Southern State of Grace

Approaching Your Family’s Nutrition When you Have Struggled with Disordered Eating

I’ve put off sharing this for so long because honestly I just didn’t really know how to say it. The more I share meals and our family’s approach to nutrition the more I feel like I’m almost hiding something. Somehow I still don’t exactly know what to say but I feel like a little backstory in the why and how I approach food is important.

When trying to figure out exactly how to navigate this topic I tried to think of when it started. When my skewed perception of my body really started and when my struggle with food began. I can’t really think of a specific year or age but I can say that while growing up I truly can’t remember a time that I felt good in my body.

I never fit the mold of any body types I felt were desirable. I was neither strong and athletic, curvy and girly, nor thin and proportioned. I liked nothing about my appearance. My legs were too thin, my belly was too big, my eyes were too large, and I felt hideous. I truly can can’t remember a time growing up that I wasn’t disgusted with how I looked.

My eyes are welling up as I’m writing this because I just feel so bad for that girl.

(Isn’t perspective everything?)

I was going through old hard copy pictures the other day and I found these adorable pictures of me and some of my early friends out by the pool at my childhood home. I can remember those girls, who we have all long parted, but instead of remembering the games we played or the fun we had, I mostly remember is looking at my belly and pulling at my bathing suit. I couldn’t have been more than 7-8.

I then found some pictures from high school and what stands out to me is the perfectly selected outfit paired with a black zip up hoodie to hide behind and the fear I felt in getting ready for that night with not wanting to get undressed in front of friends.

Then college.

The funny thing is, when I got to college I thought that I started “taking care of myself”. I started running and became more active than I ever had been. People started to tell me how good I looked after going to college. I got praise from family members congratulating me for prioritizing my health.

I set a goal to run a 5K and get to 100 pounds. I’m 5′ 6″.

First 5K *finally* approaching 100lbs.

This looked like going to the gym everyday and running until I got dizzy enough to have to stop.

This looked like deep guilt when I went down to the quad and ate subway and feeling so ashamed that I didn’t have enough restraint to not eat the bread on the sandwich.

This looked like feeling pride and accomplishment from only eating oatmeal for breakfast from my sorority room microwave and “making it” the whole day without eating and still being able to sustain a full day of classes and an hour at the gym.

I was starving myself.

Spending at minimum an hour a day in the campus gym. Going to classes full time and maintaining a 3.9 GPA.

At a college event I didn’t want to be at because it was during my gym time.

It captured my every thought. Avoiding social situations where I was put in a position to have to eat, or finally caving and attending said social situation and making myself sick both physically on purpose, and mentally with guilt for days afterward trying to take back the calories I consumed.

Then one day I just burst.

I walked out of the library after a several hour study cram and called my Dad crying out of pure exhaustion and starvation, skipped class and drove home.

It didn’t change that day for me but I do think that day was a turning point where I knew I couldn’t keep up the same rigor.

A few weeks later I was at my then boyfriend’s (and now husband) home and he asked me “Are you going to feel bad after you eat that?”.

“Who me?”

I didn’t know anyone else knew what I was struggling with, not even him.

I knew I had to make some changes but at this point is was really to just conceal. I started to eat a little more but not for the right reasons and it would usually end in me making myself sick so I didn’t actually consume the calories.

I did this all the way up until I got married.

Then about 6 weeks later we found out we were pregnant.

It wasn’t until after I became pregnant with my first child that my eating habits truly changed.

Can I take a minute to thank the Lord here for changing my heart at that very specific moment in time?

I could get on my knees right here with such a depth of gratitude for not having this struggle during pregnancy but I know that some people really do.

If you relate to this or feel pulled will you stop reading for a moment and say a quick prayer for those moms that may be struggling with body image or eating issues?

When it came to being pregnant I was so focused on eating things that didn’t make me sick or getting enough nutrition for little Clara that I didn’t have the time or space to obsess like I had before. I was finishing graduate school, driving an hour (one way) to work, and feeling sick for most of it. There was (thankfully) no way for me to sustain those old eating habits.

Once her sweet self joined us earth side I felt a pull on my heart to spend time here figuring this out.

It wasn’t for me, it was for her.

I didn’t want her to have the same struggles with food, the same skewed body perception, the same stolen memories like I did.

I wanted her to look back on pictures as a kid and think how blue she remembered the sky being that day or how delicious that rainbow snowball from that little shack was.. not how terrible she felt in her body.

While I was home with her I stumbled on intuitive eating and through consistent work, I’ve completely changed my eating habits over the last four+ years.

I started diving into how my body felt after food and feeding it a balance of things that I both crave for taste and crave for nutrition. I started to reflect and see the value of moments I was missing out on and connections that were lost due to my obsessive disordered eating.

I’ve done a lot of learning and then unlearning when it comes to nutrition that has really shaped how my family eats today.

As I’ve continued to explore this, it’s really shaped the way that I feel about my kids’ nutrition and their relationship with food. My daughter especially.

I want her to see mealtime as an opportunity for fellowship. I want her to listen to her body when it’s hungry, to delight in treats, and nourish it with wholesome meals.

Stepping forward

We don’t follow a specific plan of eating. You’ll find both plant based meals and steak and potatoes, green smoothies and chocolate. We believe that all foods fit and now approach it more from a space of community and enjoyment because that’s what I want my kids to see.

So as I share meals, you’ll see that they are all over the place! Just like we are! Because I can’t get too rigid in certain methods of eating or even physical activity because of my past.

You’ll see that I’m sharing from a place of having a mended relationship with food.

What I hope that you’ll really see is that whether you’re dealing with a troubled past with eating, a picky toddler that you’re struggling to nourish, or even just trying to figure out how to get meals on the table as a working mom, that I see you.

I’ve been there and I’m here to tell you that you can have deep fellowship around a table with people you love, consuming delicious food that you can feel good about.

That there is an eating rhythm that’s possible for you and your family.

The goal here is having a deeper connection to how you feel. The goal is building healthy relationships. The goal is showing your kids that joy, real big joy can happen with food around the dinner table and that food is something to be celebrated and enjoyed, not something to be feared or controlled by.

XOXO- signed a happy, healthy, moving forward mama .

2 thoughts on “Approaching Your Family’s Nutrition When you Have Struggled with Disordered Eating

  1. Beautifully written Em! I had no idea that you struggled so much with this issue in college. Unfortunately I also have had these similar battles. Thanks for shining the light on your progress and growth, as always very uplifting.

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