Upbringing and Nutrition: What's the Connection?

I began this post with the full intention of telling you about my impending haircut appointment tomorrow.  I thought it was really important to let you know how nervous I am about cutting my hair 10 months before my wedding, considering that it only grows 1/2" per month. As important and earth-shattering as that all is, a post on another blog just really caught my interest.

This is along the "parenting" line, and I'm going to apologize in advance if I alienate anyone (again).  Things are just 'a changin' around here!

The post is called "Why Every Parent Needs a Feeding Strategy", and it is on the Raise Healthy Eaters blog, written by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD.  I've been reading her blog for a few months now, and I've found it to be an excellent resource.

When I made the decision to seek treatment for my ED, a huge motivating factor was the knowledge that eating disorders tend to run in families.  Oftentimes, Mothers with an eating disorder will also have a daughter with an eating disorder.  I'm not sure if there has been any conclusive research regarding whether this is genetic or environmental, but regardless of the biological cause, the facts scared me.

If the spectrum of eating disorder related disease was in fact environmental, I didn't want to be the reason why my child ended up suffering.

Not on my watch.

Now, a few years post-treatment, I feel as though I have a good base for intuitive eating.  I'm fairly confident in my food choices, and I listen to my body and honor it at least 90% of the time.  That's fine, I'm a big girl.  I make my own decisions.

My challenge is the fact that I learned these habits as an adult.  I don't know how to apply them to children.  Children don't arrive with a manual on how to feed them without causing them stress and anguish.  They don't come with a troubleshooting section in the instructions to diagnose and treat common problems.

kids-eating-ice-cream-cones

How do I raise children that don't obsess about food?

How do I raise children that don't think they're fat?

How do I raise children that are innately confident in their own skin?

This will be my challenge as a mom.

The article posted today on Raising Healthy Eaters addresses some of the common things that parents do which may lead to children developing unhealthy relationships with food:

  • BEING OVERLY STRICT WITH SWEET FOODS: My own mother was very strict with sweet foods.  As a diabetic, she never ate candy or sweets of her own, and we never had "real" soda  or Kool-Aid in the house (like the other kids).  When my brother started eating solid food (I was about 11 or 12), my mother started having sweets in the house.  I vividly remember being completely pissed off that she bought him sweets that my sister and I couldn't eat without getting yelled at.  I also think that my mother used this restriction tactic with me because I was already technically "overweight" by that point.  However...according to the article:

"According to a 2007 review study published in the Journal of Public Health, parents often use restriction to help their overweight children even though research shows it backfires and contributes to further weight gain."

  • MAKING THEM EAT "THIS" BEFORE THEY CAN EAT "THAT":  This was never a problem that I can recall because I ate everything that was put in front of me.  HA!  I'm not joking.  The only time I recall this coming into play is when I wanted more of something, but hadn't eaten the other items on my plate.  According to the article,

"Studies show that asking a child eat a certain food in order to get something else makes them less likely to eat the required food when left to their own devices."

  • HAVING THEM TAKE A FEW MORE BITES BEFORE THEY CAN LEAVE THE TABLE: Like I said, this was not an issue for me, since I was never a picky or light eater, but I definitely see myself doing this with My Gazelle's niece and nephew.  I always have the urge to tell them that they haven't eaten enough, and ask them to eat more.  Who am I to tell them whether they're full or not??  This quote from the author gave me a special "aha" moment:

"I know a lot of parents don’t consider weight a problem for their picky eaters, but we all need to remind ourselves that 6 out of 10 adults are either overweight or obese. Teaching children to listen to their hunger and fullness signals is vital for their future health."

A ha!

So, what this article has shown me (again), is that even as children, we are innately intuitive about what our bodies need.  Although it is not a parents 'job' to allow kids to eat anything and everything, it is our 'job' to create an environment to allow children to make their own intuitive choices.

So, what do you think?

How did your parents have a hand in shaping the way that you view food?

If you have children, what are your own feeding strategies?


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