The idea that kids know how hungry or full they are is a given. But it’s just not true.
Although most children are born with an innate sense of how hungry they are, parents — and the rest of society — mess this up pretty quickly. As a result, we’ve raised a bunch of kids who are disconnected from their hunger and satiety. (I’m exhibit number one. You may be exhibit number two.) I’ve tried hard to do differently with my daughter.
It’s no surprise how this happens. We make kids finish their meals, regardless of how hungry they are. And even if we don’t do that, most of us encourage a few more bites, especially of vegetables and especially as a condition of eating dessert.
In the past few posts I have been writing about how children learn about fat, fat bias, and how kids internalize societal standards about weight at a very young age. Well, it turns out, kids lose their innate ability to feel their hunger and fullness at a very early age too. Sometimes by the age of 3.
If you struggle with this, you’re not alone. And it’s not your fault. This is a societal/systemic problem. It’s related to our obsession with nutrition, our obsession with growth charts and our obsession with body image.
But it’s worth thinking about this now, during the Holiday Eating Season.
Sadly, fat bias and losing the ability to regulate internal hunger/satiety go hand-in-hand in our society.
While public health officials worry about childhood obesity, parents of young children, it turns out, worry more about getting enough food into their kids. Is there a connection? Let’s just say that you can’t feed kids one way when they’re young and expect them to eat another way as they grow up.
The good news is that it is possible to teach children to get back in touch with their hunger and satiety.
Not only that, it’s pretty easy to do.
The better news is that working on hunger and satiety helps under-eaters as much as overeaters.
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~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~