This article contains references to eating disorders.
When 27-year-old marketing campaigner Rose* envisioned the day she found out the sex of her baby, she imagined it being a “ceremonial, beautiful” experience. Instead, when she found out she’d be having a girl, she said an unexpected feeling of dread washed over her. “I knew what it was like to be a young girl. It was sh[*]t,” she tells GLAMOUR.
“I grew up with the idea instilled in me that fat bodies were bad bodies and I know that I learned that from my mother. I watched her diet on and off all my life. I listened to her speak badly about her body for being big when it was anything but,” she explains.
“I love my mum, so it was hard for me to accept when I eventually became ill and had to start eating disorder therapy. But it’s true. She taught me how to hate myself, and I was scared I would do the same to my daughter. It felt inevitable.”
46-year-old service manager Bryony* had a similar experience, sharing that when she became pregnant with her daughter at 25 years old, she had been restricting her own food, counting her calories and “obsessing” over her reflection since she was a child. “I never considered it disordered eating. I grew up in the '80s; doing that stuff was just normal,” she says.
“When my daughter turned 19, she came to me crying and admitted she had a laxative fixation and had been taking them for years to try and lose weight. She knew it was wrong, but she didn’t know what to do,” she adds.
“All I could tell her was that I used to do the same thing, and that I was sorry and I understood. I realised as the words came out of her mouth that I’d learned how to do this from my mum, and now I’d done it to her. I think even my grandma was doing it too. It’s like a gene. I didn’t do this to my daughter on purpose, but it happened anyway.”
‘I think you are being too sensitive’ really means, ‘You are bothering me with your feelings’.
The ways in which disordered eating is passed from mother to daughter, both purposely and subconsciously, has been a strong and difficult topic on and offline in recent years, arguably peaking with Jennette McCurdy detailing the way her mother purposely taught her calorie restriction, amongst other abuses, in her memoir I’m Glad My Mom Died.
If you’re a person who frequents the internet, especially TikTok, you’ll also know the scene from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills where Yolanda Hadid told her daughter, model Gigi Hadid, to slowly chew on two almonds when she was hungry, all too well. Or the scene where she seemed to not let her eat her own birthday cake, and to instead have one slender slice and get back onto her diet promptly. Both have provoked wild accusations that Yolanda Hadid purposely taught her two daughters – Bella and Gigi – how to restrict and keep up intense, dangerous diets to maintain their attractiveness and castability as models.