mass destruction in my childhood home, and the fallout wasn’t pretty.
My mother spent her entire adult life—up until a few years ago—going up and down the dieting roller coaster. Frankly, I don’t remember her ever being happy with her weight, even when she was thin by all reasonable standards. In recent years she’s shared with me much of what went on in her own childhood home, and I’ve come to be much more sympathetic now that I know what she endured. Her suffering reinforces my belief that we have a responsibility as parents not just to teach our children about proper nutrition and positive body image, but also to do so in a way that is open, accepting, and loving. Children want nothing more than their parents’ love and approval. If a child can only achieve that by driving his or her own needs and desires underground, then that’s exactly what they’ll do.
A few years after I started losing weight, my mother was telling me over the phone about how she was just about to start a new diet, but she had to wait because one of her friend’s birthdays was in a few days, and they were going to go out. On my end of the phone I’m smacking my forehead because I can’t believe she’s still doing this.
In my typical sympathetic manner I said, “Mom, what the heck are you doing? Why do you do this???” There is no conceivable way my exasperation wasn’t evident in my voice…
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