The Feeding Habits of Children

Today I made the mistake of letting my 5-year-old take a nap. She had a tough morning of soccer in 100+ degree heat, swimming in the pool and then a trip to the grocery store. She was exhausted. Everyone knows that you don’t wake a sleeping child (why interrupt perfection?). My daughter awoke in time for dinner, but ate almost nothing. She ate the cheese off of a cheese dog. I didn’t think this was possible, but she figured out how.

Now it is 9:17 PM and she is not sleepy at all. She is sitting at the kitchen table munching on a bowl of Rice Chex. Where was this appetite at 6:17 PM? Why couldn’t she have eaten the hot dog then, instead of deciding she is hungry now? Clearly children’s appetites are not limited by time or food availability. They don’t care that you just made dinner, they will simply tell you, “I’m not hungry.” Now it is over an hour past her bed time and she ‘has’ to eat. At least according to her, she ‘has’ to eat. It could just be a ploy to further extend the already late bedtime.

This incident made me wonder if our country’s obesity problem might be better served by getting people to listen to their bodies and asking themselves if they are truly hungry when they eat. Even a baby knows when it is hungry (it will cry to inform you of this) and children still have this ability to understand their level of hunger, yet we tell them, “Eat your breakfast (or lunch or dinner) now!” when they may have no hunger at all at that particular moment. As adults we seem to just eat at pre-specified meal times. But why is this? Is this healthy?

Maybe we should all learn something about the feeding habits of children to discover healthier ways to eat that are closer to nature instead of the man-made invention of ‘3 squares a day’. I just finished a chocolate square myself and feel satisfied with that. No need to eat the whole one-pound bar. I am not really hungry for that. So eating food at 9:17 PM isn’t a crime, but we do need to listen to our bodies to determine if this is what our bodies really need. What? You can’t hear what your body needs? Maybe it is time to listen a little more closely because the more we practice, the better we can get at it. Are you hungry, or are you eating just because you are expected to?

Don't try the chocolate chip diet

For some reason I decided that it was a good idea to lose 5 lbs this month. This is not just a goal I committed to myself, but I committed it to a room full of other goal-setters. In other words, I can’t just back out now, I have to keep going. I was just pondering how many calories it would be if I ate my notebook? I was talking about the paper kind, not my computer. I feel like I am counting calories of everything around me, and now, not just food! I have a few strategies I have come up with, but none has eliminated my tremendous pangs of hunger. Did I mention I could really eat?

Considering I work from home and I sit only feet from a vast selection of tasty treats in my kitchen pantry, it has been a real feat to eliminate in-between-meal snacks. Every time I would walk past the pantry (before) I would stop and grab something. It wasn’t anything big. Just a Cheez-It or a pretzel. What could be the harm? Well, my pants are so tight I feel like if I eat a single grain of rice, my stomach will expand – ripping my pants apart like the Incredible Hulk. As a result, I will be forced to buy a whole new wardrobe. Clearly this weight-loss thing is about mind over matter; my minds desire to not go broke buying new clothes. Right now the mind is winning, but my stomach pangs are holding strong.

As a tactic to limit my eating, I started writing down everything that crosses my lips in one of those on-line food diaries. It is great because you can even track calorie burn by activity and your weight over time. I now log every cup of tea, every nibble of a cookie, and every chocolate chip. Everyone eats chocolate chips right out of the bag don’t they? Or is that just me? When I tried to log it in the food diary it didn’t have a measurement for “chocolate semi-sweet morsel”, so I had to improvise with 1/100th of a cup = 1 morsel. I didn’t actually count the morsels, but surely a handful couldn’t be more than 15 morsels? Could it?

Now I see why the ‘single chocolate chip habit’ is so bad. You eat a handful, which doesn’t look like much. Then 10 minutes later you have another handful. It isn’t long before you realize that 1/2 the bag is gone and you barely have enough left for those chocolate chip pancakes you were planning to make at the weekend. Did I mention this would happen by Monday at 10 AM? I kept wondering if someone else had been getting into my chocolate chips. Then I realized I opened the bag this morning and everyone else was out of the house for the day. The next day when I stepped onto the scale, I would realize that it must have been me eating all the chocolate chips, because the dial inched upward ever so slightly. Now I am scared to eat any snack for fear that I will tumble down the slippery slope where my single cheez-it turns into a box-a-day habit. Sadly, my eating problems are just that, habit.

You would think without all my snacking, I would be a lot more productive because I don’t have to brush bright orange crumbs from my keyboard. Unfortunately, at times I find it hard to focus because I am distracted by the hunger pangs. Pangs that seem to hang with me most of the day. Well, except when I am sleeping. Then I can just dream about eating everything I want. I may feel hungry a lot of the time, but something must be working because the scale dial has started inching downward instead of upward.

How am I surviving this hunger? Surprisingly I have been positive for the most part. I have traded my sugar crashes to “Choose to feel better”. Besides just watching the calorie counts, I have reduced my gluten intake (you know, wheat? or anything made with flour?). This seems to really improve my mood and alertness. Another trick I tried, but not sure if it actually works – I wear my loosest pants and ‘think thin’. Can I brainwash myself to think I am thin? Will my brain just ‘make it so’? I thought this might be more motivating than trying to squeeze into pants a size too small. The pants must have shrunk in the dryer because I couldn’t have gained THAT much weight? In 2 weeks it looks like I have lost about 2 pounds. Feeling hungry isn’t so bad; just don’t put your hand too close to my face because my choices may be down to eating your hand or a notebook (although I need to check my calorie counter first). Here comes another hunger pang, time for my mantra…”Choose to feel better”.