mommy, i’m still hungry

I’ve heard that expression about five times in the past five days — usually after dinner, right before bed. The first time it happened, I was caught off guard (this isn’t something Maya has ever said before, especially after a meal) — so I just offered her a banana and we went about our teeth-brushing/book-reading evening routine.

The next time it happened, I checked her daily report card from school, to see if maybe she hadn’t eaten well at school. (Though she’s always been a slooooooow eater, she’s always been a good eater, in that she’ll eat anything … just not necessarily very much). But sure enough, she’d eaten 100% of each meal and snack. And all her dinner plus dessert (which happened to be leftover ice cream cake from Ben’s birthday last week). And milk.

So I offered her one of two choices: a pre-bed cheese stick or pre-bed yogurt. She opted for the cheese stick, and that was that.

But the next morning, she told me her belly was “so so so hungry.” This could only mean one thing: growth spurt. And it’s about hot damn time.

Maya has grown slowly, and steadily, her whole little life. She’s always been on the smaller side of average — short and petite. But over the past year, we’ve seen a big change in her physically. Her toddler rolls and baby chunk have all but disappeared. And now  — nearing four — she is looking more and more like a little girl, built very much like her soccer-playing daddy, with a long torso and short but muscular legs.

So given her sudden appetite increase, it seems pretty clear our Little Miss Maya is going through a growth spurt.

As a mom, this [bittersweet] realization thrills me: my baby is a little girl now! But as a woman who has battled with body image demons for much of her adult life, this terrifies me. I have always said, I never want to consciously put my own issues on my children. So I don’t talk about food in front of Maya. Actually, let me clarify, we talk about what we’re eating or hungry for, but I never qualify food in front of her as “good” or “bad.” Just that food gives us energy. Food tastes good. Food is fun. She loves her fruits and veggies and milk, and knows they give her “strong muscles” [her words, not mine].

While it’s true she can’t have chocolate for breakfast and she has to eat [most of] her dinner before she can have dessert, there are no other food rules at Casa Henriquez. In our family, if we are hungry, we eat and don’t make a big deal out of it. I want her to see that I have a good relationship with food. I might not be my thinnest self, but I am my happiest self right now — and that’s what I hope (and believe) she sees.

That said, after a decade of journaling every single morsel of food I eat — and relying on a caloric range to determine “fullness”– I’ve lost sight of how to eat intuitively. On top of that, I still emotionally eat from time to time, still overeat, mindlessly munch … I’m human.

But my daughter doesn’t do any of that; she just eats when she’s hungry and stops when she is satisfied. She hasn’t lost her innate, intuitive eating capabilities [yet]. In fact, she’s the most intuitive eater I know. If she isn’t hungry, she says so. And if she’s going through a growth spurt — as she is now — she will ask for more food. It’s that simple. As I noted in a post I wrote for Babble a couple years ago, I can learn so much from watching her.

She trusts her body and doesn’t have the fear that if she eats too much, she will gain weight. She hasn’t been corrupted by societal pressures yet — and I’ll be damned if I am one of them. I’m dreading the moment when she loses her ability to trust her hunger cues; it’s inevitable it will happen at some point in her pre-teen/teen years, if not sooner.

But for now,  I’m going to just trust her to make her own food choices and support her as she grows and not push her to eat if she says she isn’t hungry (which is hard to do as a Jewish mother!)

After all, sometimes mom doesn’t know best.

How about you? If you’ve ever battled weight issues, was it hard to handle growth spurts in your children?

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4 thoughts on “mommy, i’m still hungry

  1. You’re so good. I find this stuff so hard. I’m so paranoid about Nate developing the weight issues that run in my family (and my husband is the only overweight person in his family) that I spend SO much time thinking about what Nate eats and trying to explain why sugar isn’t good for you, how it doesn’t give “good energy” etc… and he is also very intuitive BUT likes treats. If he’s hungry and I offer him something that isn’t a “treat” he’ll say he doesn’t have room for that, he just has “a small space right here just the size of that cookie.” LOL Point for creativity, right?

    It’s an ongoing discussion, but it’s so important to be aware of what you say and do. It feels like more self-policing than food-policing, really.

    1. LOL–LOVE his logic 🙂 It is so hard, isn’t it. And so true — it is more about self-policing. They’re little and will find their way. All we can do is guide them.

  2. I find this stuff so hard too! My son is five and a half and just cracked 31 pounds this year – the smallest kid in his class by far. He’s also incredibly picky and doesn’t want to ever eat anything but PB&J, mac and cheese, goldfish crackers, chicken nuggets, and occasionally grapes (red only!). He will literally skip dinner sometimes and go to bed hungry if he doesn’t like what I make. I’m hoping his pickiness resolves itself soon!

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