National Eating Disorders Association
Blog
Parents & Caregivers

A best friend is always there for you. They will make you laugh until you cry, support you through late nights of studying and working, motivate you to not give up, and they’ll come running to your side no matter the time of day. They allow you to let your true colors shine with no shame or judgment. A best friend is your other half; they complete you. 

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During the safety demonstration on airplanes, the flight attendants always remind passengers flying with children to apply their own oxygen mask before they place one on their child. Why? You need to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. Being a caregiver for an individual with an eating disorder is not always an easy task. Your primary goal is to look after that person and provide them with an infinite amount of care, love, and support. It’s important to remember that caregivers also need support and to practice self-care.

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Knowing the right thing to do or say is not always easy, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to navigating eating disorders. In fact, the “right thing” to say one day may be the “wrong thing” to say the next. It is a challenge both for the individual battling an eating disorder and their support system. 

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There is enormous cultural pressure to have our bodies look and feel the same after pregnancy and childbirth. These narratives about “getting your body back” are presented as a focus on health, but there is nothing healthy about the expectation that your body will be unchanged by birthing a baby. This version of what it means to be healthy is fueled by a diet industry that encourages self-hatred in order to capitalize off of body modification and a health industry that promotes fat phobia rather than emphasizing access to health at every size. 

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When I got pregnant, my midwife insisted I take the gestational diabetes test repeatedly because she couldn’t believe my blood sugar was normal. The extra testing proved over and over that my baby and I were healthy, but my midwife never seemed convinced. —Anna 

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On the Friday that I was officially diagnosed with an eating disorder, my mother had her first seizure. That weekend, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, the following Monday she had brain surgery, and that night we were told that her cancer was terminal.  

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With Mother’s Day approaching, I began to think of the moms in my life as well as the moms I treat in my practice. A running theme for many of them is the struggle with balance, happiness, and the demands of motherhood. More often than not, self-care is the one area that moms tend to let fall by the wayside. One reason moms often give me for not taking better care of themselves is that they feel it’s selfish, in addition to being too busy, therefore, putting themselves last.

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In our current healthcare model, it’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing weight and BMI as the most important measure of health. Prenatal care is no different and the focus on weight, weight gain, and the weight of the baby too often take center stage. This often has more to do with cultural beliefs about body size than evidence-based research and it can negatively impact an individual's ability to care for their body throughout their pregnancy.

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My mom has always been one to rescue those in need. One time, in second grade, I got a D on an oral math test. I’ve always been a math whiz, but doing what is now known as “mental math”—you know, doing math in your head instead of on paper— has never been my thing. After getting my test grade, I crawled into my mom’s car at the end of the school day and started crying hysterically. 

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Our bodies, and our relationships with our bodies, are complicated. We bring our whole body history to birth—our stories of pleasure, pain, strength, weakness, successes, failures, belonging, and outsiderness. These histories are also shaped by lifelong and shifting relationships with food, weight, culture, and identity. As labor doulas, we support pregnant people navigate their pregnancy, birth, and postpartum period, and see firsthand that with the right support and a bit of planning, pregnancy and birth can be a profound opportunity to live in your body in a new way.  

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