Finding balance with food, movement, and community for my (dairy-free) family.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Becoming a Competent Eater

The Events Sparking this Post

Recently a number of events have converged to cause me to focus again with more intention on how I am feeding my family.

I have had an ongoing struggle with my body image, a tendency to eat for emotional comfort, and, on the flip side, a tendency to control food and food intake to achieve an ideal diet and change my body.  In trying to get it all figured out, I've tended to idolize food and health and allow it to take up far too much of my mental space.

My daughter(5) has had some ongoing stomach troubles, which caused us to start keeping a food log looking for patterns and connections.  This process sparked her to make some comments that startled and terrified me because they reflected my own disordered and controlling thinking about food.  It also caused that controlling part of me to panic a bit as I saw the pattern of her food intake (so many carbohydrates, as refined as possible).

Ellyn Satter to the Rescue

I am grateful to God that I had recently stumbled across a recommendation for Ellyn Satter's work and had actually checked out one of her books from the library.  It had been sitting on my shelf for weeks (a bad habit of mine is checking out WAY more library books than I actually have time to read).

I am thankful to God that I turned to her sensible, evidence-based work and not the opining of some kooky-health-conscious-mommy-blogger (pause for an irony check).

Since then, I've read most of her books.  There is significant overlap among them as her basic message is very simple.  For my place in life, my favorite is Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family.

The key to all of her work is the division of responsibility in feeding.  The bottom line is that as a parent, I am in charge of the what, when, and where of feeding and the child is in charge of the how much and whether of eating.

The goal is to raise children who are competent eaters.

She cautions readers against plunging into a radical food makeover.  (Thank you, Ellyn Satter, with my tendency toward black-and-white thinking, I was gearing up to do just that.)

Satter also emphasizes repeatedly that, ultimately, our children will eat the way that we as parents do.  Therefore, before plunging into helping my kids become competent eaters, I've got to become one myself.

My Next Step

Part of being a competent eater is relying on internal regulation to dictate food intake.  That is--trusting my body, tuning into its preferences, its hunger, and its satiety signals.  In a culture flooded with messages about food and body, it's tough to tune out the externals and focus on the internal.  However, I trust God that He designed my body to do this and, in His strength, I can tune into those internal cues.

More to come about the what those steps to internal regulation look like for me . . .

Any other fans of Ellyn Satter out there?  How has her advice played out in your family?

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