For as tiny and petite as Maya is (still only in 25th percentile for height and weight–as she has been all her life), she has always been a good eater: very in tune with her body, hunger levels, and even thirst. I’ve often been impressed by how intuitively she eats — telling me she isn’t hungry “yet” for snack at snack-time … or asking for more at dinner because she isn’t satiated. She constantly refills her own water glass and will often choose fruit before any other option.
She amazes me, day in and day out and I pray she’s always this good an eater.
I, on the other hand, have absolutely never, ever, ever been an intuitive eater. Never.
Oh, sure, I’ve tried … many times. And have consistently failed.
Anything can trigger me to eat: seeing it, smelling it, thinking about it, being happy/sad/anxious/angry/frustrated/elated. My emotions know no limits and my love of food has been omnipresent. I’ve literally never “forgotten” to eat. EVER.
My dad even teases, “You were born hungry, Lis!” (He’s right. I was).
The reality is I just enjoy food too much and really see no reason to suffer and restrict when life is just too damn short. I learned that a long time ago, and it’s never been more apparent than now. Life really is too short.
I should note, this doesn’t mean I suddenly think it’s OK to go hog-wild and throw caution to the wind (though the past two weeks I’ve definitely and understandably been emotionally eating … ); it just means my personal threshold for what’s acceptable has changed, particularly since becoming a mom and enduring two pregnancies and two post-partum periods.
My body — which housed and grew two amazing babies — is not the same as it was before them, and I just don’t have the time or energy to devote to my figure the way I did pre-kids. I still work out regularly and try to eat decently most of the time … and will probably forever trying to lose 10-12 [mostly] vanity pounds… but my thoughts and attitudes on wellness, fitness, and personal acceptance have changed enormously these past four years … and I think that’s a good thing.
Because I never want my own kids to deal with the crap I dealt with during my painful disordered eating years, I’ve really tried to listen to them with respect to food. This means if Maya says she’s full, I don’t make her finish what’s on her plate. (We don’t have dessert every night, so it’s not like dinner is a prerequisite for dessert). Likewise, if she tells me she is hungry after a meal, I offer her more — without judgment — or a healthy snack option if it’s not meal-time. This is a kid who loves fresh fruit and veggies more than she likes sweets so I don’t need to trick her into eating healthy; she just does. I also try to lead by example — eating pretty decently, regular exercise (she knows Mommy goes to the gym), and general family fitness — long walks with Rocco, biking, playground time.
Ben, on the other hand, is a mystery to me. First of all, he’s a boy — which means inherently I understand him less than my daughter. 😉 Everyone tells me, boys will drain your wallet; they eat so much; etc. Until two weeks ago, I would have stood up to disagree with that sentiment (at this stage of life). But over these past two weeks, he’s been going through a crazy growth spurt where he’s signing for and asking for “milk” and “eat” all.the.time. Like after full meals, coupled with whole milk … he’s still hungry.
At first, I thought he was just doing it for attention, or to manipulate me to give him a snack (because he loves snacks and knows where they are!!) …. but as my mom confirmed, he’s really too young to manipulate. And he’s been legitimately wolfing down everything we put in front of him, and still asking for more. Because he can talk and sign, he doubles-up on his asks now … so there’s really no option but to feed the boy!
Ben is still relatively small – at 18 months he’s 24-25 lbs and only in the 30th/40th for weight and height. He’s not a big kid … but he’s solid. He’s clearly going through a growth spurt, and he’s demonstrating that he — like his sister — is very much an intuitive eater.
Which is so hard for me to wrap my head around … Because I am not!
Yet … just because I don’t trust my own gut, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t trust theirs: kids are smart. And even though I’m struggling a bit with Ben right now, I think that’s been one of the most eye-opening parts of parenthood — how wise they are with respect to eating intuitively. And I can’t help but wonder when it all changes. Is it when we become adults that we lose our ability to eat intuitively and have to re-learn what had come to us naturally as small children? Is it because we live in a world where food is everywhere … literally, at every turn? (Even our hardware store has a candy aisle. What?!) Surely that comes into play.
I know I’ve pretty much married myself to globs and globs of chocolate these past two weeks since Rach passed. Rationally, I know I shouldn’t buy it, I don’t need it, it isn’t that great … but with my emotions the way they are right now — I’m admittedly a hot mess — I have definitely turned to food for comfort, mostly when I’m not with my family or friends.
I guess the positive is I haven’t (and won’t — promise!) reverted to any ugly habits of the past … but I know emotional eating isn’t good, either.
That being said, I’m grieving and PMSing and right now, few things make sense to me. Chocolate makes sense. And tomorrow is a new day.
At the very least, I can take cues from my kids … my typically dainty little bird eater of a girl who sometimes wants seconds … and my voracious bottomless-pit boy who, ya know … sometimes just tosses his whole meal to the dog. 🙂
How about you? Are your kids intuitive eaters? Do you find they eat more intuitively than you? When do you think it changes? And how does grief impact your consumption (feast or famine mode?)