If you’ve been to a BIRTHFIT Seminar or have seen one of BIRTHFIT’s Mind Body Nourishment webinars (here, here, and here), you may be familiar with setting down the what-to-eat side of nutrition and investigating who-we-are-as-eaters. This paradigm shift is based on the work of Marc David from the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. Recently, I’ve been asked how to bring these principles into the family environment. How do we raise children with positive relationships to food and body?
Feeding Your Family without Stress
Similar to my personal, imperfect relationship with food and body, I also imperfectly apply the following principles with my children/family. I, too, am trying to rewrite old patterns and it’s messy. Sometimes I bribe my kids with dessert. Sometimes I cut my kids off when I want to throw up for how much they’ve eaten. So be gentle with yourself. We’re in this together. Approach this from a place of playfulness and curiosity. After all, we know this promotes optimal digestion and metabolism!
- Embrace Slow. Research shows that family dinners are incredibly important for development of healthy children and the maintenance of families. Not coincidentally, we tend to eat slower as we engage in conversation with our loved ones. Prior to eating, you can also play around with an intention, prayer, gratitude, or breathing exercise. Allow your meal to take up time and space. Breathe between bites. Gamify the experience: who can take the most chews in a single bite?!
- Honor Their Innate Wisdom. Children have a pro card for listening to their bodies. Over time, we humans allow external cues to override these innate signals from the body. We absent-mindedly overeat, or intentionally undereat, or feel pressure to join the “Clean Plate Club.” Perhaps you’ve noticed your child take The Hungry Caterpillar’s diet to the next level. Or maybe your 3 or 4 year old appears to have stopped eating overnight. This is all completely normal. We, disconnected adults, dislike their inconsistency. So we coerce them to eat when they aren’t hungry or deny food after they appear to have eaten too much. It doesn’t have to be this way. Allowing children to stop when they’re full is possible. You don’t have to throw away the food. Simply save it for the next time they are hungry. Two bites of eggs for breakfast? No problem. It goes in the fridge until they run to the kitchen an hour later for round two. Maybe your child has eaten half their weight in food and is asking for more. Check the macronutrient balance, nutrient density, and fiber content of the foods. When they are getting all the nutrients and energy they need, they will find satiety and natural appetite regulation.
- Food Prep Together. This part has been my biggest struggle but so rewarding when we take the time to do it. Sometimes we go to the grocery store and the kids get to pick a random produce item for which we try a new recipe. My second grader, Oliver, has become an expert in fractions and measuring so he is the designated Measuring Cup Master. Baby Hank can’t have a “win” without starting the blender so that’s his job every day (because… coffee). Vivian, the 4 year old teenager, loves to set the table. Give them a part: clear the table, stir the pot, cut the veggies, or shred the cheese. Try family style serving where they get to practice serving themselves. When kids play a part in the food prep, there’s excitement and a sense of pride around the meal. It may also taste better to your picky eaters!
While food can be a chore for busy families, it can also be an opportunity for physical, mental, and spiritual health. It can facilitate deep connection with each other and with your own innate body wisdom. Try these out and share your experience!
Love and light,
BIRTHFIT Coach Seminar Director