I go through the McDonald’s drive-thru at least twice a week to order a Chicken McNugget Happy Meal for my son. The smell of fast food French fries bursting from the box is beyond enticing.
My son orders macaroni and cheese off the kids’ menu at the majority of restaurants where we dine. Why is it that when delivered to the table, the creamy bowl of cheesy noodles is screaming at me, “Eat me, eat me!”? The cheese is always melted so perfectly throughout, and the shape of the noodles is so appealing that my mouth waters. And then, he orders an ice cream sundae for dessert. It is smothered in hot fudge, whipped cream, chocolate chips, and topped off with a cherry (I don’t even like maraschino cherries, but for some reason it looks so damn amazing).
His little, innocent mind hasn’t been exposed to the latest health crazes and obsessions: fat-free, low-cal, no carbs, cleanses, detoxes, and diets galore. He gets to sit and actually enjoy the unhealthy food without an ounce of guilt, shame, or regret. He orders off a menu anything his little taste buds desire at that moment. His decision is not affected by how much he exercised, or didn’t exercise, that day. Or by the number that appeared on the scale that morning. Or, even, by the way he felt, in general. He simply orders what he wants, and eats it.
If only I were a kid again.
My innocence, on the other hand, has been shattered. I do not have the luxury of eating something without thinking about what is entering my mouth. Don’t get me wrong—I am able to thoroughly enjoy an unhealthy treat, which is an act I was unable to accomplish when I had an eating disorder in college. However, with the act of unhealthy eating now comes an immense amount of guilt after consumption. Would I indulge it again? Yes. But, again, with a feeling of remorse. It is one vicious cycle.
I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa as a sophomore in college. Luckily, the total time span from when it was identified, treated, and my recovery lasted a little over a year. My innocence of body image and diet was destroyed when I saw my friends and teammates behaving a certain way. I was fortunate to have had the support of specialized physicians, psychiatrists, family, and friends to get through such an imposing psychological and physical disorder. With the combination of my excellent support system and my eventual recognition and admission of having an issue, I was able to slowly conquer the many obstacles that exist through recovery.
These days, countless thoughts race through my head when ordering from a menu. Is it lunch or dinner? If lunch, I prefer to order what I deem a lunch option: salad, sandwich… sandwich, salad… yeah, I guess just salad or a sandwich. Thankfully, I am much more liberal at dinner. However, the majority of my decisions are still based on whether I deem them healthy.
When I find myself repeatedly saying, “I wish I were a kid again,” I realize that it isn’t necessarily the kid food I love, desire, and dream of (though that doesn’t hurt!). It is the innocence. It is the non-existence of insecurities and body image issues. It is purity.
And, it is my job as a mother to maintain my child’s innocence for as long as possible. We do this through recognizing and discussing the functions of our body parts and the usefulness of the features we were blessed with. Because doubting the way he looks should never happen. And questioning what he consumes as a result of how he thinks he should appear is wrong. And eating a diet to attain a certain body type is daunting.
My wish is that my son maintains his sense of innocence and continues to live a healthy lifestyle without battling irrational thoughts and obsessions regarding food, body, and weight. If only we could all be like kids… our world would be a much healthier and happier place.