What Is It Like to Grow Up When Your Mom is Recovering From an Eating Disorder?

© Susan Entriken
© Susan Entriken
I sat down with my 15-year-old daughter, Becca, to talk about what it is like to grow up with a mom who is recovering from an eating disorder. I was surprised and hopeful by her answers. It was a Saturday morning, about eleven, which is early afternoon for some. However, it is early morning to a teenager!! As we sat down at the dining room table, she was eating a bowl of ice cream, which made me giggle given our topic. Before we started the interview, she wanted me to clear up one thing I said about her in the first article in this series where I called her a diva. She feels she is not a diva, however, her father, brothers, and I may not agree with her on this point! Nevertheless, I am stating that she feels she is not a diva. We continued our conversation with the interview questions.

What have you learned about eating disorders?

Becca, in her humor, stated, “food is damn good.” Then she talked about control, and how eating disorders are not about food, but about control or lack thereof and the need to get it back. This was a proud moment for this momma, maybe she has been listening to me! She stated she has learned from me that eating disorders can happen to anyone and that people suffering from eating disorders don’t just decide to have one.

I think understanding that eating disorders are deeper than just wanting to be thin, is the key for anyone to understand those suffering from an eating disorder.  

These talks about my eating disorder with my daughter are not always the most comfortable. After all, as a parent, I want to be strong for my kids, I don’t want my kids to see me struggle, or see me weak. So at times, these conversations with my daughter have been painful for two reasons. One being, I don’t always like to talk about those dark times in my life, the times when I let the eating disorder take over my life. Second, I want my daughter to grow into a strong, confident woman, and there are times when I’m not sure I portray those characteristics. However, through these talks, comfortable or not, my hope is to help her navigate her way through this life with compassion for others and a strong sense of self. And as much as she dislikes the diva comment, I find it to be good because she is building a great foundation for a strong self.  

What are some good things about having a mom recovering from an eating disorder?  

I was surprised by her answer, she stated that it helps that I understand the body image issue and what it means to not feel good about yourself. So, maybe those weaknesses that come through aren’t so bad. Becca and I have had several conversations about body image, and what good and bad body image means. Now, in all honesty, Becca has no need to worry about her weight. However, this got me thinking about when I was her age I didn’t either. And to be honest, I don’t really now, I’m not fat, I’m not super thin; yet there are times, days, weeks, I struggle to look at myself in the mirror without cringing or thinking I really need to lay off the sweets.  

Anyway, my daughter finds it good that I get that we all sometimes have bad body image and this is a good thing because it is something she can come to me with and I will understand. So I will take that as a win every single day! To all you recovering warriors with daughters remember this, in our weaknesses; we open ourselves up to relating to our daughters more because we get it. This insight blew me away.  

What are some bad things about having a mom recovering from an eating disorder?  

Becca had one very distinct answer: relapse. The fear of me falling back into my eating disorder is a very real and strong fear for her. And I would say she would share that fear with my husband, my sons, and other family members. This was a bit of a shock to me, though it has been a fear of my own through the years, but I never really took a second and thought of it from her or their point of view. I remember the darkness I felt during my worst time with anorexia, but have never thought of it from the view of my family or friends. Kinda selfish, I know, but true. I pushed a bit on her response and asked what she feared the most, and she didn’t pinpoint exactly, but just said she knows how bad I once was from listening to me talk about it, and it scared her. This past spring, Becca came and listened to me talk to junior and senior high church youth group about eating disorders and my journey with anorexia. These talks were the first time I think she had heard my story from start to finish, and I think the realization that this really did happen hit home.  

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Her reaction really got me thinking about those in our lives that have had to watch us struggle and shrink right in front of them. Their fear is real, and although all I can do is promise to keep on fighting through my eating disorder and stay on this recovering journey, those are just words. My actions, like how I treat myself, speak volumes to this promise. This was eye opening because it reminded me that even though my recovering from my eating disorder was indeed mine, it affects those around me. A good reminder.  

What do you want people to know about having a mom with eating disorder?   

Her answer was my favorite, she stated: “You are going to be a lot like them in some ways and in some ways you aren’t at all!” We talked about what she meant, and she said that just because I had an eating disorder didn’t mean she would have one. This was a good thing to hear. I know there are studies that show eating disorders can run in families, and that our daughters are more prone to them because of our DNA. However, to hear her so strong about being like me some ways and not in some and the eating disorder being a not, was a relief. This doesn’t mean I won’t continue to worry, watch, and talk to my daughter about eating disorders, but it does make me feel like I’m getting something right in this ever changing world of raising a teenage daughter.  

What is something you’d like other moms recovering from an eating disorder to know about raising a teenage daughter?  

She answered with this statement: “Be honest with your daughters, let them ask questions and learn about it from you.” So other recovering moms, share your story, talk with your daughters honestly, and support one another.

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5 Comments

  • Both of you inspire me. Simple as that, though you each have your own struggles, you always have time to offer help to others. Thank you for all your wisdom and kindness. ❤️

  • I think it’s wonderful to be able to talk openly, but as the mother of a 16 year old I could never put her on the spot like this focusing on me. My healing while affecting her of course, is my journey- hers is powerful and different and she deserves a life not worrying about her mother..

  • Wow!! I never even thought about talking to my son about this even knowing HE had to take care of me for about 3-4 years. I know I did raise a wonderful son because he accepts everyone know matter what!! Sex, age, race, LBQT, etc he doesn’t care. I’ve also noticed for girlfriends he has a tendency to gravitate towards the heavier set…..I often wonder if it is because of me…..He knows he would never have to slap them on cheek every hour during the night to make sure they are alive. He’s 22 now and I’m gonna have to talk to him about it one of these days but I’m sure I’ll get the same answer as I do to everything…”Mom, it’s done and over and You are the best Mom and I’d be nothing without you.”

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