Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Food has been on my mind alot recently.  I've been thinking about it pretty constantly since I left the doctor's office at 2:30 on Friday.  It's been interesting the thoughts and memories that have bubbled up in the past few days.  I thought I'd try writing as a way to corral some of them.

I experience alot of anxiety about my Wee One's eating.  I have ever since the beginning.  As a nursing mother, you just Obsess from the first moment.  Is she latching on, is she getting enough, when will my milk come in, will the nurses EVER stop trying to push formula?  That was compounded by a night in the NICU where every time I nursed her, they would then weigh her, and if I hadn't given her enough milk, they force-fed her formula with a syringe.  I tried so hard to force milk into her that night, and the Obsession was born.

I'm reading books - because that's what I do.  Any problem or issue I've ever faced, I combat with a stack of reading material.  I had ordered Baby-Led Weaning at the encouragement of some mamas on the Diaperswappers forums when I first posted about my anxiety about her eating issues.  That approach encourages you to present whole foods - samples of what you are eating for each meal - to your child early on.  As they play with the food, put it in their mouth, gum it, etc, they learn the necessary motor skills for eating.  Meanwhile, you're still nursing them, same as ever.  As they develop, they begin to actually consume more and more food at each meal.  Eventually they will eat more and nurse less.

Oh, if only I could be that relaxed about it.  I guess you can be, when you're talking about a 6-month old, or a 9-month old.  But she's 13 months old, shouldn't she be eating MORE?  But then, I don't want to force food down her throat.  Hello, here's your mother laying the foundation for your future eating disorder.  Here's the name of a good therapist.  I'll go ahead and put money in the bank for it, you're gonna need it.

Maybe I can do it.  All summer, just go back to breastfeeding on demand, and give her foods at mealtimes, and as she begins to eat more (IF she begins to eat more) she will then just nurse less (yea right).  THAT will require finding a new pediatrician, as my current one keeps asking me when I'm going to "stop that".  Nursing, that is.  (Next time I plan to say something like "Never".  Or "I'm sure she'll stop sometime before high school".  Or "Stop?  They stop nursing?  I didn't realize that.  Hmmm.  I'll ask her when she wants to.  We'll get back with you on that.")

Sunday we were in the grocery store.  I had a partial list of things I knew I needed.  The doctor had said "just go through the grocery aisles and look for soft foods", so that was my plan.  Halfway through the store I realized ... I don't know how to eat well.  How in the world am I supposed to feed my daughter well (healthy) when I don't know how to feed myself well?

In college I developed an eating disorder.  In graduate school, during therapy, my eating disorder was diagnosed.  (By someone other than my husband-at-the-time, who found a bottle of ipecac syrup and believed me when I said I had it for my dog's first-aid kit.)  That therapist's suggestion was to remove the labels of "good" and "bad" from food.  Those labels just induce guilt and lay the groundwork for binge eating.  She wanted me to stop beating myself up when I ate something I wanted.  She told me not to go on diets, since diets restrict eating and lead to more binging.

Yay for me.  I get to eat whatever I want and I was told by my therapist not to diet!

Obviously the next step in therapy like that is to gradually learn more healthful ways of eating.  Somehow we never got to that step, and I just held on to "yay my therapist said no food is bad".

I have a book about zen cooking.  I adore shopping at Whole Foods, or farmer's markets.  I love the idea of cooking a meal based on healthy, green, wholesome ingredients.  But when it comes down to instinct eating - your default eating pattern that you turn to when you're busy or tired or stressed or you otherwise don't want to think about your food - well, it's not pretty. 

At the store, I managed to buy a mishmash of healthy things.  Then Monday night it was time to make dinner.

I ate healthy "stuff", but it wasn't really dinner.  I steamed vegetables, boiled some chopped potatoes, decided that I didn't want a meat, remembered that I wanted to try to feed her cottage cheese before it expired in the fridge.  So my plate had steamed veggies, boiled potatoes, and cottage cheese.  It wasn't even really "dinner", just a combination of unrelated things I'd cooked and put on our plates.

I feel so inadequate.  I don't know how to eat.

I know how to cook.  The times I've had my parents over and I actually followed a recipe and made a meal, they have enjoyed it immensely.  I have tons of cookbooks.  When I sit down and do it, I can make a week's food plan, and cook up some mean dinners.  But it means sitting down and finding recipes and making lists and a plan.  I don't mind making that effort, but my point is, I find it to be an effort.

It doesn't come naturally to me.

So how do I teach my daughter something that I don't know?  And if I can't figure out what to feed a fully grown human (I can get my Ph.D. in Biomedicine but I can't manage to feed myself healthfully) how do I figure out how to feed a growing toddler?  (I'm going to look into the website Betsy suggested in her comment the other day, I think that will be a huge help).

At the library, looking for books about how to feed your child, I come across Michael Pollen's The Omnivore's Dilemma.  One promise I have made is to try to stop eating high-fructose corn syrup, in all the foods it comes in.  I read label after label in the bread aisle until I found one with actual whole grains and no HFCS in it.  This book talks about how corn has come to be an ingredient in such a high proportion of food.  It also talks about cows becoming supermarket meat, but I'm not to that part yet, so I managed to eat a philly cheese steak with my dad tonight.

So I'm making progress.  (With the non-HFCS bread, I mean.  I guess the philly cheese steak isn't really progress.)  And I'm still reading.  My goal is to put together a collection of go-to meals that become instinctive.  Spaghetti and sauce.  Um ... yea.  Things that I can work into our dinners as staples, and then experiment with new recipes as I have time/energy.  I don't much like cooking meat, so ground beef is the most meat that I usually cook.

I want to start eating more locally-grown foods.  I want to start eating more whole foods, and raw where appropriate.  In the past when I've gotten the idea to eat "close to the source", I end up buying a bunch of beautiful food that I never do anything with.  I want to stop eating packaged food - but then I'm afraid I won't know how to do that, or how to eat. 

Eating isn't supposed to be this hard.  Why can't I just be normal?


A quote from The Omnivore's Dilemma (the Young Readers version, since they didn't have the Adult version at my library).

Standing in our giant supermarkets, we feel more last than someone standing in a forest ten thousand years ago. We no longer know for sure which foods are good for us and which foods aren't.   Thanks to our food industry, we don't even know what it is we're eating.  Sometimes it even seems like we've forgotten why we eat.  (Emphasis his).

Ah-ha.  Maybe I'm not so abnormal after all.


Funky Mama Bird said...

I can so relate to this. Eating disorder? Check. Not knowing how to eat healthy? Check. Nurses force feeding baby formula? Check.

I write recipes for one of the sites I work for; I posted a few hear. With some modifications, we've gotten Gunnar eating all of these. We just pulse the meat through the food processor a little since he still can't figure out how to swallow large pieces.

These are all whole foods, and are really quick to make. Good luck!




Barb said...

My little man loved fresh mushed up avocado (which is high in the good fats that babies need for brain development) when he was first starting to eat solid foods. At first I mixed it with organic applesauce or pearsauce because it made it easier to swallow. Avocadoes or bananas are good soft starter foods, but sometimes texture is the problem. Some babies and toddlers just don't like the textures of certain foods. So if she doesn't like mushy, try some of those meltable finger foods. Sam loved the Earth's Best graham crackers. Even if she doesn't actually eat the food, she'll start playing with it and putting it in her mouth and tasting it. And the more she tastes and experiments the more she'll warm up to food.

I don't that any of this is of any help since my son started eating solids at about 9 months, but keep at it. And don't fret. And definitely find yourself a new pediatrician that encourages you to nurse as long as you (and your wee one) would like!!!

Good luck.

Sara said...

For insight on why we eat, how to eat, how it affects our sense of completeness and home, try "Home Comforts" by Cheryl Mendelson and "The Art of Eating," by MFK Fisher. Sometimes you need a philosophy of food more than a how-to.

FruitFish said...

Hmmm. . .this sounds familiar.