Parenting in Eating Disorder Recovery: 3 Things I've Learned

January 12, 2021 Hollay Ghadery

No one ever said parenting would be a walk in the park, and I knew that parenting in eating disorder recovery would be challenging, but I was not prepared for how challenging it would be. I am the mother of four children under 10 years of age. I have two boys and two girls. Every day, especially as my kids get older, I am aware of how the things I say--and don't say--can affect their feelings about their bodies and their relationship with food

I don't pretend to have all the answers, and I know I have and will continue to make mistakes, but in what I know is a relatively small time being a mother, I have learned a few important lessons about parenting in eating disorder recovery. These lessons aren't a how-to guide for raising children since I don't presume to tell anyone how to parent their child; rather, these lessons are for myself and for others who may be struggling to come to terms with their eating disorder recovery as a parent. 

I hope they help.

Lessons Learned Parenting in Eating Disorder Recovery 

  1. Don't project--I admit that I still inwardly cringe when I see my children chowing down on cookies and cakes and other junk food. However, I remember that my issues are not my children's issues. My kids eat a balanced diet, and if they want to enjoy these occasional indulgences, they should be allowed to without any input from me. So I keep my mouth shut and think back to how much I used to eat these same foods, guiltlessly, as a child. I encourage myself to cultivate more of this food-centric love for myself. I'm getting better. I ate a donut the other day with very little remorse. You've got to celebrate these little victories, right?
  2. Don't criticize bodies--Whether it's my own body, my child's body, or the body of some celebrity, I do not criticize bodies in front of my children. This lesson came easily to me since, as a child, society, friends, and family members were often openly critical of physicality. I know first hand how that criticism, even when it's not directed at you, becomes internalized. You begin looking for faults in yourself because you know that's what everyone else is looking for. Obviously, this isn't healthy. I am not going to lie and say I am so evolved that I never talk negatively to myself in my own mind, but again, I am getting better at it. I am in my 11th year of recovery this year, and learning to be kind to myself is taking time. 
  3. Don't use the f-word--I often tell my children that fat is something you have, not something you are. They have family members with serious obesity-related health issues, but I am careful in the way I frame these issues. Obviously, if your weight is causing you health problems, this isn't good, but I don't want self-worth to be tied to weight. People may have fat on their bodies, but fat cannot be a quality that makes them who they are, just like how you can have blue eyes, but you cannot be blue eyes. 

As I mentioned, I don't pretend to have everything figured out. Parenting in eating disorder recovery--even 11 years into my recovery--can still be difficult. However, when in doubt, I turn to my children and revel in the way they live unburdened by their bodies. Seeing this, I'm encouraged to do everything I can to keep this freedom alive. I'm encouraged to take a little bit of it back for myself as well. 

What are your tips for parenting in eating disorder recovery? I'd love to hear them. Please share in the comments. 

APA Reference
Ghadery, H. (2021, January 12). Parenting in Eating Disorder Recovery: 3 Things I've Learned, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 14 from

Author: Hollay Ghadery

Hollay Ghadery is a writer and editor living in Ontario, Canada. She has a book of non-fiction set to be published by Guernica Editions in 2021. The work dives into the documented prevalence of mental health issues in biracial women. Connect with Hollay on her website, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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