One of the things I find refreshing about the intuitive eating concept is that it acknowledges that you can be hungry for a particular food, rather than just generally ‘hungry’. It’s an old parental trick, I’m told by people I’ve known with kids – if you say you want a cookieand you’re not satisfied when Mom offers you an apple, you can’t really be hungry. Implication being, if you were really hungry you’d eat anything regardless of whether you like it or not.
I’ve been able to apply intuitive eating for myself for quite a number of years (although I didn’t call it quite that until recently). I try to listen to what my body wants. Chocolate at 10.30a? Go for it. Salad for lunch? done, But Emerald’s observations on parental tricks brought another aspect of intuitive eating to mind: kids and food.
I don’t have kids (yet – infertility issues) but I do have an parenting philosophy when it comes to kids and food – which is don’t force them, present choices for them, let them choose what’s on their plate and whether they eat it, and definitely don’t keep them at the table until they’ve choked down ALL the cauliflower (shudder) etc. Yes, this is untested in my childless reality, but surely it’s a good goal to let your kids learn to eat intuitively from day one?
Nevertheless, Emerald’s comment made me realise that somewhere, deeply embedded in my psyche, is the message that ‘responsible adults’ don’t allow children to snack, or if they do it has to be ‘a healthy choice’. Even if those ‘responsible adults’ practice intuitive eating themselves. So why the double standard in my head?
Surely if we want children to eat intuitively, we need to encourage that at all times, not just at meal times – right? Otherwise little Sarah will never learn to trust her own body and its hungers. What if she learns ‘cookies are bad, therefore I am bad for wanting cookies’ because we frequently deflect her with the apple? Which, as Emerald notes, she is supposed to eat if she really is hungry, because you will eat anything if you are really hungry.
So what do those of you who are parents do to navigate this issue in real life? Do you also come thumping into your own ingrained ‘responsible adult’ who regulates your kid’s food? or are you able to allow your kids real choice with foods? Is there a happy (or desirable) medium? How well does intuitive eating work for your kids?