Can you honestly say we live in a peaceful nutrition environment? I don’t believe we do, as I see many people who are confused about nutrition, and about the ‘what‘ and ‘how‘ to eat. We all have to eat to live, but somehow most of us don’t know how to do this in a way to live peacefully or in a way that fosters a great quality of life.
Babies are born with an innate ability to eat (ie. drink breast milk/formula in some cases). They automatically regulate their intake of food to meet their nutrition requirements. They know ‘when’ to eat and ‘how’ much to eat. As they grow into toddlers and young children this innate habit continues.
Have you noticed when you offer more ‘food’ than what the infant wants (or requires) they turn their head or fuss? – Clear refusal.
It is very difficult to overfeed an infant. If persuasion/coercion continues from the caregiver(s)/parent(s), this natural ability to eat weakens and is replaced with ‘eating rules’, or eating because someone else said so. If this behaviour continues, ‘diet rules’, or eating in a restrictive way to change something about yourself (usually body shape or size) can take over and become the norm.
I’m suggesting childhood is the first instance where eating behaviours become skewed, as children learn about the world, look up to ‘role models’ and become consumers of media. Often these influences in life are sadly not the truth.
Examples of parental/caregiver behaviour that interfere with children’s body hunger/satiety cues
- “Eat everything on your plate.“
- “Eat all your vegetables please before you can have any more of the ‘food’ (they actually feel like).”
- Making a fuss (bringing attention to or singling out a particular food as being superior or problematic, even “good” or “bad”. Food is morally neutral. All food can be eaten as part of a balanced diet. No one food alone is that powerful, and cannot live up to most expectations or beliefs. An exception is certain medical conditions, for example, allergies.
- Feeding a toddler/child who is more than capable of feeding themselves in the hope to get them to eat more on their plate.
- Parents/caregivers talking about their body dissatisfaction and how certain foods are the culprit in front of the child.
- “You can’t be hungry.”
- “You shouldn’t be hungry after all that.”
- “Look at that big belly”.
I challenge parents and caregivers to bring mindfulness to their language (comments and questions) about themselves, the child and food so the child has a chance at continuing to eat normally and develop a positive relationship with food.
If you are wanting more information about raising good eaters visit http://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org.
Are there any other instances in life that you think interfere with the innate ability to regulate our food intake? Do you notice you say any of the above comments or questions without you really noticing? What would you add to the list? Comment below.
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