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healing or reeling from feeding your kids with ED in the kitchen?

Posted by on Oct 4, 2011 in Blog Posts | 4 comments

I blog for World Mental Health Day

After a recent post titled: “Just don’t bring it into the house”: Stupid things experts say #5, the comments were amazing, and reminded me that the choices we make feeding our children have repercussions beyond today’s food battles.

Many of my clients and blog readers have major struggles with food, or are in recovery or recovered from an eating disorder. For many, feeding their own children is a mixed bag. Pretty much every one of these moms has talked about her almost paralyzing fear of “passing on food issues” to her children. This fear, and inability to trust their instincts  seem to make feeding and trusting the process more difficult.

Moms have shared how the inevitable comments about a baby’s weight are triggering, sending their own eating into a spiral, and also effecting how she feeds.

The harmless pet names strangers use?
“Peanut?” Moms hear, “You’re a bad mom, why aren’t you feeding him properly, are you already messing up his eating” (These moms tell me they then feel pressured to get the child to eat more, and we know that pressure with feeding backfires..)

Or, “Butterball,” said lovingly, to a mom with a troubled relationship to her own body and food. Mom hears, “You are a bad mom, can’t you control your child’s weight? He’s going to be obese, like you!” How does this mom react? Perhaps by restricting the baby, distracting him so he eats less. This too, often backfires.

And yet, on the flip-side, when feeding is going well, moms tell me they have “A-ha” moments. Watching their little one leave a half-eaten ice-cream, or seeing their baby delight in a new food is the motivation they need to take a leap of faith to address their own eating.

The relationship we have with food is so central to who we are. The feeding relationship we have with our children serves not only to shape their experiences with food, but also our own.

What else (OK diapers early on) other than feeding do you do with your kids 3-6 times a day, every day?

here are a few recent comments…

“(I remember her daughter sweetly looking up at someone offering her a cupcake and saying, “No thank you, my mommmy says I’m not allowed to have that crap”). I will never forget the time her daughter was at our house and while all the other kids were in the backyard running & playing, I found this little girl in a corner of the living room with the entire plate of chocolate chip cookies wolfing them down. She was five. That is EXACTLY how I learned to binge on junk.”

“We always had lots of junk, in the house, but it was “bad”, “you can’t/shouldn’t have that” food. Naturally, this made it far more appealing. I mean it tasted good, and I knew that, but tell me I can’t or shouldn’t have it? Oh, I’m gonna have it. Wolfing down cookies? Check. Licked-clean frosting container found hidden under the bed? Check. Riding home from school with horded change in pocket with sole purpose to buy what I wasn’t supposed to have? Check. Eating what I wasn’t supposed to have behind the dumpster behind the store? Check. Constantly wearing hoodie sweatshirts with the front pockets, because it was easier to hide gooey sticky “junk” at someone’s house so I could take it into the bathroom and eat it in peace while sitting on the closed toilet lid? Check check check.”

And some words of hope:

“We tried “don’t have it in the house,” and we found our daughter sneaking and binging on cough drops instead. Satter’s methods work better, even though they’re sometimes harder to stick with. I do notice now all the effort that my friends make, pleading with their kids to eat their “healthy” food at parties – it’s so nice to have stepped off that treadmill.”

We follow you (and Ellyn’s) advice when feeding our family and it has also made a tremendous difference in my life. I was treated for an ED in my early twenties but didn’t have children then. The service you and Ellyn provide is invaluable to parents like me who struggle, in some ways, on a daily basis to remain balanced with food and eating (although it’s much easier than it used to be)! I don’t worry as much about passing on my “issues” to my kiddos b/c I have a blueprint for how to feed them!”

How has feeding your children inspired or mired you with your eating and body-image issues?


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  1. Kate

    We had a nearly 1 year old foster baby for just a few days and she was a tall kid, for her age, at least she seemed tall to us, and it seemed to us that she was neither fat or thin. The first thing my mom said when she saw the baby was a very sarcastic “well, at least her parents were feeding her”. I was so angry, so devastated because I’d heard that tone and judgement so many times. I had so many times had the conversation in my head about what I was going to say to my mom keep her from body shaming our child, I just never thought it’d start when the child was a baby.

    Sorry, my comment is not really entirely on point. I think we did a good job feeding her considering we’d never really thought about feeding a baby, we had put a lot of effort into figuring out how we’d feed a child, just not a baby. But I also think she wasn’t a very fussy eater, though she thoroughly rejected kibble. (We didn’t try to feed her kibble, she got a piece out of the bowl on her own.)

    • katja

      I think it is on point. Shaming starts early these days…I am so glad you feel like you cared for and fed her well. I’m glad you were there for her. nice kibble story:) Not the first child who has tried it, and several I hear, really enjoy it!

  2. Jennifer Hansen

    My husband had the problem of eating at top speed, getting a bellyache, complaining about it, then doing it again. He thinks it is a habit from the days when he had a swarm of teenage older brothers in the house. There was always enough, but somehow he got it into his head that there wouldn’t be. He has slowly learned to slow down and enjoy his food. He didn’t used to be able to tell me how things tasted!

    I had multiple issues: the Clean Plate Club (spit), undiagnosed ailments that led to me being unable to identify hunger and thirst cues, a figure that was never properly thin or acceptably athletic (so give up you ugly fat klutz, there is no hope for you, was the unspoken message), and so forth. So I spent much of my early adulthood just throwing whatever was on hand into my mouth whenever I thought, Hey, it’s probably time to eat. I was frequently ill from eating things that didn’t agree with me or not eating when I needed to; I was dehydrated quite often as well. As I’ve posted at this blog before, it was actually Weight Watchers, of all things, that helped me begin the journey to healthy eating. I decided to stop dieting after I did some research, but the lessons about identifying when I was really hungry and so on stuck with me.

    We took better care of our children’s eating than we did of our own at first. I am told that this is not uncommon. When our first child started solids, we realized that recommended portion sizes were bunk: this skinny little girl could put away two bananas in half an hour! On the other hand, I battled my neurosis about “wasting” food that nobody wanted to eat so that I wouldn’t inflict it on her or our later children. We had some awful mealtime dramas, my husband especially, when she entered the picky stage. We based the solution around the Division of Responsibility. We also refused to make treat foods so scarce that our kids would daydream about them and gorge on them when they were at hand. I am pretty sure that they won’t have disordered eating to contend with later in childhood. I know I need to keep paying attention.

    • katja

      “We took better care of our children’s eating than we did of our own at first.” This is why I love working with kids. Parents passionately want to do better for their children, and often end up “doing better” themselves and for the whole family.


  1. Recovery Peer Specialists CRPS » Blog Archive » Congrats:World Mental Health Day Blog Party, October 10, 2011 - [...] Healing or Reeling from Feeding Your Kids with ED in the Kitchen? Family Feeding Dynamics – Katja Rowell M.D.…
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