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?


  1. I wish there was a filter I could apply to the news to take all the scare stories about "obesity" and especially "child obesity" out, or better yet save them until I felt strong enough to deal with them.

  2. As a fat mother, I'm not sure that even taking all those stories off the news would completely reduce my anxiety level around feeding my son, especially as someone recovering from compulsive eating disorder. I don't worry about news stories so much as I worry about the deeply internalized fear that, as a fat mother, I will make my child fat and be blamed for it.

    This weekend we were out and about and went to lunch at PF Chang's, which is not my favorite, truth be told, because the sauces are overly thick and sweet. With our menu-for-two (split between the three of us), we got two little desserts and my son DEVOURED the little chocolate mousse. I had to bite back my automatic fear that everyone around me would be wondering WHY I let my four-year-old have the dessert, and was he going to end up fat like his mother?

    Only it wasn't any kind of external commentary triggering it but the deep, internal commentary that never quite goes away.

  3. "I don't worry about news stories so much as I worry about the deeply internalized fear that, as a fat mother, I will make my child fat and be blamed for it."

    Actually, I worry that I will be blamed for my daughter being fat whether I am responsible or not. And I am also worried about being held responsible when I am actually doing the right thing by using EC methods.

    (My daughter is not fat at all, and I still worry about it.)

    I know exactly what you mean about the deep, internal commentary.