Snacks, Self-Care, and Sacrifice: A Mom’s Guide to Eating Disorder Recovery

Image: @freestocks

As I shove a few leftover, soggy goldfish into my mouth, I reflect on the reality that motherhood has provided another sneaky platform for which my eating disorder could fester. That is, only if I’m not careful. From “not having enough time” to feeling like my caloric intake is one of the only day-to-day items in my control, I have to watch the conniving nature of my eating disordered past to ensure it doesn’t sneak back into full-fledged territory now that I have precious littles who are watching my every move.

Being a new mom is the greatest blessing I’ve ever had. The newborn kangarooing and gentle nursing sessions that make you realize this little human was created by you and depends on you for nurturing and survival. The “pushing boundaries” glory of toddlerhood and all it’s amazing developmental milestones from walking to recognizing colors, counting to ten. I wouldn’t trade the constant worry or sleepless nights for the world. This isn’t to say it isn’t challenging, though. It has brought me to tears somedays when my two-year-old is sprinting around the library throwing a temper tantrum to no avail. Leaving things like this out wouldn’t be telling the whole story.

The greatest aspects of life are also usually the toughest. Motherhood falls into this category.

Am I doing this right?

I’ve had two children in the past two and a half years. Being a new mom has brought forth lots of uncertainty, lots of guilt and lots of fear. I’m uncertain if I’m doing things ‘right’. Am I disciplining enough? Am I potty-training at the right time? Should I only be giving my sons organic products? Is the convenience of store bought baby food going to cause digestive issues? Should I stay-at-home to raise my own children? Should I continue working to contribute to my family income, not mention to use my education and pay off all of my school loans? Would it be better to put our toddler in full or half-day preschool? Am I giving my toddler enough love now that I’m juggling a newborn in his daily routine? Did I secure the baby correctly in this car seat? The list goes on and on.

It’s so easy to feel like a failure in motherhood. Or to compare yourself to other moms who seem to have it all together. It’s so easy to put oneself on the back burner and demote self-care in the attempt to be the mom you’ve always wanted to be. There is a constant struggle to be everything to your children while also being the best wife, sister, employee, and friend. Who has time to meditate or take a professional development class when your toddler has swim lessons and your newborn is yelping for his next meal? I know I don’t!

I’ve learned I simply can’t do it all by myself nor should I attempt.

No one can pour from an empty glass, after all, and burning out due to no sleep, minimal exercise, and poor nutrition will only result in the impossibility to be the mom I want to be! It certainly takes a village to raise children.

Can I do it all?

My biggest trigger as of late is feeling guilty and like a failure as both a mom and an employee. Adjusting to juggling both now that I have two kids is no easy feat. As an employee, I feel extreme guilt whenever my kids are ill and I have to miss work. Though my current job is flexible in allowing some work-from-home capability, I always feel like I need to be in the office. On the other hand, as a mom, I always want to wrap items up as quickly as possible so I can get to my kids as soon as I can.

There’s always the conflicting desire to both the the best employee and the best mom. Honestly, some days I just don’t feel like I can do both. My eating disorder has been doing its darnest to dig in its claws, as I know it introduces a perceived value of control. In the end, we all know, it provides the furthest thing away from control, as relationships, health and productivity spiral away without proper nutrition.

Recognize the triggers, and keep going.

In the midst of all this, I often catch myself nibbling on leftover cold mac and cheese and calling it lunch. Or nursing my 7- month-old in place of taking the time to eat with my toddler and husband. It’s easy to fall into these traps and become complacent. While it’s okay to let this happen once in awhile, it’s not play when it becomes the norm. When putting yourself last and becomes a habit or it becomes intentional, that’s when it becomes a problem.

In the end, I want to be the type of mother that cooks hearty, healthy meals for her family. Most importantly I want to be the mom who sits down and eats those meals with her family. I have some work to do to get there, and that’s okay. It’s okay to not be perfect in recovery.

Motherhood can throw a fork in the road.

So can grief or loss or change, among numerous other life events.  As long as we recognize potential triggers and seek help to stay on track, recovery will stay on the horizon.

Motherhood is amazing. But motherhood can also be a fertile ground for eating disorders to bear their ugly heads. I have recognized this and, if you’re in a similar situation, I hope you can too. Recognizing the challenge is the first step to overcoming it.

As Jill Churchill said,

There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.

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