When a Family Member is Encouraging Intake

You are sitting down to eat with your extended family, your young child is happily sitting between his grandfather and his cousins a few chairs away, happily feeding himself. You are savouring the variety of food that is on the table and enjoying the company when you hear:

“How about some of this yummy spinach? You want to be big and strong right? You need to eat your spinach if you want to be big and strong.”

You cringe and look over at your father unable to say anything as you are frozen not sure what to do. You don’t want to start a battle with your father over spinach, yet are not okay with what you just heard.

Does this sound like a familiar situation for you? Dealing with family members around feeding can be difficult. Feeding is not only the act of nourishing your child with nutrients, it goes deeper than that – there is culture and love, and a lot of beliefs and feelings involved.

Many family members have lived through a lot of different and sometimes difficult times. They may have lived through a time where food was scarce (depression, wartime, etc) and they may have a hard time seeing food “go to waste” because of this. If you have ever lived with food insecurity, it is very difficult to overcome the unconscious food preoccupation that you learn during that time. We need food to survive, right? So, when someone is food insecure, they always have this fear of not getting enough food. Then there could be guilt now that food is plentiful when they see food not being eaten.

For other family members, culture plays a big role and they may have the beliefs that boys are supposed to be big and strong, and girls are supposed to be thin and pretty. This is a big stereotype, however, if your family member was raised this way or with another cultural belief, these thoughts will lie in their unconscious beliefs and this may come out via comments.

Others are concerned with eating “healthfully.” For these people, eating vegetables has been drilled into them that it is a requirement for a meal, and they will try different tactics to get those they love to eat vegetables. From many, public health messages can cause some to be fearful that if you don’t eat certain foods, you may get sick or weak. Again, this fear in combination with what they have experienced in their life will drive their behaviours during mealtimes and how they act and what they say.

These are just some of the reasons I hear on a regular basis as to what concerns and worries come up when feeding children and grandchildren. It is very likely that there may be multiple beliefs and experiences that drive your family members feeding methods as we are complex beings and our

Understanding the belief behind why a family member is pushing a certain food or guilting your child to eat will help you when having a discussion with your family member if it is important to you that your family member respects your feeding methods.

Here are a few things you may want to discuss with a family member, preferably when your child(ren) are not around:

- Discuss why this is important to you and what your desired goal is.

- Explain sDOR to your family member and what they are responsible for (what, when, and where)

- Describe your feeding schedule and how you plan meals.

- In this scenario, it may be helpful to discuss your family member’s concerns and worries. It also can help to discuss cultural beliefs and trends to better understand the beliefs behind your reactions.

If it’s possible to do this before you have a meal with your family member, especially if your family member is with your child a lot, it will help set everything up a little easier. Here is a good overview article to share with a family member to help them understand sDOR a little more.

We will talk about food as a reward tomorrow, another tactic family members use on a regular basis.

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