Wednesday, September 29, 2010

moms speak out, "two-bite rule" and listening to your gut

Thank you to those who filled out the survey. I can only assume from those who chose not to that I am doing everything perfectly! (Just kidding, but why not go with the self-affirming assumption?)

Many wanted to hear from other moms who are in the "trenches."

Here is a great comment from a reader about the two-bite rule (or the on-bite-rule or the 'no thank-you bite'...)

"I am personally sooo sick of hearing about "just try it" and "two bite" rules. Especially the accompanying insistance that their application will turn my son from a neophobic eater into an adventuresome eater. I can only assume that this technique works for some kids because it sure is popular.

We only had to try it a few times to realize that it didn't work for our son. The instant that he is told he has to try something he immediately assigns it to the "I don't like it" category. And foods are seldom removed from this category once they are placed in them... Also, to actually get him to try something he doesn't want to requires an EXTREME amount of pressure, so extreme that I know it has to be wrong."

The pressure moms feel to get their kids to eat "right" is also extreme. Many, knowing that it feels wrong, slog through joyless meals, miserably doing as they are told to get the pyramid into their kids every day. My favorite quote? "Dinner feels like 45 minutes of hostage negotiations." The reader is right, it does 'work' for some kids, the easy-going, adventurous kind perhaps. It even works for one sibling, but not the other. Trust when you feel that something isn't working. If you dread feeding and meals, something is wrong.

Or the mom with the son who is rapidly gaining weight who was scolded by the doctor, "You're the parent here! Step up and don't bring that crap into the house!" Well, now her son is being shunned by friends because he cleans out their pantries of all the forbidden foods when he hangs out at their homes. She KNOWS it feels wrong, and it's not working, but the doctor told her to do it, and hey, she's a bad mom if she doesn't, right?

What feels wrong to you?

Monday, September 27, 2010

New survey: America still isn't eating "enough" vegetables. But why?

This article in the NYT originally, and then in our local paper answers 'why' Americans aren't eating more veggies– but doesn't realize it. It's not for lack of trying, for lack of public health campaigns or effort or money spent on getting out the word. It's not that there aren't enough posters in our schools showing cool kids eating veggies, or exhorting kids to eat more veggies, or smiley faces 'eating the rainbow...'

About 1 in 4 Americans gets veggies three or more times a day. About 1 in 10 teens get the recommended amount. As someone working with families (and according to nationwide surveys) I know that it is not for lack of knowledge. Parents want their kids to eat well and have good nutrition, but they don't know HOW to support it (and many struggle financially to do so. But I will put the issue of food insecurity aside for a moment.) What American doesn't know what they "should" be eating? What parent doesn't lament the battles over broccoli?

One expert realizes, "There is nothing you can say to get Americans to eat more veggies." -duh
(I would add, there is very little we can say to get our children to eat more veggies...)

The author and experts assert Americans would eat more veggies if they were cheaper and tasted better. A nurse admits she won't eat veggies because they make her "gag." (I'd love to know if she was forced to try veggies or clean her plate as a child...) They don't explicitly get to it, but the following quotes hint at part of the solution. Read these and guess what is missing...

"The moment you have something fresh, you have to schedule your life around it."

"An apple you can just grab, but what am I going to do, put a piece of kale in my purse?"

What jumps out? What is missing?

Sitting down to meals and structure...

As I have gone through my training (my reading, now being lucky enough to be a part Ellyn Satter's clinical faculty with access to their incredible breadth and years of experience, seeing my own meals and family's eating, working with clients...) I have come to believe that without structure, without the habit of saying, "I am going to sit down now and make myself/may family something to eat" (or sit down to take-out or a frozen meal) that improving variety and successfully adding things like veggies is almost impossible.

The parents I meet and talk to want their children to be healthy and to eat well. They try really hard to get them to eat veggies. They bribe, they hide, they sneak, they beg, they threaten, they reward with stickers or treats-and for the most part, it's making their kids like veggies less, not more. Remember that how to feed is the key to the what. That notion of the Division of Responsibility, which is the basis for the feeding relationship all but requires meals and structure.

The structure has to come first. The meals have to come first. They don't have to be fancy, or "fresh" (canned and frozen are just fine) but you can't have a meal in your purse or strapped into a car-seat. (You can eat that way, but it's not a meal where you can tune-in to hungry and full, tune in to appetite, explore new foods, flavors and eventually improve variety.)

If you're grabbing Goldfish on the go (and who hasn't for the kiddos or even ourselves) it's easy to wander around contented for the moment with Goldfish. But, sit down, pay attention to the food, and the question, "What might taste good to me with these goldfish, or to little Timmy?" might come up. The answer might be, a cut up apple, or some microwaved frozen squash with butter, salt and brown sugar, or a sliced tomato...

What do you think?

Friday, September 24, 2010

family meals are priority one: what I'm letting slide to get it done...

With school and work ramping up these days (a nice problem to have, but I have to admit to being a little overwhelmed as most parents may be these days...) I've had to let a few things slide to keep up the really important stuff-like family meals...

• combing my daughter's hair (there, I said it... occasioanally we do a surface-comb, but ponytails hide many sins...)
• vacuuming
• mowing the lawn (since the kid who was doing it went back to school we are living in a jungle...)
• bi-weekly grocery runs (we're down to one for fresh and one for non-perishables. I dislike having to shop at two places, but do...)
• daily blogging
• unpacking (why bother, I'll just need to pack in a few weeks again)
• ambition with cooking- remember that doing family meals is a marathon, not a sprint. When things get crazy, I rely on easy, quick standards, quick pan-cooked meats with glazes, mac-n-cheese, couscous, more cut-up raw veggies, I buy pre-washed salads, we might eat out more, eat more left-overs, do the giant crock-pot meal and eat it for 3 days. I tend not to try new recipes...
• tidying up- inside and out-my yard looks like a plastic obstacle course. Orange cones, hula-hoop, bike, helmet... tumble-weeds of cat-hair.
• laundry. the mega-loads that take 30 minutes to fold...
• exercise (I need to get the walking routine going again. Will walk tomorrow after a meeting.)

What do you prioritize and let slide?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

learning to like new foods: the sitter said it best!

Usually when we have a sitter, I make mac-n-cheese. Last night we also had grapes and carrots and dip. I sat with and ate it too. I love that white Annie's mac-n-cheese...

From the beginning I always mixed peas in our mac-n-cheese. M prefers it this way. So, the pasta was boiled, the peas were nuked. I asked our sitter, Loulou * if she minded if I mixed them together. Here is what she said...

"Sure. I like it that way. At first when I started coming here I thought it was odd, but then I got used to it and now I like it."

I couldn't have said it better myself. She basically described the process of learning to like new foods (food acceptance.) With repeated, pleasant, neutral, non-pressuring exposures, even new foods become familiar. Now, mind you, kids will never say this, or appear this rational. The process looks much more chaotic, with more fits and start. They look at it, they smell it, they watch you eat it, they might lick it or even chew it and spit it out, they might swallow it, they like it and eat lots one day, refuse it the next... Believe it or not, that's all part of the process of what Ellyn Satter calls "sneaking" up on new foods.

Just hang in there! If you serve the foods you want to eat at family meals and sit-down snacks, your kids will grow up to like the foods that you eat as a family.

What weird things do you put into or on classic foods? (I ate corn on the cob with ketchup for the longest time!)

Monday, September 20, 2010

threat level orange!!! parents are in a constant state of anxiety around feeding

Back from Denver after a great conference. I met some very dedicated folks working to help kids with eating and weight.

On the way to the airport, I passed the same sign that has been up for the last 9 years.
Several more reminders in the airports that the 'powers that be' have determined our threat level is orange. In case you forgot. In case you go more than an hour without being reminded of 9/11 in an airport, or in case you relax a little. Would any of us do anything differently if the threat level was green? I suppose I would pay attention to a red, since I don't think there has been one for years...
Since 9/11 we have constant reminders that we're not safe, with warnings of enemies real and imagined. I remember how often I had to turn off the radio for months after the terrible attacks as the pundits spun out elaborate scenarios of planes full of anthrax dusting our coasts and how easy it would be to destroy us all. I know how much that spoiled my days. How we are reminded for weeks that some terrorist is going to be arraigned next week, he's going to be arraigned tomorrow, today, last week. Hourly reminders....

It reminds me of that state we have gotten to with kids and food. How many people can just enjoy being with their kids and feeding them-one of the purest, most elemental expressions of loving and caring? Instead, with the relentless drumbeat today of hype-the continuous "threat level orange" around feeding, the experience is spoiled for most parents and for most children, and it is interfering with our natural capabilities with eating.

Some recent emails, conversations and news stories illustrate a few fears.

Parents worry about:
getting all the fruits and vegetables in
calcium for bones
pesticides and ADHD
mercury in fish
not enough protein
too much protein
too much fat
too much sugar
food dyes
hormones in milk
raw milk
salmonella in eggs
salmonella in chicken
e.coli in meat
e.coli in spinach
high fructose corn syrup
when to start your child on a diet
how to avoid encouraging disordered eating
how to instill positive body image
how to get kids "60 minutes of uninterrupted physical activity" every day
when to find time to cook
how to afford organics
how to afford enough food. period.
BPA in cans and water bottles

Does this list sound familiar? What are your worries? What would it be like not to hear or read about obesity or protein or BPA in the news every day?

My first 'tag-line' was "take anxiety and conflict off the menu..." Sure, occasionally there is cause for concern, but most often our worries only spoil our experiences, color how we feed, invite pressure and fear into the feeding relationship and no one benefits.

I'd love to declare a "level green" month for feeding, with a moratorium on the stories designed to generate fear and anxiety. I know before I found the feeding dynamics model, that I was scared by the news stories and it changed how I fed. How about you?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

part III, a little about intuitive eating, routine and trust

Weightless blog interview...

And, time to finish packing for Denver. I'll check in again next week. I'll be able to review and publish comments and tap out brief replies perhaps!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Part II of my interview

tackling picky eating and the "war on obesity"

"But I'm too full for dessert!": and dealing with pressure from family/friends

When we were with family last month, we did things a little different. I try to follow the general flow of others when we are staying with family or friends. I don't ask for dessert with the meal for example. (I do, however stick up for my child if she is being pressured to eat something or limited-and I will give a few examples at the end of the post.)

Well, we had wonderful foods, and occasionally we would have dessert. It often wasn't decided until the meal was almost over what and if dessert would be...

Poor M... A couple times she would finish eating and then our hostess would bring out these delicious little yogurts. I remember her crying, "But my tummy is too full for dessert! I want dessert, why didn't you tell me there was dessert!"

I didn't want to impose serving a child-sized portion of dessert with the meal as we often do at home (in fact, M has gotten pretty good with food regulation-knowing how much to eat-that we often give her the choice of when to have her dessert at this point.)

So, I talked with the cook/main meal-planner before the meal to determine what she wanted to do for dessert. I then told M before the meal if there was dessert so she could "save some room." This seemed to work out fine. I wasn't sure how it would go, but I remained curious, stayed true to the Division of Responsibility, and it worked out pretty well. (I often was happy for her to have "dessert" yogurt since she is still not a big milk drinker and we try to offer other sources of calcium-rich foods.)

It showed me again though, that she is listening to her body. She did not stuff it in just to enjoy the dessert. We also remained flexible and curious to see how things would go. We don't always get things right the first time :)

A few examples of pressure you might encounter and what you might say:

grampa: "If you take that piece of toast, you have to finish it all."
you say: "Actually Dad, that's not how we do it. Please follow my lead. Billy, why don't we start with half a piece, and if you're still hungry you can have more."

waitress: "You can't have dessert sweetie, until you finish your broccoli!" (really!)
you: "You are getting no tip." (just kidding)
try: "We're doing just fine here. Please bring her dessert now. Thank you."

gramma: "Let's hide his bottle. He's distracted. He eats too much and haven't you heard that obese babies will be fat adults and die before you and get diabetes and, and, and ..."
you: "Gramma, we like to let little Timmy decide when he's done eating. He'll let us know. May I have his bottle back, please?"

Uncle Bob: "You'll hurt Betty's feelings if you don't eat any of her sauce."
you: "Oh, Bob, that's silly! We love Aunt Betty, and thank her for making dinner, but we don't eat anything we don't want to. I'd like some sauce, please."

School: "You have to eat at least half your main food before you can have dessert."
see post... on teaching kids to overeat

how do you deal with it when family/friends/teachers pressure your child with his eating?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

interview on PsychCentral: feeding kids and our cultural "ab-norm" with food

Please check out an interview I did with Psych Central coming out in three parts this week.
Today's topics:

Where did we go wrong
more about the feeding model I work with and how I found it
what are the keys to raising kids who are competent eaters

We have our water back, but it's brownish and supposedly full of lead. I'm starting to pack and do final preps for a conference in Colorado Thursday and Friday, so again I am grateful for the lazy post! Moms who work outside-the-home (or home business,) how do you juggle it all! How long do you ever feel you have the 'balance' between work and family down? (I sure don't right now!)

Monday, September 13, 2010

the fantasy vs reality of the "two-bite club"

I saw the book Ellyn is referring to recently. It is a gorgeous book, lovely drawings, a well-intended sentiment, but ultimately not helpful, and crosses into pressure. Read on for Ellyn's astute retelling of this story. (Reprinted with permission, and a little gratitude that I don't need to write a full post on a day when our water AND gas are being shut-off for construction. I am at the coffee shop hoping they don't blow up my house before a 9:30 appointment.)

September 2010 • Family Meals Focus #49 Review, The Two Bite Club

It is gratifying when nutrition professionals take the big step to writing educational materials from the point of view of feeding dynamics. However, there is such a big contradiction between the feeding dynamics model and the conventional approach, it isn’t surprising when errors creep in. Even seasoned professionals trip themselves up with messages that cross the lines of the division of responsibility in feeding. With that in mind, let’s take a friendly but realistic look at a recent and free (and therefore widely distributed) publication of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service: The Two Bite Club.

Older brother Will is the protagonist of the piece. “My teacher said that if we eat two bites from each food group we can be members of the Two Bite Club!” Will’s teacher is to be forgiven for this - most teachers don’t know about the division of responsibility in feeding. Teachers interested in nutrition can sometimes be a bit zealous - and controlling - about it.

Little sister Anna can smell pressure a mile away. “OK, but I might not like it,” she replies cautiously. Mother says, “Anna, I know you can be a big girl and try two little bites of each food, then you will be in the Two Bite Club!” Sure enough, Anna’s caution is well-founded. There are not just one but two cleverly disguised pieces of pressure in one sentence: 1) If you force yourself to eat you will be a big girl and 2) It is only two little bites. Anna is only a preschooler, and she isn’t able to deconstruct that sentence. However, like most children, she knows what she knows - she is being railroaded! So far, the Two Bite Club is faithful to the reality of feeding children.

First, they play a little game. They find a food that fits in the grain group of MyPyramid for Preschoolers. Well, all right, that’s kind of like a treasure hunt. Anna likes treasure hunts. Will finds some whole-wheat crackers. “Let’s try these!” he says. “Oh, no,” says Anna, “I don’t think I’ll like them.” Anna can smell pressure, even when it is coming from Will! Anna might be one of those slow-to-warm-up types, but more likely she is just a typically canny preschooler. Here is where our book takes leave of reality. “But she [Anna] tried two little bites. ‘I like them!’” she exclaimed.

Oh, come on. How realistic is that? Every child I have seen coerced this way makes a sour face and says “Eew! I don’t like it!” The research says the same. When you coerce children to eat, they like foods less well, not better. Even when you don’t coerce them, it takes a lot of exposures - 5 or 10 or 47 - for a child to learn to like a new food. The slow-to-warm-up types take longer. Anna might be a slow-to-warm-up type, or she might just be made to appear that way by the hard sell for this strange club.

So on they go. Like the bread group, the perfectly acceptable treasure hunt for vegetables contains a zinger: Anna has to take two bites of broccoli. So what if they are only little tiny microscopic bites? What if Anna only has to lick it? Do you know how gross it is to be strong-armed into making close contact with something - strange? Here is a more likely scenario: Anna took a bite of broccoli. “Eew! I don’t like it!” she gagged, spitting it on the floor. (We could have her spitting on her plate or in her napkin but Anna, Will, and Mother are all standing up for the Club meeting.)

Then they hunt for fruit. By now, you would expect Anna to slope off to watch Dora the Explorer rather than play this game, but our story has her coming back for more. This time, Anna gets to choose, and she finds a yellow apple in the fruit bowl. The optimistic folks who hope that letting Anna pick the food will get her to eat it are heartened. Ever vigilant, Anna recognizes the pressure. “I don’t think I like yellow apples; I only like red apples,” she says.

So let’s give Anna a break and write a new ending to our story. “You don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to,” says mother, learning from her mistakes. “Yes,” says Will. “Let’s forget about the bites. I don’t have to belong to any dumb club in order to enjoy my food.”

So Mother got Will and Anna’s lunch ready. She put on the whole grain crackers and broccoli and stirred some Ranch Dressing mix into the yogurt to make dip. She put on some cheese and some milk and they all agreed those foods were from the milk group. She peeled the apple and cut it up. Anna could see that on the inside a yellow apple was just the same as a red one. Mother let Anna and Will pick and choose what to eat from what was on the table. Anna ate a whole apple and some cheese and drank some milk and dipped a cracker in the dip and ate a little corner of it. She ignored the broccoli - she’d had enough of that for one day.

And they all ate happily ever after.

Copyright © 2010 by Ellyn Satter. Published at

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hillbilly Housewife-cooking on a budget

Cooking on a budget ideas...

new blog/website coming soon, what would you like to see?

Please take a few minutes to take the poll on the right. Also comment here on what would make this a more useful/informative site.
Want to see more on adults and eating? Let me know! I'll be combining the log and website onto one page, adding the "smart" comments feature so we can have more of a dialogue, but otherwise keeping the content roughly the same.
Would it matter to you if I did three posts a week? Is every day too much? Not enough (hee hee.)

I truly treasure all your comments and feedback. It's a way I can feel like I'm spreading the word, and maybe helping some families in the process.

And thank you all. You have all given me much to think about with your thought-provoking and often moving stories!
Stay tuned!

Friday, September 10, 2010

lingering effects of sugar

M this morning, "Can I have that sweet cereal again? I want sugar for breakfast! Sugar! I want something sweet!"

We talked about how we would have ice-cream tonight for dessert, but that breakfast was cereal, oatmeal, toast or a sandwich with melon. She's been eating ham sandwiches for breakfast recently with pickles. In Germany, lunch meat is a common breakfast thing, so we go for it. Breakfast seems to be a meal where we all sort of get what we want within reason. She is given choices, but we don't all eat from the same things like we do at dinner. I'm OK with this. M doesn't chose toast, or cereal much, and we have a pleasant time.

Just thought I'd share the morning conversation. I have to chuckle when I think of what I do for a living, at how fastidious we've been about optimal feeding, but she's still a kid!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

wasting food, hunger, and finding that "stopping place"

Here we are at Cracker Barrel, which was across from our hotel on our recent drive (2 days in the car!) to see family. I skipped the Kids Menu, and M ordered rice, chicken, corn and milk. I had roasted chicken, beans, stuffing and corn. We ate maybe 25% of what was on the table. I ordered her a main meal because all the kids stuff was the typical fried, limited fare that M doesn't love anyway. She had biscuits for the first time. She liked the corn bread too. We had a pleasant meal, but here is what we left. (I suppose we could have shared entrees had I realized how much food there would be...)
It got me thinking again about poverty, food insecurity (or restrained or unreliable feeding) and how it effects what we eat and how much we eat.
  • I waste food because I can afford to. (The photo above is at the end of our meal.)
  • I can stop eating because I know I will have enough, good-tasting variety of foods before I get truly hungry again. (Reliable meals and snacks.)
  • I can try new foods and introduce my daughter to new foods because I know I will have other things to eat, and because I have enough resources to try something that might not get eaten.
  • I can stop because I can eat any of those foods when I want to. (I don't need to eat 2 biscuits because if I want to order them again sometime, I can-without guilt.)
  • I leave food because I have never been truly hungry (childhood food insecurity and hunger often has long-lasting effects, with adults who experienced it more likely to feel anxious or panicky with food, and more likely to binge when foods are available-a smart survival strategy at the time...)
  • I leave food because I have learned to eat in a way that is tuned-in to my internal cues of hunger, appetite and satiety.
  • I am lucky...
If I weren't so lucky, I would have ordered food for M that I KNEW she would eat. If I didn't know when the next meal was coming, I would order reliably filling foods with lots of calories for the least amount of money. If I hadn't eaten all day because I was "saving points" for dinner, or didn't have any cash, or felt guilty about how I blew my diet yesterday... (you see where this is going.)

(BTW, M doesn't really have to "think" about any of this, or know it on any rational level. In spite of my inclinations as a chatty extrovert, I don't explain or rationalize any of this to her. I do my jobs with providing reliable, good-tasting foods every 3-4 hours. She just shows up and listens to her body... She stops eating when her body tells her to.)

Poverty, how much we eat, what kinds of foods we eat, are more complex than most (especially in the public health world) would have us believe. Food is at it's heart survival, and making it simply into a moral issue without a deeper understanding of the complexities–the physiology and psychology of hunger (monetary or self-inflicted)– is dangerous and short-sighted.

How do your childhood experiences of hunger (in any form) effect your eating today?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

first day of school lunch?

My daughter had sugar-snap beans, a pickle, a little container of ketchup and 3 Swedish Fish...

I felt so bad for her, she forgot that I packed her a thermos with warm left-over mashed potatoes and steak! (At summer camp, they didn't refrigerate her lunch bag so I put the hot on one half and the cold in another. I reminded her yesterday morning that her thermos was in her backpack, she even watched me cut up the steak, but she forgot.)

Poor thing realized what had happened on the way home and LOST IT. She wanted to eat it when we got home, but I already sort of cross my fingers about temperature and food saftety having the food in a thermos until noon so I said 'no.'
I thought it was interesting that none of the adults noticed that she was eating cold beans with ketchup. They must see some interesting lunches. Maybe they have finally taken my advice and decided to leave her alone with her food :)

Today, she gets her favorite, turkey curry and rice. I'll pack some beet salad and maybe some grapes. Hope she finds it all this time!

What did your child eat on the first day of school? International readers, I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

sugary cereal first-hand

So we generally try to stay with cereals with less than 6 grams of sugar per serving. Sweet foods are easy to like, and tend to replace other foods and worsen variety, and thereby nutritional quality. Meaning, kids will often eat only sweet things if given the chance. (It's why desserts and sweets are treated differently with the Division of Responsibility.)

I watched this first-hand with our first box of Frosted Flakes. I took M with me shopping, something I try not to do, and she asked for frosted flakes. I had already said "no" to ding-dongs and a few other things (I much prefer Ghirardelli brownies anyway, which M also likes...) and I wanted to see what happened, so we bought a box.

We had the cereal on offer the next few mornings, and literally ALL M ate was dry frosted flakes. Nothing else. Not enough variety, not enough fat or protein to sustain her and our mornings were more difficult. I didn't explain that she needed to eat other things, but after 3 mornings of this, we said, she "could have toast, eggs or Kix or Oat Squares today." She chose the toast and some Oat Squares and milk and was fine. I expected a big battle for the FF's but didn't have it.

It was an interesting experiment. We might offer it on occasion, when she's home and I know I can offer a balanced snack or lunch, but it definitely confirmed the sweets-kill-variety if not managed appropriately.

What have you noticed with sugary foods?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

ice-cream for being upset?

We were on the road, and tired of McDonald's and Subway. (Road-trips were the only time I was allowed to eat fast food and I relished it as a kid. I am a little more lenient, but we don't often do fast food at home, so looking forward to a Happy Meal is a nice way to help with hours and hours in the car...)

Anyway, there was a Whole Foods near our hotel, and we decided to eat dinner there. M has recently really gotten into seaweed salad so we chose that, and checked out their hot and cold bar. M chose mashed potatoes, zucchini, roasted peppers and onions (they were in with the brats which she didn't want) and rice. I had a cold salad with the works, chicken, corn, eggs, lettuce, beets etc...

We were going to share. I asked M to hold her bowl with two hands. I reminded her a few times, and that it was easy to drop. I also had a few non-perishables so I had a basket, my bowl and couldn't figure out where to check out. It was really annoying. One guy said one line, we waited, I stood there and next I hear is wailing. I turn around and M was trying a zucchini and dropped her food on the floor. I am ashamed to admit I was not immediately super-cool Mommy and spat out, "I told you to hold it with two hands!" This of course did not help, and the cashier thought I was a monster, and kept saying, "It's OK Mommy, you can get more food." I was more irritated with the system, with having been stuck in a car all day, with juggling a basket, food, a pre-schooler, waiting in lines...

Anyhoo, I calmed down, reassured M that it was not a big deal ("I want Dad-deee!!!") got her a new bowl of food and went to another line. We came back for my bowl of salad that I had abandoned and the cashier handed M a bowl of ice-cream! Vanilla with chocolate sauce. "Here Sweetie, It's OK!"

I know she meant well, and I didn't really care (though we had had ice-cream at lunch) and I joked that I was going to drop food more often if I got free ice-cream.

It just fascinated me that the impulse was to soothe her with ice-cream, that she didn't ask me first. That the ice-cream would make it all OK.

It didn't hurt, and we went on to enjoy a nice meal. (Though I was also miffed that I bought bottled water only to see that they had free cold water in the dining area.) Oh well!

What do you think? Were you soothed with food as a child? Was/is that a hard habit to break? Do you ever use food to feel better now? (I know food can lift my mood sometimes.) Have you learned to "use" food or other means to soothe in healthy ways?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

worry about weight, two reader perspectives...

Here are two reader comments I couldn't resist sharing. Related to my last post about worrying about weight in very small children. They are well-worth the read. My readers, your inspire me! What is being done to families, mothers, fathers and children in the name of weight is wrong and harmful and unnecessary. Read on...

"I really appreciate these suggestions to lessen the focus on weight, especially for the very young.
I have twins and my daughter was tiny from birth. She has never been on the charts and at 6 months weighed only 12 pounds, which triggered a number of GI specialist appointments, the coordination of a dietician, etc. I was nursing her but had to begin supplementing with high-calorie formula in an attempt to increase weight gain. No physical issues were ever found, and she continued to grow steadily, just...slowly. The GI doctor at one point warned me that if she didn't gain more weight, her cognitive functioning could be harmed.

Of course I was terrified and this sparked a terrible pattern for us, in which I constantly tried to cajole/encourage/trick/force my daughter into eating more, and she, naturally, pushed back from day 1. It saddens me to look back on this and think that we were going through this power struggle even when she was a baby. It continued on and on, because at each appointment, she was still "not on the charts". Our doctor suggested some helpful, healthy things to increase the caloric density of her foods, but also some unhealthy things (such as feeding her Carnation Instant Breakfast, which she would never touch anyway). I had to monitor the number of calories my daughter consumed every day. On a good calorie day, I was thrilled, on a low calorie day, I was frightened, miserable, and often cried.
My daughter was 16 lbs at a year and 21.5 lbs at 2 years. This intense emphasis on her weight set up a terrible relationship to food and feeding. Shortly after she turned 2, my mother located all of my baby records from birth up to 2 years. And it turns out that at every single appointment, I had actually weighed slightly less than my daughter at the same age! My husband and I are both small, slim, people. The difference is that back then, in the 70s, my doctor didn't consider it a problem, and wrote notes such as "she's doing well" or "she's fine" to my mother.
At that point I realized my daughter is playing out her genetics and her well-meaning pediatrician's focus on her smallness had helped us set up a bad dynamic in which our mealtimes were disasters and my daughter wouldn't eat out of a need for control. Shortly after she turned 2 I swallowed hard, began following the Child of Mine advice, and backed way, way off. I no longer try to convince/bargain/trick her into eating. I provide healthy meals at specific times, and I allow her to eat what she wants. I don't comment on it, and I don't bribe with dessert. At first it was REALLY hard because of our historical weight issues, but I soon found that she actually eats much, much better now! She tries many more things, and her weight hasn't suffered. Now mealtime is no longer a terrible battle, and instead we can enjoy ourselves. Given how small she is it's still hard for me to grit my teeth and say nothing if she decides not to eat much at a given meal, but I try to take a whole day, or whole week approach and realize that she actually does eat a good variety of foods."


"I am a mother of an 11 month old boy that lives in the Peninsula area of the San Francisco Bay Area. Oh, man have I been getting the messages.
I'm fat. Not heavy, not 'overweight' - I'm fat. I weigh 275 pounds at 5'4". My husband is also fat. He's 280 at 5'10".
The weight talk started at my son's six week appointment. I keep hearing moms talk about their doctors worried that their kid is not gaining enough. Ours discussed with us if we had concerns about him gaining _too much._ I said "No, not really. I mean, his gain is normal, right?" and the doctor replied "Low end of normal, actually, but I see that both you and the baby's father are... uh... " "Fat? Yes, we are fat. Are you suggesting a preemptive diet for my six week old?" "No, I just thought you might be concerned." Oy. I mean, really. I let the doctor know that I was not interested in feeding schedules, limiting baby's intake so early or "supplementing" with water. (And let me say, calling my husband "the baby's father" repeatedly instead of my husband, while he sits there is kind of insulting. I've heard this doctor tell other women "Your husband... " but somehow, mine is "the baby's father." Maybe he can't believe a fat woman is married?)
The doctor suggested switching him to whole cow's milk at 9 months - I said that WHO didn't recommend that and I wasn't interested. He again brought up that my husband and I are fat. I asked if he would recommend that a thin mom and dad switch their higher-weight baby to whole milk at 9 months. He said no, breast was best until 2/formula until 1. I said again, that I wasn't interested in going against WHO recommendations and general practice just because we're fat. He then asked if I would be willing to limit intake. I asked if he would suggest that for a higher-weight baby of thin parents. He said no. I said, again, no.
What's sad is that I have interviewed several pediatricians, all of whom want to put him on feeding schedules, limited intake, switch to cow's milk, switch to water for all but two bottles a day - I've gotten some crazy suggestions. When I ask about higher-weight babies with thin parents, they tell me that they wouldn't recommend any of this to them because "the babies will just thin out someday." My common refrain in the doctor's office these days is "What would you recommend to thin parents?"
For what it's worth, my son is 97th percentile for height, 95th percentile for head size and 90th percentile for weight.
Part of my hesitation (okay, more like deep unwillingness) to do feeding schedules and limited intake is that my parents did it with me. My father tells everyone he encounters with a baby about how I cried and cried. They followed the schedule the pediatrician gave them - so many ounces every so many hours. My mother pumped so they could measure the milk and later switched to formula. They took me to countless doctors, some diagnosed me with various conditions. I was "diagnosed" with a pyloric valve issue and they wanted to do surgery. There was a grandmother in the doctor's office that my parents were at to discuss this and she told my father "There's nothing wrong with that baby except HUNGER. You need to feed that baby." My father says he explained to her the feeding schedules, the pumping and measuring, the formula. She told him to "Knock that nonsense off, keep making bottles until the baby isn't hungry anymore." My father - fed up, tired and at the end of his rope went home and did exactly that. He said that it was the first night I slept at all for more than 30 minutes - he kept checking to see if I was alive. After that? No feeding schedules. I am the oldest of three children and the only overweight adult. The other two have no issues with food, exercise (as in, I require a lot of it to maintain and even more to lose) or weight. Ancedata, perhaps, but enough for me to say no to feeding schedules and metered intake.

Sounds familiar? What do you think?

Put slim-fast in that bottle!

Center for Eating Disorders did a nice little piece on why our current obsession with weight, extending now to the VERY young is problematic.
BTW, the study they quoted in the article is a pretty poor design and is counter to many, many studies which show that the majority of larger babies will slim down over time (United States Preventive Services Task Force, Serdula, Huh...)

One of my favorite studies was a long-term (birth to adolescence) study in California showing that the two factors most associated with unhealthy weight gain in adolescence were 1) parents who were worried about their young child becoming fat (and presumable fed to try to avoid fatness) and 2) problems in the early (toddler/preschool) feeding relationship (conflict, power struggles...) Being breast fed, feeding low fat milk, waiting to start solids were not protective against adolescent weight gain. (The study did not address eating disorders.)

We can do more to prevent childhood obesity (and disordered eating) by supporting best feeding practices from birth...

Here is an excerpt from the article:
Consider moving away from a hyper-focus on weight, body type, BMI or any other calculator of weight. Like most efforts involved in parenting, it’s not an easy task to accomplish particularly when it seems like every newspaper article, concerned relative, or public service campaign is telling you to do the opposite. Do your best to focus instead on your child’s overall health (remembering that weight does not = health). Honor and accept your child’s natural body size and shape. Create positive goals around eating that involve paying attention to your baby’s or child’s internal hunger and fullness cues instead of relying on external messages about how much is “too much”.

*The photo is me around 1 year. "Obese" by today's standards and bottle-fed!!! E-gads!

Are you a mom of an infant? Are you worried already about your child's weight? What messages are you getting from your doctors, the media?