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“When my parents gave up on my eating, that’s when it happened.”

Posted by on Aug 2, 2013 in Blog Posts | 4 comments


I love my work: that thrill when a client makes a connection, sees things a new way, perhaps understanding how the things s/he was doing to try to make a child’s eating “better” may have actually slowed progress. A dad I talked to recently shared the following, when we discussed how his own history around food can help him relate to his daughter’s picky eating and food worries.

For a little background, this dad was very picky as a child, eating only a handful of foods. He remembers a lot of nagging, rules, and bribing with desserts. He shared that both he and his wife now enjoy a great variety of foods in many different preparations.  I asked how and when he thought this changed for him, that is, his willingness to explore. His answer was so clear and inspiring, and explained so many principles well that I asked him if I could share, and he graciously agreed. (Paraphrasing…)

“Well, I can actually pinpoint it to one meal when I was about ten. I remember sitting there, having my plate of whatever it was, I don’t even remember, I just know it was really plain and what I ate all the time. I looked over at the Chinese food my parents were eating. I vividly remember thinking, ‘Wow, that smells and looks so much better than what I’m having.’ So I tried and liked some of it.”

As I probed further about his family meals growing up, and why he thinks he made the shift, he went on to say that he thinks he only got to that point because his parents had “given up on my eating“: the nagging had stopped, and they just ignored what he was or wasn’t eating, though they still sat down to family meals. By the end of that summer, he reports eating about “ten times more foods” than at the start. Often once that barrier is broken, progress can come quickly…

“As we talk about all of this, and how our daughter may be feeling pressured and put off, I can see now that I only tried new stuff after my parents had given up, when there was no pressure.”

Rarely do I hear adults able to pin down one meal (though my facebook discussion on this topic readers pinpoint a sandwich with tomatoes, a study-abroad semester, a casserole…) I thought this account is particularly fun and hopefully reassuring to parents of picky eaters out there. It can take time, often more than you like, but even picky eaters can and do learn to branch out. Here are a few things the story illustrates that will be familiar to regular readers:

What have you seen with your kids? How about your own eating?

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  1. Stacy Croston

    My soon to be 13 year old has always been a small child who has been a picky eater. We have followed the DOR throughout her growing up and applied no pressure. This past year (maybe spurred on by her adolescent growth spurt she seems to be in) she is trying things that a few years ago she would have never tried. It has taken almost 13 years of DOR but I no longer consider her a picky eater and actually have to use some creativity to come up with new foods for her to try! She doesn’t like everything I make-but sometimes I don’t either…

    • katja

      I LOVE this! This is so hard for parents! How did you keep the faith and not pressure all those years? Many parents simply can’t believe it can happen without their guidance/active involvement… I hear this quite often…

  2. Jennifer Asdorian

    One of my teenage clients shared a similar sentiment yesterday. She said if her parents would just forget all about food, she would be far more likely to eat more at home. My own experience supported this at well. When I was old enough to “pass” on foods at the family meal, I was free to explore at my own pace. It changed everything.

    • katja

      Love this! We do have to be careful if the young person has an eating disorder, but there is SO much parental attention/interference, all well-meaning, but it can turn young people off for sure!


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