Dear Girl Moms,
Isn’t it fun when you are scrolling through Instagram and come across a picture with your daughter posted by one of her friends? Your eye is immediately drawn to her and I imagine like me, her smile makes you beam. You couldn’t love her anymore. To you, she is perfect.
Only that’s not at all how she see it.
Even if she “likes” the picture, on the inside she can’t believe her friend chose that one to post! She scrutinizes every detail. Everyone else looks perfect, but not her. By comparison she is convinced she is fat, not as pretty or whatever else. And the longer she stares at the picture, the more down on herself she becomes. In her mind, everyone perceives her in the same way she sees herself.
I’m telling you this because this is how it was for my daughter.
I had no idea she felt the way she did about her changing middle school body. It never entered my mind to even ask because at the time nothing about her demeanor let on to the deep dissatisfaction she felt. She was beautiful; still is.
A year or so later when she began trying to lose a little weight, I didn’t initially see anything wrong with her desire to eat healthier and to be more active, especially since her swim team season had ended. But as weight loss became noticeable and others began complimenting her on how good – how skinny – she looked it strengthened her resolve to keep going and her new found discipline became obsessive. (This is why I’ve learned to stop giving the “You look so skinny!” compliment to anyone.)
What started out as a little dieting quickly turned to sever food restrictions and major calorie counting. I feared anorexia setting in. But she couldn’t see it, at least not yet.
Months later an extremely low resting heart-rate scared her back into eating, but as is the case with many who battle eating disorders it can quickly swing from one extreme to another. Nearly a year later bulimia had become a controlling secret. Finally, she admitted needing help and from there it was a two year healing process.
Do the math and you see her high school years were dominated by a false sense of worth stemming from negative body image, comparison and an eating disorder.
Early in her treatment I struggled with my own worth – as a mom. I felt like I had failed for not knowing the intense struggle going on inside her head and behind closed doors. It was especially hard to reconcile because we had (still do) a good relationship and talked freely about seemingly everything. But I now better understand the shame and guilt coinciding with an eating disorder which makes admitting the problem extremely hard. It is the reason far too many people suffer silently and even the ones being treated often hide behind a mask.
This is why my daughter and I both talk about eating disorders openly on social media and elsewhere. We want to be resources and encouragement to anyone living enslaved by an eating disorder or a false sense of worth from body comparisons and shaming. In fact, this part of my daughter’s story is also what has led to my upcoming book. Though not specifically about eating disorders, it is the reason why I felt it necessary to write a book for teen/college girls on identity and worth.
I hope to spare you moms the pain of walking this road with your daughter. I want to help your daughter know her worth secure in Christ. So please don’t assume you know what she thinks when she sees herself in a picture. Start the conversation. Ask heart penetrating questions and always, always point her back to who Christ is for her. Her identity is only secure in him.
And if you do find yourself in my shoes, you are not a bad mom. Christ was perfect for you too. So, please don’t hide in shame or fear of what others will think. Reach out and let someone bear your burdens with you. And if I can be that friend, I will.
Growing in Grace Together,
I will be speaking at and participating in the National Eating Disorder Associaton Walk in Oklahoma City on April 29th. I would love for you to join me there or support this cause by making a donation through my personal page here.
For a list of past posts/additional resources on eating disorders click here.
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