Last week I mentioned that one of the categories I'm focusing on for my Monkey Do experiment is food + body. If there's any relationship I really don't want to mess up for my daughter, it's the one she has with her body. I've struggled through my own food issues over the years, as I know so many women have.
While I've come a long way, there's still more for me to learn in order to model a truly healthy attitude and approach for her. For me this mostly looks like trying to reside in a middle ground, reaching for well-being and pleasure and balance without under- or overdoing anything.
To that end, my food + body resolution for May is to dish it up, meaning when I eat, give myself a serving of whatever it is I'm having rather than eating out of the container or picking at something. And there are a few reasons why this habit feels important to me.
The part that's to do with manners
The first reason is the least loaded and has a lot to do with living in a house with other people. And this realization is actually what started me on this path of this experiment. When I've lived alone, it's never been a big deal to eat peanut butter out of the jar or grab a couple of handfuls of granola out of the bag. But while doing just that, it dawned on me that if I don't want any kids eating popcorn out of a giant bag (especially with those grubby little hands!), I better stop doing it myself.
And the more I thought about it, the more I realized this kind of grosses me out even if I am the only one eating peanut butter out of that jar. Which I'm not. Sorry, honey.
On a related and even grosser note, part of this resolution also includes no random bites. I won't be gobbling a few more roasted veggies with my fingers as I pack up dinner leftovers, and I won't be eating anything (glop of oatmeal) that slid down the outside of the mug because it's faster than wiping it up with a paper towel. So embarrassing to even realize I do that!
Choosing a reasonable portion
Often I'll start out eating a few almonds out of the bag because I don't think I need more than that. And then I'll have a few more and a few more and you see where this is going. If I'm so hungry that I end up eating a bunch of snack food, I would have been better off fixing myself something substantial to eat. The same way I will do for my daughter.
And the flip side is also true. If I put a real portion of food into a bowl, an amount that seems like it would be satisfying, I'm less likely to keep going back for more even past the point of satisfaction. Overall I think I end up eating less by dishing myself up more to start with.
Having permission to eat rather than stealing bites
There's something about feeling like you're allowed to have a real serving that changes the tone. It's not exactly that I'm sneaking or stealing food otherwise, but the attitude feels a bit more covert than it would to cut myself a real slice of banana bread, place it on a plate, and sit down at the table to eat it. The first way feels like it doesn't quite count and it's not meant to. The second way feels like nourishment. Again, I wouldn't carve a thin sliver of bread off and hand it to a child to eat while standing at the counter. I'd want them to sit down and enjoy their food fully.
Let's see what happens...
This is a small practice in the grand scheme of things, but part of this experiment is to choose actions I can measure. Over the weekend we were traveling and I definitely had too many handfuls of trail mix and granola out of the bag, even knowing this post was drafted in the queue. But curiosity and progress are the real point here more than any rigid adherence to rules. And it's worth it to me to keep trying!
Along with years of my own experience working through food and body issues, two books have really helped me think clearly about my approach to kids and food, and both extol the French way (my love for the French is shameless): Bringing up Bebe and French Kids Eat Everything. Do you have any favorite resources?