Me at age 7, growing up in Chicago.

As a little girl I never obsessed or worried about my weight or looks, or frankly even knew what the word “diet” meant. But all that changed at 12 years old. Maybe it was puberty, or moving up to middle school, or what I saw in the media – who knows! That year my life changed forever, and over the next three DECADES I obsessed about my weight and body image constantly.

Calories were counted, points added and deducted, packets of horrible processed foods consumed… I even downed batches of cabbage soup because that was the latest fad diet (remember that?!).  Dieting and never feeling satisfied, both physically and emotionally, would become a part of who I was and what my life was like.

I grew up, got married to a wonderful man and had a gorgeous wedding!  And I still remember my exact weight the morning of my wedding because I hadn’t seen the scale flash a number that low for many, many years.

Fast forward to today – when I have my three beautiful children:  two boys and a girl.  Life changed instantly as a new mom. All the clichés were actually true:  you want to be a better person for your kids; you teach them by being a good example yourself; and you would literally do anything for these innocent little beings.

I have an incredible bond with each of my boys, but there really is something unique about the mother/daughter bond which is why this topic is so close to my heart.  I want to address disordered eating. When I say disordered eating I am not just describing anorexia or bulimia. Disordered eating is a broader topic, one that includes restrictive dieting, eating only one food (or food group) to lose weight, taking laxatives or uppers to lose weight, and all manners of abnormal eating behaviors.

It really wasn’t until I had my daughter that I started reflecting on my own life experiences (especially around body image) and it hit me like a ton of bricks….PLEASE don’t let me mess her up so she lives a life obsessing about her weight and body image like I did and still do!!!!! (Note: although the topic of this blog is focusing on the mother/daughter relationship, this posting is also pertinent to boys and men who can also be affected by negative body issues and eating disorders.)

Tons of research has been done on the mother-daughter relationship and the connection to eating habits and body image. The takeaway:  If mom has an eating disorder then odds are, her daughter will too. No surprise there! Why is this? Most likely this is due to a combination of:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Learned behaviors and attitude
  • Overall nutritional support from/role of food in the home

With the awesome responsibility of being a mom comes the sheer terror of being watched constantly and knowing your behavior affects your children. Will my daughter (and sons) see me weigh myself every morning? Will they see me scowl when I look at myself in the mirror and pinch the “spare tire” I see around my middle? Did they notice me starving myself with the latest fad diet? Did they see my anguish when I lost the weight only to gain it back plus some? (Did you know that starvation and fad diets only yield temporary results and deplete brain chemicals that cause feelings of depression and low self-worth? YIKES!)

Unfortunately, I had to admit to myself that if I continued to do all of these things then the answer would definitely be YES, they would notice. And if I continued, it would only be a matter of time before my daughter would be doing the same thing to herself. This thought breaks my heart because I would have been the one teaching her to hate her body after she had seen me model that behavior to her. The madness needs to stop!

I found my solution in January, 2010. My daughter was 9 months old.  I was beyond exhausted and had forgotten what my own body felt like before I had kids. Everything felt different. I wanted to somehow feel like “me” again. A friend of mine had just completed Cambiati’s 28-Day Cleanse and not only did she look great, she said she FELT great! What!?!! A program where you actually felt good?  That was a completely foreign concept to me. If a program wasn’t hard or I didn’t feel tortured while doing it, surely it wasn’t going to work. January 3, 2010 is when I started my first 28 Day CambiatiCleanse and it changed my life!

For the first time in a long time I was nourishing my body with whole foods, balanced meals, and proper hydration. I, who honestly hates to cook, was preparing beautiful meals for my family. It was shocking! I’m talking balanced meals where our plates were filled with all types of beautiful vegetables and I was FULL.

For the first time in 25 years I was not dieting. I was living! And EATING! And feeling fantastic! I was living a healthy lifestyle. Was I perfect? Ha! Of course not!  And I’m still not “perfect.” But living the Cambiati lifestyle is all about progress, not perfection, and creating healthy habits. And most importantly, my kids were seeing me live a more balanced lifestyle, and one they benefit from too.

This hasn’t just changed my relationship to my body and my health, but the health of my family. I feel so much better knowing that my daughter (and my sons) have a better role model of self acceptance.

Though body image has been getting more attention in recent years, we still have a long way to go and most women (and some men) still suffer from poor body image that manifests itself in different ways – from not being able to enjoy food and living a life full of self-deprivation, to hiding in the background of group photos (or refusing to have her photo taken altogether), or squandering precious energy on thoughts like “I’m so fat,” “I look awful,” or “I hate my body.” The body image we live with as adults is a result of so many different influences, from what we see in the media, modeled from our friends, and importantly, learned from our families.

Body image between mothers and daughters is a topic that needs to be addressed and discussed more openly.  And we need to recognize that disordered eating is not limited to anorexia and bulimia. Fabulous Cambiati nutritionist Quincey recommends a documentary called “Embrace” by Taryn Brumfitt, the founder of The Body Image Movement and mother of three. 

“Embrace” follows Taryn as she travels the world trying to answer the question, “Why do so many women hate their bodies?”

Taryn’s motivation for making the film? She was terribly unhappy with her “post-baby” body, something many women can empathize with. She was seriously considering plastic surgery when she had an epiphany – what message would that send to her young daughter?

Taryn’s message to the world struck me deeply, and is something every woman should hear: “My body is not an ornament, it is the vehicle to my dreams!” We are so much more than how we look and how we fit into the media’s limited idea of beauty. We have incredible minds and limitless hearts, hands that can create things and connect with others, legs that can take us anywhere we want to go! Treat your body like the miraculous gift that it is, and teach your children to appreciate the miracle and uniqueness of their own bodies.

When you think about your own body image, are you aware of where it came from? Did you have a friend who turned you on to dieting? An older sister or mother who constantly starved herself to stay thin? Did your grandmother always say “you can never be too rich or too thin”?

Despite our best efforts, our girls are likely going to hear at least some negative feedback from the media and our “perfect body”-obsessed culture, no matter what we do. Some of this is out of our control – but think about what’s in our control. The way we model our behavior to girls and other women in our lives. You can be a positive ripple that goes against this “never good enough” standard, even if you still look in the mirror and see a few things you’d like to change. What if the girl you were had a role model that showed her what a beautiful, strong woman looks like? That true beauty isn’t just what you see in magazines, and that a scale only shows you one measly number – not your entire self-worth? I don’t know about you, but I would have wanted that!

Mothers are in a unique position of power to inspire their daughters (and sons) to believe that their value doesn’t hinge on their looks or weight. And if you don’t think you’re qualified (or have a tumultuous relationship with your own body image and are worried you’ll pass on your own issues) – don’t worry. There are lots of resources out there to help you spread positive messages around self-love and positive body image. I highly encourage you to gather your daughters, nieces, girlfriends, mothers, and find a theater that is showing Taryn’s documentary “Embrace.” Find showings and connect and engage with The Body Image Movement.

For further information and tips on mother/daughter relationships and eating disorders, check out this article.

I want to conclude by sharing some words of wisdom that my own mother, whom I love and adore, always says to me. “Our thoughts are not necessarily reality.” When we look at ourselves in the mirror, let’s all try to smile back at that person staring back at us instead of scowling with judgement.

What if instead of “I’m so fat,” you said out loud “I’m so beautiful!”? 

I’m vowing to do this… please join me! Let’s all band together and give ourselves a little more love, a lot less judgment, and more acceptance of all that we are. Let’s celebrate ourselves.  And let’s do this not only for ourselves but for all the little girls that are watching us. Will you join me?

Need some help attaining your optimal weight? Want to educate yourself on how to prepare, eat and stay healthy for a lifetime? Sign up for  CambiatiCleanse class today.