Healing ED Brain While My Daughter is Listening

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My “eating disorder (ED) brain” has been with me through every season of life. No matter the size on the tag in my jeans, this ED brain has accompanied me most places I go. I don’t act upon the thoughts this “brain” provokes anymore, but I am still frequently visited by them.

Looking at me, you’d probably laugh and think there’s no way I’ve had an eating disorder. (Okay, you wouldn’t laugh, because you’re kind, but you hopefully know what I mean.) After having two babies in two and a half years and breastfeeding both of them, my body definitely doesn’t look like a body that’s struggled with eating disorders. But that’s the thing; there is no look of an eating disorder. EDs are invisible in most cases. The outward appearance is not indicative of internal thought processes.

The Microscope of It All

I do have postpartum weight I’d like to lose, and I’m working hard to do so. Trying to lose weight healthily after having a history of eating disorders is a feat in and of itself, but trying to lose weight while my very-perceptive almost four-year-old daughter watches feels impossible sometimes. She watches my every move, and she hears my every word, whether I’m speaking about others or myself. The words she hears me say about myself, others, and her will become her internal monologue. They’ll be a reflection of how she views her own self.

Some days it feels like I’m under a microscope, but I have truly come to appreciate the accountability it provides me. Trying to do right by her is, in turn, helping me to speak and even begin to think more positively about myself. What a blessing!

It is my goal to speak life over my children. I want to speak positivity, health, and constructive nature over them. I want to view my body as the vehicle in which I live my life—the vessel in which I experience joy. 

Reversing Course

I will always be critical over my appearance. I work diligently at refining my mental approach to it all, but I know at my core that I will forever struggle with this. However, that does not have to mean my daughter will struggle with body image as well, at least hopefully not to the degree to which I have.

I’m starting to see the fruit of my labor born in her self image. “Mommy, I have such strong muscles! Mommy, I want to eat carrots because they help me see in the dark!” I try really hard to avoid attributing worth to food. There are not “good” and “bad” foods in our house. We do have treats, like cake on birthdays or suckers on road trips or gummies because it’s Wednesday, but treats are not “bad.” They’re just a different type of food. Inversely, fruits and veggies are just yummy food we also eat; they aren’t considered “good.” Exercise is also morally neutral. I truly think establishing this methodology in our family has been so helpful to my children’s perception of food and how it operates in their bodies. 

The eating disorders and unhealthy body image can stop with me. 

Affirmation

I will not beat myself up if my children end up struggling with these issues in their teenage and adult years, because there’s only so much I can control. However, you can bet your bottom dollar that I WILL do everything within my control to produce healthy self talk and body image within my children. These will frame their perception of themselves for their whole lives. The stakes are high, and I’m definitely not perfect. Thankfully, perfection isn’t the key; consistency is. Consistently and intentionally choosing to speak kindly of myself and my body in front of my daughter will make a difference. I know it will.

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Audra Smith did not spend her childhood in Alabama, but got down here as fast as she could! Originally from Ohio, Audra met and married her husband (of nearly 6 years now), Brian, while in college, and they decided to move to Alabama on a whim a year after graduation, resulting in the best decision ever made. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Family Studies/Child Development. Audra spent the first few years after the move working for The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa within Early Childhood Education. After years of working in close proximity to Big Al, it’s safe to say now that she is a faithful Tide fan. Audra is an Army National Guard wife due to Brian’s military service and dedication to the great state of Alabama and our country. After enduring years of infertility, Audra and Brian were miraculously blessed with their daughter Nora Jo, who was born in March 2018 in the heart of Birmingham. Audra now resides in the Chelsea area (Sterrett) with her husband Brian, daughter Nora Jo, and living security system (lab/hound mix) Hamilton. When she’s not wrangling and chasing after a spunky toddler, Audra enjoys a good book, just about a million cups of coffee a day, embracing/celebrating the wild ride of postpartum, any DIY crafty project, and being on the water. She initially went to college for Vocal Music, and still enjoys music and singing very much as an outlet (even if she’s mostly singing “Baby Shark” these days.) Audra is passionate about raising awareness for Type 1 Diabetes, as she lives with this disease every day. Audra is currently a stay at home mom who makes it a priority to cultivate side projects related to her passions. She enjoys connecting with other mamas, women, and anyone who needs someone to talk to. Instagram has become a virtual tribe for her, and if you’d like to participate, head on over to @audrashoupesmith whenever you need a dose of “real life.”

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