In honor of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDA), February 25 to March 3, here is what I would tell my younger self to avoid 30 years of compulsive overeating and the problems that came with it.
Dear Young Ronni:
When Mom starts hiding sweets from you when you are nine years old, instead of just laughing it off and not communicating (as Mom showed you by example), please ask her to tell you why she is hiding the cookies. If she laughs it off, tell her how it makes you feel.
If she continues to hide food from you, tell her that due to her ninja actions with the Oreos, you went around the corner to buy a 1/2 gallon of ice cream, a pound bag of M&M’s or a package of donuts to make up for the food you missed. You were craving something, but couldn’t put it into words at such as young age.
Explain to her that you had to become secretive and eat this crap all in one sitting, and then hide the packaging beneath the other trash so she wouldn’t see what you ate. Tell her that you did this day after day, year after year.
Please know, Young Ronni, that Mom and Dad’s marriage is a dysfunctional one. Dad is stubborn and irrational. Mom is a nice person, but a cold, meek doormat. They are not the picture of a happy marriage. Together, and individually, they are not great parents. Please know they did not try to harm you; they did the best they could with what they had, but it’s not what you want for yourself in the future.
I beg you; please find a strong female role model as you become a tween and teen. It may be a friend’s mom, a neighbor, a teacher, or a relative. A strong and loving woman can guide you in these ever-important years of your life.
She will tell you that you’re a wonderful, beautiful and cherished young lady. And her actions will back up her words. She will sincerely gush over your accomplishments. She will be someone to share your problems with, with no judgment, only love and support.
This role model will tell you how good and strong you are, how you can be and do anything you can set your mind to. She will tell you that you matter.
She will also show you that you are worthy of love, that you deserve to be treated with respect and kindness, and that you are not to tolerate those who treat you as less than.
Also, she will model kindness, generosity and sharing; character traits that will make you a good person; to not just take, but give back to the world. This female role model will elevate your self-esteem so that you feel good about yourself.
As this strong female role model is guiding you with a loving hand, you will have a healthy relationship with food. You will not turn to food as a coping mechanism for the nurturing you are not getting at home from your parents.
You will not be obsessed with food for the next 30 years of your life. There will be no need to sneak or steal food, so you will not become disgusted with yourself and your body. You will learn how to socialize and focus on people and relationships, instead of food.
Ronni, I know this is a lot to take in, but trust me, it’s essential to learn this at a young age so you can prepare yourself for a happier and healthier future. Eating disorders and abusive relationships are brutal, and you don’t deserve either.
Love and Tight Hugs,
Grown-up Ronni, 11 years recovered and very happily married.