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the lure of the forbidden, be it poem or dessert

Posted by on May 25, 2010 in Blog Posts | 7 comments

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It’s a poem about a little girl who tells a story about being kidnapped. Let’s just say I don’t like imagining the graphic details about a little girl being chained in a basement. My mind fills in the gaps, and I don’t need any help coming up with disastrous scenarios.

So, the first time I read it during night-time routine, I tried casually to say, “Let’s read another one” and flipped the page. As Ellyn Satter says, a child can “smell an agenda a mile away.”

M protested, but didn’t make a fuss. The next time I did the bedtime routine, before we even sat down, she asked for the “jail one.” I explained that I didn’t want to read that poem, but there were hundreds of others. She replied, “I’ll pick out a poem from the index.” Harmless I thought (since M can’t read or really tell numbers that way) but she went straight to it! (Dad has no problems reading the poem to her apparently.) Every time I read to her, she turns to it, asks for it. Last night there was even a bookmark on that page.

Is her fascination in the rhyme, the picture of a little girl chained up, the imagery, or the fact that I don’t want to read it?

I’m guessing the allure is that I have singled it out. It just reminds me of how clever, how tuned-in children are to our agendas.

Are you struggling with foods you may have singled out? Do you talk about “junk foods” or “bad foods” or “red light foods?” Has it lessened or heightened your child’s interest? What about your own interest in foods?
When talking with clients, I frequently find that the children who are “obsessed with treats” are the ones where it is often talked about, avoided, controlled, a big deal, forbidden, used for bribery, a production. Even the mildest restriction, like “these are red light foods, so we don’t eat them often for our health,” can pique a child’s interest.

Here’s an old post on sweets and treats with some more internal links for dealing with “forbidden foods.”
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  1. ila

    Completely off-topic and also unsolicited, but can I just say I don't think your daughter is "filling in the gaps" of the poem with "graphic details" in the way that you as an adult do? When I was little I was fascinated by movies, books, etc. in which people were imprisoned, tied up, trapped or lost. I also had dreams about being chased through my school by an alien monster ("Predator" style) and they were so much fun I didn't want to wake up! I'm a pretty well adjusted adult now, in case you were wondering 🙂

    Back to food and feeding: I totally agree about the pull of the forbidden, and I think everyone who has ever dieted is familiar with this feeling. It's also in all the books about binge eating disorder.

    The opposite is also true: my goddaughter, a curious and adventurous eater who would try curried grasshoppers if given the chance, will not touch fish. I'm convinced it's because of all the hype about Omega 3 and Omega 6, and fish being the "healthiest" protein, and an essential part of a healthy and balanced Mediterranean diet, and all the "good for you" aura that surrounds fish in our country. Similarly, I grew up eating lots of fruits and veggies, and loving them, because nobody ever told me that they were "good for you".

  2. Kate

    Definitely resonates.

    I generally drink lots of water, I'm not sure if that's a leftover from years of dieting, or if I'm really thirsty, though I think it's because I'm thirsty. When I was dieting, I'd compulsively drink water and write down how much I drank, now it doesn't feel compulsive.

    I know when I drank diet soda, I think I ate more, I certainly craved more carbs, though I'm pretty carb craving naturally.

  3. familyfeedingdynamics

    Well, for the kiddos, I do recommend really only water in between, though special occasions warrant flexibility 🙂
    For me, I am kind of a camel, meaning I don't tend to drink much. But, I generally only drink sweetened drinks with foods and I tend to be pretty structured about that. (This is important for folks who drink sodas, even diet with no food) The sweet taste itself releases insulin. Insulin's primary job is to move sugar from the blood into the cells. So, it makes sense to me that drinking something sweet will have the effect of lowering blood sugar levels leading to hunger, and for some sensitive people, carb-type cravings. So, I do drink coffee sometimes alone, or tea, lightly sweetened, but if I'm doing something sweet I try to eat with it (some fat and protein too) to prevent blood sugar drop. I always wondered about my patients who would drink Diet Coke all day and have issues with weight gain and cravings. I don't know if it was physiolgical, or if it was psychological (most were drinking diet soda in an effort not to eat) or a combination. I suspect both. Now, mind you , that is largely theoretical, and I don't know of studies that show the link between diet sodas alone and cravings etc, but intuitively it makes sense. It's how eat and drink s so that I feel good. Does that resonate with you or sound crazy…

  4. Kate

    Sorry, its a continuation post, so you never drink anything but water outside of meal times? I typically drink water, but sometimes I have a decaf coffee or tea (both unsweetened and black) in between meal times, I'm not sure I really want to give that up.

  5. Kate

    We don't mind unsolicted advice at all, we like hearing all ideas and then figuring out what would work for us. My husband actually really loves this plan and I bet he tries it. It will also reinforce the meal structure, so that's a double good.

    It's actually not dissimilar to how I greatly reduced my coke drinking, I had more structure, but I started with as much as I wanted, then limited it to X amount a day until that became one a day, and now hardly ever have that, and I don't really miss it.

    I once had a doctor tell me that I should consume no more than 400 calories a day if I wanted to lose weight and that I had to lose weight before she would prescribe a CPAP for my sleep apnea. She suggested other diets before that but after going through the litany of diets I've done before, she decided that 400 calories was enough. She is a terrible doctor. And that's an example of unprofessional advice. 🙂

  6. familyfeedingdynamics

    It's funny, in my house we spell out the word "d-i-e-t" and "o-b-e-s-e" which I end up talking about sometimes to my husband since I am immersed in all this stuff at work… Good for you for getting into the habit. it's hard to undo years of brainwashing!
    Totally unsolicited advice, probably unprofessional of me, but I had a Coke problem (coca cola…) I craved it, denied myself. I decided to give myself unquestioning permission, within structure. So I drank Coke, but only at meal or snack times. At first I still drank it every day, then left some in the can because I didn't want it, then after about 6 months, I found I rarely wanted it anymore. I always had it available though, drank it without guilt or shame, enjoyed it, Savored it in a pretty glass with lots of ice. Gradually it lost it's appeal and power. (I do still love it and have it with salty foods, and about once a week with lunch when I feel like it…) There are studies out there that scarcity (real or imposed with the I shouldn'ts in my interpretation) increases dopamine, which is the "I need it, I will seek it out" hormone…
    Just a thought if he's tried everything else! Of course, now I also drink coffee at breakfast and one after lunch…

  7. Kate

    My sweet husband is desperately trying to greatly reduce his soda habit and it has not been easy. Soda isn't a thing for me, I drank it sometimes because it was around or because it was already cold and it was easier, but now, I only rarely drink it and I don't have strong cravings for it.

    While we prepare to bring a child into the house, we have been practicing how we talk about food and how we treat food that is "bad" or "junk". By practicing, I try to think before we speak and we point out when the other person falters. We're actually doing pretty well, we also recently had some cookies and candies in the pantry that previously had been trigger foods that led to binging, and we didn't binge at all and were able to incorporate cookies into our meals but in an appropriate way. At least it seemed appropriate to us.