Friday, March 06, 2009

Our Food Experiment: A Week of Home Detoxification

So I am finally getting back to following up with my original post on our household eating experiment.

This topic seems to hit a nerve with people. Most kids, for example, seem obsessed with sweets and, because we all only care about our kids and want the best of them, I think parents get obsessed about kids' obsessions.

And we don't realize that things change. Kids change. They won't be how they are today, tomorrow, so issues today get compounded.

Anyway, on to our experiment with letting go of control.

To recap: BioMom and I realized, with some gentle nudging from a loving and concerned neighbor, that perhaps, we were part of the problem with what we perceived was an excessive obsession with food on behalf of our esteemed eight (almost nine) year old.

The suggestion? Why not try saying "yes" to everything?

Our response? How long?

The answer? Long enough to make a real habit if it. Say six or seven weeks?

So off we set into the land of the counter-intuitive: to help out with a food obsession, let HER have the control. Let HER make the mistakes. Let HER make decisions about her own body.

In conjunction, BioMom began reading How to get your kids to eat (but not too much)*, recommended to me by a mom from our ECFE class and several people have pointed me toward a recent article about one family's response to their daughter's obsession with chocolate (which I have yet to track down -- if anyone can help me here, I'd really appreciate it).

So on to Day One.

I was the one home that day when Eight came home from school looking for snacks.

Can I have a snack?

Sure? Have whatever you want.

At this point, I had no idea how much cr*&%)p was in our house, but as you'll see, Eight was HIGHLY in tuned.

Can I have a strawberry soda?


She comes out to the living room where I was working (Big was taking a nap) with a box of vanilla wafers and a strawberry soda.

My immediate reaction was, what kind of freakshow household with kids still has three Crush sodas leftover from New Year's Eve in their fridge? I mean what kind of control freaks are we that they aren't gone?

I was prepared to let her have all three at once, if asked.


I emailed BioMom with an update. We have been processing this constantly, trying to read ahead in the book where necessary for advice about rules (if any).

When Eight was done with a few cookies (she ended up finishing the box in three setting which we realized was a slight amount over the suggested serving size, but said nothing) she just moved on with her day. No big deal.

Day 2: Soda number two of three and more cookies. And after dinner:
Can we have some ice cream?

Sure, I think we have some mango sorbet in the freezer.

I don't like that. Can I have some ice cream?

I don't think we have any.

She rushes to the downstairs freezer and pulls out an old quart of ice cream left over from Big's December birthday which I didn't know even existed. We open it and it is completely crystallized, but consumed with glee with the requested mini chocolate chips sprinkled on top.

Day 3: Soda number three of three. That evening:
Can we have some ice cream?

I don't think we have any.

Yes -- what about the ice cream from last night?

There isn't any left?

Can I have the mango sorbet?

This became a pattern. She essentially moved down her utility curve on preferred sweets. As we ran out of what was initially preferred, she would request the stuff that was rejected initially.

By the fifth or sixth day, most of the real junk in our house was gone. We weren't replacing, but this was only somewhat purposefully. We had hoped that she would stabilize before we re-introduced sweets.

We worried about what would happen when the girl scout cookies came. Would we just give her the box, or dole out servings?

Once the bulk of the junk was gone, she moved on to ingredients.

What is 'malted milk'?

Oh, that is stuff that you put into shakes to make them malts (we hadn't used it in years but it was in the 'baking section' of our kitchen.

Can I try it?


At this point she started realizing that something strange and fantastic was happening in our house.

To friend after school one day after asking for a snack she says:
She'll let us have ANYTHING in the house!!

Friend: ANYTHING???

Eight: YES!!

Little did they know that the house had been quickly scoured for the junkiest of junk.

Another day:

Can I have some sugar?

That's when we imposed the 'You need to eat actual food. Not ingredients' rule.

At one point she asked for the rest of the mini chocolate chips in the bag described above. At that point I did have a little talk about serving size. (It turns out that a serving of mini chocolate chips is a disappointing number of 24, to both Eight and my's true dismay.)

I'll close for now on my initial report with a promise to follow up on what happened post detox.

*This turns out to be a better book than even its title suggests. It addresses the parent's own issues with eating as well as the kids need for control and how to deal with that. I highly recommend it to all, particularly those concerned with kids that won't eat a thing.


hw said...

I'm following this experiment in parenting with keen interest. We've got similar food issues in our house, and food is becoming such a huge issue, I'm wondering how this will all turn out.

*G* said...

Very interesting indeed. I am interested to see what happens as she becomes aware of the first grocery trip after absolutely ALL forms of sweet *treats* have gradually been eaten or removed...

giddings said...

I think that people are loving this because I think most kids seem so different than us all with food and if you're American, you probably have food issues... So that is to say we're all worried we don't pass that on...

Regarding G's comment. I'm shocked that she hasn't started requesting stuff from the store... We're a bit lucky in that she (as well as the rest of us for the most part) are out of site, out of mind, but we'll see how long that lasts. :-)

Angela said...

I've read this one post, and I was thinking the whole time "this lady is a kickass mom." I know I don't have much to base that judgment on, from my own experience or knowledge of yours, but yeah. kickass mom! :-)

giddings said...

Kickass? Doubtful. :-)