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In line with the shift in focus in the new Diet Recovery, I thought it was worthy to post this insightful passage from Geneen Roth’s book, When Food is Love.  It’s about letting kids regulate their own eating, but certainly applies to making the same leap ourselves.  I had posted this in an old blog of mine that no longer exists, and it’s worth the reposting – especially for all the health-conscious moms out there who, despite really wanting the best for their kids, are disheartened by the fact that efforts to get junior to eat healthy have resulted in junior being a ravenous sugar fiend.

There is mounting evidence that the more a parent interferes with a child’s eating, the more harm is done.  The human body is fully equipped with a very sophisticated energy-regulating system, and attempts to consciously intervene are known to backfire – causing disordered eating behavior and higher rates of developing both eating disorders and obesity later in life.  More simply put, the less you let your kids (and YOUR body) decide when, what, and how much to eat based on internal cues – the worse off they will likely be.  Of course, there are unique circumstances that defy statistics, but the outcome seems more likely to be negative than positive.  Plus, who wants to have this kind of dictatorial and/or dehumanizing punish/reward relationship with your children to begin with?  Or yourself for that matter.  Been there and done that for a solid decade of Krispy Kreme dreams.

This means that you shouldn’t really encourage or discourage your child to eat, or not eat, any particular food.  The greater the neutrality with food in general, the more the playing field is leveled between broccoli and Butterfinger.  And when nothing is restricted, a child is more likely to eat until they are satisfied but not beyond.  To me, this is the ultimate tool a parent can impart to a child in today’s modern eating environment.  The true food ninjas in today’s day and age are those who eat when they are hungry, and eat to the point of fullness – no more or less.  This can only happen when all food types are abundant, there is no pressure involved with eating choices as well as rewards or punishments, foods of various kinds are not filed into definitive good and bad categories, etc.

When there is true neutrality with food, issues like binge eating, emotional eating, food addiction, and other eating characteristics of the obese and those with eating disorders alike, cannot exist.  Without further ado, here is the passage I speaketh of.  This should be called “The Feedbag Method” for achieving food neutrality.  I highly recommend it for kids and adults alike.  Whether one develops a distaste for a given “trigger” food or not, I think you’ll find both kids and adults feel and function better metabolically when this type of food relationship becomes a way of life…

“My friend Clara told me a story about a client of hers, an eight-year-old child who had been on a diet for two years and had gained fourteen pounds in the process.  In desperation, her mother consulted Clara; Clara asked what her daughter’s favorite food was.  ‘M&Ms,’ the mother replied.

‘Good, I want you to leave here and buy enough M&Ms to fill a pillowcase.  After you’ve done that, give the filled pillowcase to your daughter and let her eat the candy whenever she wants.  As soon as the supply is diminished, refill it.  Make sure she always has a full pillowcase of M&Ms.  Take her off the diet, let her eat whatever she wants when she is hungry, and call me in a week.’

After shrieking with horror and telling Clara that if her daughter gained fifty pounds, she was going to send her to live at Clara’s house, the mother crept out of Clara’s office, into a supermarket, and then home to her linen closet. 

Her daughter carried the pillowcase of M&Ms around with her for eight days.  She slept with it, she set it beside the tub when she took a bath, she put it in a chair when she watched television.  And, of course, she helped herself to M&Ms whenever she wanted them.  Which, the first few days, was very often.  In fact, after her mother bought three more pounds of M&Ms on the third day of this sugar-coated experience, she was ready to sue Clara.  In a hysterical phone call, she told her that her child was eating more candy than ever before and how the hell was she supposed to lose weight doing this?  Clara reassured her that her daughter was reacting to the years of deprivation and that when she believed, really believed, that she could eat whatever she wanted and that her mother was not waiting to snatch her pillowcase away, she would relax and begin eating from stomach hunger. 

On the ninth day, the pillowcase stayed in the bedroom.  By the end of five weeks, her daughter had forgotten the M&Ms and had lost six pounds.”

Further reading on “The Trust Method

Futility of restricting access to palatable foods