My little girl has loved food ever since we’ve known her. In fact, the very first day we met her we went for lunch, and I was amazed how much food a small person could eat. Not only does she eat a good really amount, but she eats a large variety of food too. She has probably quite a sophisticated palate for her age, and loves tucking into food with big/strong flavours such as blue cheese.
From the beginning we could see that little one loves food, but that potentially she could grow to love it maybe too much. This could create issues such as wanting/needing to eat too much, or being constantly fixated on food and always wanting to eat. Until quite recently she has had to always finish everything on her plate, whether she was full or not. She looked full and uncomfortable, but refused to let us take anything off her plate. These last few weeks we’ve noticed that she will let herself leave some food on her plate, and will allow some to be put back, or ‘shared’ with ourselves. This has been consistent over time, and in different social situations including eating out at restaurants and at extended families houses. This must mean that she is starting to understand and respond to the feeling of being full. It may also be that even after over a year, she is now starting to trust that there will be more food tomorrow, so she doesn’t need to worry. We have been doing daily ‘tummy time’ activities to try and enhance her sensory systems, and I’m sure starting these co-incided with her allowing food to be left. This could possibly be because she is learning how to regulate her body a little better.
We don’t really know much about her very early life experiences of food and it’s provision. It may have been that it was inconsistent and unreliable, which could explain the need to eat as much as possible when it was provided. It may have been due to under-developed sensory systems, so she couldn’t feel when she was full. It could have been that meal times were chaotic/stressful, so not a pleasant experience.
From her coming home we have tried to help her have a relaxed and positive relationship with food. This has included letting her ‘help’ with food prep and cooking. She always wants to ‘try some’, and I’ve learnt that it’s easier to let her, rather than her constantly ask for some. She is learning to wait until I give her some, rather than just grab it from the chopping board. We quite often bake together, which is becoming less stressful as we do it more. She enjoys the cooking process, and she is proud of the finished product. We like to take cakes to my work every now and then, so she likes baking for Mummy’s friends. When writing meal plans she will tell us some meals she would like for the week. She will often come shopping with us. Most days we’ll tell her what’s for tea at the beginning of the day so she knows what to expect. She also likes to try some food off our plates if we’re having something different. She is also learning that she enjoys sharing food from her plate too. Sometimes when I know she’s getting full, I encourage her to ‘share with mummy’ so that she has less to eat, it normally works.
At home we tend to plate up food in the kitchen and bring it to the table to eat. There are not normally seconds, and any leftovers are out of sight. At others houses, they tend to serve up at the table, meaning food is there in front of her, and she tended to see it and want more. I’ve noticed that she’s coping much better with this now and doesn’t repeatedly ask for more. I tend to give her less in these situations as I know that she’ll want more. This way she can have a bit more, and not eat too much. This has made meal times at others houses less stressful for me, although I still find it really frustrating when I’m trying hard to not let her overeat, but others take delight in giving her seconds/thirds when she doesn’t need it. They maybe don’t understand the complexities of food with her, and they love feeding someone who clearly enjoys food. I have had to be quite firm when saying enough is enough. Nursery also have strict instructions not to let her overeat, and to monitor how much food she’s allowed to serve herself.
I’ve always been a bit particular with food myself, and have anxieties about putting on weight, sometimes worse than other times. I don’t, and haven’t had an eating disorder, although some liked to joke I did, which obviously didn’t help matters. I find I’m always worried I’ve given her too big portions, and an worried she’ll gain too much weight. I feel a huge responsibility to make sure I feed her healthily and sensibly. I am aware that my insecurities with food could affect and be transferred to my daughter as she grows. I do try to make sure I don’t verbalise my insecurities and anxieties to her. I also try to talk about ourselves positively so that she learns positive body image. I am working hard on being kinder to myself, and making sure I don’t develop unhealthy habits. I am learning to exercise for pleasure, rather than feeling the pressure (from myself) to do it for weight loss only. I no longer calorie count as that made my insecurities and anxieties so much worse. It took the enjoyment out of food.
I want to end this post by saying thank-you to my precious girl, for being such a joy and pleasure to cook for and feed. It really does make me happy. I also want to say how proud I am of her for learning for trust and believe that we will feed her again, even if she doesn’t finish her meal. This I think speaks volumes about how well settled and at home she is with us.