As a dad (and as a male), eating disorders might be the last thing you are worried about if you have or are expecting a daughter. Maybe that's because we are much less likely to have an eating disorder ourselves, or that we're focused on problems right in front of us instead of down the road.
So a post about eating disorders on a web site dedicated to new dads? What's the deal, right?
The deal is that, whether you are aware or not, it is a good possibility that your wife (or sister or friend with a baby) has worried about how her daughter will deal with body image. They get pelted with body image doubts and fears all their lives, even when they are really young. Did you know 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls "want to be thinner"? And that half of school-age girls want to lose weight because of images they see in magazines? (anad.org)
So while a baby girl might not be facing these issues, it doesn't take long before they can start creeping in. And with upward of 30 million Americans dealing with an eating disorder, there are more people than you know dealing with serious consequences.
One of those people? My wife, who overcame a tremendously serious situation with anorexia as a teenager; as anyone with an eating disorder will tell you, you will always deal with it on some level forever. I am unbelievably proud of my wife for the adversity she's pushed through and how good of a role model she is for our twin girls. But, as she writes in this post that appears in full on Scary Mommy, she knows there's work ahead to help keep our girls from dealing with what she's encountered in life.
What can you do about it? Be aware. Have conversations with your wife about what you can do to help maintain a positive body image for your daughter (or son!). Make yourself a good example. Because before you know it, that tiny little baby will be a little girl who starts wondering how she stacks up against other girls. That's your chance to remind her she is already perfect.
Thanks to my wife for writing this piece. An excerpt is below; for the full version, please check out Scary Mommy!
By Sara Shaw
When I found out I was pregnant with twin girls, I cried—I was that happy. We already had the most perfect almost 2-year-old son, and I’d dreamed about twin girls since I was young.
I used to try to convince my mother that I was secretly a twin and maybe my missing doppelgänger was out there waiting for us to find her.
Quickly following the joyful tears came a stab of fear. I’d read that daughters of women with eating disorders are 11 times more likely to develop one themselves than are other girls.
My lifelong struggle with anorexia mostly behind me, I still worried that I might somehow paint my own body image and food issues on those two little blank canvases.I cannot let that happen.
And so, to them, I’m making some promises.
I promise that when we stand together in the mirror, I’ll notice if you have something in your teeth, or if your skirt is tucked into your underwear. I won’t notice your weight, and you’ll never hear me notice mine.
I promise that when we sit down to eat dinner, I’ll eat dinner. I won’t fill my plate with steamed broccoli and pile yours with spaghetti. We’ll eat together, we’ll talk about food, and we’ll enjoy food. Food isn’t our enemy.