"I'm terrified I'm passing on my eating disorder to my kids."

This mum spent 10 years fighting her issues with food. She thought she’d won. But then her children noticed this. 

I don’t believe that my mother had any influence at all upon my eating disorder. It simply wasn’t a factor in my 10-year struggle with food. She was there and supported me and loved me. She wasn’t a cause. She wasn’t a factor. She wasn’t a reason.

"There was time spent in eating disorder units. There were councilors. There was lots and lots of talking and reading and searches for cures."

It is something I keep telling myself in my own fears about my relationship with my daughter. I reassure myself and yet I still worry. I had a decade long fight with food that really only ended when I fell pregnant with my first-born son.

There was time spent in eating disorder units. There were counsellors. There was lots and lots of talking and reading and searches for cures. There were hours of daily exercise and violent purges. There were gentle reminders from my bosses that I needed to look after myself.

There was one, two, three personal trainers at a time. None of whom knew about each other. And there were the gyms – the responsible ones who cancelled my membership for fear of a liability on their hands. They were dark days. And yet I held down a career, and started a family and then sometime, somehow it ended.

I am not sure what finally shifted but I know I was one of the lucky ones. When I had two boys at first I felt a sigh of relief. I would never have to worry about their relationship with food, I thought.

The irony was that one person I was particularly close to in my first treatment ward was a young teenage boy who used to make me laugh with his stories of hiding food, and secret exercise and wild tricks he would play on the nurses.He showed me the fire stairs we could run up and down to exercise and the tricks at supper to disguise the biscuits.

"My boys will be fine," I told myself when they were born. "Boys are different". I can see now how self-deceiving that line of reasoning was. But it’s what my mind told me. And then I had my daughter. An amber-haired version of her brothers. Alike in so many ways. And yet a girl. I was afraid, I admit, of a girl. I don’t want my daughter to waste the number of years I did. To do the things I did. To feel those feelings. To inhibit those corridors of her mind. But I put it to one side as she grew from a baby to a toddler.

"I watch them eat while I start the washing up, or pack the lunch boxes."

So it was a shock when she said the other day to her brothers. “Look, Mummy’s eating today. That’s fun.”

I didn’t realise that I had days when I didn’t. I hadn’t really noticed I was slowly falling back into old habits. Her older brother told her kindly, “Grown ups don’t eat dinner silly. It might make them fat.”

As a single parent, our family meal times centre upon the kids. I provide them with healthy, organic, nourishing home-cooked meals. I cook casseroles and stir-frys and pasta-bakes laden with protein and vegetables and legumes. I home-make sauces and condiments. I set the island bench in our kitchen with its three stools. And then I watch. I watch them eat while I start the washing up, or pack the lunch boxes.

I'm busy, I reason to myself. I need to get organised. There are only three stools. I am sure that these are the reasons. I am sure that it isn’t about the food, but about just getting on with life. I’m sure that I never really thought to buy another stool. But in the back of my mind I know there is a small part of me that smiles a tiny smile that tomorrow’s jeans will not be tight.

A younger version of myself high-fiving the older me and mentally calculating how many cappuccinos that will buy me tomorrow. It’s time to let it go again, I guess. It’s time to stop making justifications and reasons and excuses and to look – to really look at my children and see the eyes they see me through.

It may not have been my mother who influenced my disordered relationship with food. But I simply can’t allow it to be their mother who does it to them.

If this post brings up any issues for you, you can contact The Butterfly Foundation for Eating Disorders via their website ( or on their National Support Line (1800 33 4673).

Is it possible to protect our kids from our own issues?