Sunday, March 16, 2014

Oy Vey, Again With the Candy!

One of the hardest things about people really embracing Intuitive Eating is that there's a lot of gray area when it comes to eating.  There are few things that are really black and white when it comes to Intuitive Eating so there are a lot of nuances that we can learn about ourselves as we learn to listen to our bodies. I like this gray area. It means I'm thinking about it rather than just being passive.

With that context in mind, I'm feeling very conflicted about something and I'm going to try to lay out why this issue has me going back and forth.  Being Jewish, one of the lesser known holidays (to non-Jews) is Purim.  I'm not a Jewish educator (like my wife), so I'll leave it up to you go read about the full meaning of the day but let's just say it's one of those holidays where we really celebrate!  Think costumes, carnivals, parties and of course, food.  One of the mitzvahs of Purim is to hand out food to friends and family.  The food that is handed out is called "mishloah manot."  Given today's food culture, you can imagine what kind of food gets handed out these days.  The traditional food is a cookie shaped liked a triangle called hamantashen but these days it doesn't stop there.  Since we've had kids, I've paid more attention to the food we receive and I'm noticing more and more candy and less traditional items.  Basically, it's turned into Halloween for the Jews.

Why do we give out food?  The reason comes from the Book of Esther.  There's a passage in there that says,
"the days wherein the Jews had rest from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to gladness, and from mourning into a good day; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor." Esther 9:22 (emphasis mine)
I wonder how "sending portions one to another" turned into giving our kids bags and bags of candy?

So here's my dilema: I treat the holiday the same way I do Halloween (which you can read about here).  I use Ellyn Satter's principles to help our kids build trust in themselves as competent eaters.  On Purim, just like Halloween, I trust them with their bags of candy.  They have permission to eat their candy and they know how to self-regulate when it comes to how much is enough in one sitting.  I try not to label the food as "good" or "bad" (which is very hard for me) and I give them space to make their own food choices.  But even though I trust my kids, I am questioning "Why is candy the default choice for sending food?   Why has the 'sending portions one to another' become food that is not worthy of really being called food at all?"

My kids are responsible eaters.  I trust them with a bag of candy and they do not abuse that trust. They don't binge and they don't eat it all in one sitting, but I worry about the other kids who are not being raised to be competent eaters.  I worry about how parents are going to take away their kids candy or throw it away, or make their kids feel bad for eating it.  I worry that, as a community, we are sending the wrong message about how we should eat.  I worry that I'm being too judgemental about this as well. I mean if I really feel like there are no "good foods" or "bad foods" than why do I care that my kids get piles of candy?  I care because I am a member of the community.  I care because I'm a parent.  I care because some of this stuff is not really food at all.  I care because I want us all to have a healthy relationship with food.

It's not a black or white issue.  There is no right or wrong here.  There is just gray area and room for discussion and maybe a better understanding of what are we feeding our children.  My hope is that we begin to look a little closer to the true meaning of the day instead of just another opportunity to give out candy that turns my kid's tongues blue.

Here's just some of this year's loot:

candy from Purim 2014

Instead of the emphasis on food and candy, why not find a different meaning to focus on.  Like the maybe the tweet below can give us a good place to start.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Even A Dietitian's Kid Throws a Food Tantrum

I write a lot about feeding kids so as a parent and a dietitian, I guess I've become sort of an expert on the topic.  I haven't put in my 10,000 hours yet but hey, it's about progress not perfection right.

Anyway, just because of my training, beliefs and experience, by no means is my family immune to the dreaded "food tantrum".  So take a seat, fasten your safety belt because you are going to hear what happens in the Flores household when one of our kids loses it...over food.

Before I go any further though I need to put in a disclaimer and sign-post for you.  I'm sharing this experience with you all to show that even with the best intentions, there are always going to be bumps in the road.  Also, our food choices and methods are our own. It's a combination of Ellyn Satter and Intuitive Eating but it's not 100% in alignment with each of these but it works for us. That being said, here we go.

The real tantrum that exploded onto us on Sunday night was over dessert.  Yes dessert.  Part of the meal that 99.9% of the time is handled perfectly well with our kids.  But not this time.  This past Sunday though one of my kids went all atomic on us because all he wanted was a cookie.  Literally 30 minutes of screaming and crying that almost all consisted of, "Daaaaaaahdeeee I want a coooooookie!!!!" over the simple request for a cookie.  

So why didn't he get a cookie for dessert?  Well we have a simple rule in our house that we've had in place since the kids have been born.  If we have one very sweet dessert during the day, we don't have another sweet dessert at night.  We still have dessert but something less sweet.  We don't use those words with the kids though.  We use the words "play food" and "growing food" in our house.  Regardless of what words you use, simply put, if we have a lot of play food (sweets) during the day, we try to have some growing food (less sweet) for dessert.  

This past Sunday, the day of the event in question, we had another in a series of global warming winter days.  That is to say it was warm.  86 degrees warm and we just left a soccer game where we were sitting out in the sun for 60 minutes.  We were hot and we all wanted something cool so as a treat we decided to go get shaved ice...which everyone thoroughly enjoyed.  Well because of the shaved ice earlier in the day we were not going to have another sweet for dinner.  Again, not a new rule but for some reason it really didn't fly that night and before we knew it, we were in full tantrum mode!

Tantrums are the worst!  All you want is for it to end but it won't.  There's no quick end to it.  It's one of those things that once the tantrum is in motion, nothing is going to stop it so you better just buckle up and ride it out.  And when the tantrum revolves around food, it adds another layer of complexity to it (at least for me.) 

So what did we do to get it to stop? We gave him the cookie of course.  I mean c'mon, the kids rule the house right?  So we just said, "Sorry to make you so upset.  Of course you can have a cookie, just stop crying."  NOT.  We tried to reason, we tried to explain but to no avail.  The screaming and crying continued. "Daaaaaahdeeeeeee. I juuuust want a cooookkkeeeeee!!"  

What did we do then if giving in to it was not an option?  We stayed consistent with our previous actions is what we did.  Believe me, my wife and I each lost it at various times during the tantrum but we stayed unified and rode out the storm.  Eventually our kids calmed down and a hug and some cuddling brought the situation to a close but it was not a pretty scene in our house when that was going on.  Once the dust settled though the tantrum was over and everyone was back to normal in just a few minutes.  From DEFCON 5 we quickly went back down to "situation normal". 

Here's the interesting thing though, after about 5-10 minutes of crying, the tantrum was not really about the cookie anymore.  It was about getting his way and the cookie was just the fuel to that fire.  As my wife and I looked back on it we also realized that the tantrum was probably never really about the cookie.  The kid was tired from a busy day, a fun sleepover the night before and from playing in a soccer game.  And I'm sure the hour time change because of daylight savings was a factor too.  

So, why share this experience with you?  Because even with the best plans for "normal eating" and division of responsibility, there will be issues.  It's inevitable.  The key is how do you handle it when it happens.  Will you stay consistent?  Will you cave in to stop it?

Have you had a tantrum over food?  If so, how'd you handle it?  What did you learn from it?  As always, I look forward to your comments.