Our stomachs can’t tell time. When the clock strikes noon, our bodies might not be ready to eat. Yet many of us are in the habit of eating by the clock instead of listening to our bodies. I learned how to honor my stomach. And I am teaching my children to do the same.
Two plates of pasta and fruit sit in front of my children at a restaurant. My hungry son is devouring the food on his plate. My not-hungry daughter is sculpting her noodles into a statue.
Sometimes is hard for parents to tolerate a not-hungry child at mealtime. Many of us negotiate or even threaten to get our kids to eat when we say its time.
“Just one more bite.”
“Eat your food now or you’re going to bed early!”
Our intentions are good. We want our children to be nourished. And we want to put away the dishes and be done with the meal. But pushing, shaming and prodding a child at mealtime is counter-productive to helping them to honor their bodies and maintain a healthy relationship with food.
I see mealtime as special time to come together and socialize with our loved ones. But just because the clock says its mealtime doesn’t mean that every person will be ready to eat. Just as I honor my stomach, I honor my children’s bodies by providing healthy food and letting them eat it when they feel hungry. We enjoy time together at mealtime. And we let the left over food be left-overs.
At the restaurant that day my daughter made an interesting noodle statue. And she discovered what’s inside a blackberry…a blackberry. We all had a laugh about that. My son cleaned his plate and we took my daughter’s entire meal to go. About an hour later my daughter told me she was hungry and we sat on a bench together while she ate half of the food and then set it down to pick flowers with her brother.
In the end, we each got the nutrition we needed, WHEN we needed it and mealtime was stress free and enjoyable.
Want help making the shift into a healthier mindset and body? Join us at Center for Eating Recovery for an 8-Week Eating Psychotherapy Group, Heal the Hungry Brain, or for Repair Your Reflection, our monthly, body image workshop where you will update the lens through which your see your body and start to build body esteem.
Alison Ross is the founder of Center for Eating Recovery in Agoura Hills, California. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in eating and body image. Alison was inspired to start the Center after healing her relationship with food and her body. Her mission is to help others rise above the obsessive and self-hating diet mentality in our culture to find true health through empowerment, awareness, love and self-care. The Center offers treatment for eating and body image problems across the spectrum including food addiction, binge-eating, emotional overeating, yo-yo dieting, bulimia and anorexia.