Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Food - Part 2

I'm amazed continuously that neither Seth nor Lizzie seem to have any real food issues, despite being large eaters.  I can't tell you how many times I've heard of kids coming home from Ethiopia struggling with huge issues: hoarding; eating to the point of throwing up; picking through garbage for leftovers; sneaking food and/or eating in secret.  So far, anyway, we've seen none of that...though maybe that's because it seems constantly to be meal or snack time and they don't have time to actually sneak or crave food!  lol.

Well, we've have had one issue, I guess.  A few weeks ago, Lizzie decided that if I wasn't serving up eggs for breakfast, she simply wasn't going to eat (and sadly, from her perspective, I only make eggs two times/week, sometimes three times if it's her lucky week!).  For three consecutive days, I did not deliver on the eggs she wanted, and for three days, she did not eat even one bite of breakfast.  She just sat there with her bottom lip stuck out.  I was sure that this would change over time and so I decided that I would just let her not eat.  The problem was that she was such a cranky kid for the entire day that we had three consecutive, horrible days.  It was nasty and I was ready to throttle her!  We weren't able to get our school work done because Lizzie was having so many tantrums; we couldn't play games because she was having so many tantrums; etc etc.  Those were not pleasant days and we all went a little crazy.

Finally, I'd had it.  

On the fourth day, when I put a bowl of oatmeal in front of her, she said very clearly, "I am not eating that - bleh!!"  She then stuck out that lower lip and just looked at me as if to see what I was going to do about it.   Envisioning another day like the previous three, I decided to draw a line.  I could not contemplate even one more day of her extreme crankiness.

"Lizzie," I said in an artifically-gentle tone, "you are going to eat every. single. bite. of that oatmeal, plus your toast, and your milk.  And you will. not. be leaving the table until every. bit. is. gone."

That's admittedly not the greatest strategy, and I don't usually force my kids to eat, but I couldn't take it any more...especially knowing that she was genuinely hungry.

She shrieked, utterly outraged, threw her napkin onto the floor, and cried bitter tears.

She sat at the table for two hours that morning but she finished her long-cold breakfast...just in time for snack time (which I made sure was something she loves!).  The rest of our day went spectacularly well, simply because she had food in her tummy.  She's now back to eating a good breakfast every morning (eggs or no eggs) and she is back to her usually-cheery-and-always-charming-though-sometimes-princessy-and-diva-like self.

Because I have food issues, and have had them for a lifetime, one of the things I've done pretty consistently since Matthew was about four years old is to ensure that he has access to junky food.  I now do the same with the younger kids.  I know that sounds counter-intuitive for many, but my own completely irrational fears about, and issues with, food have led me to understand that denying the kids 'tasty' junk foods will only fuel their desire for more of it...I'm a living testimony of that.  

For example, though we don't always have something 'junky' for dessert after supper (maybe 3x/week), I have no problem with them eating a few cookies (or something comparable) if they've eaten a healthy and well-balanced meal.  One time last week, Matthew ate four decent-size cookies after supper before declaring that he was full.  But that was after he'd eaten a very hearty, very healthy, very balanced meal, and had done so throughout the day.  Matthew really understands that he needs to eat healthy and balanced foods throughout the day...and that if he then wants to eat junky food sometimes, that's great, too.  You should feel that kid's abs - they are truly made of steel!  Unlike his mother until recent years, Matthew has learned to recognize and express the feeling of having had enough...and then stop.  He knows that he's not going to be denied junky foods on other days, because I offer it up regularly, and so he doesn't feel like he has to eat it beyond his level of comfort at any one sitting.  As a result, he readily expresses when he's full - even if he's one bite away from finishing that piece of dessert he was loving.  I can't imagine thinking to leave a bite of dessert untouched.  It's really a beautiful thing in the kids, and I marvel at it constantly.  The younger kids have been doing the same thing now for the past few months.

I don't know what dieticians (Liz??) would say about my strategy of serving up junk food on a regular basis, but I do know that Matthew seems to understand his body fairly well, and I think that's awesome.  All three of my kids seem to have a waaay healthier (more balanced) attitude towards food than I have ever had.  Every day, the kids ask me questions about food:  "is this healthy for my body Mommy?"  "will this help my body grow strong, Mommy?" "does this have a lot of sugar in it Mommy?"  If they learn that, for example, a sucker they got on Valentine's is pretty much all sugar and food colouring, they might say something like "well, I'm going to like this one 'cause it's got sugar in it, but then I better not have any more candy."  Huh.  That would never have been me, expressing self-imposed limitations!

Given my lifetime of food issues, I've had lots of opportunity to think about how I want to help my kids' perspective towards food be different than mine.  I was/am very deliberate and specific in how I wanted to raise my kids in regard to food, and I'm delivering on it so far, I think/hope.  I only hope it's the right strategy.  Time will tell how well it works out, I guess, but for now I'm thrilled that I have three active, healthy kids who love to eat, and who love good food.


  1. I have always thought that the old adage "Everything in moderation" is a healthy way to look at most things, including food and eating. I really don't think junk food is so awful as a treat or even in "we don't have time before the soccer game and after the doctor appointment this week" circumstances. And I think you did the right thing with Lizzie. It's not like you were making her eat liver and brussel sprouts!

  2. Perhaps with Lizzie it was less a 'food' issue, and more a control issue--as in, where are the limits and how firm are they? Now she knows where they are, and she can be happy within them. My guess is this stuff will keep coming up through the years in one format or another. And then she'll be a teenager, and lookout!!

  3. Hi Joanne -
    I'm sure you're right about issues that will continue to crop up in this regard. She does need limits, and she benefits from them...I can see it in her (in all three kids actually).

    I gotta say, though, she also just really, really, REALLY loves eggs. I'm convinced she must dream about them! Every morning one of her first question is about when we'll be having eggs today! And she eats them with relish. I'm betting that if she were given a choice between eggs and, say, candy (which she also loves), the eggs would win hands-down!

    Thanks for the thoughts...as usual! But don't scare me about the teenage years - I'm already wondering how she and I will get through them!


  4. Awwwww. I didn't mean to scare you. It was meant as a bit of a light-hearted 'poke'.

    What do you do to the eggs that makes them so delicious? I can't imagine liking eggs as much as candy!! lol