Monday, July 11, 2011

Attitude is Everything

Last week's summer cold seems to have morphed into something worse. Although I felt better on Saturday, yesterday I felt worse and this morning I felt like I had been hit by a truck. The sore/scratchy throat has become massively swollen glands and a bad headache, which fortunately have abated how thanks to the handful of painkillers I swallowed (very bad!).

Then Adam suggested I could have mono, and now I'm totally freaked out. I had mono in 11th grade and it was awful. I was house bound for 2 weeks and then not myself (i.e. totally lethargic) for 3 months. Oh well, I'll cross my fingers and hope for the best.

When I have posted in the past about my concerns regarding Big A's eating, some of you have given me suggestions indicating that the problem may be I am too restrictive with her.

While I can certainly see how you might feel this is the case, it really is not. In fact, I think I am probably too permissive, and I believe even Adam would agree. Big A eats a LOT of junk. But it's not really what she is eating that worries me so much. It's actually her attitude towards food that has become so problematic.

On her wonderful blog "Raise Healthy Eaters", Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD, talks about how the ideal is to have your children develop a very flexible attitude towards food where if there is junk food around, they may grab a handful when they walk by one time and ignore it the next. They might choose a cookie one day and an apple the day after.

This is pretty much how Little A is. For example, when we went to the Strawberry Festival on Canada Day, I bought each of the girls a MASSIVE lollipop for the car ride home (my mother-in-law and Adam were actually horrified...see I am NOT too restrictive!). Big A refused to touch the grilled cheese on whole wheat and fresh strawberries we bought each of the girls for lunch, and instead, ate the entire lollipop, even though we kept telling her we could put it aside for another day. Little A got bored of it even before we got home and we threw it away.

Honestly, Big A has become OBSESSED with junk. If there is any candy, cookies, cake, etc. available, she won't touch anything else offered to her. But even worse, things got to the point where she wanted junk ALL THE TIME, she was always asking for treats, dessert, etc. and when we offered fruit, yogurt, cheese or other healthier options that she used to eat, she would whine and sometimes even have tantrums about it. And this is on top of her meals already being full of sugar (i.e. for breakfast she'll have an almond butter and honey sandwich followed by a few bowls of Oatmeal Crisp cereal and THEN be begging for a Clif Bar for kids and for additional sweets for the rest of the day).

Now, I will readily admit that both Adam and I probably do make too big a deal out of all this, and that probably makes it even worse. It got to the point a few weeks ago where I was ready to simply give up and let her eat whatever she wants, whenever she wants in hopes that eventually the novelty would wear off.

But then I remembered a strategy I read about in Today's Parent a few months ago. One mother said she allowed her child a certain number of treats every week, and her child could choose what, when and how they are consumed. I decided this was at least worth a try.

We started this technique last week and so far SO GOOD! She has decided that she will eat a few bites of her chosen treats first thing in the morning before breakfast, leaving just enough that they last her the whole week. Interestingly, this has made her far more willing to make healthy choices the rest of the day.

Now this is not the full extent of her junk eating, because I can't really restrict the treats she gets at school, friends' houses, and from her grandparents and great grand-parents. But it's an improvement. I guess knowing she gets to have a treat every morning, and as much or as little as she wants, gives her enough sense of control that the rest of the day is not a constant battle with us about food.

I have also realized I have to "fail-proof" our environment. This means that once we run out of the "Clif Bars for Kids", Kashi granola bars, fruit-sweetened gummies, etc., I am not going to buy them anymore. They were never supposed to be a regular habit, but I have become far too dependent on them as bribery for my kids. Something I KNOW is very bad in the long-term. And while I am careful to buy things that are "whole grain" and have no trans fat, etc. this stuff is still pretty much JUNK.

My concern with Big A is not that she will keel over from scurvy or become obese. Overall, she probably doesn't eat much better or worse than most (upper middle class) kids, but I AM concerned that her obsession/mindset will lead to a lifetime of disordered eating. Unfortunately, I feel like up until now, the harder I try to avoid this, the worse I am making the situation. Hopefully the new system will continue to work and eventually, food will become a non-issue altogether.

At least I know I am doing something right: I NEVER talk about weight, fat, appearance, etc. and neither does she.

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