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LETTERS

Dear Overcoming Overeating Newsletter,

My sister read Overcoming Overeating in February 1993 and then urged me to read it. It has totally changed our ideas about eating, dieting, and body image. Although I'm still grappling with mouth hunger, I know I will never diet or deprive myself of food again. I could go on forever about this approach and all of the questions I have, but there is one particular problem I'm having that I hope you can help me with.

For the last year-and-a-half I have tried to use this approach to eating with my seven-year-old son and five-year-old daughter. My daughter has become a pretty good demand feeder, but my son has become an increasingly picky eater. He rarely eats fruits and vegetables, and doesn't like much of anything else either. However, he has always had a sweet tooth and still does, despite my attempts to legalize sweets and treat them like any other food. (I have also read Preventing Childhood Eating Problems by Hirschmann and Zaphiropoulos.) My goal is to have him become a demand feeder, and eat a variety of foods. Do you have any suggestions on what I can do to help him? Does your experience working with compulsive eaters explain why some people are more drawn to sweets? Is there some genetic or physiological explanation for this? I also have a sweet tooth, but I am not as drawn to sweets since using the OO approach. I would really appreciate any help your could offer!

Sincerely, Laura

Dear Laura,

How wonderful that you have helped your children to become demand feeders! However, every person will have his or her individual preferences for foods. It sounds like you may be expecting your son to stop wanting sweets in the way that your daughter did. Therefore, you may give him mixed messages about his reach for sweets. In other words, he may pick up on your assumption that he should eat less of the candy or cookies. Make sure that you continue to keep all types of foods available and that you keep out any judgment about what he chooses. For example, questioning his request for cake but happily offering broccoli communicates that one food is better than another.

There does seem to be a genetic preference for sweets related to survival of the species during time of famine. After all, these foods provide more energy for survival. At the same time, however, studies with children show that when left to their own devices, they absolutely will regulate their caloric intake with amazing precision. It is only when parents or caretakers try to control children's eating that they lose this inborn ability.

Given this knowledge, here are a couple of things you can do. First, it is worthwhile to actually put a variety of food on the table. Children, like adults, will sometimes go for the easiest and/or most visible foods. For example, sometimes a child may not request fruit, but when it is cut up and placed on the table sometimes he/she will choose to eat it. Again, the fruit must be offered along with other types of food and without an investment on the part of the parents as to whether the child actually chooses to eat it. Secondly, research indicates that children can have a fear of trying new foods. Therefore, parents may need to help some children learn to try new foods. Encouraging your child to try something different can help him/her discover a new food that she/he really enjoys. Make it clear that your child does not have to eat it if she/he doesn't like it and if your child still refuses, move on. We have seen children discover new foods through this process. Check to make sure that you are not invested in the outcome of your child's preferences.

Finally, remember that being a "good demand feeder" means listening and responding to your body's signals. There is no guarantee about what a particular person's eating will look like. Trusting your child is at the core of demand feeding. So, relax and recognize that children vary greatly in their eating preferences.


Dear OO:

I wrote a letter just recently, but I had to write again because of a letter I received from Sears Shop at Home Service. I received their catalog from size 14 and up called "Women's View." In their catalog, I noticed that none of their models were large-sized women, so I wrote to say how dissatisfied I was with this. I explained that I would be more comfortable buying clothes that were modeled by women who were my size. This is the reply I received:

"We have run many research tests over the years regarding the models used in our catalogs. Test results tell us overwhelmingly that the majority of our customers prefer the models we currently use over the fuller figure models. Since our company markets merchandise for a variety of fashion conscious shoppers—we cannot truly explain why the majority feels as they do. This is especially true since our fashions look as well—if not better—on our fuller figure customers.

This was the heart of the letter. I want to know who they surveyed, because I can't imagine that they surveyed "full-figured women." I know that I don't want to buy clothes that are modeled on a woman who does not even slightly resemble me. I find this infuriating and intend to respond again. If you feel the same way, write to these catalogs. If things look better on full-figured women, then show them on us.

Thanks, I just had to get that off my "full-figured" chest!

Sincerely, Laurie M.

Dear Laurie,

We have heard a number of stories from women who feel angry about the marketing of larger-sized clothes on not-so-large models. One woman took the order form from a catalog and across it she wrote, "Take me off your mailing list until such a time that you use models who are the size of the clothes you sell." Another woman made her way through a large-size department unfolding the clothes that were arranged to look smaller than they actually were! You are not alone!!!

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