I’m Thankful My Mom Encouraged Healthy Body Image, Not Dieting
By Ashley Michelle Williams--I never imagined that I would suffer from an eating disorder. I never imagined that I would not only suffer from anorexia, but that I would also be bulimic.
I first got into my eating disorders after I started comparing myself to my classmates, many of whom were Caucasian. I would starve myself, only eat certain things, or make myself throw up. So many times my heart would race rapidly or my throat would hurt after throwing up. I knew deep down that what I was doing was killing me. But I dreaded that I was fat or that I would gain more weight from my eating habits.
After overcoming my eating disorder, I realized that everyone in the world has a different body type, and that we should not compare ourselves to other people. However, when I was suffering from my eating disorders, I would compare myself to my classmates who actually had completely different body types than I had. I kept making myself feel bad. I thought I needed to be like them.
Growing up, my mother always taught me to take care of myself, and to love myself just the way I was. She would say that I didn’t need to diet, be stick thin, or have a certain body type. Instead, she would look in the mirror with me and tell me that God made me perfect just the way that I was. She would tell me not to starve myself, and to make sure that I took good care of myself. She really loved me, and she wanted to make sure that wouldn’t feel bad about myself.
I am so grateful to her for consistently instilling these notions in me, because while they didn’t prevent me from developing eating disorders, they certainly helped me in my recovery. And her support has continued to help me throughout my life. I had this idea in the back of my mind to feel bad about myself. That was one reason why I suffered from eating disorders and also why I dabbled in other dangerous behaviors and thoughts. Thankfully, my mother never confirmed or reinforced my disordered thinking.
Having had great advice and guidance from my mom in regards to loving my body just the way I was, I was appalled to read that a mother was actually putting her daughter on a diet, wrote about it for Vogue, and was also just given a book deal to write about her experience!
What type of world do we live in?!! I am scared that this girl will never get over “dieting” and will always have her mother’s voice in the back of her head. She will always feel like her body is not good enough.
This mother who put her daughter on a diet may argue that her daughter will not be traumatized by this, but trust me, I know--as I am sure many of you know--that the experiences that greatly impact us as little kids will continue to impact us in the future. It just is what it is. We may overcome the experiences, but they are imprinted on us and make us who we are. My eating disorder has shaped the person I am today.
What our mothers and family members tell us about our bodies and our self-worth when we are young affects the people we will become in the future. I truly believe this, and parents need to wake up to this. If they don’t, more young girls and boys will suffer from eating disorders and other mental conditions, like depression.
When I was a little girl and I would ask my mother if I was fat, she wouldn’t tell me that I needed to go on a diet. Instead, she would tell me that I was perfect just the way I was and to love myself. Of course she would help me by encouraging me to eat healthy, but she never made me go on a diet. That is just ridiculous.
When I have kids, I will always help them to eat healthy and develop healthy body image. I will never encourage them to starve themselves. I will encourage them to live a healthy life based on their own personal choices. I will continue to tell them that I love them--just the way they are. Telling kids that they need to diet is only going to encourage dangerous behavior, even if the parents aren’t trying to do that.
I hope you consider my words and my life. It takes a lot of courage for me to write about this, but I do feel like I need to take a stand and say something. I have been through so much with having two eating disorders and I don’t want any little girls or boys to suffer the same way that I did.
Until next time,
About this bloggger: Ashley Michelle Williams is an energetic, world-traveled broadcast and digital journalist. She currently works at NBC Network News. For her efforts in journalism, Ashley has received many honors, including the 2011 Student Journalist of the Year Award from the National Association of Black Journalists; the Pat Tobin Scholarship from the Black Journalists Association of Southern California, a Hearst Journalism Award Nomination; and more. Having overcome anorexia and bulimia, she hopes her involvement in NEDA and her support of those battling eating disorders will help many people, especially African-Americans, who are suffering from eating disorders.
The opinions in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect those of NBC.