Friday, June 11, 2010

"somehow we always end up talking about food..."

Yesterday I was doing some voice over work for a video I'm working on for feeding preschoolers and a lovely woman was sitting next to me. She asked what my video topic was. "I'm a childhood feeding specialist. I help families who are struggling with feeding issues, from picky eating to weight concerns."

She literally rolled her chair over and we started talking. Another mom at Legoland at the Mall of America confided, "Bribing with dessert used to be the only way to get him to eat anything else, and now that's not even working!"

This happens all the time, at the park, the grocery store. People ask what I do, and then the questions begin. These are all well-meaning, loving, hard-working, devoted parents who are stuck with feeding, who experience significant stress around feeding, who get terrible advice, or no advice about feeding, who do what seems intuitive, what was done to them, and what is all around them– and it isn't working. We are investing too much time and emotion, investing a massive effort in trying to feed our children well, when many of our efforts are actually making things worse. Moms tell me how often playdate chatter turns into swapping sneaky recipes or trying to get kids to eat more veggies. "Somehow we always end up talking about food."

I know when I started to have feeding concerns with my daughter, the only reason I was so proactive in getting help quickly is that I saw over and over as a family doctor how the standard model played out, how it didn't work. I thank my lucky stars that I found Ellyn Satter's work.

Families struggle and agonize for years over feeding. I think because this struggle is the cultural norm, there is not the sense of urgency, or even the knowledge that it could be any different. It doesn't have to be so hard! A great resource is Child of Mine, or How to get Your Kids to Eat, both by Ellyn Satter. Still have questions? Give me a call or an email! I just had a lovely session with a mom from Mississippi who had a few questions to clear up. There is just too much bad advice out there (from our own moms to Parent magazines...) It doesn't have to be so hard!

How often do you and other moms end up talking about food issues, picky eating, etc? I wonder again if this is a cultural thing...


  1. It's funny, in fact. I realized the other day that I'm talking about food a lot more when I am with American mums, than with other French moms... I don't know why. I'll keep thinking about it !

  2. I just sent a new adoptive mom information that I pretty much took straight from Ellyn Satter's web page and book, giving her full credit of course, I hope it helps, because she and her husband ended up taking four kids and hopefully she can worry a little less about food.

    Katja, I think I read this from another post on your site, but it could be a different site, but didn't you have a mom say she felt like she was walking a razor's edge between obesity and anorexia with her child? That statement has really stuck with me because there's so much societal pressure against obesity that it does kind of feel like that, but on the other hand that feeling is so extreme that if you can step back and logically look at the situation, it's obvious that's pretty ridiculous. (The mom is not ridiculous, I understand her feelings completely.)

  3. "I know when I started to have feeding concerns with my daughter, the only reason I was so proactive in getting help quickly is that I saw over and over as a family doctor how the standard model played out, how it didn't work. I thank my lucky stars that I found Ellyn Satter's work."

    Have you shared more of this story somewhere on your site? I'd be interested in hearing more about your own experience with this and how it transformed your beliefs & practices. If you've already written this somewhere, tell us where to find it, or please blog about it some more.

    I'm a fan of Ellyn Satter as well, but I have to say that even as a FA activist who totally buys Ellyn's work, feeding your child sensibly and not neurotically is one of the hardest things in the world as a fat parent, and I know many other fat parents (esp moms) feel that way.

    I plan to blog about this at some point but would be interested in reading your experience as a healthcare professional and parent.

  4. 樂觀進取,勇往直前,持之以恒,是克服困難的妙方。 ............................................................

  5. Hi WRM,
    This is a tricky thing for bloggers, as you know. How much to share about your family and kids. My experiences were colored by my professional experience with "overweight" kids. I saw over and over again that the standard approach failed and made everyone miserable. I treated all kinds of illness in lots of folks who were chronic dieters or otherwise struggled to feed themselves well. I also treated young women with eating disorders. Beyond that I saw up close a child who was similar to mine raised in the control model and it was awful. So much conflict and misery to control intake. M was a very large baby, and a big eater. I was stuck in the standard model and started to try to limit portions. By 14 months she was begging for food all day, pestering, whining. I knew where we were headed, and I knew I didn't want the standard approach, but I didn't know of an alternative. It was by chance that someone recommended Satter's work. (I am amazed that it continues to be ignored in medical schools...) So, it was my own worry about her size, and my fears of eating disorders and not wanting to have our lives ruled by how much or what she was eating that led me to seek out an alternative. Does that make sense? I'm happy to answer more questions on private email. I'm a little protective about aspects of the story! (I guess I also figure M will rebel someday and I don't want food to be an issue-a bit superstitious I suppose...)

  6. WRM,
    I believe it is unbelievably hard to feed well as a fat parent even if you KNOW you are doing the right thing. I find it hard when people look at me disapprovingly when I let M start her meal with a frosted cookie, or have ice-cream for a snack. They only see the one instance, don't know the feeding philosophy and think they know better. I am of "normal" size and I feel self-conscious, or aware of what people think, I can only imagine the not so subtle looks and comments I would get if I were larger. The moral outrage over "health" and fatness is tacit permission for folks to judge, comment etc on food that others eat. I feel for you. Do you have any tactics for dealing with it? Maybe I'll work on an elevator pitch... Doubly hard if your child is bigger than average, which mine is...