Thursday, July 5, 2007

Rebel Yell!

All right, I'm back again with an article by the Associated Press. "Review Finds Nutrition Education Failing."

The article starts by stating how the US government is spending a billion dollars (this year alone) on nutrition education - with most of the programs flopping like beached flounder. The article then proceeds to pull in expert opinions that there is nothing to be done. Kids will continue to choose donuts and "junk" food no matter what anyone says, especially after the age of 10.

What is never mentioned in this article (or any of the articles I find on child obesity) is any information on intuitive eating (the idea that one listens to one's own body for hunger cues and then acts upon those cues.)

When my son was born, I vowed to him that I would go with the flow - no pushing, no demanding. When he was ready, he was ready and I would support and love him no matter what. [The only thing was that he had to be potty-trained by kindergarden, but that wasn't my rule.] When he is hungry, I ask him, "Sweet or savory." And then list his choices from there.

Sure, sometimes he says "ice cream" or "cupcake" or "cookie," when he wants sweets. But almost as often he mentions "banana" or "apple" or "berries" or "oatmeal."

No matter what he answers, I either get it for him (or point the way to it.) His body knows what he needs and it's asking for these things for a reason.

Lately, (he's five and half years old now,) he's been asking often, "Mommy, are chips junk food?" or "Will this Hershey kiss make me sick?"

My reply is always, "If you eat too much of anything, it will make you sick. As long as you listen to your body, eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full, you'll be just fine."

But our conversation leaves me extremely disturbed and incredibly worried. I'm assuming that he is learning about these things at his daycare (or from the TV, which now has commercials about the dangers of "junk" food and being sedentary.) Which is all fine and dandy, except that since I had an eating disorder, that may predispose my son into having one as well. I have worked so hard for the past five plus years to instill in my son a sense of trust in his own body and I feel like all my effort is being flushed down the drain by all these agencies who are shoving "healthy" eating down our throats.

To me, "healthy" eating is where no food is forbidden. Where one eats when one's body says that it needs fuel, and feeds it exactly for what her/his body asks, then stopping when the body is full. All humans are born eating "healthy." All of us, no exceptions. But sometime during our formative years we are taught otherwise. Many are forced into the "clean plate club" and/or the "three squares a day rigidity."

I've spent the past three years struggling to return myself to the innocence, the naturalness of intuitive eating. I've fought to allow myself to enjoy cookies and cupcakes and cakes and ice cream and candy - whenever my body tells me it needs it. I'm now battling to add fat back into my diet.

I would never wish this war on ANYONE.

And yet, here are government-sponsored programs and classes countermanding everything that I'm fighting for.

I often feel like a lone crusader striking back at the infidels who want to mess with my child's innate sense of self-nurturing.

I invite all other crusaders to yawp a rebel yell!


Now, all we need is a catchy rallying cry. One that can be sung from the rooftops of the world to call the people to arms against those who are trying to confuse our babies into believing that there is one almighty structure for fueling our bodies, who are diverting our babies from the trust in themselves with which they were born.

How about:

Back off! My body knows what I need!

No, needs to be shorter... My mind is blank for war cries.

Any ideas?


.:Janz:. said...

This is quite an interesting blog. We both are looking to live healthy lives, but you are trying to regain weight, while I'm trying to drop some unwanted weight. Hope in my process I don't end up loosing too much.

roark said...

hi jeanne.

i'm always down for a good rebel yell, you know. :)

and, i wanted to say, because i'm sure you don't hear it near often enough, that i really admire what you're doing with your son. the care you're taking to instill respect for his body and for his appetite is so inspiring.

who knows what's the best approach in the end, or who will or won't end up with an ed depending on their predisposition and/or triggers, but, really, it seems to me (humble opinion alert:) that the respect you're teaching him for his body will be a HUGE benefit to him his entire life.


Sarah said...

how about . . . "Bite me!"


t said...

Can you be my mom?

I think what you're doing with your son is great. I'm trying hard to retrain my body and use intuitive eating, but all it ever seems to want is ice cream sundaes and well, I think that counts as "junk" food. I really wish I didn't have to retrain and would have learned this from a young age.

Jeanne said...

.:janz:. Actually, I'm not trying to gain or lose or even maintain. I'm in the healthy weight range for my height - technically at the upper end of it, but I'm also building lots of muscles so that figure is misleading. Weights are just numbers.

My philosophy is that if I'm living life and taking care of myself (body and soul), then I'm exactly the right size for me.
Keep working at living life and taking good care of yourself, and your body won't steer you wrong. We can do it!

Hey roark - thank you so much for your encouragement! I do put a lot of effort and thought into teaching my little guy - I'm glad I'm able to inspire others.
It will be interesting to see what my son carries with him through the years.

sarah - you rock!!
I love it!

t - while I can't be your mom, I can be your friend.

I wish I didn't have to retrain my brain to listen to my body either - it's a lot of hard work with a ton of smacks on my rear as I stumble and fall. BUT it can be done, as long as we work on being patient with ourselves.

Have you read the book by Jane Hirschmann and Carol H. Munter called When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies (website)? It was the first book I read that described intuitive eating well and gave practical exercises to help in the retraining. My only problem was that I had to translate it - the book's audience is geared towards those who binge, while I lean towards restricting.