Let us start with the fact that an eating disorder can happen to males and females, and no matter what age you are, mothers can have an eating disorder too.
How to help yourself when you have children and an eating disorder?
Your eating disorder feels like your second child (or third). It needs attention, it demands lots of attention, and it takes away all of your energy. Why on earth would you keep this "child" when it does not give you anything in return, right?
Mothers with eating disorders
Being a mum can be very challenging. But being a mum and having an eating disorder as well is even worse. We tend to think of having an eating disorder as a teenage dissease or affliction. And, indeed, in many cases, that's when you first feel it pull. While eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, are about food and striving for the "perfect body", they are also about perfection, the desire to gain control in an out-of-control situation. An eating disorder can give you the idea (in fact it is an illusion) that you are in control by micromanaging what or how you eat.
Being a mother is stressful, you have your hands full with clothing your children, feeding them, changing nappies and making sure they take enough rest, go out for fresh air. Most mothers don't even have the time to shower, put on their make-up, or go to the toilet.
"The first period after my son was born I never went to the toilet alone. He cried a lot, and it drove me crazy. Sometimes I put him in the stroller, trying to make him sleep. I even went to the toilet pushing the stroller back and forth." (Mary)
You are up around the clock because your child can't sleep through the night
You neglect your partner and other friends because you are exhausted
You can't keep up, and you feel like your failing constantly
You can't even enjoy being a mother because it is so heavy
But you can binge, make yourself skinny or throw up
"I thought that my eating disorder (anorexia) would disappear when having children. In the beginning, I was so in love with my child that it felt like my bulimia was gone. But, after three months after the pregnancy, I was so unhappy with my 'fluffy' belly. My eating disorder came back stronger than ever before." (Susan)
Mothers feel they need to do everything and be everything for their children, their husband, and their job. And if they can't meet their own expectations (most of the time ridiculously high) they feel unsatisfied and like a failure. Some start to eat uncontrollably out of frustration and others starve themselves and get back to their high school weight.
"Many of the anorexic and bulimic moms I see do everything. They work outside the home, they volunteer, they're the ideal parent -- and they're expected to be all that and more without any role models that have gone before them to show them how, since their own mothers weren't typically expected to work outside the home. We're out there, all of us twenty-first century moms, on our own, and we're understandably overwhelmed by all that's expected of us." says Margo Maine, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist specializing in eating disorders and coauthor of The Body Myth: Adult Women and the Pressure to Be Perfect.
Can all mothers develop an eating disorder?
Of course, not all mums develop an eating disorder. Studies on families and twins have suggested that you're twelve times more likely to have anorexia if your relative battled with an eating disorder in the past. And you are four times more likely to develop bulimia if your family member had it too. Basically, you are inheriting a genetic tendency for bulimia or anorexia.
Research has also shown that women who are sensitive to experience anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors are more vulnerable to develop an eating disorder too.
and for those women, anorexia or bulimia can be triggered by the everyday stress and chaos that comes from raising kids, says Dena Cabrera, a clinical psychiatrist who works with the moms' groups at Remuda Ranch. Another trigger: sleep deprivation, which can contribute to depression and feeling out of control. (source: Parenting.com)