I’ve become aware of research recently which supported my belief that we ARE born intuitive eaters, but we go astray if we succumb to being conditioning by fast food and highly processed food. There may be exceptions to this premise, but I doubt that many of us were born with disordered eating problems. So what happened?
One report that I read indicates children can begin to identify brand name fast food and soda products as early as age 3. This is frightening! Further, children who have a high brand knowledge (that means they are eating a lot of it) are the same kids who prefer salty, fatty, and sugary brands. However, if children were fed healthy food, they developed a preference for it.
I know a lot of parents are concerned that their children won’t eat healthy food, but generally children will self-regulate if given the opportunity to eat healthy. And you don’t have to eat a “balanced meal” at every sitting as long as over a period of time (even a week) you are getting a balance of the nutrients that you need. The report on NPR Monday morning talked about child obesity research being conducted at the University of California, San Francisco. The chief nutritionist said “Young children are very, very good at regulating their intake so they are getting the proper amount of calories and fat and carbohydrates and protein for growth — as long as they’re offered a healthy range of items.” See the NPR report http://www.npr.org/2011/02/14/133629227/to-win-toddler-food-battles-take-a-softer-approach or the research article http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2921937/ for more information.
The key here is making sure your children and you, as an adult, are offered a healthy range of items to eat. This might take a re-organization and re-prioritization of the way you approach food. I know that for myself, as I have exposed myself to delicious healthy food, the more I can’t stand to eat highly processed food. My stomach complains when I don’t eat well and I don’t have the same energy or vitality. I was teasing my little four year old nephew the other day and told him that I needed my “greens” and acted like I was going to perish if I didn’t get them (imagine the re-enactment of the Wicked Witch melting in the Wizard of Oz to get an idea of the scenario). He thought that was very funny but it was really how I felt. My body/mind was really was craving “greens.”
So if you haven’t been exposing yourself to healthy food, you won’t crave it. But, if you start exposing yourself to healthier food, you will begin to enjoy the benefits of this type of eating and you will even begin to crave it. Start being a good parent to yourself TODAY. What can you do to increase the healthy food you consume and reduce the fast food and highly processed foods? Every little effort makes a difference.
With that said, the research also indicated that you can’t deprive yourself of “goodies” without setting up a “binge” cycle. So, let yourself have a piece of the Valentine’s Day candy. We all deserve a little sweetness in our lives.