Our children are often subjected to adults (parents, grandparents, teacher etc) insisting that they do not know their own bodies and shouldn’t trust the messages from their bodies telling them when they are full at mealtimes. My daughter has experienced this in her younger years from myself (before I wised up and did some thinking and reading to change my conditioning), her nursery and schools (2), and her father who actively encourages her to eat all her dinner portion at mealtimes in order to get her ‘reward’ of dessert, and is threatened with losing that ‘reward’ should she choose to eat only her fill. Ellie has explained that she often eats more than she wants in order to get dessert. This is a very unhealthy message and does not teach our children about trusting the messages from their bodies but asks them to trust only an adult to decide when they are full. In addition, and as a therapist seeing many clients with weight/eating issues, I am very aware that the message that food is a ‘reward’ of any kind or linking it to emotion in this way is a dangerous one.
I for one wish the practice of telling our children what, when and how much to eat would cease and be replaced with educated responses to our childs behaviour with food. The practice of giving healthy choices and allowing our children to choose what, and how much, to eat from these choices is a healthy one. I encourage all parents to rethink their practice of coaching children to ‘eat like adults’. I think the statement below explains my position on this quite clearly and I hope it helps some children in the same position as my daughter. I sent this note in with her lunch to school and she handed it to the ‘bossing (her words)’ dinner lady today.
“Dear ……. Recently Ellie has mentioned that she is asked to eat more and instructed which items to eat at lunchtime before being allowed out to play. I have advised Ellie to say, ‘No thank you, I’ve had enough’. I appreciate your efforts and concern for her diet but please refrain from influencing her in this way. My chosen parenting approach to eating does not reward or entice eating larger amounts, neither do I choose from her choices for her. It is better, for Ellie, that she finds her own limits, naturally, and trusts her body, not others, to tell her when she is full. After all, only Ellie knows her own daily appetite.
She has started to ask at home, ‘Have I eaten enough?’. Well only her body can tell her that.
As with all meals I provide her with healthy, balanced choices in her lunch, leaving her to choose what and how much to eat. You will note that most often the item she leaves is her snack/crisp choice. Thank you for your co-operation.”