Obesity or an Eating Disorder: Which Is Worse?


From my archives …

obese-kids.jpgI fear that I’m giving my daughter an eating disorder with intentions of teaching her how to eat right. Which begs the question: which is more harmful–obesity (and diabetes) or an eating disorder?

I’ve implemented a “one-treat rule” in our home, which simply means that if my kids get ice-cream after school, they have already had their treat and don’t get dessert after dinner. I try to explain as delicately as I can that too many sweets and too much junk food makes you sick. Fat too, yes. But, more importantly, sick.

“What happens when you eat more than one treat?” my daughter asked me awhile back and, well, I’m not proud of this, but I think I said, while my mind was somewhere else: “You blow up.”

So yesterday she had a snow cone at the pool. That was supposed to be her treat for the day. But when we went to a lacrosse party later that day, a fellow mom trained at Le Cordon Bleu made these amazing cupcakes with the team’s logo designed with butter cream icing. Katherine instinctively grabbed one, but then ran to me, asking, “Will I blow up if I eat this?”

Yikes, I thought at that very moment, envisioning my father telling me to jump on the treadmill because I looked two pounds heavier. Or my ballet teacher telling me to eat whole-wheat pasta because big thighs aren’t unbecoming on a dancer. I thought back to my anorexic adolescent self and felt a pang of guilt.

I’m a tad psycho about my weight.

If I don’t work out five times in a week, I have difficulty relaxing in a chair, because I can feel the cellulite expanding, growing, making cellulite families, hosting reunions. You get the point. I feel gross if I eat anything but a salad and some nuts at lunch.

I want my daughter (and my son – but he’s so conscientious about what he eats that my only job is telling him to eat a bag of chips every now and then) to develop healthy eating habits. I look at the kids who were trim and spritely at kindergarten but getting fatter with each grade, and I admittedly judge them. What are they eating? I wonder.

Even if you haven’t struggled with an eating disorder in your past, it’s difficult not to notice all the overweight kids these days. That topic makes headline news once a week, especially if it’s a slow news week and there are any shark spottings. Recent statistics report one in three kids is considered overweight or obese. Two-thirds of them will become overweight adults.

It is such a fine line, however, between teaching healthy eating habits and giving our young ones dangerous messages about food and body image that they will battle their entire lives. My dad was only trying to pass on to my sisters and me the way he managed his weight: the scale needle moves, so do you!

And I am only trying to teach my daughter a lesson I have learned over and over again: You are what you eat. You eat a Happy Meal everyday, you are not so happy. In fact, two days without vegetables and proper nutrition will send me into a dangerous depressive cycle. I’m that delicate.

I don’t want her to be obese. To be at risk for diabetes or any other illness attached to obesity. But I also don’t want her to grow up fretting she’s fat, at every meal, and looking at food like her enemy. That’s no fun. Trust me, I know.

Photo by Getty Images

Originally published on Beyond Blue at Beliefnet.com

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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