Are you a positive mirror model for your children?

In May of last year, after 20 long years, I spoke my truth. I am a 43-year-old mother to three children, a teacher by trade, with a Master in Counselling, an educated, informed woman, yet I suffered privately with bulimia from the age of 22. To the outside world I was attractive, confident, quick witted and self-assured. No one, in a million years, would have guessed the shameful secret that was part of my inner world.

I grew up as an only child, living with a single mother who dieted; a mother who battled with the size of her body for as long as I can remember.

My mum was always on or off a diet. When she was on a diet, the fridge and cupboard were filled with her diet meals, and when she was off a diet, the pantry was filled with treats kept on the upper shelves out of my reach.

I dieted for the first time in Year 7, although I had a very strong awareness of my body size from an early age. I can recall feeling shame at my body during school swimming, as I stood normal sized, next to my slim friends, feeling fat and embarrassed. I wore an oversized t-shirt to hide my shape any chance I had.

I had learned from my mum that it was normal to be unhappy with your body and that the struggle to make it smaller
was just a fact of life.

My mum didn’t speak to me about her diets, but I watched her, I listened to her talk to others, and I made the decision when my mum’s weight put her in the obese weight range (albeit the low end), that I would never look like her.

My weight typically went up and down during my late teens, but for all accounts and purposes I would have been considered ‘normal’.

At 22, after having gained weight living out of home, I vowed to return my body to how it had been before.

Months of strict dieting and exercise saw my body return to the best shape it had ever been in, I felt small and I felt fabulous.

Then one night on my way home, I drove past McDonalds. Months of restriction had caught up with me as I found myself devouring a couple of burgers and large chips. I could feel the waistband of my skinny jeans digging into my swelling stomach. What had I done? That was the night Pandora’s box was opened, and I would struggle to take control of it for the next 20 years.

Early last year, I began noticing changes in my then 6-year-old daughter. I had been eating a low-carb/high-fat diet for some time, when my daughter started refusing pasta because I wasn’t eating it, and only eating the top off her pizza leaving the base because that’s what I would do. I knew in those moments, that if I wanted her to have a normal relationship with food, that I needed to learn how to have one myself.

It was a Wednesday night when I came home from work and told my husband about my disorder and that I needed his support.

By the Friday I was sitting in front of my GP telling him I’d suffered with bulimia for 20 years, and by Tuesday of the following week I was talking to my eating disorder therapist.

During recovery I reflected on where I had learnt everything about food and my body, and I’d learnt everything from my mum. I was shocked to understand the truth about the diet industry, diets are designed to fail. I couldn’t believe the lies I’d bought into, it’s a case of once you’ve seen the truth it can’t be unseen. I knew I had to spread the word, I had to share this knowledge with others. I also became incredibly interested in the intergenerational nature of food and body image issues and so I did as much reading and learning as I could. I knew that there was nothing special about me, that if this was my story, it would also be the story of many.

I made the decision to leave my full-time teaching job at the end of last year and I took a leap of faith. I created the Mirror Movement, a movement for mothers with food and/or body image issues who want to become positive mirror models for their children. I also wrote my first book, ‘Mirror Mirror On My Wall’, where I discuss how I changed my relationship with food and my body. After dieting all of my life, I have learnt to become mindful with food, and in the process, I have found freedom. And I hope you can too.

By Amanda Stokes- Founder Mirror Movement

Purchase Amanda’s book, ‘Mirror Mirror On My Wall’ here: