Let’s dive into the complex experience of raising children while trying to walk the Food Peace journey. Does the question “What’s for dinner?” feel like nails on the chalkboard? Pull up a chair and let’s sort this out with special guest Rachel Goodman from the More Than What You Eat Podcast.
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The worst question my children can ask me is, ‘’Whats for dinner?’. It’s a daily assault on my desire to avoid thinking about you altogether. For me to answer my children’s question, I need to have thought about you- what would be tasty, what my children would like, what will nourish them. And then when I have thought about you, I then have to prepare you. I find this utterly overwhelming and exhausting down to my bones.
Did you notice I don’t ask myself, what would I like to eat? I don’t know the answer to that question. I am so divorced from you that I don’t know what I want when I feel hungry. And Food, so you know, I have felt hungry for as long as I can remember.
Here’s what I do know about you Food: I know that it’s not my fault I am fat and it’s not your fault either. I just feel like we got off on the wrong foot. My mum was scared of you Food, and did the things women do to keep you at bay. She did the best she could with what she had, but it’s left its mark. I watched, and I felt constrained and angry. So I very angrily and defiantly ate what I wanted, but eating because you’re angry doesn’t lead to food peace either. I talk about you so positively with my kids, and I put on such a cheerful, food neutral voice at dinner and lunch and breakfast and snacks and all the times that we seem to talk about food. My children will never, ever know that you and I don’t really get on, that is a promise. But, truthfully I want to not think about you, you make me so anxious and demoralised.
Do you think you and I might be able to make peace?
Along your Food Peace™ journey you may have connected with how you were raised around food and how to treat your body. Did you learn early on that only thin bodies were acceptable? That we MUST diet in order to keep our weight low and letting go was a failure? Not surprising then that the desire to lose weight will continue. How do you stop wanting to lose weight? How do you accept your body? Listen now to the latest Love Food podcast episode for insight along this part of your journey.
I want to share the work going on within Decolonizing Fitness. The person behind it, Ilya Parker, is a trans person of color Physical Therapist Assistant and Medical Exercise Coach with over 13 years of rehabilitative and functional training experience. He is a social justice advocate and educator whose work centers gender, racial and healing justice.
He decided to merge his love for restorative based movement practices and community advocacy to create Decolonizing Fitness, LLC; which is a social justice platform that provides affirming fitness services, community education and apparel in support of body diversity. Check out www.decolonizingfitness.com.
This episode’s Dear Food letter:
I’ve been struggling with you for almost my entire life. When I was little I remember watching my Dad go on diet after diet and rigidly refusing to go up a pant size. It looked so miserable but I also wanted to be like him. I also knew (from what my parents had told me) that I was getting fat. So when I was 8, I went on my first diet and began counting calories. Later, around age 15, I began to reject dieting and wanted to relax and eat what I wanted. This made my parents uncomfortable and eventually they began to mandate that I diet and exercise. I began to sneak you up to my bedroom and eat you in the middle of the night. I was riddled with shame, guilt, and self-hatred. Even when I was outside of my parent’s control, I carried their voices of judgment with me and continued dieting throughout most of my adult life.
Now I’m 31 and I’ve tried so hard to redefine my relationship with you and my body. I’ve seen a counselor and nutritionist who come from an intuitive eating approach. I was fortunate enough to be part of a 10-week intuitive eating group and I loved it! But a job change caused me to move away from those resources and now I feel stuck. I’m heavier than I’ve ever been in my entire life and I’m so ashamed of my body. I don’t even recognize myself when I look in the mirror. While the dream of being smaller is still tempting, the thought of dieting repulses me. I know dieting isn’t the answer, but I can’t seem to get the hang of intuitive eating. I feel like I’m making zero progress on my journey to food peace.
Often I still feel like that rebellious teenager who would overeat (whether it made her feel good or not) just to spite her parents. I still want to lose weight but I know that intuitive eating isn’t suppose to be about that. How do I stop the incessant desire to be smaller when it’s been a part of my life for so long?
I’m also feeling scared because sometimes listening to my body and choosing to stop eating when I’m full/satisfied or not eat something because my inner wisdom is telling me that I don’t truly want it reminds me of the rules and restrictions I lived under for so long. Intellectually I know that responding to my body and inner wisdom is different than dieting. But emotionally they sometimes feel the same. Eventually I end up still engaging in rebellious eating even though I’m not sure what/who I’m rebelling against. Then I feel like I’ve fallen off track and give up and shame takes over. I know this is a diet mentality but I can’t seem to shake it! I’m not sure how to interrupt this cycle and stop thinking of intuitive eating through this dieting lens. I want to move forward in my food and body peace journey but I’m not sure how to get past this hurtle. I just want to find peace with you and my body but I’m not sure what the next step should be.
What do you think about all these Switch Witch shenanigans?
This popular Switch Witch wants to rid kids of terrifying candy.
My question: terrifying for the kids…or scary for the parents?
To get us all on the same page: the witch hangs out with the family starting October 1st and disappears on Halloween, candy in tow. When the kids awaken the next day, the candy is gone yet they are all smiles with shiny new toys. Parents do not have to deal with the food fights. Everyone wins.
Sounds like a great solution, right?
Uh, no. Let me explain.
1.) Allowing Halloween candy helps your child practice how to be around all foods.
Like it or not, we live in a world with many different foods. Children are limited by what parents allow into the home and the structure they provide.
We are required by law to feed our children and that makes them grow up. They leave us for college or trade school or when we get tired of each other and they move out. And the world will be their oyster. Or candy bar.
They get to decide which foods they will have in their dwelling. Seinfeld speaks this awesome truth here:
If a child was never taught how to experience highly palatable (*I won’t use the word junk here*) food, he will learn later in life.
A young adult never exposed to fun food will have a tough time eating them without shame. Shame never promotes health.
This shame-based food relationship produces an adult who feels out of control around certain foods. For many, this develops into bingeing and secret eating. These are typical eating disorder behaviors.
Oh what a web we weave.
Have a complicated relationship with food? I want to help.
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2) Keeping Halloween candy out of the house has more to say about the adult’s inability to be around the food than keeping a child healthy.
Fun foods taste gooooood. And that is why we adults yearn for ideas like the Switch Witch.
We don’t trust ourselves around the food and feel shame when we can’t stop eating them.
So we avoid the candy or other yummy treats. Our solution: keep it out of the house. Then, when a special holiday food comes around (helloooo candy corn!), we feel guilt free enough to “indulge” and curse the candy when we succumb to the tummy ache alarm to stop noshing.
This is not the food’s fault.
This is the basic law of food deprivation.
When we are around a novel food, our brains light up with interest. Sometimes even obsess. ¹ When we finally allow a bite, it is always hard to stop.
Allowing Halloween candy to remain around models how we as grown ups can navigate different types of food.
Too scary? You are not alone.
There is a way to heal this. It is called unconditional permission to eat. When a person has true permission to choose any food in any amount, eating according to physical hunger and fullness cues is the norm. This won’t work if “permission” is tangled up with one of these familiar sabotaging statements:
I will just have one.
I will save up my calories to have candy tonight.
I will exercise off calories to have candy tonight.
When we view food choices with permission, we begin to experience healthy ways of relating to food. This concept is from Intuitive Eating by Tribole and Resch and 75+ research studies demonstrate its evidenced-based interventions to promote health. Life changing work is done within its framework. I encourage you to check it out for yourself and your children.
3) Keeping the Halloween candy around will teach your children to not let food have more power than it deserves.
Imagine if you took your child into a room full of toys and said, “Play with any toy you like….except this one.” Even if the toy is a smelly old shoe, it will cause a 30 minute temper tantrum until the child is allowed to play with it.
Go ahead try for yourself. I dare you.
Having a witch magically steal your child’s candy let’s them know these foods are forbidden. And a house that forbids food gives that food 100 times more power than it deserves.
My clients affected by eating disorders spend too much time and energy thinking about forbidden foods. To the point they will not go to parties, or on dates. Their social life suffers.
Some won’t even leave the house in fear they will have to face a forbidden food.
I appreciate this is a strong statement and my work with eating disorder clients allows me to believe it: making candy a forbidden food is setting children up to experience disordered eating pathology. And, yes, that is very serious.
Where can we find help navigating the parental decisions around Halloween candy? Ellyn Satter has the best recommendations. I reread them every year. Spend time reading her recommendations here.
And ditch that witch.
Want to find a way to treat your PCOS without dieting?
Footnote (i.e. best part of any blog post) ¹ This may bring up food addiction for many. You don’t have to send me articles or scholarly journals on food addiction since I am keeping up with the research. Until they control for food deprivation, the research means nothing unless you are a robot without free will.
Hello there! I was recently on the Nurtured Mama Podcast sharing my story of becoming a mother, growing my family and fielding comments about my body throughout the journey to motherhood.
As an expert in PCOS, food behavior and body image, I also share how I came to specialize in PCOS, why dieting is harmful to women with PCOS and how they can manage their symptoms WITHOUT dieting. Listen here now!
Hello there! Wanted to pass on that my favorite pediatric dietitian also trained in eating disorder prevention, Katie Holder, will be holding a one time only lunch and learn next week. Would you be interested? Or, know someone who would benefit? Details below and we would love to help make meal time more enjoyable! Reservations are required so let me know if you have any questions. Reserve your spot via emailing email@example.com.
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