By ALICE HARRINGTON
“Earlier this year I was watching The Biggest Loser with my mum (eating a mixing bowl-sized serve of spag bol, as you do…) when one girl from the black team was talking about her relationship with food – and her relationship with her mum. And here I was thinking I was the only one for whom the two were so closely intertwined…
When this girl told The Commando (an unlikely sympathetic ear) that her mum was too critical, telling her she needed to lose weight, mine immediately piped up, “But what is a mother supposed to do?” And it got my brain whirring. She had a point. If your mum tells you that you need to lose weight, is she helping you get healthy or damaging your self-esteem? And if she doesn’t say anything as you pile on the kilos, is she really doing you a favour?
Then I read this article where Peggy Orenstein asks the question: “How can you simultaneously encourage your daughter to watch her size and accept her body?”
Me? I’ll admit I’ve quietly blamed my mum for a lot of my issues with food. My mum has battled her own disordered eating for years and I think some of that was always bound to rub off on my sister and I as we navigated the tricky terrain of going from young girls to young women.
Whether it comes in the form of an off-hand comment about a “fat” person on TV, a good-intentioned word of advice about portion sizes , or a deliberate ban on certain foods in our house (you just try bringing a donut through the door, I dare you!) she has passed on many of her feelings about food. And some of her attitudes have slowly become mine. But others I’ve deliberately chosen not to take on. Sorry Mum, but I just can’t eat salad every night. I need chicken. And potatoes. And pasta.
I can tell myself that I binge on “bad” foods because I was never allowed to eat them as a kid. I can convince myself I’d be less infatuated with my weight if I didn’t have a mother that was so infatuated with hers. But the truth is, I probably still would have had issues with my body and food even if my mum had let me eat chips instead of pushing raw broccoli on me every night (she definitely ruined that vegetable for me).
They might have been different issues if I’d been raised by someone else – who knows? But the fact is, now I’m just grateful that my mum raised me with the know-how I needed to eat and live healthily. Because it’s becoming pretty clear as I get older that not everyone is lucky enough to grow up with that.
My mum raised me the best way she could – trying to ensure I grew into a healthy young woman with a good attitude to diet and exercise. And she did it all while navigating her own food and body issues. I’m don’t know if I’ll make all the same decisions when it comes to raising my own daughter, but something tells me, I’ll probably do more things like her than I ever thought.
Alice Harrington is a Sydney-based writer who two years ago overcame her hatred of the treadmill to become a fitness junkie. By day she works in the wonderful world of celebrity gossip magazines and after hours, when she’s not at spin class, you can find her writing about all things health and fitness here and tweeting at here.
Has your upbringing influenced your relationship with food? Do you have mother/food issues?