“Rather, we overeat because we are restrained eaters– we chronically restrict ourselves. We restrict ourselves until we can’t stand it anymore, then we overeat.”Ellyn Satter, Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family
I heard a doctor that does gastric sleeve surgery last week talking about how his patients report not being hungry after the surgery and how that’s a great tool for staying on a healthy diet. It makes me sad and angry how much we fear being hungry and don’t trust ourselves with food.
We are putting our trust in other people to tell us how much we should eat and to fear our hunger. This is done by following a restrictive meal plan that requires any kind of counting/weighing/measuring, eating pre-made portion controlled meals created for weight loss, putting half your meal in a take-out container before you even start eating or drinking a weight loss drink to curb our appetite.
When we restrict ourselves or our children with food, we actually cause overeating and food obsession. This is the exact opposite behavior that we want. My goal for everyone is to be relaxed around all foods without fear of the food harming them, being afraid of being hungry or feeling guilty around wanting to eat something that isn’t socially approved as “healthy”.
What would happen if you relaxed the rules you have around food?
What if you gave yourself unconditional permission to eat as much as you want?
We also must allow our children to eat as much or as little as they want. As parents, we don’t know how much their little bodies need for that meal. What if they had a small lunch and skipped their afternoon snack and were really hungry at dinner. When we tell them they’ve had enough or even have a worried look on our face by the amount of food they are eating then we are telling them not to trust their bodies and their own hunger signals.
You can’t expect the amount of food your body needs to be the same every day and you can’t expect that of your children. Some days you may be more hungry and some days less. Being hungry isn’t a bad thing. I’ve seen my 5 year old eat non-stop for multiple days and then barely eat anything at all. She’s the only one that knows how much she needs to eat and it’s our role as parents to provide a variety of food and structure family meals and snacks so she can learn to become a relaxed and competent eater.
To be able to eat the right amount of food that’s right for us we need to be able to trust our bodies. This requires us to eat foods that we find enjoyable, get rid of the food guilt, give yourself permission to eat and be present during the meal and pay attention while you eat to your hunger/fullness cues and when you’ve become satiated.