You'll want to have tissues when you dive into The Instinct to Eat: Food Culture, Body Image, and Guilt in America . Although Virginia Sole-Smith's new book may at first glance look like a feminist book or a book on body positivity – this is the case – it is also a deeply personal and heartbreaking story.
Violet, the eldest daughter of Sole-Smith, stopped eating by mouth at nine weeks and did not start again until she was about 16 months old. Rare congenital heart defects invaded Violet in the hospital four weeks after her childhood, and she appeared with what is termed medically called oral aversion or infantile anorexia. It's "when a child refuses to eat to protect himself from apparent trauma," says Sole-Smith. Violette was forced to eat tubes for most of her childhood, leaving her mother struck, frightened, and wondering, "What does it mean to learn to eat in a world that tells us not to eat?"
A journalist specializing in the fields of health, parenthood, lifestyles and culture, Sole-Smith immersed himself in the subject with the zeal of a journalist to talk to experts. She interviewed dietitians (some of whom have their own eating disorders), poor mothers who are recovering from cocaine addiction, "all-size health" activists, anti-cancer fat and many researchers. The result is a book filled with data with the epic story of the little Violette re-learning to eat throughout the meal.
Sole-Smith discusses some of the topics in his book here.
Your book ends with your desire to feed your youngest daughter by mouth. Did it work?
Beatrix is 10 months old and she eats well. she started breastfeeding and bottle-feeding. I really went to baby number two thinking that my number one goal was a baby eating by the mouth. I am not difficult I also knew that after the devastating experience of Violet and breastfeeding [that] I did not want all this pressure to be exerted on my shoulders.
We did the combined feeding [a mix of breast milk and formula] from the beginning. She had a little formula that her first night [to] helped relieve the pressure. My milk took a few days to get in … Then we did what worked. I was like, "I do not listen to anyone this time. Tell everyone to shut up. I will feed the baby properly. "
The " breast is the best ", breastfeeding pressure thing that moms hear; has he hammered a lot?
A few years ago, when I had Violet, I really had the impression of breastfeeding this baby or having failed as a mother. I do not think it's totally there. What I still see is a set of "authorized" circumstances in which you can breastfeed, but you must have failed. … "It's good to use a preparation if you have had a traumatic birth. If there are reasons … because XYZ has arrived. "
We are not yet in a place where people can usually do what I did [with Beatrix] that is, "I will do what works and not be embarrassed. I will stop breastfeeding when it is no longer fun. "
Is not breastfeeding also a big commitment for women?
It's a huge time commitment. Anyone who says "Oh, breastfeeding is free" does not think a woman's time is worth it. My billable hours are [worth] much more than a tin can. This is another way our culture says, "We control the bodies of women; we control women and food. That's what I defend in the book. There is a lot of overlap between dietary culture messages and exclusive breastfeeding messages. I think both have become very dark. The literature is unclear on the healthiest choice. In many circumstances, formula is the healthiest choice for the baby. We do not celebrate that. We simply say, "Women must give their bodies to babies," as they say the rest of the time: "Women should be as thin as possible." Everything is in my mind.
You used the theory of the [ division of responsibility ] for Violet to eat in your mouth. Can you explain it?
This is a theory developed by Ellyn Satter family therapist and nutritionist, in the 80s. She has written several books about it, but I see it more and more in the traditional conversations around children, which is really exciting. The basic premise is that children are autonomous beings who should have authority over their bodies and what happens in their bodies. Rather than take care of every bite of food and meticulously count portions and everything else, it says, "No, parents and children have a food relationship, and they each play a certain role."
Parents are responsible for the food offered, the food offered (preferably at a table, not in front of the television or in front of a blind pasture around the house), and when. They try to keep the kids on a schedule so the kids have time to be hungry and come to the table hungry. After that, after saying, "Okay, we're having dinner at this hour, and here and here are your choices," the parents' work is over.
Children are responsible for the amount of food they eat, the foods they eat from what you offer and even know if they eat at that meal. They are in charge of listening to their bodies, in terms of hunger and fullness, and in terms of: "Among the foods that you offer me, what do I really need now? Maybe I do not really need a piece of chicken at this meal; maybe I'm really hungry just for pasta. We trust children to listen to their bodies and know what they are really hungry for.
After seeing friends friends negotiating "another piece of chicken before you're done," I feel it must be controversial. Is it?
We had to make the division of responsibilities; we were in an extreme situation. What I see with parents who feed children in more typical situations is that if they do not practice the division of responsibilities, it's probably fine for a time, depending on your child's temperament. Many kids say, "Yes, I'll have another mouthful of broccoli, whatever. My mom really wants me to finish all those blueberries, so I'm going to do it. "… It's okay. Not all families will find this strategy problematic, at least in the short term.
But what will happen with time is that the child receives the message that many of us have received: "I do not know what is best for my body. I do not know what I'm hungry for and full of. When I feel full, I may not be able to believe it anymore, because someone else, this adult whom I love and trust, tells me: "No no no. I know what your body needs. He does not need a cookie. You should not want a cookie. You should want broccoli. This does not correspond to that of the boy [experience]. This is a very confusing message to send to children.
What worries me is that over time, with the usual eaters, their confidence in their own body decreases, making them much more vulnerable to the culture's messages. ;food. Because now, they sort of grew up thinking, "I do not know what's best for me with food." So of course, when they have weight, or feel unhappy with their bodies for a Some reason they think: I need a diet or external rules to tell me what to do because I have never known it. Nobody ever said, "[You] know what's best for your body." "
I want to be clear: it's not about shaming parents who do that. It's just thinking long term. We think in the short term, "I have to make sure that this child eats without collapsing." I have all the empathy of the world for that. These short-term decisions are difficult to make. … What you want in the long run is not always what you want in the short term.
Some would say, "Children are wrong to say that they need cookies. I know more than them. "
What I would say is that I do not think we know as much as we think about nutrition. Nutritional advice is constantly changing. When I was a child in the 80s, everything was focused on fat, fat and fat free fat, and now we are all: "More benefits with lawyers and more. coconut oil! " The science about it is not established in any way.
To say that I will follow the diet instead of letting my children listen to their own body, you are not adopting the simplistic factual approach. There is good data to support the division of responsibilities. It's not as robust as I would like, but we're starting to see more data in support that teach kids to respect hunger and fullness is one way to steer them toward a more relationship. healthy with food. The parent is still in charge of choosing the what. You always choose nutrition. But we are not dictators. We are more benign leaders.
We always have a banana on the dinner table; it's one of my daughter's healthy foods. If she's not going to eat the rest of the meal, I know she'll eat the banana and I've housed her that way.
In the conclusion of your book, you dream of a world of meal without judgment, without guilt . Are you an intuitive food fan?
Yeah. I am in no way an expert in the field. I am not a dietitian or anyone who can explain to you how you learn this. It's something that I aspire to and practice myself, I try to encourage it with my children and, as with all things, I'm always too hesitant to use it. Label, because there are many diet plans marketed around an intuitive diet. do not. Attention, I am for a real intuitive diet, not intuitive with a goal of weight loss. This is the only way I have found that makes sense.
Alex Van Buren is a Brooklyn-based writer, content editor and content strategist. His work has been published in the Washington Post, Bon Appétit, Travel + Leisure, New York Magazine, Condé Nast Traveler and Epicurious. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @ alexvanburen .
To receive our best stories delivered to your inbox, subscribe to Healthy Living NewsletterNo tags for this post.