Recently Lizzie was manifesting signs of food anxiety again. Within minutes of finishing a meal, she would see some food sitting on the counter waiting to be put away and she would ask for it; or she would have just finished a huge meal and, regardless of how short/long afterwards, would ask someone for whatever food she saw them eating or being prepared for a later meal. Basically her interest in food seemed pretty intense, most of the time. This has happened a few times in the past year, and we're trying to deal with it by providing what she needs, whether physically or psychologically: More food.
So, despite the fact that the kids have lots of access to snacks throughout the day, I reverted to the method I've used on previous occasions...preparing plates of food for each child to nibble on throughout the day.
Here's an example of what I might serve: 6-8 slices of cantaloup; a handful or two of cherries; a box of raisins; an orange; a mini bowl of plain cheerios; cucumbers; carrot chunks; plain popcorn; and (the unhealthy contribution!) little peanut butter cracker sandwiches. To this plate I also later added a small bowl of roasted chick peas (roasted with grape seed oil, garlic, dried basil, and tossed with a sprinkle of ground parmesan cheese). If I want to serve something cold (such as cheese to eat on crackers, or a container of yogurt), I simply put a small plate for each child inside the fridge and tell them that it, too, is theirs for consumption.
The rules for these plates are pretty simple:
* You can eat from them whenever you want to throughout the day except for an hour before lunch and an hour before dinner, at which time I'll transfer the plates from table to counter until after the meal;
* If you finish your plate throughout the course of the day and want more, I will happily provide more (note: if everything but for the carrots/whatever is eaten, then I will ask the child to finish the carrots/whatever before I add more food to the plate...that's a way that I can ensure the healthiest foods are also being consumed...this has become a non-issue, though, because they're used to this method)
* Please eat sitting at the table;
* Whenever you've finished eating something, please wash your hands.
This method seems really to work for Lizzie...it reduces her anxiety about not having access to enough food. I find very true what I have heard Dr. Gordon Neufeld say many times (about attachment, but it applies just as well to food issues):
'The provision must be greater than the pursuit in order to reduce one's preoccupation.'
It's not the actual provision of the food that he's talking about - it's the child's confidence in the provision that must be there in order for his/her preoccupation to relax. In my own language, the child's confidence that sufficient food will be provided must be greater than his/her pursuit of the food in order to reduce his/her preoccupation with it.
This is what I'm striving to do every time I see food issues arising. So far, it's helped and the issues resolve themselves for many months at a time. However, I am constantly on guard for it - because of my own weight issues, but more so because I have seen where my two younger children have come from and and fully appreciate their need for confidence in the provision of food.