How Not to Give a Kid an Eating Disorder, Part 2

The Diva announced the other day that she no longer eats white foods. She prefers broccoli to cauliflower now, she says. This, I think, is awesome and I tell her so. I’m glad she’s willing to eat her greens, even if her former go-to vegetable has been shelved in the meantime.

Except that if it’s all about color, we’re going to have problems. Her staple diet of broetchen and noodles isn’t going to cut it if white is not acceptable for food.

I’ve already witnessed this with clothing. Clothing can only be pink or purple or must be extra super-duper special, like a tulle ballet skirt that twirls.

But food? There is no such thing as pink pasta, right? At least not naturally pink. There are Pink Lady apples and she likes those, although peeled so I don’t think it’s *only* because of the color. I don’t tell her they’re white on the inside though I’m sure she knows this. And I find myself hoping that the interest in eating green broccoli sticks. I’m really afraid it won’t.

I’m afraid not that she’ll give up her love for broccoli — my affairs with nearly all foods go through spurts. Some weeks I could devour one eggplant after another, the next I find it meh and hop on a carrot stick craze. Here is what I am afraid of: me and her both overthinking her diet. Making it an issue of color instead of taste (her). An issue of fat/protein/carb ratios instead of texture and mouth-feel and all-around goodness (me).

We already talk about food too much. Discuss what we will and won’t eat. Make trade-offs and compromises: I’ll give you two gummy bear vitamins after you finish your yogurt. Or: I’ll let you eat a tofu dog this once but next time you have to eat the lentils.

Her Kita tells me they don’t have this problem with her. They tell me she is ravenous most days, devours two or three bowls of whatever food is put in front of her, white or green, split peas or potatoes with sour cream, no questions asked. She has her preferences, they say, but she never doesn’t eat.

There are foods that she will eat there that she won’t eat at home. Eggs, for one. Cheese, too. She won’t eat those at home because I don’t eat them, so inadvertently, even as I am encouraging her to eat them because I know she likes them, she never sees me eat them and so she simply won’t either. She is the definition of a social eater — munching potato chips and fried eggs with Grandpa, putting bananas in her cereal with Grandma, ordering pepperoni on her pizza when her best guy friend does (picking it off as soon as it arrives because, as she says, it’s disgusting).

The Kita also tells me that she is ridiculously hard-headed and I know this well. She takes after me. I was the kid whose parents said I could not leave the table until my plate of venison stroganoff was picked clean and I did not leave the goddamned table until bedtime. I’d rather suffer starvation than eat deer meat.

Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and the Diva, she employs this hard-headedness at the dinner table with me often. Kid some days She will go to bed hungry and wake up at two a.m. with belly aches because she went to bed without eating after throwing a tantrum about not being able to chocolate before dinner and then refusing anything, even a broetchen, out of spite toward her big, mean mommy.

These occasions are blessedly rare but they do have me wondering, worrying, about her health. Not in a physical way, but an emotional one. What eating disorder am I setting this kid up for? The one in which she eats whatever she wants for emotional gratification? Or the one in which she tries so hard to control what she puts in her body that nothing goes into it?

Our pediatrician says this worry is normal, that toddlers go through growth spurts in which they eat loads followed by phases in which they eat nothing. The doctor is from Ethiopia and she reminds me, when I ask with worry, that she has seen starvation and this little Diva of mine is far from suffering it.

Still, I wonder, what do we moms of Divas do? How do we handle these eating “requests” without turning them into issues?


6 thoughts on “How Not to Give a Kid an Eating Disorder, Part 2

  1. barbtaub March 19, 2013 / 9:12 pm

    I think my four kids must have had chloroplasts and gotten their energy directly from sunlight because not one of them willingly ingested anything that wasn’t beige (Cheerios, bagels, french fries, peanutbutter…) until they left for college. At my eldest daughter’s last visit, she automatically counted out 30 peas onto her plate — because I used to insist that they eat one pea for each year of their age. Somehow they all made it to healthy adulthood, sans any obvious eating disorders. Chloroplasts?

    • Milly March 23, 2013 / 2:03 pm

      I’m sure this is all just projection on my part, terrified to be turning the kid into a mini-me… the hard-head who only ate bologna on white bread with miracle whip for like ten years 🙂

  2. kindikat March 19, 2013 / 9:22 pm

    I think variety is the key. Sometimes kids will just randomly love something you would expect them to turn their noses up at.. Prunes, for example. The consistancy and colour are just gross, but J loves them.
    She only tried broccoli once she saw it coming out of her grandmas garden, and I told her it was baby trees.
    Sometimes I get worried too, about obsessions with sweets and chocolate, and too much white bread. But then suddenly I will just cut off the beloved Wiki-yogurt supply for a whole week and she wont even notice that it’s not there.
    J’s kindergarten has her take a packed breakfast in with her every day, which gives me the luxury of being able to try out new things without actually being around so she can make a drama about refusing to eat it in front of me. She just eats it, or she doesn’t eat it, and the box gets sent home with the leftovers in it so I can see exactly what worked and what didn’t. So that has become my favorite place to throw in new things casually and see what sticks. I guess you could try it with little packed variety boxes when you are out and about together, and just let her pick and choose what she wants from it.

    I bought a bunch of silicon cupcake moulds (mini-containers when covered with cling-film and stickers), and some cookie cutters, which I have used with great success on sandwiches and cucumbers. Here’s a link to my blog which has some of the lunches on it

    My mum made us all finish the contents of our lunchboxes every evening before we could start eating dinner, which was so disgusting (10 hour old tomato sandwiches), and both my brother and I ended up with eating disorders in our teens. Its really not the way to go! Anyway, science has proved that eating 5 small meals a day is much healthier.. it doesn’t fit in with kindergarten routines but it could be easier if you tried to break down post-kindergarten eating into two small meals rather than one large one. And I know this is so hard but just don’t reward tantrums with attention. Going through a rough two weeks where she hardly eats at home is worth it if she realizes what is just not going to fly with Mum. I saw a friend of mine give in to the white bread only demands, and she has created a monster.

    Its so difficult to not over-think things though, you are right.

  3. Attorney At Large March 20, 2013 / 1:26 am

    One thing we do with our five year old is look at the intake over the course of a week. Even if a day isn’t very balanced, generally the week is. Fortunately, I have a kid who would eat seaweed and sushi every meal if she could, so if she doesn’t eat anything else green, I can give her stacks of dried seaweed.

    • Milly March 23, 2013 / 1:58 pm

      I do get that a bit — notice that after too many days without protein, the Diva will make unusual requests for, say, chickpeas, so I know she’s got something happening internally telling her how to balance it. It’s the psychology of it that’s making me insane (I won’t eat that because it’s white) but I’ll get over that soon. And seaweed! That’s what all the kids in Berkeley were munching at the playground and it had me wondering if the seaweed wasn’t spiked…

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