November 2009

Feeding Your Toddler and Preschooler

THE FOOD DEMANDER and THE TROUBLE TRANSITIONER

Anyone out there have a kid who now is demanding food, or sweets a lot of the time?  Worrying about how to handle it and how to say no without creating World War 3 or stressing that you might create or are seeing weight problems with food demanders?  Although picky and ‘beige food’ eaters as I call them are very typical of childhood, so are food demanders.  In fact, just as your preschoolers start to establish their identities by insisting on wearing that fairy or superman costume day after day, they can start to fight you on food and it can be very easy to be held hostage by your worry that however you handle it might create a problem.

So what’s a parent to do?

Some things to keep in mind:
Just like your kid came into this world with their body type and other personality traits, they can be more or less interested in food.  Some kids are ‘foodies’ as I call them; often they are children who are very sensual, sensitive and artistic, and their palates have developed early.  These kids can often be very intense, demanding, and strong willed.  Why not fight about food since it is the first thing they can control?

You know how other kids have trouble transitioning and you need to give them at least two warnings before you leave the playground or turn off the television for dinner?  Sometimes these kids can’t ‘shift gears’ as I call it.  They are on the same track, and now that they are at the dinner table, they can’t seem to leave!

These children can be at risk for developing compulsive eating patterns, or at best, eating more than their bodies need since they aren’t stopping when the old signal ‘DONE’, or ‘FULL’, registers.  They either ignore it, or need more time for it to be clear.

TIPS FOR THE FOOD OR SUGAR DEMANDERS:

1)    Don’t be afraid to say ‘NO”.   Don’t get held hostage by your fear that you will create a problem if you need to help them set more structure for themselves.  Use your usual firm and limit setting parent guidelines.

2)    Don’t be too rigid either.  Establish clear rules about treats but give them some control.  They can choose when to have the treat, or treats.  Stick with the decision they make and remind them if they aren’t happy they can change it tomorrow.

3)     Don’t over worry about whether they eat sweets before the meal.  This usually creates more problems than diminishing much of an appetite.  Not the end of the world.  Remind them to check for themselves if it does ‘spoil’ their appetite.  “What else are they eating to help their body run or climb up the slide that day?”  Connect nutritional info  to things they love to do.

TIPS FOR TROUBLE TRANSITIONERS:

1)    These kids need the time for a warning and may need to learn that it takes them longer to shift gears when they are eating.  Teach them how to wait.

2)    Teaching kids to WAIT is useful to help them clue into their bodies.  I tell kids that some bodies take longer than others to send the signal to the brain that their tummies are full.  Suggest doing an activity with you, helping clear the table, the dishes while they are waiting to see if they still need another portion.

For both of these kinds of kids, and of course remember that there are overlaps:

Kids will often think they are hungry, or use food if they are bored.  If they say they are hungry and you are pretty sure they can’t possibly be hungry, distract them.  Don’t be flustered by their demands and remember that it isn’t your job to stimulate them if they are bored.  Let them sit with it.  More often than not, they will find something to occupy them, and you have given them something valuable; the ability to not use food to preoccupy them, and how to shift gears and calm down into a calmer state by themselves; often a state of mind that opens up their creativity.

Most importantly, don’t be worried about overriding anything at times if you know they don’t need to eat and simply say:  “No, you have had enough!”

Happy Feeding!

How Obnoxious Are the Voices in Your Head?

I think we could safely say that when any woman steps into a dressing room to try on clothing, their inner dialogue is not exactly complimentary.  Am I just speaking for myself, or do we tend to get fairly self-critical, and focus on the negative, vs. the positive, when left to the mercy of that mirror and brutal lighting.

Last week, I was on a panel discussion for an art show entitled: ‘Power and Burden of Beauty’ by Rachel Hovnanian.  Part of this installation involves a dressing room that you enter.  Inside the dressing room is a collection of white bathing suits with different sizes attached to them, and a fun house mirror.  A running tape is filled with comments like:  “My thighs are so fat”, and “I shouldn’t have eaten that”; the usual comments, right, that if not voiced out loud, can be such rote, that all the women I have seen emerging from this space, have the same wry smile on their faces.

Not that I am at all immune either, but I often think of that statement by Erica Jong:  “You’re not fat, you’re just living in the wrong country.”

Every country though, in the world has their own brand of beauty and it is no less punishing than here in North America.  Think of the bound feet in China, the elongated necks in Africa, outstretched lips, there is never a shortage in the ways a culture finds a body part to focus on.

With the fashion industry and the media playing such a major role here, we are subjected to an idealization of thin; size 0.  (Although I am sure there is size inflation; a current size 0 is without a doubt the old 4, even 6.  When I go to Montreal to try on clothing, I am a full 3 sizes larger than in the U.S.)  So while we may be horrified by other cultures and what women do to be beautiful, we perhaps lose a little perspective of the ways we torture ourselves.  The array of options are increasing; from obsessional  diet and exercise, to the knife, injectables, lipo; it goes on and on.

What’s a girl to do?  Particularly given that the images that we see are not changing significantly tomorrow.  How do we at least raise the level of awareness, to understand our context, and the impact on us?  

Rachel Hovnanian does this quite successfully in her show. She helps us to recognize our negative ‘self talk’, and she has begun a dialogue.

Let’s ‘out’ this body hatred and body shame that seems to be such a significant tape loop in women’s minds.

Visit this exhibit:  It is at the Jason McCoy satellite space from Oct. 30-Nov. 7th, 520 West 20th St., and continues Nov. 10-Dec. 22nd, 41 E.57th St. at the Jason McCoy Gallery.