It has been four years since I started my journey to better health through good nutrition and exercise. In those four years I have learned a lot and I have changed a lot. My family has been with me and supported me the whole way and through all kinds of crazy. I have finally found a place of peace and contentment with my relationship with food. But, I know I have said and done things in the past that I am not proud of. I have been thinking lately about things I have said to my son in regards to food that I regret. I thank the good Lord that he has turned out okay and from what I can tell he doesn’t have a poor relationship with food. But, I still look back and I think, “What was I thinking???”
Here are six things I regret saying to my son about food.
“Oh Buddy. It is okay. Stop crying. Have some Goldfish/cookies/pudding/etc.”
This one hit me like a ton of bricks. I heard someone else doing it and all of a sudden it clicked in my head why so many of us go to food for comfort. How many times when we were children were we offered food when we were upset? Probably a lot. And then I do it with my own child. I am just as guilty as the next person. Why do we do it? Because it works. Eating something delicious helps us be distracted from what really hurts. For kids it really is just distraction and moving their attention from the bad thing to the delicious thing. For adults, it goes deeper because it means we are not dealing with our problems. We are pushing everything further and further down with each swallow.
What if instead of going straight to food for comfort we took a moment to feel the emotions and we take the time to figure out what’s wrong and then do the best we can to fix it? That way the problem is resolved instead of being pushed further and further down while just causing more issues by over-eating.
“You can’t watch any TV if you don’t eat the rest of your vegetables.”
This very quickly equates eating with something bad. Food ceases to be a pleasure. And to my child he sure as heck won’t want to eat any vegetables if it means something bad like losing TV.
“Eat your food. There are starving children in Africa.”
This one really makes me cringe. I haven’t used this one as much as the others because it has always made be cringe. But, I have said it out of desperation. That does not make it any better. We are blessed to live in a place where chances are good that you will never miss a meal . That is a good thing. But, we should not feel guilty for the situation we were born into. Guilt does not achieve anything. I do think my son should be made aware of the world and that many people do not live as we do. I pray his heart is moved to action and that goes on to serve those who are less fortunate than he is. As he matures we will teach him and show him the truth of this world but that does not mean he should carry a guilt that is not his to carry. Food is a joy and a blessing. It is not something to be consumed because you feel bad.
“If you are super duper good while we are out I will buy you a cookie.”
Overtime, in the mind of child this becomes, “Whenever I do something good I should be rewarded with something delicious.” Oh, what’s so wrong about that?? Children who seek food as a reward become adults who seek food as a reward. I am an adult who does just that. I am slowing working my way out of it.
Did you do super well on your diet this week? GREAT!! Cheat meal!! You deserve it!
Did you work hard on your workout today? Yes? Have a special treat. You deserve it!!
I confess I still find myself offering food as a reward to my child. It slips out and I am trying hard to fix that. Instead of offering food I just let him know the consequences of misbehavior and completely leave food out of it.
“You can’t get up until you are done with your dinner.”
The only thing this does is it teaches your child to ignore his or her hunger/satiety cues and then force food down just so he can move on to the next thing. It also causes undo stress as you battle it out. As I have learned more about my own hunger cues and when I am full I am respecting my son’s more as well. Now, he will say,, “Mom, I am satisfied. May I be excused?” I will respond by saying, “Yes you may, but be aware that I am not cooking anything else today. So this is your last chance to eat. Are you really satisfied or do you just want to get up?” At first he would be just trying to get up and would want food later. Now, more times than not he really is satisfied and does not want food later. Helping him learn what being satisfied truly feels like will set him up for a healthy lifestyle as an adult.
“Dad and I are eating veggie soup. Do you want a sandwich?”
All this does is teach my son that he never has to venture out of his comfort zone when eating. I don’t want him to grow up to be an adult that has a very limited appetite because he never learned to try new things. Dinners are eaten in community as a family. Some meals are made for the adults (a.k.a veggie soup) and some meals are more to my son’s liking. When he doesn’t like the dinner he has a choice to eat it or not. But, I am not making a special meal for him. If he chooses to not eat then he chooses to be hungry. That is still his choice. Slowly, over time, he has started eating the food, albeit a little bit. But, he is slowly becoming more adventurous. We tell him, “It is not bad to not like a particular food. We all have foods we don’t like. But, you need to at least try it a few times before you decide if you like it or not. And you must be gracious to those who are serving you the food no matter what.”
As I learn more about how I relate to food, the more I want to make sure my son does not have the same problems I have had to fix. The best way I can do that is by being mindful of how I talk about food to him and even around him. The best thing I can do for my son is love my food and not fear it.
What are your thoughts?