It’s important to educate children about the importance of maintaining a healthy weight, and the answer to that is not always thinner. I think parents should be more aware and involved in preventing their children from becoming under or overweight (at least to the point where it negatively affects their mental/physical health).
Your post caught my eye because of how similar your story sounds to mine. I’m in a healthy range now (almost 5’3″ and ~120). My lowest was about 92lbs a few years ago. I know this was very unhealthy, but I’d be lying if I said my first thought wouldn’t be to jump at the opportunity to be that small again if it was given (it’s that thinner=better mentality). The only way I was able to maintain that weight was to have next to no muscle. My workouts are much healthier now, I’m stronger, but that also comes with the “price” of a higher number on the scale (at least for me). I know this is better for me, but I hate to think about how much I’ve gained (even though most of the of the gain is positive).
I know exactly where my problems with food originated. I was a cheerleader for years, and I was a flyer. I was tall for a flyer at just under 5’3″ (many girls are 5’0″ and under), so I naturally weighed more. This lead to me being passed over for many of the main flying spots even though I was able to do it (and sometimes even better able than the smaller person that was chosen). The coaches (at least most) don’t put pressure on you to be extremely thin, but many (including me) feel the pressure indirectly because you lose opportunities. I decided I was done losing these parts just because I’m taller and thus a little heavier, so I lost the weight to make us even (I didn’t stop at even though). 5-10lbs of difference doesn’t matter that much in the air, but it will make the difference in being chosen in many cases. This solved my problem of being passed over, but it started the cycle of an unhealthy outlook on my weight and food that I still struggle with today.
I’m currently trying to lose 5-10lbs, and I feel the obsessive behavior resurfacing strongly and quickly. I’m better at out of sight out of mind in that, if I just completely ignore my weight, I worry about it less (I feel guilty about weight gain, but some chocolate will distract me). I’m awful about using food as a comfort, which leads to weight gain, which leads to guilt. I “fix” the problem (the gain) by going on a crash/starvation diet and exercising like a crazy person. Shockingly (not), this isn’t sustainable, so I gain the weight back, feel guilty, and repeat the process. This cycle repeats over and over for me. I’m trying to break it this time by adjusting my goals (hence the 10lbs goal rather than 30lbs), losing weight in a more sustainable, healthy way through MFP and running (unfortunately, this is slower so it’s hard for the impatient, obsessive part of me), and trying to change my outlook on food (i.e. breaking the emotional attachment).
My mother didn’t like it when I lost so much weight for cheerleading and tried to discourage it, but it was never dealt with in a straightforward extreme way (which I don’t fault her for because hindsight is always 20×20). I honestly believe I should have been made to stop cheering because the pressure (though self-inflicted) wasn’t healthy. I wish more parents would be active in preventing their children from developing unhealthy outlooks on food and weight.
I didn’t realize how long this was until I submitted it. Sorry for being so long winded.