Eating Disorders and Moms

pregnant mom eating bowl of oatmeal with fruit

They say when we become parents, we make lots of sacrifices. One of the most common sacrifices we make, besides losing our freedom, is losing our figures. Sure, there are women out there who gain little weight and bounce right back after childbirth, but for the rest of us “weight gain and staying” is a common issue.

Generally, we realize we would probably be healthier if we lost a few pounds. We ponder this as we sit and eat our Neapolitan ice cream with chocolate syrup, saying how we need to go on a diet. We’re not satisfied with our bodies but we’re accepting our situation. There are moms out there who won’t find that humorous.

The fact is that moms and women of childbearing age who are struggling with an eating disorder are increasing in number. According to Dena Cabrera, PsyD, a psychologist at Remuda Ranch Programs for Eating Disorders: “Nine months of pregnancy tends to worsen eating disorders. Instead of celebrating the joy associated with carrying a child, women with eating disorders often experience a period of extreme distress and fear as they gain weight.”

pregnant mom handing fruit to son

When mom has an eating disorder, everyone is affected. A woman who is pregnant with an eating disorder is placing herself and her child at risk. Children are at higher risk to be born premature, underweight, and with birth defects. Women with eating disorders during pregnancy also place themselves at higher risk for miscarriage.

Mom also passes on her distorted views of food onto her children. Moms with eating disorders are less likely to engage with their kids because they are too preoccupied with the disorder. It is very possible that the distorted views of oneself before, during, and after pregnancy can be somewhat linked back to celebrities. It almost appears to be a race between which celebrity can achieve the best and fastest post baby body. It’s hard for others to realize that most celebrities have the help of plastic surgeons, chefs, personal trainers, and nannies. It is hard to see a new mom who appears smaller two weeks post partum then they did before they were pregnant when you’ve had a baby eight weeks ago and still have to wear your maternity clothes.

Many eating disorders start with new moms right after childbirth. It is this period where most women get the feeling of invincibility. The body is working hard to shed the extra water and fluids that are no longer needed for a baby. The energy level is increased and often the appetite is decreased. Going without food and adequate nutrition can become addicting. This is especially true for women that own scales. Jumping on the scale on a daily basis and noticing the pounds dropping almost turns into a personal control issue.

mom and daughter in kitchen eating vegetables

Three Types of Eating Disorders

It is also known to be true that women who suffer from depression many times also suffer from eating disorders. Most of the time when you think of eating disorders, you think of anorexia nervosa or bulemia. Those eating disorders are distinguished by the attitude a person has about food. A person who suffers from anorexia attempts to limit their entire intake. Exercising also seems to become an obsession. A person who suffers with bulimia will often eat normal meals, but feels the absolute need to vomit up whatever they have eaten. Both eating disorders usually come with great secrecy and avoidance of eating in public.

Another eating disorder not commonly discussed in the realm of eating disorders is binge eating. A person who binge eats, eats a large quantity of food at a time. They could be doing this because they are actually hungry, stressed, depressed or bored. Many ladies say they binge when they need comforting, and food is their comfort. Binge eating leads to an increase in body weight, which, in turn, leads to an increase in depression. Binge eating is a vicious cycle. A person over eats for whatever reason, feels bad about herself for overeating, notices the weight gain and continues to eat because they feel so bad about themselves.

All three of these eating disorders are alarmingly common (and increasing) in young women, mothers to be and seasoned moms. What many ladies do not realize is the ultimate long term consequences they face. Denying your body adequate nutrition, especially for an extended period of time, damages all body systems. Many times, the damage that occurs can not be reversed. Those who binge and purge (bulimics) place themselves at higher risk for esophageal cancer, permanent gastric reflux disease and dental decay. Ladies who binge eat open themselves up to the possibility of ending up morbidly obese. This is risky because of all the health related problems associated with being overweight.

Seeking Help

If you yourself are struggling with your weight and you don’t know what to do about it, contact your doctor. There are simple blood tests that can be used to determine if there is a health condition stopping you from losing weight on your own. Many changes take place during pregnancy and while we age. Even though you maybe have never had a problem before, you could have developed a medical condition. If you’re suffering with an eating disorder now, please, do yourself and your family a favor and seek out help. Your kids are not going to remember if you were fat or thin, tall or short, if the house was messy or clean. If you deny yourself help, your children will remember. Children are great at picking up the lead from their parents. Your disorder will become their disorder. That is one trait we do not want to pass on to our children.