When Disordered Eating Interferes With Motherhood

In giving birth to our babies, we may find that we give birth to new possibilities within ourselves.
— Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn

Motherhood inevitability brings out the best and worst of us: our weaknesses, our limitations, our strengths and capacities we never knew we had. I mean, who knew that you could cook dinner while breastfeeding a baby and simultaneously entertaining a toddler.

Motherhood pushes us to grow and adapt, sometimes in ways that we may be resistant to. Learning to cope with the challenges that are part of this journey is not always easy, and sometimes this means defaulting to behaviors that are detrimental - to both ourselves and our families.

The Pervasiveness of Disordered Eating

Sadly, many mamas are attempting to live their lives from a place of utter depletion and exhaustion, and wellness can get easily pushed to the backburner. If you pause to think about your own life and take an honest assessment about how you nurture and care for yourself, how would you describe your self-care?

Some of the most common descriptions I have heard from my own clients about their motherhood are:

  • Utter exhaustion

  • A chaotic mess

  • Overwhelming

  • Spread thin

  • Depleted

  • Completely drained

Any of these resonate with you, mama?

When mothers feel as though they are drowning and desperately trying to survive the day-to-day, there is a need for something to help you cope; something tangible to control when the circumstances around you feel very out of your control.

Without realizing, many mothers may develop maladaptive and dysfunctional behaviors around food and their body, often as an inadvertent way of trying to manage a chaotic lifestyle. This can quickly spiral out of control, sabotaging a woman’s ability to thrive in motherhood.

Dieting can also enter these places of vulnerability as a tempting lure to establish some sense of control and accomplishment. For a mother who feels desperate to find her worth and identity (which can feel lost in motherhood), dieting can suddenly feel like a tangible solution for achieving this.

Disordered Eating in Motherhood

What exactly might disordered or dysfunctional eating look like for a mother?  

Here are some possible scenarios:

  • Obsessing about dieting, losing weight, and/or food to the point that it negatively affects the quality of your life

  • Irregular eating, such as going between restricting and binging

  • Chronic dieting or constantly jumping the bandwagon of different diets

  • Feeling anxious or stressed about food or your weight

  • Feeling overwhelmed and/or distracted about body image concerns

  • Emotion and/or compulsive eating

  • Missing out on social events or special occasions to avoid eating certain foods

  • Eating in secret and/or stashing, hoarding food

  • Viewing food through a lens of “good versus bad” foods

  • Compulsively exercising and/or rigid workout/diet routines

  • Feeling confused or stressed about how to feed yourself and your family

When looking at the bigger picture, how can these behaviors impact motherhood and a woman’s ability to thrive in this journey of raising a family?

For countless mothers, disordered eating can ultimately draw away time, attention, effort, finances, and many other resources that could otherwise be invested in herself and her family.

Many mothers who are engaging in disordered eating, even unknowingly, will find that the overall quality of their life is suffering. If you have found yourself in this situation, you may struggle with being fully present with your children, missing out on important childhood memories, or even withdrawing from important relationships.

Things or experiences you may have previously enjoyed can become tedious. You may find yourself in a vicious cycle of feeling guilty about your behaviors, ashamed about yourself or your body, and distracted from the people and experiences in your life that ultimately mean the most to you.  

Disordered eating can also be pervasive to an entire family, putting children at an increased risk for developing poor eating habits and body image.

Finding Freedom and Reclaiming Motherhood

Whatever your journey has been to this point, it is important to know that you can redefine your motherhood and reclaim your life from disordered eating.  

You deserve to feel comfortable and confident in your body and your ability to take care of yourself through a peaceful relationship with food.  Your children deserve a mama who isn’t preoccupied with concerns or fears about food, body, or weight. You can thrive through motherhood, and disordered eating does not need to be part of the equation.  

Seeking out professional help and support can be an important step toward finding freedom and healing from disordered eating. If you have found yourself in this position, consider connecting with me today to learn more about how you can change the narrative of your motherhood story.