Okay, let’s go there. Eating and feeding during a pandemic.
It can mess with your head and you may find yourself going one of two ways.
Going, on one hand, into – bracketing mode. Nothing about this is normal, so we’re going to suspend normal eating. We’ll bracket the time we’re in isolation and we’ll pick up where we left off once this is done. But those doing this, when faced with all those (hideous and pretty disturbing if you ask me) #quarantinefifteen messages, end up feeling both guilty and shit about themselves not to mention out of control.
Or, on the other hand, digging deeper to get it “right”. Being more strict. Allowing less sugar and keeping a very keen eye on the pantry.
Can you see how neither of these paths leaves anyone feeling particularly empowered? One feels like you’re breaking something that’s going to be very hard to fix. The other like you have to add food FBI to the already long list of things you’ve unexpectedly had to take on.
There’s a whole other way of approaching food and feeding in quarantine that might leave you and your loved ones feeling very different. Empowered even.
The approach calls for ditching three very entrenched rules.
ONE. That food’s most important roles are nutrition and fuel, and should, therefore, be approached as such.
This rule totally ignores the fact that food, in addition to nutrition and fuel, is about enjoyment, fun, connection and pleasure. Imagine if you believed the rule that says sex should only be for procreation. Enjoyment and pleasure should be shunned, ignored and suppressed. There are people who do follow that rule, and if you’re one of them, you’re probably in the wrong place.
Many health and wellbeing ideas about food seem to take a ‘nutrition and fuel’ approach, and likewise shun pleasure and desire, and it wants for a pretty stale life. If you’ve forgotten the joy of pleasure, connection and social lubrication when it comes to food, now might be the exact right time to engage it. Instead of concerning yourself with ‘don’t eat this or that and eat more of this and that’ you could instead shift the focus to ‘“how satisfied are you right now?” How much did you enjoy that meal, snack, bite? What would be the most pleasurable thing you could eat right now? Let’s sit around and enjoy these snacks together.
Shifting to a rule that says nutrition and fuel AND satisfaction and desire are ALL equally important can make for a far calmer family setting. After all, we are biologically wired to enjoy the sensations of eating food that tastes good to us (it literally calms us down).
TWO. That certain foods should only be eaten in certain amounts.
Restriction is the fastest way to increase our desire to eat something. Those who are not restricted in how much of something they eat, don’t eat or desire to eat, nearly as much of that food as those who have a lot of restriction from it.
If your child ‘seems’ addicted to sugar, for example, you may want to read this blog to get more clarity and to hear a story that’s not often told, that promises to leave you feeling far less concerned about sugar than you might currently be.
Human beings have an incredibly sophisticated digestive system that can signal fullness, satiation, desire and correct quantity – that is unique to the individual. Generally speaking, we are born with this system fully intact (times that it’s not are few and far between). If we don’t mess with it, it remains fully intact. If we have messed with it (through restriction and opinions about what we should and shouldn’t be eating), not all is lost, we can get it working perfectly again.
Allowing everyone in the house to be in control of how much goes into their mouth of whatever is on offer is a great way to nurture the beautiful digestive system that we have – and stop a lot of arguments in the process.
THREE: That emotional eating is bad and wrong.
Let’s go back to the point I made about good tasting food calming us down. The only reason we’ve come unstuck about eating emotionally is because of the fear of putting on weight at the same time. The thing to consider, that not many people talk about, is the fact that if we restrict ourselves from eating emotionally, we will probably end up eating even more. We’ll eat to soothe the guilt for emotional eating in the first place.
If members of the family have a range of things they can do that help soothe emotions, like take a bath, listen to music, draw, watch a movie, eat something delicious, and of course, have someone they can talk to about what’s going on, and there is no judgment saying emotional eating is bad, the amount of food needed to soothe is probably not going to be much.
All that said, those families that take a stance that says ‘all body shapes are fine’ and let go of needing their family to ‘not put on too much weight’ or ‘lose weight’ or talk about slim being good and bigger being bad, will have a far calmer, easier, healthier relationship with food than families that don’t. If you have bigger-bodied people in your family (and even if you don’t) the very best rule you can adopt is one that says, nobody’s size gets commented on, ever. And it never ever gets commented on in relation to how much they eat.
And then, cement these rules for good. Not just for now, or until things get back to normal. Embrace them and see the difference it makes to you and your family.
Together, we’ve got this.
You are a rockstar.
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