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feeling inadequate at teaching my kids basic human-ness - Page 2

post #21 of 23

Compulsive overeater without an "off switch" here. I think your daughter is coping with stress through eating. Does she sneak or steal food more frequently during times of stress? When there is stress and she makes "bad" choices, do you withdraw emotionally or criticize? Just questions, please don't take offense. Just saying that in my case (which might not even be remotely the same as the situation with your daughter) these issues all exacerbated the problem.


And again, not to offend, but I do have a few suggestions. Keep in mind that I don't know your kid at all, so these things might not be relevant. I would suggest that you seek counseling for her. She has some underlying issues that need to be addressed and therapy is a "safe" place to do that. A good therapist will offer insight to her problems and suggest alternatives for the poor eating habits. Secondly, I would address the way that you are handling her sneakery. And be honest with yourself. If you come across as critical or less than supportive, understand that some subtle changes in your behavior or seeking counseling for yourself might be beneficial. And finally, I would remove poor quality food from your home if it upsets you that she desires it. If she is a true overeater, like I am, the urge is almost beyond control. We'll seek out any food item that "banks" calories. Call it a mis-wired evolutionary drive for calorie storage, but we are motivated towards high value treats. If you know she will eat them, and you expect her to have self control where she has proven none exists, you will set her up for failure.


I hope that I don't come across as harsh. I don't intend to. And I am certainly not placing blame on your or your environment, I hope that you understand that. But as parents, we have to manage our situations in ways that hopefully facilitate the best outcome. And that is what I am trying to suggest. 


Good luck!

post #22 of 23

The title of this thread stood out to me - "teaching my kids basic human-ness." I think the child already has some basic humanness figured out - like the need for food and shelter, those are hard-wired and she's too young to fight the hunger.


Originally Posted by 4evermom View Post


Originally Posted by vermontgirl View Post


I can however say that most families close the kitchen off at a certain time of night.

Really? I've never encountered anyone doing that.


Me neither. I always had a hard time at summer camps, etc., where the food time was limited. The food policy was like that of a prison to me - what was I supposed to eat in the evening? Why no access? Am I supposed to starve? At one summer camp, half my group started sneaking food out of the cafeteria, they gave it to me so I could eat at night. I still remember that with a lot of gratitude.


One of my aunts had this policy of "If you are making dinner, do not eat anything until the dinner is served on the table". I still remember that once I had to cook with her, and I was starving, and I tried to grab something to eat and she wouldn't let me. I was so mad about that, and I still am. She just didn't understand and didn't want to listen. Sometimes people have different food needs. What some people might call "a huge dinner", for me might be "appetizers". Hey where's the rest of the meal? I'm hungry!


Obviously the OP would know if there is overeating, but what if the problem is subtler than that? Is the kid hypoglycemic? Is she skinny? Does she need many small meals, instead of three big meals a day? You mentioned that she had to "watch a movie and go to bed". For some people, watching a movie is enough time to get hungry for another meal. Maybe she's like that, too?


Another thought.. a before-bed snack is important. What does she usually have?

Edited by DoubleDouble - 4/23/12 at 5:38pm
post #23 of 23

Your OP was a little short on details, since it only gave us one example to go from... is she only "sneaky" with food?  If so, then that is a completely different issue than if she's sneaky in a dozen different ways.  You also didn't indicate how long this behavior has been going on - a fairly new behavior would need different handling from a more long-term behavior pattern. 


If the only real issue is food, then I agree with DoubleDouble, maybe you need to rethink your stance.  The rest of this post is based on the assumption that food is the "big" issue here. 


A person's relationship with food is very individual, and at 9 she doesn't have the ability to express it to you - it took me well into my 20s to be able to express some of my food relationship, and to figure out certain things.  Any number of things may be going on, from low blood sugar, a growth spurt, peer eating to compulsive behavior, there's just not enough information for *us* to help determine that.  You also said she doesn't have an off-switch, is she "overweight"?  Is her doctor concerned with her weight?  Is she able to be active and move and interact?  Many kids around the tween and teen years become virtual bottomless pits for food, and it is completely normal.  If that is the case here, then all cutting her off is going to accomplish is creating bad feelings between you, have her sneaking food, and/or starving her.  None of those is a great idea.  You need to find a middle ground - healthy foods she can eat when she feels hungry, teaching her about making good food choices and how to satisfy her body, and not leaving a mess for you to clean up. 


Here are 2 drastically different examples of food control during the formative years and how it shakes down.  My DH was raised in a household where food was strictly regimented.  He was allowed to eat X amount at Y time, and no more.  When he entered the army after HS he was severely underweight and malnourished because he had not been getting enough food for his growth pattern. He gained 50 lbs in boot camp to get to a healthy weight.  After the army he went the other direction, as 20ish boys tend to do when they discover they have a great metabolism and extra cash.  When his metabolism shifted, he didn't change his eating patterns, and gained a fair bit of weight.  To this day he needs 3 substantial meals/day or he gets cranky.  I make sure he always has food on hand, although we make better choices now.  But he will literally eat anything I put in front of him without question because of his years of being deprived.  He doesn't turn down food, ever.


The other side of that was that I was raised in a household with no controls on the food.  At 12 I took on the task of doing the grocery shopping because there was no one else to do it.  What do you think your average 12 yo is going to come home from the grocery store with? Junk food.  Frozen pizza, chips, mac & cheese, PB&J... the things that don't require cooking and will keep in the pantry/freezer between the once monthly shopping trips.  Not a whole lot of fresh fruit/veggies involved in our diets back then.  The result was a (so far) lifelong battle with my weight, some pretty severe damage to my health, and compulsive eating habits.  To this day I have difficulty having anything in the house that I'm not "allowed" to eat.  My DH had to learn not to bring home his treats because I could not control myself around them.  It's not a matter of me being childish or not having will power or strength of character or whatever you want to call it.  I just cannot control myself around certain foods, so I control my environment as best I can - I keep those foods out of the house. 


We are both hypoglycemic though.  He gets it really badly in the mornings - if he doesn't eat soon after getting up then he's a bear all day.  I'm the other way - I have to eat something before bed or I can't even function by morning.  For either one of us, "closing" the kitchen is never an option, nor will it ever be something I consider for a child, for that exact reason. 


So obviously you don't want either of these examples for your child.  I'm just pointing out that whereas my DH's mother thought she was doing what was right for her kids, she did a lot of damage.  And my dad was the same way, he thought he was doing right, and a lot of damage resulted.  All of us would have been much better off by discussing food, learning about food and proper diet, learning to listen to our bodies, learning how our bodies work and communicate with us.  These are not intuitive things in our culture.  But if you can help your children learn these things about themselves, you may very well learn something important about them too.  Maybe your daughter is a compulsive eater, and if you don't want her eating it then it needs to not come into the house.  But maybe she's hypoglycemic and is feeling light-headed and needs to eat something right before bed.  Or maybe she's in a growth spurt or having high activity days and just needs more fuel to keep going.  You aren't going to know that without helping her to find the words and the awareness to communicate it.  And ultimately I think that will be far better for everyone than the path you're walking right now of getting mad at her for "sneaking" food. 



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