My daughter is a runner. A high school varsity athlete – twelve times over. It’s something to be proud of, especially because before high school she could barely walk around the block. Now she runs three seasons – cross-country, indoor track, and spring track.
Therefore I’m a “track mom.” I even have a sweatshirt, with “MOM” on the back, to prove it. I love to watch her race. Except for during her junior year cross-country season, because as she’d get somewhere near the finish line, she’d start to stagger. She’d make the 5K distance, but barely. Her face would pale, as white as a sheet; her eyes would glass over; and she’d stumble, stepping over the finish line to collapse into my waiting arms. I’m sure there are worse things than watching your child physically falter, but not many.
After the third or fourth time, we (obviously) took her to the doctor to have everything checked. Good news – her heart and lungs were fine. In fact everything was fine. Bad news – we’d been starving her. She’d been diagnosed with high cholesterol when she was young, so had been on a low-cholesterol diet since she was about nine. And overall, we ate healthy. And she’d had a scare the previous year with dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, so she was pounding electrolyte-enhanced water. Bottom line, she was not getting enough nutrition or enough fat. She was starving.
We rushed her to a nutritionist who began to teach her (and me) how much she needed to eat. The difference between her requirements and her actual was alarming. Also alarming – I am a former anorexic. That happened during my college years. With this in my past, the focus on her weight and food, albeit from the need to increase both, was a challenge for me.
Each session with the nutritionist they’d weigh my daughter, to make sure she was gaining. They had her step on the scale backwards – the recovering anorexic way – because they were afraid the weight gain would upset her. It thrilled her. But watching the process haunted me.
The mom guilt kicked in. The “I should have known better than to starve her” chanting in my head. Coupled with that was the “how did food become an issue and what if it pushes her in the wrong direction?” anorexic terror. I was a mess, when I most needed to be there for my daughter. It took deep breathing and my hard-fought-for self-love to let go of blaming myself and let my daughter have her process.
Because, again bottom-line, it was her process and her journey and it had nothing to do with me. She most likely wasn’t sick because of me. In fact, she wasn’t sick. And I hadn’t single-handedly starved her. I hadn’t intentionally starved her at all. And she was eating and gaining (six pounds in six weeks) and doing fine.
She asked for a scale at home, so that she could make sure she never again went underweight. That confused me. How did one, why did one, work to not lose weight? It also terrified me. What if I found myself once again stepping on a scale daily (before I’d eaten anything, of course, so the number would be its lowest possible)? What if I got addicted to numbers, and lower numbers, and even lower numbers, once again?
I’m happy to report that I did step on the scale, about once a week, for a few weeks. And then I forgot it was there. Until I just wrote about it, when I remembered. I might go step on it again, but probably not now, as I’ve eaten two meals already…and then I’ll most likely forget about it again. Which is amazing. I never thought weight wouldn’t be an issue. I never imagined a scale would slip my mind.
Last bottom line – there is always hope. My daughter’s senior year she injured her calf, and then her foot, so we didn’t get to see her run hard and be fine, but I’m sure she will in college. There is hope for that. And for me, I remember the days when scales and numbers scared me. When a scale in my house was an accident waiting to happen, or a cliff over which I might throw myself. I remember when nearly twenty pounds below 100 made my day. And I see today, when I simply don’t think about it and I enjoy my food and my life. When I somewhat effortlessly find my way out of self-blame when the “scars” from anorexia raise their gnarly heads. I know there is hope for me as well.