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putting food away doesn’t mean it’s “off-limits”

Posted by on Feb 2, 2012 in Blog Posts | 3 comments

We had another opportunity to deal with candy over the Holidays. Every year we do a Gingerbread house, this year M also did one at school which was basically half a tub of frosting, 5 graham crackers and a ton of candy. Pretty much every day she was pestering me about it, occasionally taking a nibble or two when she thought I wasn’t looking (note the occasional sneaking or food is normal at this stage, but habitual, secretive binging is concerning to say the least…)

Anyhoo, having the candy in the middle of our dining room meant it was always in site and way more often on her mind. On the 26th of December, we had the “treat” snack where she had some milk and got to eat as much of the candy as she wanted. I have to say, I was worried about frosting that had been out for a week or more, but figured it was so full of preservatives she’d probably be OK. I told M I wasn’t sure if it might make her sick or not. She didn’t.

She had about the equivalent of 1-2 Teaspoons of scraped frosting and 4-5 pieces of candy with some milk. She wanted some gummi bears but said she was full. I didn’t want her only choice to be eat them now or throw them away, so I told her she could have the handful of gummis with her snack that afternoon. Then we tossed the rest without incident.

I am writing to share not only the treat handling, but also the concept of keeping foods put away. When I work with families where children have been restricted, or on a diet, this tip is particularly helpful, and not the same as “you can’t have this” and creating the forbidden food allure.

Another great post from my friend and colleague at called “Putting Food in It’s Place,” says it better than I could, or at least for what I have time for these days. It is worth the read!

“Now, it’s one thing to think, “Yeah, some cookies would be awesome right now,” and then you go and get some cookies, and indeed they are awesome.

It’s another thing entirely if you pick cookies by default because they were there and you didn’t have any better ideas.”

With my families who have kids who are transitioning to the trust model, I recommend putting food away. Most kids who see candy or cookies will ask for it regardless of hunger, especially kids who have been restricted. Keeping them in a cupboard and purposefully serving them fairly regularly at meals and snack times will help children learn to incorporate these foods into a normal, balanced diet.

What do you think?

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  1. Jen

    I don’t have children but this kind of thing resonates with me as a recovering bulimic. I try to do things like this too – like keep the cookies in the pantry and let myself have two or three in my lunch some days or after dinner as dessert. I know they are there but I also know that I eat them regularly when I actually want them so it’s no big deal.

    Thanks for sharing this post!

  2. E

    I used to know all of the food in my house (growing up) or my apartment (as more of an adult) so intimately that it made absolutely no difference if it was out or put away. But as I’ve been getting more “normal” with my eating, I’ve noticed that I now sometimes forget that I have certain things, if they’re at the back of the cupboard or fridge. It’s both a good and bad thing, I think; good because I’m not obsessing, but bad because if I’m not careful I will unintentionally let food go bad. It’s definitely more good, so I just have to be more conscious about remembering to offer myself things before they go bad, or putting them in the freezer if they’re the type of food that works for (unless I just didn’t like them).

    So I don’t know how typical my experience is, but I’m still not sure having food out makes that much difference for me. Like I said, stuff that I never see I’ll forget about, but just because I can see it doesn’t SEEM to make me want to eat it more than other foods that I remember I have, as long as it’s a food that I let myself eat without restraint as often as I feel like it. As an example, homemade cookies used to be more of a treat thing, and I would eat them pretty quickly once I made them. But then I got on a kick of “I always want there to be homemade cookies available”, and I made them once a week or so for a few weeks. I kept them out on my counter, since I don’t have a lot of storage space. Towards the end of the cookie kick, I would actually glance at the cookies with a little worry: “how long had they been there? do homemade cookies go bad? how long do they last?”, yet not be compelled to eat them more quickly. Which isn’t to say that at any given moment I might not want a bunch of cookies, but I’ve never gone back to the “see it and need to eat it” or “obsessively think about cookies I know are in the cupboard until it’s unbearable and I have to go grab them” attitudes. I had a similar experience with potato chips.

    • katja

      What I love is how curious you are about your responses, and how you tried different things and have evolved in your relationship with food. inspiring! Thanks!