The other day my daughter was curled up on the coach with some sort of teenage angst. All I wanted to do was give her ice cream.
I’ve talked about my food=love problem before. I’ve acknowledged that I’m an emotional-feeder.
But I honestly thought that phase of my parenting was over. For all the years between curing booboos with brownies and, well, now, I have had nary a problem separating food from love. The teenage years are throwing me through a loop. I want to cure her. And that’s the fallacy of the “food cures all” feeling. Because you know, the only thing food cures is hunger.
Or that’s the way it’s supposed to work.
Maybe you can relate? Maybe you’re an emotional-feeder? Most of us are.
In Cookie Love I wrote:
When I provide a wholesome meal – complete with salad and vegetables – I feel like a good mother. But when I give my daughter the treats she loves, I feel like I’m directly transferring love from my heart to hers. It’s like hooking up an I.V. of happiness. Yes, cookies=love.
Most parents I know don’t want to teach their children to eat for emotional reasons. We teach emotional eating anyway.
Are you an emotional feeder? Do any of these statements from the book Mindless Eating sound familiar?
- “Eat this pudding, it will make you feel better.” (Food as Comfort)
- “If you get an A on your test, we’ll go out for ice cream.” (Food as Reward)
- “Clean your plate; children are starving in China.” (Food as Guilt)
- “Finish your vegetables or you can’t watch T.V.” (Food as Punishment)
Kids are always going to do some emotional eating – it is unavoidable, especially as long as birthdays, Thanksgiving and grandmas exist – but conscious parenting can help us minimize the times we are emotional-feeders who use food as a tool.
Let’s face it, food is a powerful elixir. But parenting with food is a mistake. Teach kids to use food to satisfy their hunger, not to soothe their needy souls.
The next time you reach for some food to make your child feel better, consider dishing up a hug instead. (Or at least give your child a hug first. That’s what I did!)
~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~
Source: Wansink, B., 2006. Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. New York: Bantam Books. P. 166, 176.