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paralyzed by our own fears: food and others

Posted by on Dec 14, 2010 in Blog Posts | 6 comments

So M had her slew of shots the other day. It kind of snuck up on me. Here’s the thing– I HATE NEEDLES. I had major anxiety over shots as a kid, still have the occasional nightmare.  My husband thinks it’s funny that it was easier for me to use a scalpel than a needle on my patients. So, that is the depth of my dislike of needles.

I was surprised by how much my fear paralyzed me when it came to dealing with M and her shots. I didn’t know what to do. I doubted and mulled for days. “Do I tell her now? Do I wait, do I lie? Will I be able to keep it together while she gets her shots so that I don’t add to the anxiety?” I knew my own fear was blowing this way out of proportion, but I couldn’t rely on my “instincts” since mine were to run screaming…

It made me think of feeding, of course :)

How do you feed, how do you deal with the daily challenges when you don’t have instincts you can trust? If you the parent are dealing with an eating disorder, or, like most women, some degree of disordered eating, how do you approach feeding? If having bread or other ‘trigger foods’ in the house makes you want to run screaming, how can you deal with feeding? Many of my clients will share a history of an eating disorder, and as one mom put it, “I try to fake it, but this is all really hard. I’m terrified of passing my food issues on to my child.” The mom who most inspired me to take up this work said, “Every time I feed my daughter, I feel like I am on a knife-edge between anorexia and obesity.” (Mom of a healthy nine-month old.)  Add to that the normative model of feeding in our culture (control and avoidance) and there are many parents who are confused, coping and doing the best they can.

That’s why the trust model of feeding  is such a gift. The Division of Responsibility makes it clear and simple (if not easy.)  Child of Mine, and Secrets to Feeding a Healthy Family (both by Satter) are amazing “how-to” resources for those who question, doubt, wonder about the best way to feed. (“Secrets” is also a “how to” feed yourself book, and is a favorite resource I go to when adults struggle with their own eating.)

I’ve been there. When M was just over a year, she was big and gobbling food. With a family history of heart disease, and my own experiences treating patients with eating disorders, I felt that gnawing anxiety. “What do I do? Do I let her eat all day as long as it’s “healthy?” Do I limit portions? When I try to do that it seems to make this worse!” I knew in my gut (as well as having seen restriction not work in family and patients) that how I was feeding didn’t feel right, but I didn’t know what to do. That feeling and that worry was spoiling my time with my daughter.

Those books taught me what to do, shared the research behind it and gave me the concrete how of feeding. Let’s face it, we pretty much know what our kids should eat, but not how…

If you find you’re fearful or mistrusting of your own instincts, I hope you will find them as helpful for your family as I did for my own.

(I would really love to see this information get out there and reach the eating disorder community more. I’ve heard from many mothers in recovery or recovered, who struggle immensely around feeding. I’ve had wonderful feedback with the Trust Model when ED is part of the picture…) Any ideas?

How are you coping with your instincts or lack thereof around feeding?

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6 Comments

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  1. Michellers

    This is the core issue why I am reading Ellen Satter and love your blog so much–I am an obese mom who is completely terrified of passing my own food issues on to my daughter. Learning to accept myself and working through some of my food stuff has helped but didn’t give me any ideas on how to deal with feeding my daughter. Learning about and incorporating the Division of Responsibility into our meals has been unbelievably helpful, literally life-changing.

    For so long I have believed that I would have to lose weight in order to be any kind of role model for my child–that because I am fat that I am “condemning” her to be fat as well. But the Division of Responsibility means that I get to have my relationship with food (wherever I am on the spectrum of feelings about it, and I’m still pretty conflicted) and my daughter gets to have her own relationship with food. And that’s it. Which allows me to let go of whatever guilt I have about being fat and get on with being a parent.

    • katja

      Thank you so much for this comment. Letting go of guilt is so important. I love how you put this. That you have your relationship with food, and she has hers, and you are making the introductions and are being thoughtful and nurturing with it. Good for you! I too am grateful for this model. At least daily I thank my lucky stars we found it…

  2. Lisa

    This is exactly why the DOR helped me out so much – even though I’ve recovered from my BED, I felt my own anxiety about by daughter possibly getting screwed up about food and bodysize concerns made me feel like I couldn’t just trust my own skills. I’ve also found Satter’s books very helpful for myself as well. I agree – I’d love to see her work get a broader exposure amongst nutritionists, HAES advocates and the ED recovery groups.

    • katja

      thank you for your reply! I am so glad to hear stories from moms who are survivors and recovered who find this information helpful. Thank you, and good luck!

  3. Becky Henry

    Thank you Katja for sharing this valuable information and for reaching out to others to help share these vital resources! As for ideas on how to get this out to the eating disorders community…I will of course share here and on other social media and would like to have you as a guest blogger in my blog. Perhaps you could ask others in the eating disorders community if they would like you to be a guest blogger.

    Another idea is to have you on some of our tele-class series. We’re designing different 6 week series’ each with it’s own focus. We’ve had recovered people on the one that ends this week and they have contributed greatly.

    As for coping with instincts or lack thereof around feeding…I’m years beyond that but would have loved to have known about the trust model of feeding and Division of Responsibility. I share this as often as I can.

    Becky Henry
    Hope Network