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Kids, Carrots, and Candy

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Book Information



In this comprehensive parent-child guide to eating behaviors (from infancy through adolescence) the authors show parents how to put an end to the eating battles which confront them on a daily basis. This book will help parent and child put food back into its rightful place. Previously published as Are You Hungry? and Preventing Childhood Eating Problems (featured in McCalls, Parenting Magazine, Sesame Street Magazine, Newsweek, New York Times, CNN, The Oprah Show, and many other T.V. and radio shows), Kids, Carrots, and Candy has a new Introduction that addresses society's current obsession with the "obesity crisis," as well as updated language throughout the book.

This insightful book offers a common-sense, relaxed approach to healthy eating based on the method of self-demand feeding. Contrary to the belief that children must be forced to eat what's good for them, to clean their plates, and to avoid all sweets, Kids, Carrots, and Candy presents evidence that children will naturally self-regulate their eating if rigid rules are not imposed upon them. By trusting natural hunger cycles and letting children choose when, what, and how much they eat, food becomes demystified, and a lifetime of fears, fights, and anxieties around food, weight, and diet are eliminated.

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KIDS, CARROTS, AND CANDY was first published in 1985 with the title, ARE YOU HUNGRY? Because our message flew in the face of conventional ideas about children and food, our book received considerable media attention at that time. Our message was that children should eat on demand when, what, and how much their bodies need. Our goal was to connect eating with physical hunger.

We believe that any program for children should emphasize the hunger-food connection. There is no reason to eat other than physical hunger. Food is a fuel, hopefully a pleasurable one, not a tranquilizer. To encourage children to eat when they are hungry and stop eating when they are full teaches them about identifying their body's needs, recognizing its signals and being self-regulating. This, in the long run, is the desired outcome for healthy eating. How often do we ask children, "Are you hungry?" before offering food?

Helping children learn about hunger and satiety, choosing from a full range of foods and emotionally legalizing all foods so that no one food is more alluring than another is a critical first step. Then, respecting the fact that kids and adults come in a variety of shapes and sizes is essential to ending constant, useless and demeaning eating struggles with your child. These simple steps will serve to strengthen your child's ability to have a healthy respect for his/her body and its needs, so crucial to development generally, and to the ability to self regulate one's eating. Let's move away from the militaristic language of the current "War on Obesity" and the bullying that goes with it, to develop a kinder voice that values individual differences and respects and promotes the discovery of internal cues—i.e. the personal recognition of what the child needs and wants thereby reducing the endless conflicts over food and weight, as well as promoting each child's self esteem.

What has changed since this book's first publication in 1985? It is indisputable that the state of American eating and body dissatisfaction has only gotten worse. Americans are fatter than ever. Anorexia and bulimia are on the rise and the ideal body as displayed in the media is very thin. Yes, sometimes an "average" or even large sized woman appears in a magazine or on a television program. However, overall, this is not the image regularly presented to our children. In America, kids are exposed to a toxic barrage of advertising, advocating or implicitly applauding unrealistically thin bodies. These ads are on television, billboards, computers, sides of busses and in magazines, everywhere you look.

The terminology to describe issues of food and eating has shifted from dieting and restrictions to nutritious eating, healthy foods, healthy lifestyle, products that are fat free, sugar free and on and on. Often, however, these terms are a disguised way of saying, "Stay slim and keep away from those 'bad' foods which make you fat." Although we support greater knowledge about nutrition, we also see how the "health and nutrition industry" has capitalized on and profited from people's obsession with eating and weight without significantly affecting the staggering level of obesity or the American obsession with food, eating, and weight. Popular TV shows where people have lost millions of pounds only to gain back the weight – and then some – are ubiquitous. Diet plans are promoted with celebrity endorsements. The dramatic and incontestable reality is that the diet industry is promoting a product that simply does not work.

Twenty-seven years ago the diet industry was a 10 billion-dollar giant, responding to the dis-ease parents had with both their own bodies and those of their growing children. In 2012, it has grown to a 60.9 billion-dollar industry, seven times greater. Dieting products and schemes of all sorts are more prevalent than ever precisely because none work beyond a temporary unsustainable loss of pounds followed by increased weight gain. The diet industry thrives off its failures by convincing all of us that we are at fault if the diet fails; it completely ignores the overwhelming evidence that food restriction actually leads to overeating. The question that needs addressing is how we can raise the next generation so that they do not fall prey to the diet industry nor to the thinness obsession.

So, let's talk about kids and eating. Some admirable actions have been suggested, such as teaching parents and children about healthy and affordable food choices, increasing physical activity both at school and at home in addition to ensuring healthier food choices in school cafeterias and in neighborhood stores. All to the good. In 2012, in pursuit of these goals, America's First Lady, Michelle Obama, has taken up a campaign to end obesity—getting rid of the coke machines in schools, growing vegetables in the White House garden and talking to groups about "healthy eating" and exercise.

Unfortunately, these otherwise helpful approaches do not address the day-to-day problems children and parents confront when dealing with eating habits and weight. KIDS, CARROTS, AND CANDY will provide you with the necessary tools to help your child eat naturally, live freely in a world of food and enjoy her/his body. If you are ready to give up some of society's notions about eating and weight, you will quickly grasp the logic of this approach. Your child will thank you! So dig in!!

Jane Hirschmann and Lela Zaphiropoulos
September 1, 2012

Introduction to the 1993 Edition

In April of 1992, the National Institute of Health held investigatory hearings which concluded that DIETS DON'T WORK. Their findings have received considerable attention from both the professional and lay communities because diets have always been considered the solution to eating and weight problems in this country. But, if diets don't work, what does? After many decades of dieting and restricting, what's next? And, what legacy do we leave the next generation?

We have a positive and practical proposal. We believe that people—adults and children alike—know how to eat. Demand feeding—eating when you are hungry, exactly what your body craves, and stopping when you have had enough—is the natural alternative to dieting. Demand feeding cures eating problems in adults and prevents eating and weight conflicts in children.

Eating problems among children and adults have reached epidemic proportions. Twenty-three percent of our nation's children are obese. At the other end of the spectrum, it has been reported that as many as 1 out of 200 girls ages 12 to 18 are anorexic. Twenty years ago, dieting was a 10 billion dollar industry. Today, it is a 35 billion dollar business. Sixty-five million Americans choose from 30,000 different diet plans yearly. The body-fixing messages that bombard our children daily are overwhelming and are a major cause of the eating problems we see today among children.

In one study, conducted at the University of California, more than half the 4th grade girls interviewed considered themselves overweight, when only 15% actually were overweight. Fifty-one percent of the nine-year-olds and 81% of the ten-year-olds were already experienced dieters. Many studies document that diets—the recommended prescription for body-fixing—make you fatter, cause more food obsession, lower your self esteem, and actually put you at risk for early mortality.

The most current research attests to what we have learned from over twenty years of clinical work with children and adults. In 1991, The New England Journal of Medicine published a study done by Dr. Leann L. Birch of the University of Illinois. Her research of 15 children, ages two to five, demonstrated that an "orderly mechanism" controls a child's food intake. There was no pattern to what and how much a given child ate at each meal, making it look chaotic, when in fact, each child consumed the same amount of calories daily. The findings indicate that a child's energy intake is tightly regulated. This ground-breaking study proves that a child's body is self-regulatory and that external controls over a child's eating or food restrictions are unnecessary.

In 1992, Dr. Mary Steinhardt of the University of Texas at Austin, with Carol Munter and Jane Hirschmann, completed a study which documents that demand feeding cures compulsive eating. The study, based on a two-year follow-up of 420 women who read the national best seller, Overcoming Overeating, by Hirschmann and Munter, demonstrates that demand feeding effectively reduces eating preoccupation, body preoccupation, and emotional eating.

Twenty years ago, we began working with women who were the casualties of the diet industry. Our clients were desperate. They had spent a lifetime trying to get their appetites under control in order to lose weight. As a result, they had become food junkies and were much fatter than ever before. It came as a surprise to them to learn that dieting was the source of their problems with food and weight. They had always blamed themselves. We suggested demand feeding as the solution. They needed to go back to the beginning of their eating lives and start over, reconnecting the experience of hunger with the experience of eating. They needed to become attuned feeders of themselves in order to relearn what they had once known at birth—how to eat.

The newborn, who cannot yet walk, talk, or even turn over, teaches us that the body is self-regulatory. In fact, a baby is born knowing how to eat. Every mother listens for that hunger cry, feeds the baby, and watches when she turns away, falls asleep or otherwise signals that she has had enough. This process of getting hungry, being fed, and feeling full is at the heart of our earliest experiences of comfort and security.

Each time you feed an infant when she is hungry, you are responding to her need and letting her know that she is cared for. Thousands of such interactions take place around feeding, changing, rocking, comforting, teaching, and generally providing for her welfare. These caretaking experiences allow a child to feel secure and, ultimately, to begin to care for herself.

Unfortunately, parents are encouraged to stop demand feeding fairly early and to start feeding their children on a schedule; i.e., at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Parents are also given endless advice on what and when their children should eat in order to grow healthfully. Very soon, the battle lines are drawn. Children are on one side wanting to eat when, what, and how much they choose. Parents, representing the culture, are on the other side wanting to impose the rules and restrictions about eating that they have been taught are in the best interests of their children.

Food wars begin. Dinnertime becomes a nightmare. The "picky" eater is chased with food while the overeater is deprived of food. Consequently, children start craving the foods that they have learned are off-limits and, as a result, they become increasingly alienated from their natural mechanisms for hunger and satiety. Becoming easy prey for diets and food fads, they no longer know how to eat.

Children must be in the driver's seat when it comes to their bodies and to their eating. The national agenda for the 90's should include a children's bill of rights which grants them control over this very natural process—eating.

Many of you reading this book have seriously struggled with your own food and weight issues. We sympathize with how difficult it must be for you to figure out how to raise the next generation without falling into the same traps your parents fell into. This book offers you the necessary guidelines for raising your children free of food and weight conflicts.

As parents, we need to encourage our children to eat with their natural hunger and to live comfortably in their bodies. This is the challenge we all face, as well as the reason for reissuing this book.

We wish you good luck and a hearty appetite!

Jane Hirschmann
Lela Zaphiropoulous
February 6, 1993


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