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I once had a client who shared with me that she hid in the pantry and ate her “treats” out of the sight of her children.
I immediately wondered: “If you wouldn’t feed your children what you are eating, why are you eating it?”
As a result of this conversation, the rule I implemented in my apartment long ago was that if it’s in the apartment, anyone can eat it. There are no “special” foods, no foods labeled “mine,” no secret foods.
This may seem relatively standard. I want you to consider, however, the next time you take on diet, or what we now seem to be calling a lifestyle, accountability group, or a program.
Would you recommend this diet to your children? Would you put your child on Sirtfood? Noom? A no-carb diet? GOLO? Dubrow? Would you suggest they do intermittent fasting?
If you would not, then why are you suggesting it to yourself?
There are so many questions to ask ourselves, here.
Does a diet that is different than your family’s diet sit at odds with your value system? Is it going to be easy to execute? Will it be sustainable to make two meals?
Do you think, in your heart of hearts, that your diet is either proper nutrition, or especially healthy for a child?
How about looking at if we would allow ourselves to eat all the Halloween candy that we offer our children, or if we would consider food from the children’s menu mentally and physically nutritious?
I recognize that sometimes life with children can be a “pick your battle” situation, but on a baseline level, I’m puzzled by why North American children have special menus with bland, cheesy foods that would make most adults feel slightly woozy, scattered, and starving within two hours.
Why are we separating ourselves from our children either by way of indulgence or restriction? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, isn’t it?
Choosing what we eat is complex. Our choices can be—and often are—rooted in feelings, fears, and anxiety. But they can also be rooted in community, love, sharing, and caring.
If food is about the latter, are you choosing for yourself what you would choose for your child? Are you choosing for your child what you would choose for yourself?
We need to consider if we are using food to connect or to divide.
Do you have special foods you hide in the pantry or eat only when your child or family aren’t looking? If so, how would you feel if you found out they were doing the same thing?
I once found a candy wrapper tucked under the corner of my son’s mattress. There are only two of us who live in our apartment. When probed, he said, “It wasn’t me.” I laughed, because I knew for sure it wasn’t me. But is this the mentality you have yourself or in your home?
At that moment, I asked my son to simply ask for treats, and I also told him I would never say no. My role as a parent is to guide his food choices and not shame him or restrict him or make him feel like it’s necessary to sneak.
And the same is true for myself. I will not put myself on a diet or program that I would not recommend that he follow, or that I feel in my gut or soul is not nutritious or sustaining.
I don’t want either of us growing up sneaking food in the pantry.