Grow up already

I’ve never really watched Project Runway — not from lack of desire but from lack of cable — so I don’t know much about Laura Bennett except that I saw a picture of a pretty dress she designed once. I am going to make a wild guess that, being a fashion designer, she’s not exactly a model of body positivity. Nonetheless, this post of hers on the ways parental restriction on food can lead to binge and compulsive eating is spot on. She starts with a jaw-dropping story about an acquaintance trying to win sole custody of her kids because her ex served them non-organic food for lunch, and then gets into what happens to these overmonitored kids when they visit a house (like hers) where they have access to — heaven forfend! — junk food.

I just want to let the food Nazi moms* in on what happens when your kids come to a house where junk food inhabits the pantry. They have no decision-making skills or sense of moderation when faced with the forbidden fruit roll-up. Like deprived animals, they are determined to consume the lifetime allotment of sugar they have been denied; all before pickup. I have seen one such child eat Swiss Miss Cocoa with a spoon directly out of the family-size container, only to move on to conquer a box of frosted strawberry Pop-Tarts. When faced with not one but three brands of chips, they become apoplectic and run from the kitchen clutching bags of Cool Ranch Doritos and French onion-flavored Sun Chips, later to be found in a corner curled up in the fetal position surrounded by wrappers, unable to state their name.

Sheltering children from every evil in the world does them a disservice; decision-making is a skill, learned with practice from the time they are small. At some point my boys will go out into the world and have to decide for themselves what is right and wrong. One would hope that by then they have ascertained that Krispy Kreme doughnuts are not really for breakfast—and there are serious repercussions if you leave the mother of your children for a 24-year-old.

We’ve talked about this dynamic before, of course, often in terms of the self-deprivation of dieting and the fantasy of the compensatory binge. You tell yourself that you are absolutely, under no circumstance, to ever eat an Oreo or you have FAILED at LIFE, and then when you do crave one you figure you may as well eat all the Oreos in the WORLD. As an adult, you can train yourself — haltingly, painstakingly — in the art of intuitive eating; as a kid, you’re often at the mercy of the adults in your life.

I was the kid who grew up in a junk food-friendly house. I loved Cheetos and Frosted Flakes and chocolate chip cookies and god knows what else. But my mom was also a very good cook, so I also loved potatoes and broccoli and homemade soup and pork tenderloin and all that. Having good homemade food and having “junk” food weren’t mutually exclusive in my house — we just had to have a lot of food, period, because we sometimes had heaps of kids in the house at a time between my mom’s three and my stepdad’s three and all our little friends and cousins who’d stop by. The only time I remember ever engaging in what I’d now call compulsive eating of junk food was in the first couple years after my mom remarried — I was probably feeling a lot of emotional strain, and suddenly there were all these older boys in the house who would eat all the snacks in about two minutes if they could, so I would grab my favorite snacks when I got home from school and eat them all on the staircase to my room before my brothers found me. I was 7 years old and I was confused and I liked food; I stopped doing it once our household settled down more. Eventually I learned that I really didn’t want all those Cheetos all the time — they made my tongue feel funny and I didn’t want orange fingers for the rest of the day. In short, I learned the decision-making skills that Bennett talks about (at least until I started reading teen magazines and getting a whole other species of food morality pumped into me).

But boy, did I have those friends who went berserk when they came to my house. They would be so overwhelmed with the prospect of mainlining all that sugar that sometimes they forgot why they came over in the first place; plans to play a game or ride bikes would crumble under the hypnotic sway of Smore-flavored Pop Tarts.** It always baffled me, because I didn’t have the same reaction when I went to their houses — I often really enjoyed the home-grown, hand-picked, carefully allotted food (not organic, though — too early in the century for that) we got there, because hey, I liked food, but I didn’t usually feel the need to go on a carrot stick bender. After all, I could get those at home too. (I did like discovering new kinds of foods at friends’ houses, though — this was the ’80s and ’90s, and in my area “ethnic” foods [i.e., from ethnicities that include non-white people] and hippie foods and fancy vegetables were just starting to enter our awareness. Plus, my mom had some medically based food restrictions, so though we did eat vegetables often, we didn’t eat a wide variety of them, and we didn’t eat them raw. Salad was a total revelation to me when I was a teenager.)

Not being a parent myself, what struck me most about Bennett’s article is that the dynamic she describes — not letting kids have the slightest opportunity to make their own decisions about food — doesn’t actually go away when you’re an adult. We’re all infantilized by the diet industries and the anti-obesity epidemic BOOGA BOOGA scare factories. All of us, but especially if we’re women, are told that we don’t know what we want, that we don’t know how much to eat, that if we claim to eat by the rules we must be lying, that we’re one bad decision away from death’s door. The single most basic act of living that you control — putting food in your body — is considered out of your league, intellectually speaking. We are never allowed to grow up when it comes to the refrigerator.

Here’s the thing: we’re all going to make bad decisions sometimes. It’s okay. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t even have to try to be perfect! If you’re trying to shed a lifetime of infantilization and cognitive dissonance around food, rest assured that practicing intuitive eating doesn’t secretly mean that you have to be Michael Pollan‘s fat twin to do it right. (I’m betting he has had an Oreo or two in his lifetime, too.) It means you get to eat what you want, for real, without judgment. And if you’re trying to raise a kid not to be insane about food and fat, good luck to you — it will be an uphill battle, but you’re already giving your kid a leg up by refusing to treat yourself like a child, too.

*My biggest problem with Bennett’s article: why the focus on moms? Yes, her original encounter was with a food-obsessed woman, but that doesn’t mean that only women can warp their kids’ psyches. This reads to me as resting on unexamined misogynist principles, namely that women are solely in charge of children’s nourishment.

**Dude, are these as good as I remember? I haven’t bought Pop Tarts in ages but OMG I can still taste these in my mind.

213 thoughts on “Grow up already

  1. I’ve always thought it weird that there were parents that really restrict food for kids. I’ve read studies/articles (I’m a biochemist) that say that this is probably the worst thing you can do to a growing kid from just a biology standpoint. But this also makes total sense to me, and I thank my lucky stars that my parents were a lot like yours. Now and then I have to have some doritos and salsa con queso, but not all the time.

    And Pop Tarts were one thing I went crazy on in college, since my mom refused to buy them (she hated them). They’re tasty, but now they give me heartburn.

  2. My biggest problem with Bennett’s article: why the focus on moms? Yes, her original encounter was with a food-obsessed woman, but that doesn’t mean that only women can warp their kids’ psyches.

    Not that Bennett goes into this, but I think there is a way in which white middle-class mothers are called upon to enact their family’s white, middle-class superiority by having weird and exacting ways in which their fragile flower kids have to eat… unlike “those people” and their ten unhealthy “unnatural” HFCS-eating video-game-watching kids who’ve never even BEEN to a farmer’s market and OMG DON’T EVEN KNOW WHERE FOOD COMES FROM, weep, cry, beat breast, bite fist, pull hair.

    I mean, SM, I think your point is exactly, precisely right… for some reason my comment here sounds more like a debate than an extension of your thinking. But I guess I think there are ways in which white, middle-class mothers are indeed asked by white, middle-class America to *really* dig being crunchy For The Sake Of The Children. In ways that white, middle-class fathers exactly and deliberately are not. And I don’t even have it all straight in my mind yet. I’ve just seen friend after friend slowly withdraw from every interest she had before, and become consumed with forcing herself to both like and be a connoisseur of anything “natural.” And whatever the merits of organic vs. conventional or HFCS-free vs. HFCS-laden… honestly, it often ends up to be suspiciously about gender and class.

  3. Also, random semi-relevant anecdote. Yesterday I went to pick up my four-year-old from preschool and they were still eating lunch. Mac and cheese. And the kids at my son’s lunch table were engaged in a discussion about how macaroni and cheese was a sometimes food. MACARONI AND CHEESE, y’all. I wanted to cry. I couldn’t resist saying, “Well, gosh, it seems to me that any food is a sometimes food. After all, nobody eats the same thing all the time, every single day. That would be really boring, wouldn’t it?”

  4. My biggest problem with Bennett’s article: why the focus on moms?

    Also, Nazis? Parents who give their kids food complexes are certainly doing harm (believe me, I know this firsthand), but can we please stop with the Nazi comparison over non-genocide-related topics?

  5. I think a lot of it still a holdover from the 40s, 50s, and 60s when most of the cooking was done by mothers. I was born in 1953, and from the time I was 7 years old, my mother worked a job outside the home and still did all the cooking until I was old enough to help (and my brother, who is 2 years younger never had to help with any housework, ever). My dad didn’t start helping with the cooking until after I left home and my mother bitched and said she wasn’t going to work a full-time job and come home and cook dinner and do the dishes too (she didn’t have her little slave after I was thrown out of the house so someone else had to start helping her, and my brother was gone too, not that she would have made him do anything).
    I do know quite a few men that cook meals for their families, and they also do the grocery shopping, so it’s not like mothers are the only ones who are responsible for what their kids eat nowadays. But that attitude is still out there, which is why feminism still has a long way to go yet.

  6. “Well, gosh, it seems to me that any food is a sometimes food. After all, nobody eats the same thing all the time, every single day. That would be really boring, wouldn’t it?”

    THANK YOU.

    Also, SM, I saw this the other day and was totally going to write about it. Yay for you doing the work!

  7. I’m a bit torn on the situation that the author describes at the outset of the article. I do think seeking to remove custody of a child because of one ‘lunch infraction’ is extreme, and I certainly am appalled by food restriction out of concern for weight. And there are certainly cases where concerns around food can be used to manipulate others, which is what seems to be happening on both sides of this case.
    However, the mother’s insistence on organic foods could well be an important ethical commitment for her, as well (not to mention that food additives can be very problematic for kids with ADHD). The equation of family food restrictions with being a ‘Nazi’ is disquieting. Within my vegan community, it is sadly common to hear from other parents whose children have been given animal products by babysitting friends or relatives either out of ‘concern’ for the child’s health or for their ‘enjoyment’ of food (the kids are claimed to be ‘missing out’, especially since most processed/’junk’ foods are non-vegan). It’s often easy for others to conflate observing food restrictions for ethical or religious reasons with ‘depriving’ children (especially because the media rarely address the ethics surrounding food production and consumption). Obviously, older kids will start to make independent decision about food, but for those of us who follow ‘non-mainstream’ dietary practices, this can involve imposing absolute restrictions (with age-appropriate explanations) on younger kids at times.

  8. The Nazi thing made me cringe too, but I think A Sarah is right about the focus on moms — it’s an afeminist response to an antifeminist problem. Sarah Haskins actually had a video about the way moms are seen (by marketing, in that case) as responsible for their family’s health and feeding. The most feminist response is to say “why is this the mom’s job alone?” but the response “maybe freaking out about your kids’ health is not the healthiest thing you could do” isn’t incorrect, just incomplete. IMHO.

  9. I’m pretty sure her focus is on mothers because this is one of her (funny!) parenting columns aimed at women. I agree with you that no, it’s not just mothers or even women who exhibit in these behaviors, but I can understand why she’d choose to limit her focus to the defined audience.

    I am a bit of a Project Runway fan (oh, just a bit!), and Laura Bennett’s clothes can be found on QVC with some (possibly all, but I didn’t check every last one so I can’t be sure) available in plus sizes. (Pants to 24W, tops to 3x, listed as a 26-28). So while I’m not sure how body-positive she is as a person, her clothes are certainly available in a variety of sizes. I do not have any of these pieces so I can’t speak to quality or sizing myself.

    As for Pop-Tarts, the Chocolate Chip ones used to be the BEST, especially toasted and oozing chocolate filling. So amazingly good. I don’t remember the S’mores ones, sadly.

  10. Totally agree with Carleigh and Vidya that “Nazi” is over the line, for the record. It would be really nice to see people quit using that term so casually.

    As someone who has ADHD, though, I have to say I don’t find the evidence that food additives have a noticeable effect compelling.

  11. This post is amazing. I just had a moment where the lightbulb went off in my head and I’m still buzzing from it. I was that kid that Laura Bennett is talking about. In my home junk food was completely banned for me so when I would go to a school party/friends house/etc. I would just freak out and eat as much as I could of all the “bad” foods, even if I wasn’t hungry. Honestly now that I think about it I still am that kid.

    Gosh, thank you SO MUCH for posting this!

  12. However, the mother’s insistence on organic foods could well be an important ethical commitment for her, as well

    I see what you’re saying, Vidya, but the father may not share that ethical commitment, and that’s part of negotiating the joint custody situation.

  13. No kidding. You’d think it would be easy to feed yourself and your kids. I was just about to blog about the crap food I’m feeding my kids. I’m trying to avoid MSG and HFCS and nitrites, but they are EVERYWHERE. I swear to god those things are added to the toothpaste.

    Then you add in the fact that my stepson is special needs with a “feeding disorder,” meaning that there are only about 5 foods he will eat in any given week. Guess what they are? Frozen pancakes or waffles with fake syrup; nuggets and fries, Cheezits and squeeze cheese; and Fizzix, the sugar-added yoplait yogurt sticks. Last weekend, he told me that he discovered that he “kind of likes those mini corn dogs,” and his father and I just about jumped for joy. He won’t drink water, just apple juice or soda. He is not pampered, or spoiled. His parents have had him in a world-class feeding therapy program for his whole life and this is the progress they’ve made. His diet certainly contributes to his poor health, his inability to grow (he’s 11 and weighs 60 lbs), and his severe ADHD. But every day, the goal is to get the kid to eat at least 600 calories. Some days we win, some days we lose.

    So here I am, with this kiddo in my house every weekend, and my 7-year-old daughter, who is on the chubby side and has inherited my love for all things sugar. She’s a healthy eater when I present her with healthy food, but she sees R eating crap when I’m trying to make her eat broccoli and salmon, and I get the whole, “It’s not FAIR!!!!” routine. And it’s NOT fair. She’s right.

    So I break down and feed them the same thing, and feel like the BAD MOM because my daughter is sitting at the dining room table eating Easy Fries, mini corn dogs and sugar-free lemonade for lunch while watching Sponge Bob.

    There’s only so much we can do, though. I can go broke buying only organic, or I can scrub the crap out of my fruits and veggies with dish soap and hope to god the Honduran farmers didn’t spray my apples with DDT. I can be label conscious, and try to make good choices. But I don’t always, because I’ll never be the perfect eater (and I also feel ashamed about that, because we are taught that, too, by the experts and the media.)

    Give a kid a choice, and unless s/he is very unusual, it’ll be Cheetos, Oreos and Coke all day long until the tummy ache sets in. Maybe when they’re 16 and concerned about hooking up with the hotties, they’ll think about eating a salad.

  14. Give a kid a choice, and unless s/he is very unusual, it’ll be Cheetos, Oreos and Coke all day long until the tummy ache sets in.

    Part of my point in this post is that I don’t think that’s true — it’s mainly true when we label these forbidden (and when kids are constantly exposed to ads for these foods). You’ve got a tough situation with the kids who have different dietary needs, but that doesn’t mean that all kids everywhere want only sugar all the time.

  15. I grew up with a brother, for instance, who really only ate things that involved peanut butter for a good chunk of his childhood — PBJ, Nutter Butters, celery with peanut butter. It wasn’t about the sugar, it was about the peanut butter!

  16. “As someone who has ADHD, though, I have to say I don’t find the evidence that food additives have a noticeable effect compelling.”

    *tips gently in*

    As someone who’s been to some of the condition’s leading specialists who can’t seem to make up their minds whether she has ADHD or not (a rant for another day altogether) I would say, qualifying deeply, that there can be certain food additives that do have certain effects on those of us with certain variants of the condition — and if you’ve read Dr. Daniel Amen, you know there are at least six.
    (“Ring of fire”, anyone?)

    And I’m not even necessarily talking about HFCS (although I’ve read that the brain is responsible for at least 20% of the body’s glucose use, and HFCS can muck around somewhat over time with the brain’s metabolism of it, though the biochem seems complicated and that’s as far as my understanding goes), but, rather, some of the additives we can’t even pronounce.

    There are people in my ADHD and related-learning-differences support group who have anecdotally related the same.

    *tips gently out*

  17. So while I’m not sure how body-positive she is as a person

    Having read her other columns, it seems that she’s pretty hard on herself but will allow that it’s okay for people who are already fairly thin not to diet. Which is about as much as you can expect from a person steeped in the fashion industry who is not singularly social-justice-conscious and exceptionally willing and able to defy normativity.

    Give a kid a choice, and unless s/he is very unusual, it’ll be Cheetos, Oreos and Coke all day long until the tummy ache sets in.

    I don’t think it makes any sense to believe that kids are biologically Cheetovores. Kids have a very human, primal urge to get the most of the best, and when things are coded as “treats” and scarcity is enforced they become highly desirable. That doesn’t mean humans come out of the womb ready to gorge on Cheetos.

  18. To be sure, I don’t know for certain where I got the idea that she’d be okay with thin people not dieting. But the sense I get from her columns is that she’s no Sanjay Gupta, but not exactly thinking outside the box on body issues.

  19. My mom still makes value judgments on a lot of my food choices, now that I’m back at home. And I have to tell you, feeling like I want to stick it to her sometimes makes me reach for a cookie when an apple would have satisfied just as well, not to mention I hide to eat whenever possible. Which is, of course, counter-productive and passive-aggressive and not a particularly healthful food-attitude (attifood?), but I often feel as thought moves like that are my only measure of controlling my own environment… certainly I often feel it’s my only way to stay sane and not start making choices like “let’s see how long I can go without eating AT ALL!” again.

  20. I just made brownies from scratch, and we’re all sucking them back in their warm goodness. I’m totally going to be THAT house aren’t I. :P

    My mother had an actual dietary plan for me to follow as a child, and strictly regulated what I ate.

    Not my kids. They get into everything, just like we do. So they can discover the joys of tummy aches on their own. :)

  21. I blogged about my experience with this a bit not too long ago with our little one. We are really pretty flexible about what we feed the small human (and ourselves) and try to let food jags wear themselves out. And Mr. Rounded does the vast majority of the cooking. We don’t have a lot of “junk food” (mostly because it’s not what we, the grown ups, eat) but Mr. Rounded and little one are big snackers, so meals tend to be fairly small and lots of little things are eaten inbetween and after meals.

    I tend to want to avoid artificial colors and flavors most of the time, just because I’m crunchy that way, I don’t judge other parents about this, but it’s not always easy, so I’m pretty flexible. I want to make sure little one gets plenty of fiber because it just make life more comfortable, so that is what guides what I buy, but my brief saga of the push-up ice cream is on my blog.

    Right now, I’m fairly restricted when it comes to carbs, not for weight reasons but for diabetes reasons*, and it’s making my life a bit hard, and I have an appointment with a dietitian on Monday to talk about dealing with the crushing hunger I’ve been experiencing in my carb-limited state. This dietitan is supposed to be coming from a “non-dieting” stance, so I’ll report back about how it goes.

    * Everyone’s diabetes is different, and mine is just harder to manage at the moment. People with diabetes can eat carbs, sugar, etc. No judgement on my part on what people with, or without, diabetes are eating.

  22. Maybe when they’re 16 and concerned about hooking up with the hotties, they’ll think about eating a salad.

    Also, I missed this on the first read, but wth? Have you read this blog before?

  23. It’s so hard to know what to do. I don’t want my kids to get weird things about food restrictions, but the younger one is an Aspie with some sensory issues and yeah, he will eat nothing but bologna and pop-tarts and go-gurts all the damned time if I let him. Same food every meal, every day? He’d be in heaven. I do have to force variety on him, and somewhat on his brother, and I do have to say NO to food when it’s obvious they’re only eating out of being bored. It’s hard to find the line between teaching good eating habits and being neurotic and food-controlling, especially with a kid who will literally not drink anything but one thing for months on end, and who is scared of new foods, etc. (Parenting is hard! Call the waaaambulance! )

  24. I am probably not perfect in finding that balance with my kids but I certainly try. As infants/toddlers I was very strict about what they ate, I did not want them addicted to sugar so they just did not get it except at very rare times. As they got older, I certainly allowed for more freedom but I don’t just let them go after whatever they want, whenever they want. I keep the foods they like in the house and when they need a snack they can either choose something healthy like fruit or they can go for the junk, totally up to them. It’s only at meal times that I “control” what they eat because I only cook one meal and that’s that.

    And I have 2 girls who have healthy food attitudes, so far. I mean, they are only 10 and 7 so we haven’t even gotten into all the teenage angst yet but right now, they do good. They love veggies and a wide variety of foods, including, of course, the cheetos and the oreos and pop-tarts but they are very good at making those choices and not overdoing it on the junk food. Probably because I don’t restrict it, have never called those foods bad and allow them to make their choices.

    So unlike the environment I grew up in and I know first hand all the food issues that come out of growing up in a home with extreme restrictions and the feeling of being shamed for eating a cookie.

    SM, yes, S’mores pop-tarts really are as good as you remember. Especially heated up in the microwave for a bit. So gooey. hehe

  25. Ok, I just have to chime in and say that I totally don’t understand the Smores pop-tarts. Chocolate fudge all the way, man. :)

  26. Um, WTF people, clearly it is all about the cinnamon pop-tarts. warmed in the microwave with a wee bit of butter on the back. how there can possibly be controversy over this is beyond me in a blog I THOUGHT was full of intelligent people of good judgment!

    ;)

  27. *joins car in the chocolate fudge corner*

    Hey, speaking of hellaciously sweet breakfasts, is Cookie Crisp still around?

  28. I keep the foods they like in the house and when they need a snack they can either choose something healthy like fruit or they can go for the junk, totally up to them. It’s only at meal times that I “control” what they eat because I only cook one meal and that’s that.

    April, that seems very sensible. May I steal it?

  29. Another semi-relevant anecdote: A few years back, my business hosted a class trip for a group of 8 y/o boys from a private Manhattan school (read: high income families). We had a blast, and at the lunch break, one of the Dad’s ordered food from a local pizza joint — pizzas, salads, a tray of ziti etc..,. Everyone (kids, teachers and parental chaperones) ate the food w/out complaint, but one thing I noticed, was that every little boy grabbed a paper towel and blotted up the excess oil/fat on their pizza before they ate it. There was no,”Oh noes!!! Grease!!!” or finger-wagging by the parents — it was very methodical and matter-of-fact, as if it were a customary practice. I don’t think these boys will grow up to swig jugs of olive oil in an alley somewhere, but it struck me as a fat=evil scenario. I mean, as an adult, I don’t love a lot of oil or grease because it doesn’t agree with me, but I can’t remember ever seeing this done as a kid. Things that make me say,”Whoa.”

  30. I’m with Isabel. Cinnamon and Brown Sugar Pop Tarts (unfrosted, PLEASE), toasted and buttered. :-9 (Or unfrosted Strawberry… those were the only two I’d ever eat.)

  31. Regarding pizza degreasing…. This is something I’ve always done. Especially as a kid having to eat school lunch pizza. Pools of grease on my pizza is unappetizing at best.

  32. I’m a longtime lurker here (my partner is more active on the site) and we had a really good talk about Bennett’s article. I generally do all the cooking in the house, a job I enjoy a lot. And we’re lucky enough to live in a rich agricultural area, where I can buy most of our food in season from farms nearby.

    I know I’ve been guilty of telling my 5-year-old that some foods are bad for her, junk, etc. I’m working on that. I make cakes and pies and cookies, and we buy chocolates and candies from time to time. But I don’t like her having a bag of chips, for instance, every day.

    In the future, I’ll guess I’ll get her that bag of chips.

    But what made me angry was not the idea that I shouldn’t restrict my child’s choice of foods (though, as a parent, I’ll always be doing that to some extent– we shop together and, when she’s interested, we cook together, but ultimately, right now, I’m buying the food and preparing the meals), but rather the larger point that i shouldn’t try to protect her from negative influences.

    We don’t have cable TV in our house, and we don’t get good reception. Partly because my partner and I don’t watch TV (except for Netflix videos), but also because there are lots of negative messages on television that I don’t want my daughter to absorb. She’s only 5, and at her developmental level, she doesn’t have the defenses or the knowledge to counter it. She’s almost completely at the mercy of Madison Avenue and Hollywood’s producers. She’ll get plenty of messages from the rest of the world telling her that her highest value is her ability to attract a man and that happiness is only her next purchase away. Until she’s older, I don’t want to give these people access to my child.

    Ultimately, yes, she will need to learn how to make her own decisions. But marketers spend billions to get at children my daughter’s age because they know that they are vulnerable and malleable.

    Shielding her from these influences, at least while she’s this young, doesn’t seem to me to be a bad choice as a parent.

  33. the focus on moms — it’s an afeminist response to an antifeminist problem

    Oh, I totally agree. The way commercials depict things, it’s as if men have their own little sheds in back of the house with only a big screen tv, microwave, and fridge full of beer and nachos from which they never emerge to clean/cook/change diapers/etc. Unless of course, they’re berating their children for sending too many text messages or approvingly smelling the air freshener their wife just sprayed.

  34. I have an odd memory: As a child of about five or six, I can remember being taken on visits round the home of a friend of my mother’s, and if not watched, I would sneak off to her pantry and gorge myself on sliced white bread (these days, I can’t stand the stuff). I could get through half a loaf before she caught me. I don’t remember what I was eating at home at this time, but I would hazard a guess someone was keeping a close eye on my carb consumption – certainly that was the case a few years later. Sweets weren’t a big issue, but I never had much of a sweet tooth anyway.

    I see this happening in my family, though – niece gives her 4-year-old organic rice cakes for snacks, he gets to the doting grandparents’ and hits the chocolate buttons. His younger cousin isn’t nearly as hot on sweet stuff, and I don’t know what he eats at home; I’m betting it’s fresh, as his dad is a pretty good cook. He’s the fatter of the two, and I’m hoping they don’t try to be more restrictive as he gets older.

  35. O.C., I *really* liked that. Thanks for the blog — I hadn’t come across that blog before.

    One thing that struck me was this part (bold from the blog O.C. linked to, bold plus italics is quoting the NYT article:

    One of the threads running through the article, along with a soup of race and class issues, is the idea that children have to be protected from junk food because it will set them up for a lifetime of fast-food bingeing.

    To up the emotional ante, the current nutritional wisdom says that what children eat may set their tastes in place permanently. In this view, a hot dog is never just a single tube of meat, because it will lead to thousands of salty, processed, who-knows-what-filled lunches to come.

    Sorry, but HOW many food snobs count their rarefied tastes as an extra-super-duper-double-plus credit to them *precisely* *because* they believe their Bad Mommies raised them on crap? And now we’re supposed to believe that any 3-year-old whose food intake is not carefully monitored for Moral and Aesthetic Purity is going to eat crap for life? I’m confused!

  36. Totally feel this. Can you believe that my mom used to bring Juicy Juice to other people’s barbecues and parties, and then make us drink it instead of what fake juice or soda was available? Ugh, even sometimes foods weren’t sometimes foods. When I realized, around 8, that I could open up the cabinets and feed myself, it was not good. And the white rice they served at the school cafeteria was like heaven.

    Also, frosted strawberry poptarts.

  37. untoasted Frosted Strawberry PopTarts rock.

    That is all.

    I am so with you there, KCN. I never got Pop Tarts at home, either, so I ate them … once in a while; I seem to have variety built in to my brain … off at college. Mmmmm. Now I want some. Oh well. Peppermint ice cream will have to do.

  38. There are people in my ADHD and related-learning-differences support group who have anecdotally related the same.
    *tips gently out*

    Totally cool to add this info. I deliberately said, “I don’t find the evidence compelling” instead of “I think it’s bullshit” or something, because that’s really what I mean, no more, no less. It’s my opinion, based on some research and anecdata. I just didn’t want to let Vidya’s comment, which suggested we take that connection as a given, stand without comment.

  39. No joke, A Sarah! And I think someone said in the comments on the blog — who actually ate much sushi and Thai and Ethiopian food before their teen years, at the earliest?

  40. Regarding pizza degreasing…. This is something I’ve always done. Especially as a kid having to eat school lunch pizza. Pools of grease on my pizza is unappetizing at best.

    It was just watching *all* of the boys do it simultaneously that struck me.

  41. “Give a kid a choice, and unless s/he is very unusual, it’ll be Cheetos, Oreos and Coke all day long until the tummy ache sets in. Maybe when they’re 16 and concerned about hooking up with the hotties, they’ll think about eating a salad.”

    Under normal circumstances, most kids would do just that – but just once. I can’t be the only one who stuffed on something when I was a kid – only to associate the ensuing stomachache with that food forever. Candied peanuts still bear a special horror for me, ever since I ate too many of them when I was five and then proceeded to throw up all over the carpet – during my parent’s Christmas party.

    I have a friend who really tries hard to feed her child only the healthiest of foods – and then, when that child is asleep, sneaks to her secret place in the pantry and eats half a bag of chocolate chips. She feels so guilty about this behaviour, but also like she’s gotten away with something ‘bad’, deliciously forbidden. I just feel sad for her, because she’s got this terrible food duality going on – the ‘model’ diet, for the sake of her child, and the ‘hidden’ diet, which her daughter WILL find about some day, and learn to do herself.

  42. Also, frosted strawberry poptarts.

    Every time I see them in the store, I still can’t believe Kellogg’s is still putting gelatin in their Pop-Tarts frosting; the Kellogg brothers were leaders in the vegetarian movement, and are probably rolling in their respective graves. Why do companies spend so much on advertising while simultaneously making their products unnecessarily inedible for millions of consumers?

  43. I think I’ve just had a bit of a revelation.

    I’ve always been a bit on the fence about how the food and food-related attitudes I was raised on have affected me. I grew up in a pretty much junk-food free house. We would get pie at Thanksgiving and chocolate for dessert on New Years, but other than that it was broiled chicken and fish, steamed vegetables, cheerios, salad, and the occasional pasta marinara dinner. When I visited friends or my grandparents, it was so damn exciting to get to put butter on my toast or have cookies. The saving graces were that we weren’t restricted in what we could eat outside of the house, and none of it was done with a negative dieting/weight related mentality (nobody ever mentioned the word calorie, thank god). It was just that that’s what my parents ate whether they were dieting or not, and they didn’t let the kids control the grocery shopping.

    I told them for years, in true whiny argumentative kid fashion, that as soon as I lived on my own, I would become addicted to junk food because I could never have it. And then… I didn’t.

    Maybe it was because during that transition time, I was vegan and so junk food and desserts were rare treats. I do feel, in some ways, that what I grew up on has shaped my tastes as an adult. While really good desserts are tasty, I really don’t crave sweets. I hate salty foods and greasy foods and love vegetables and whole grains.

    I HATE HATE HATE this controlling stuck up health police parents mentality. But at the same time, I grew up with something similar and am one of those few health food nuts not out of some desire for health but because that’s what tastes good to me.

    Though I think what I’ve just realized is that I grew up into the sort of eater my parents were and are not because they steadfastly refused to let me eat junk food, but because they ate what they liked and, shock of shocks, I ate it and grew to like it too.

  44. I saw an ad featuring the new food pyramid (looks like a top with a guy running around the top to symbolize that exercise…is the biggest food group?) in a Japanese manga magazine, and it featured the line “Eating only what you like is unthinkable!” Uh… I know they were really trying to say, “You must eat vegetables even if you do not like vegetables” but it sounds like they’re saying “If you like all the foods that you eat you are EATING WRONG.” Quick! I must find a food that I hate and eat it every day! Because the hatred makes it good for you!

  45. My experience is pretty different. We did have sugar in the house, and sugar always made me nuts anyway–must be a biochemical thing for me. I never had just one, I always had the whole bag. When I finally had an allowance, I spent it on candy and ate it all right away–no guilt, no restriction, and I still ate it like crazy.

    When student poverty led me to discover that a bunch of health problems went away when I didn’t (couldn’t) buy sugar, and that sugar gave me “oh my god I have to eat all the sugar I can find” cravings, I gave it up over a few years, no guilt (it doesn’t affect my weight anyway, because sugar satiates me). I literally never eat sugar anymore, just tons of fruit.

    So my house won’t have candy, because I don’t eat it. But I guess, I could give a rip what other people do. Including my own kids, with their own time and money. I’m also vegan, and my kids can choose whatever they want when they are older. So for me, I won’t restrict, but I also truly don’t have any interest in what most people eat. We’ll see how that goes.

  46. Okay, reading Entangled’s post helped me. If you are restricting, the kids will sense it and it will be bad. If you eat what you like, and you like healthy but neverEVER become the food police, the kids’ tastes will naturally grow accustomed to healthy food, with the occasional whatever else. But you can’t fake it and you can’t get moralistic or crazy.

  47. Regarding Poptart preferences, I submit the following, which is delicious and also beautifully represents my mom’s (single parent household, so it really was all her fault (don’t tell her I said that, it would break her heart)) off-kilter fooditude:

    Unfrosted strawberry Poptarts (because the frosted ones had Too Much Sugar (ditto any non-fruit (I know, right?))), toasted, and BUTTERED.

  48. We’re vegetarians, so we’re practicing a form of food restriction on our kids. And I get plenty of flack about that from non-veggie people who say things like, “But is it right to impose that on a child?” (as if, in feeding their kids meat, they’re not imposing). I’ve got three kids (8, 5, and 9mos).

    We’ve told the kids that we’re vegetarians because we think it’s best to not kill other animals if you can survive without killing them. It’s an ethical choice, and they get that.

    The fact is that, no matter what you do, you’re practicing some food restriction on your children and imposing your choices on them. Heck, unless your kid can grocery shop themselves (including reaching all the shelves and balancing the food budget so as to keep you all from starving or getting beri beri), you have to be the adult and make choices. And unless you have an endless budget and rooms in which to store any and all foods, you have to limit those choices.

    The question for me is then what to restrict, and how to talk about that in ways that make sense to kids.

    Kids do seem to be born with a sweet tooth. Human milk is, by and large, fairly sweet-tasting (though its taste varies by what mom eats). And my kids do adore sweet things. And honestly, young kids don’t have the judgment to eat themselves sick *once* and then not do it again. They just don’t seem to have the *memory* for that, or the ability to connect cause and effect the way we do, as adults (and heck, given how many times adults seem to confuse correlation and causation, I’m not sure adults can do it either).

    For ourselves, we basically have a few strategies. We generally only make one dinner, but with some options to acknowledge the differences in our tastes. Kids are kind of weird about food. They will often fixate on a single thing. My 8 year old son has desired *exactly* the same lunch (a green tortilla-type wrap from Trader Joe’s, a string cheese, also from TJ, and an apple) every day for a year now. My daughter’s likewise into the very same lunch. And so we adapt to that by giving them variation for the other meals.

    We remind them that people need lots of different colors of food in order to survive, be healthy, and not get sick. We point out that the human body requires fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein-type foods to survive. We try to focus on the week rather than day by day, trying to get a range of colorful food in them.

    Cookies are grains, mostly, and sort of whiteish, but if you *only* eat cookies, you die. Likewise tofu (yummy, and the kids *really* like really firm tofu, uncooked and unflavored, cut into cubes). It’s white, and a protein, but if you *only* eat tofu, you die.

    I think this is a reasonable approach, since kids don’t want to die, and the concept of a rainbow is flexible enough to accommodate lots of foodstuffs without too many headaches.

    But I love hearing how other people do it.

  49. I grew up with something similar and am one of those few health food nuts not out of some desire for health but because that’s what tastes good to me.

    Yeah, I’m quite confused about how my parental restrictions affected me. Certainly, I can think of things that I was told I shouldn’t have which I promptly went out and overdosed on as soon as I could – and then learned never to do that again. On the other hand, my mother raised me strictly on non-sweet cereal (nothing brightly colored, fruity, or chocolatey) and I was not only perfectly okay with this but grossed out by the things my classmates wanted to eat. To this day, the idea of sweet things in milk sounds icky. Sweet cereal, dry, as a snack? Okay. But not in milk for breakfast.

    So, does it bug me because I was never fed super-sugar cereal when I was very small and never got the taste for it, or was I just predestined not to like my cereal sweet? :)

  50. And honestly, young kids don’t have the judgment to eat themselves sick *once* and then not do it again. They just don’t seem to have the *memory* for that

    By 10-12 they should, though. At least, that’s the age I was during the incidents I remember quite strongly. :)

  51. Has anyone else noticed that Pop-tarts now come in dual packs in vending machines? Or is that just on college campuses? They only sell the strawberry frosted, though, so I’ve developed a bit of a taste for it. Seriously, when it’s a 90-cent candy bar v. a dollar for TWO pop-tarts, no contest. :)

  52. Distressingly, I’m twenty-one and I am still that kid (I can’t afford to move out of my parents’ house yet because everything is preposterously expensive in London). I spent a few days staying with a friend this week – her family ordered a Chinese take-out and I ate so much I got ill, because in my house we never, ever get take-out, we never have bread, we never have anything that doesn’t fit into what my dad, a healthy-eating nut (and a coeliac who is convinced that wheat is bad for *everyone*), thinks is okay to eat. My parents have attempted to make it clear that as a responsible adult I’m allowed to buy food I want and put it in the cupboards, but I’ve also spent the last twenty-one years with my dad reading off the ingredients/nutrition information of anything he doesn’t approve of in tones of judgemental disgust (and doing things like telling my chubby nine-year-old self that it’s not so bad that he forgot my packed lunch because not eating would probably do me good), so I still kind of have issues about eating at home.

  53. This reminds me of a story I heard on Fresh Air, from one of the sons of the family profiled in the documentary SurfWise. He said that they were incredibly sugar restricted. Once, the family settled in a small town so the father could earn some money. When the kids went to school, they were allotted free breakfast. This kid sat down and ate FIFTY of the little single-serve boxes of Frosted Flakes. The school administrators actually called child services because they thought the children were being starved.

  54. Suzanne: I think it might be partly a social thing, the pizza-blotting… I think I picked it up as a kid from a friend of mine (not from an adult, IIRC), and whenever my friends and I would eat pizza there would always be a moment of blotting first, that pretty much all of us participated in. It was part of the pizza-eating ritual, very automatic, like you say. But for me at least fat=evil didn’t enter the picture (well, not when I was 8; maybe when I was older) for this, I think oil is just one of those things like crusts that kids might find weirdly icky. Also, Manhattan pizzerias can tend towards the VERY greasy (they are after all where I got my blotting start).

    I mean, trust me I am aware of the insanity that can occur at Manhattan private schools (VERY aware – my own elementary school was mentioned in a magazine article a few years after I’d left it featuring the outraged head of the lower school complaining that parents had asked for the pasta bar to be removed because they wanted to keep their kids from getting too many carbs). but in this particular instance, I think there’s a decent chance it’s more oil=yuck than fat=evil.

  55. As a child of about five or six, I can remember being taken on visits round the home of a friend of my mother’s, and if not watched, I would sneak off to her pantry and gorge myself on sliced white bread (these days, I can’t stand the stuff).

    Oh, god. I did the same sort of thing. I also remeber putting away huge dinners as a child, and adding brown sugar to orange juice (yuck!). It turns out I’m hypoglycemic — waiting six or seven hours between lunch and dinner sets up cravings that drove me nuts. Now that I can have whatever I want, I tend to eat smallish dinner, unless I’m to busy to snack.

    It’s hard to explain that kind of craving to somebody who doesn’t experience them. It’s not normal hunger, nothing like it.

  56. Heck, unless your kid can grocery shop themselves (including reaching all the shelves and balancing the food budget so as to keep you all from starving or getting beri beri), you have to be the adult and make choices. And unless you have an endless budget and rooms in which to store any and all foods, you have to limit those choices.

    This is a good point, and it reminded me of the many reasons that nobody (except condemned prisoners, or maybe some unimaginably rich people) has the whole range of existent foods available to them at any time. The family can’t afford it. Or, it’s not in season. Or, it doesn’t grow here. Or, our kin group doesn’t eat that. Or, it’s against our religious beliefs to do that. Or, Mom and Dad don’t like the taste of that and so we don’t have it around. All of those are very, very different from the reason, “Behind every shamefully out-of-control kid who eats morally- and aesthetically bad food with abandon, is a mother exhibiting shameful dereliction of duty.”

  57. My mom (sorry, misogynist or not, it was totally her) hid chips from me, and we rarely had junk food or soda, and when at my best friend’s house, I would drink soda, eat chips, eat candy for hours. I’m not in the mood for details, but I’m 4o now and just starting to feel like I’ve got this shit all figured out.

  58. S’mores poptarts never were very good, in my opinion. The marshmallow was just off. But my husband and I both found we like pop tarts more when they’re not toasted. He likes cherry and I like straight chocolate. But unless there is nothing else I don’t eat them very often because there are so many other tasty things to eat.

  59. My kids eat a ton of crap, but it’s local or fair-trade or organic crap, because whatever I do to their bodies, I don’t want kids who don’t get enough to eat inhaling DDT.

    The little one has a *chocolate limit* just like her dad. I think until she was born I thought it was just a thing carried on the Y chromosome.

    I’ve lately found myself all but unable to buy them clothes, too, because of sweatshops. I think I need my conscience tied up.

  60. My mom (sorry, misogynist or not, it was totally her) hid chips from me,

    It’s not misogynist if it’s true! But it is likely that many of us had moms who were “in charge” of cooking because of centuries of sexism.

  61. I was raised by a food-hating mother – we had to eat tiny meals, no junk food ever, all our vegetables except potato had to be raw (including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower etc.) When I hit puberty and was 7 inches taller than her and had a little tummy (I was by no means fat), she freaked out and cut my food rations in half – she would carefully count out what the rest of the family was having and give me half a serve (my fat youngest brother was not restricted). I was constantly hungry, and started stealing money so that I could buy food – of course, the only food I could quickly eat was junk food, and I ended up with a binge eating disorder which I am still fighting (I’m 34). It’s taken a long time for me to learn to cook, and to learn which foods I really like. She’s still insane about food, and I’m glad she only has grandsons, not granddaughters.

  62. takes the time to poach Amish-raised, free-range chicken

    The first time I read this, I thought, “She steals chickens from the Amish? And she calls herself an arbiter of morality?” Then my left brain started working and I realized she meant she boiled chicken breast pieces, like eggs. And probably serves it skinless. Bleah.

    Since I was at the tail end of the “children seen but not heard” generation, I had very limited say in what I was fed. If they knew a certain thing made me gag, like onions or green peppers, I was permitted not to eat it, and if they knew I really liked something they’d have it a little more often, but there was none of this tailoring every meal to my taste stuff. If I didn’t like what was being served at a given meal, I didn’t eat, there was no getting a bowl of cereal or a PBJ.

    And then when I was 9, my mother decided we were to have no more sugared cereals or white bread because they were bad for us (which pissed me off, because she still got to enjoy her cigarettes — the concept of addiction hadn’t really penetrated yet). And in those days the store-bought whole wheat bread was disgusting, like cardboard. And guess what? It was at that point I started getting fat. I don’t know if the no-junk thing was causative, but it sure wasn’t preventative.

    (And I do appreciate the antifeminist implications of Pollanism being discussed here. Guess who’s going to have even LESS spare time if every meal is prepared lovingly from scratch with organic, hand-chopped veggies? Hint: Probably not dad, in most households.)

  63. <I just didn’t want to let Vidya’s comment, which suggested we take that connection as a given, stand without comment.

    *nodnod*

    And since so many take so much wisdom from the blog here, I just didn’t want anyone who had gone through the rounds of “do I need meds? Is it a vitamin deficiency? Why duz mah brayne not wurk? WHAT IZZ IT????”
    to eliminate the possibility from consideration w/o at least testing the hypothesis.

    Unfrosted untoasted Strawberry PopTarts FTW, BTW.

  64. I find Cinnamon Pop Tarts extremely gross, myself. And unfrosted Pop Tarts are just pointless to me (though I have a friend who can’t have the frosted ones because of the gelatine allergy).

    Chocolate Fudge and Cherry, no question. My sister and I were so happy when they brought Cherry Pop Tarts back. Strawberry are good but not nearly as good as Cherry. (There are, in fact, Cherry Pop Tarts in the cupboard right now!)

    Meanwhile, I see the results of this kind of hypercontrolled, hyperprotective parenting style constantly. Helicopter parents make my life a living hell, not only when they’re calling me to want to talk about their adult child’s grades (and getting furious at me when I say “Your child is an adult and I’m legally prohibited from discussing this with you”) but the kids who are incapable of handling anything on their own. They can’t make decisions, can’t weigh factors in the balance. They can’t create their own schedules. If something is too hard for them they give up in 5 minutes because they were never forced to finish anything for fear of damaging their fragile widdle egos.

    In other words, this isn’t only a food issue, it’s an overall parenting issue. And definitely not just a Mom issue. Certainly it’s nowhere near universal, but I think there’s a strong generational element to it as well. This kind of behavior about food has been going on for a long time, of course. I wonder if it’s gotten significantly worse as the moral panic over obesity has been ratched up? Or maybe this plus the plethora of “You must buy this thing to keep your child safe while doing mundane things!” products all combined to deliver us the helicopter generation.

  65. Sniper, totally off-topic but I know EXACTLY what you are talking about. I’m not sure that I’m technically hypoglycemic or not, but sometimes I get normal hunger and sometimes I get what I call The Hunger. With The Hunger, there is no option of ignoring it. Unless I want to feel like I’m about to pass out and throw up at the same time while concurrently suffering from dizziness, headaches, and a total inability to concentrate. The worst is when The Hunger creeps in while driving home from work, because seriously? I should not be operating a moving vehicle while Hungry.

    This is probably part of why I’m so horrified by parents restricing their childrens’ food and by the way our society sees denial of hunger as something desirable. It doesn’t matter what size I am or how many calories I ate today – until I eat enough I am somewhere between useless and dangerous. (and following “diet tricks” like filling up on water and volumous foods or eating very small meals? surefire ways to bring on The Hunger really quickly) Surely I can’t be the only person like this…

  66. Sniper, did you ever actually feel weak/sick as well as incredibly hungry? That started in my teens, though I didn’t figure out the blood sugar connection till much later.

    Oh, and brown sugar frosted pop tarts. Though I never heard of buttering them…is it maybe a regional thing?

  67. I should add – my dad did almost all of the shopping and cooking in our house, but my mum was still in charge of food restrictions for herself and me because she served it up. It’s not just about division of labour – it’s about control and the illusion of “good parenting”.

  68. I think that some wise current moms here, A Sarah and Miriam Heddy, reflect something about the reality of some limits. Aside from whatever (meager, measly) limits we set with little one, we find that there is balking and temper tantruming around limits completely out of our control, like the sun setting and the fact that sometimes we just run out of stuff. So, there are times when I think, heck, the kid’s going to cry about something, I might as well set a limit that’s within my own values. If nothing else, this give something for little one to rebel against later in life. But these are not arbirtrary, and they are somewhat few and far between, overall. Especially around food.

  69. Sniper, did you ever actually feel weak/sick as well as incredibly hungry? That started in my teens, though I didn’t figure out the blood sugar connection till much later. </i.

    Weak, sick, and crazy. It starts with irritability and fatigue and gets to confusion and rage pretty damned quickly. You do not want to be the one holding up dinner when I’m like that. I feel really bad about it, because it feeds (hah) into the whole myth about fat people being out-of-control around food.

  70. Someone upstream mentioned television restriction, I’d like to say I’m all for it. My parents didn’t let me watch anything but PBS until I was about 10, and since that time I’ve always viewed television as a luxury, nice but not necessary. (Though I do bug out if I can’t get PBS on the rabbit ears.) When I worked for a cable company I’d get these panicked calls from parents telling me their kids needed cable tv, and could we fix it right the hell now! Seriously?

    You can’t control what the advertisers and movie execs are going to peddle to your kids, but I don’t think it’s bad to use the parental veto. I don’t think it’s bad to throw the idiot box out completely, though I believe if you’re not exposing your kids to PBS you’re missing a lot of free educational programming.

  71. And honestly, young kids don’t have the judgment to eat themselves sick *once* and then not do it again.

    This is a good point, Miriam. I certainly didn’t have that judgment. Honestly, I still don’t. I still eat myself sick at least once a month. Of course now I KNOW what will happen in a way that I didn’t when I was 5. But that doesn’t stop me from doing it. And it’s miserable. I don’t LIKE being sick, I just can’t seem to stop when I’m really, really enjoying a food. (Almost always something absurdly high in sugar.) I have indeed, to use Bennett’s example, eaten hot chocolate straight out of the package. As a child and as an adult. Even though we always had it – and plenty of other junk food – in the house growing up, so it was hardly novel.

    I definitely buy that there is this awful strain of parenting lately that just takes the “managing food” thing to an absurd level. But I don’t want my son to grow up with the same kind of intense sugar cravings that I have, either, and I feel like I can trace at least some of those cravings back to having unlimited sugar access when I was a kid.

    It is, like so much in life, about balance. I’m okay with my kid having a cookie. But I want him to at least see a bowl of broccoli on the dinner table every night, even if he doesn’t eat any.

  72. I LOVED PBS as a kid! When I was home sick from school that, along with Nickolodeon, made up my viewing for the morning and afternoon. In elementary school, we’d watch PBS. Being a kid in the early 80′s rocked.

    Now, I usually turn PBS on at night and fall asleep to it. There’s something very comforting about it. Plus, my afilliate airs those British murder mysteries and Britcoms :-)

  73. I think it’s important to remember that to some parents their kids are an extension of themselves, much like an accessory. I’ve seen parents brag to other parents about how careful they are in controlling the foods their child consumes. I’ve seen parents ‘show off’ designer stainless steel containers after the plastic water bottle scare this summer. I’ve even seen women scoff at others women for not sending their child to school with the ‘locally grown-organicly grown-made with loving hands- food. My goodness how horrible would it be if kids drank from a garden hose on a hot day, or a hot dog at a friends’ birthday party!?! Kids are another way to publish our consumerism to the world at large. I say let them eat cake!

  74. You do not want to be the one holding up dinner when I’m like that. I feel really bad about it, because it feeds (hah) into the whole myth about fat people being out-of-control around food.

    Yeeeeeah, I never really got this checked out, but I sometimes barf if I don’t eat in time. My in-laws had to pull over the car once for me — not my finest hour.

    It also means I’m very concerned about getting enough food, and getting it in time. I imagine people might assume this is because I’m fat, rather than trying to prevent myself from vomiting in public.

    It hasn’t happened in a long time (like, since I stopped taking the pill, which probably was the cause of it in the first place) but the fear never goes away that it might happen if I’m not careful. So I carry food with me and sometimes eat in public (bus stop, on the streetcar, in class, etc.) which I’m sure looks like total fatty behaviour.

  75. It also means I’m very concerned about getting enough food, and getting it in time.

    Oh, dear. If by “very concerned’ you mean yelling, “No! Dinner then movie! We agreee dinner first! What the hell is wrong with you?!?!?!” then we’re on the same page.

    I’ve had several jobs where my bosses or supervisors have tried to push my lunch hour back as if it’s no big deal. I want to kill them all.

  76. “Give a kid a choice, and unless s/he is very unusual, it’ll be Cheetos, Oreos and Coke all day long until the tummy ache sets in.”

    What? Not true. It depends on the kid, their food preferences, and what foods they are exposed to as a child.

    I LOVED ensalata with tortilla, and jamon negra with sheeps cheese, and stuffed vine leaves, and liver with onion gravy.

    Nothing was off-limits to me, and if I asked for a biscuit I would just be pointed towards the tin and advised to get a glass of milk. Oddly enough, I never took more than a couple; sweets were nice, but I never felt the need to pig out on them. Cheese, however, was a different matter! I could make myself sick on cheese if left unmonitored with a plate of crackers!

    I was probably actually pretty damn healthy in my approach to food, until I hit puberty and my mum started blaming her loose-and-easy approach for my fatness.

  77. Oh, and the food additives/neurologically interesting thing: There’s some evidence that special diets (GF/CF or whatever) can help non-neurotypical kids with sensory integration issues and so forth, but if that’s the case for your kid, then ALL bread is out, not just white bread. (I do think this dietary restriction only really works for a small percentage of kids, though.)

    And the response by the mother in this story is just ridiculous — it obviously had squat-all to do with the food (since, after all, if it was really an issue she could just say to him, “Uh, X, could you not give Little Filbert white bread and Cheetos any more? It makes him bounce off the walls,” and that would be that), and everything to do with not wanting her kids around Dad’s hawt young girlfriend who he left her for. And yeah, it wouldn’t surprise me if their kids never even wanted to look at “micro-greens” (whatever those are) again once they’re on their own.

  78. I get that horrible weak feeling too if I go too long between meals. First I’m irritable, then weak, then both things get worse and worse. I’ve never been so hungry I’ve been too weak to walk, but it could easily happen. It doesn’t happen all that often, so I’ve never had it checked out (my dad has the same issue). After a few really bad incidents where I was out with family or something and couldn’t get to food, I’m careful to keep a granola bar or something around at all times. And I’m not afraid to pull said granola bar out and munch on it in public. I finally figured out that the embarrassment of -gasp- eating in public while fat was less bad than fainting.

  79. Sniper, I’m glad I’m not the only one who deeply resents lunch hour being moved. I don’t always eat at the same time – I eat anywhere from 11 am to 2 pm, depending on when I get to work – but I do know when I need to eat, and it bugs the crap out of me to have someone hold me up. Yeah, if I know there’s going to be a lunchtime meeting I work around it, but don’t tell me you’ll call me about something important at 11:30 and then not call till 3.

  80. Sheltering children from every evil in the world does them a disservice

    This actually reminded me of something completely different from food: abstinence-only sex education. Which truly has nothing to do with sex OR education, except the universal message of “It’s Bad, Don’t Do It”.

    That message is comparable to the whole militant healthy food thing – teaching kids something is bad, but not teaching them why or how to handle it themselves. Telling kids what not to do, but not giving them the tools to make their own responsible decisions in the future.

    It’s not just about food. Kids are being raised into teenagers this way, being denied everything without learning the reasons, without learning how to be responsible for their own actions. All they get is a “NO!”. One day, they will no longer accept their parents’ authority, the “no!” is gone… and what left is nothing. They have no other context or knowledge to decide what is good or bad.

    Personally I’m a *lot* more worried about teens who’ve never had real, proper sex ed, than teens who binge on Cheetos at a friends’ house.

    Not entirely on topic though, I suppose.

    I was raised with not much discipline, but with freedom and common sense. My parents didn’t let me do whatever I wanted, but often gave me enough freedom to find out on my own if something was good or bad. They allowed me to fall or stumble, so I could learn how to stand up on my own two feet. They didn’t throw or push me down; but they taught me to never blindly accept someone else’s word for something, never to blindly believe, always to use my own judgment and common sense. I’d like to believe they raised me pretty well.

  81. More on poptarts – I like them microwaved, not toasted. Makes them gooier.

    I’m hoping to head off some bad shit with my kid – we just got a treadmill, and he loves it. However, he was doing it for the first time and was all excited about the calorie count. I kept redirecting him – No, it’s about getting your heart stronger, and your legs working, and maybe goals of going further, and he’d say “Yeah, and I just burned off half a candy bar!” Grrr. Kid is 10! And unfortunately there’s no way to turn off the calorie counter. This will take some concerted effort, methinks.

  82. I was raised by a health nut, and as a small child I would go over to the local bully’s house, even though he beat me up, because his mom would give me… you guessed it… pop tarts. The only time I ever got sweet cereal was when my mom was on vacation out of the country–my dad bought me Frosted Flakes and made me swear never to tell her. The first grocery item I bought as a college student was a box of Cocoa Puffs.

    After a few years, however (and a lot of mornings in college where breakfast was cold poptarts from the vending machine), the excitement of forbidden food wore off. I enjoy sweets, but it’s been fun to discover how the health food I was raised on–stuff like hummus and bean sprouts on whole grain bread–is “comfort food” now. :)

  83. Re: pop tarts: yes, they are that good.

    Also, until I was a teenager, my mother banned most sugary and processed foods from the house. I used to do the same kind of junk binging at holidays or at other people’s houses. I also used to buy pop tarts and hide them under my bed.

  84. I would like to say something about the television thing. My mother (single mom for the longest time) pretty much taught me that video games, cartoons and a few other things were downright evil. We only watched movies very occasionally if she liked them. For some reason this treatment never triggered the “binge” response in me that has been mentioned here, so I just missed out on these things for my entire childhood.

    And you know what? I’m pissed off. Whenever other people my age are talking about the “good old times”, sharing memories of tv shows, movies, games, toys that were “in” at the time and yes, also food – I can only stare at the ceiling and try not to listen. I frequently feel like I grew up on the moon. I will never be able to participate in these conversations because I haven’t even heard of most of the things they mention. I discovered everything too late when it was hardly new anymore. It sucks.

    On the other hand, we don’t have tv at the moment because we were sick of it and didn’t feel like paying for something that aggravated us on a regular basis. I’m not sure what we’re going to do once our son is old enough to start asking us about it.

  85. This was basically my childhood, right down to the sugar cereals on our birthdays. Which is still a cherished tradition. And we definitely did the thing of eating forbidden foods when we went over to our friends’ houses, and I know when I went away to college I felt a tremendous thrill when I bought – gasp! – a jar of Skippy peanut butter. Additives! Emulsifiers! Sugar! Oh man, that might be the only thing I really do miss about living on my own. Not-all-natural peanut butter. Although my parents have loosened up a lot, and now there are chips and Oreos in the house most of the time… and they stay there for days, while my homemade cookies get eaten in about a day and a half.

  86. One interesting point to add to this discussion is that some recent studies seem to suggest fairly strongly that taste preferences are genetic. So some kids may genetically prefer sweet and some salty and some bitter, etc. Therefore, stories such as Entangled shared where she grew up to prefer the foods that her parents restricted her to make sense when she shares that they chose those foods because they were actually what they as parents enjoyed, not a restriction away from the foods they enjoyed.

    I’m a pediatric occupational therapist and specialize in working with families of children with “feeding disorders,” particularly those related to the autism spectrum so I spend quite a bit of time contemplating the science and psychology of taste. Food seems to be one area that is filled with difficulty for parents. There’s tons of societal pressure and so many of us have food issues of our own that we are trying not to pass on. Sometimes I wonder how anyone comes out with a healthy food attitude!

    Restriction rarely (never?) works. I’m a product of significant food restriction myself and it certainly backfired on my poor mother who I now can see had the best of intentions. I spent years feeling resentful and rebellious about the restrictions and her differing treatment of myself and my brother around food. Thank god for good therapy! I still don’t feel like I’ve gotten to a point where I can eat intuitively, but I’m working on it and thankfully I’ve been able to set boundaries with my mother that mostly keep her from commenting on my food.

  87. Danielle: First, just props on abstinence-only-until-marriage crap. Opposing that BS is part of my day job and it’s very important to me personally. Utter nonsense, that.

    What gets me as an interesting parallel between sex — the big NO in abstinence education — and “junk” food as a big NO — is that NEITHER of them are EVIL. Pause. Ponder. Continue.

  88. @Meowser: Yeah, some of the conversation made me think of gluten-sensitive and celiac kids, too. If a child has a condition like celiac disease and one parent (or step parent) is feeding the child gluten to get back at the other…not cool.

    As far as restricting food in the home goes…it’s funny, but I suspect my sister and I have vastly different memories or at least had vastly different reactions at the time. I know she ate herself sick on Doritos at one point (I suspect my parents had a “go ahead, you’ll only do it once” attitude on that one). I think we just processed special occasions differently; I was sort of oblivious and in the moment, she was the one who’d get upset that the sleepover party will be over tomorrow (and, incidentally, the chips will be put away). I don’t recall feeling that I was ever denied anything — even if I only got the chips during a party — but I wonder if she remembers that she was. It probably didn’t help that I was a pretty easy eater and she was much more fussy, so she probably felt more deprived day to day.

    Which is all a long way of getting to wondering if it all has as much to do with temperament as it does with restriction in the home.

  89. Sniper, peggynature and caffeine, it’s so nice to know I’m not alone on that! Being a state employee has the lovely perk of breaks every 3 hours, so there’s ample opportunities for feedings during the work day.

    I found out the hypoglycemia thing by accident: in the heyday of Atkins, I cut back on the simple carbs and felt better for the first time in years. Would’ve been nice to have known a lot sooner…

  90. Mustelid: I have hypoglycemia myself, and people don’t understand how I can be heavy and still have sugar. :| I’m in High School. I haven’t even bothered trying to explain to people anymore.

  91. Sniper, et al.; I got the same thing, and have at least since I was 15. When it happened I was having a “hungry day.”I thought it was hypoglycemia, and then I got my sugars AND insulin tested, and it turns out that I have insulin resistance, as a part of PCOS. I’m now on meds for it, and the OMG HUNGRY OR DIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! is gone, thank everything above.

    I didn’t have food restrictions growing up. My mom hated cooking, and so all we had, literally, was junk food or fast food. Shockingly, when I was literally living on a diet of fast food, vending machines, the school cafeteria and bread, I was really skinny. It took eating real food (and a few years of insulin resistance unchecked) before I started gaining weight.

  92. Mustelid, I’m with you, Sniper, peggynature and caffeine. If I dont’ eat every 4-5 hours I get irritable, then downright bitchy, as well as weak, dizzy and completely unable to concentrate. I’m embarassed to eat on the bus on the way home from classes but I make myself. I used to hide baking supplies in my room (brown sugar or icing sugar) and eat it straight because sugar was so restricted at our house. Thankfully I moved out 5 years ago and have a much healthier relationship with food but its’ a work in progress. Thank you for helping me feel that I’m not alone.

  93. And quadruple the hating people who move the lunch hour. I NEED my feeding schedule; if I get off of it, VERY BAD things happen. It certainly made shift work fun :/

  94. Count me in as another one who gets the weak/nauseous/cranky combo when I need to eat! I am definitely hypoglycemic and have been for pretty much my whole life, so I’ve gotten used to being very adamant with people that when I say I need to eat RIGHTFUCKINGNOW, I really do mean it. My current boss has the same problem, though, so I don’t get screwed at work with it.

    My mom never restricted food when I was growing up; we always had a good selection of both healthy food and junk available. She did only cook one meal and expected us to eat it, though. Which was fine, as she’s a very good cook. :) Hell, the kids next door were very sugar and other tasty snacks-restricted, and she made sure we knew that she thought it was not a good idea. My favorite incident with said neighbor kids? They once gave me a candy bar for my birthday. No, it wasn’t a money issue, they just thought that that was the best thing that anyone could possibly ever receive. Way to fetishize chocolate.

  95. A Sarah, you can totally steal it. :) I know I’m not perfect at this and reading this thread has certainly gave me something to think about.

    Re: hypoglycemia – about the only thing my mother did do right for me was getting my blood sugar tested early on in life. Like, the moment I started exhibiting the OMG HUNGER signs, she had me tested because she has it and recognized it right away. I’ve known how to control it since I was about 14 but that doesn’t mean that I’ve never fainted, vomited or gone completely psycho on anyone because I hadn’t eaten. At nearly frickin’ 30 years old you’d think I would know that I need to eat breakfast and make sure I get plenty of protein to keep my sugar under control but I’m still having a hard time with that one. I wake up feeling like I’m going to be sick, most likely because of the blood sugar but the last thing I want when I am *this* close to blowing chunks is to eat. I just want some fucking coffee so I can find my brain. heh

  96. *joins the hypoglycemia corner*

    I was diagnosed back in my mid-20s. I was sick for over 6 months, nauseous all the time but also starving, and suicidally depressed. It was amazing what happened when I finally spoke to an NP who knew what she was doing and sent me to a nutritionist. I went on a strict low-carb diet for several weeks until my body could heal and it was like waking up from a long nightmare.

    And people who don’t have it or insulin resistance just do not get the physical and mental misery that goes with a crash a lot of the time. My mood takes a nosedive, I get a headache, I start to get the shakes or feel cold, but the mood swing is usually the first symptom and I turn into the Hulk.

    I keep peanut butter on whole wheat cracker packs with me at all times, just in case.

    The thing that drives me really bats, though is people who go “Oh yeah, I don’t feel good when I skip lunch either!” Um, NO. That is NOT hypoglycemia that is normal hunger. The healthiest person on earth will get cranky and miserable if denied food for 8 hours. When it’s 2, 3, 4 hours and you get those symptoms, then you’re talking some sort of disorder or sensitivity.

    DRST

  97. “My biggest problem with Bennett’s article: why the focus on moms? Yes, her original encounter was with a food-obsessed woman, but that doesn’t mean that only women can warp their kids’ psyches.”

    I think so much of this is due to the “OMG TEH OBESITY EPIDEMIC!!!” media monster that is raging right now. And throw in a little mysogyny to boot. Women have historically been used as scapegoats since the dawn of time. Viewed as the weaker sex, society has used women as examples for all the ills of the world throughout the history books. We all know the biblical examples: Eve, Jezebel, Lot’s Wife, Mary Magdalene, etc. Then there’s the burning of witches, outlawing of prostitution, the lackluster women’s movement, anti-feminists, and lack of equal pay…the list goes on and on.

    It seems to me that people want to point fingers to oversimplify the solution because it’s easier. Putting the blame equally on the shoulders of men, or corporations, or lack of government regulation or standards is fighting a war with invisible enemies. The picture is too big, thus Mom gets the blame. I had been guilty of this as well, but have seen the error of my ways and now spread the blame around.

    Obviously the author was trying to state that we all need to chill about food restrictions and is suggesting reasonable guidelines that allow for all types of food choices for kids so that the child will develop their likes and dislikes on their own. Placing value statements on different types of food makes it so personal that emotions get attached and that can lead to unhealthy attachments. Personally, I believe there should be more opportunities for exercise…not for weight control, but for enjoyment, health promotion, mental wellness, and overall fitness—AT ANY WEIGHT (and I’m 300+).

  98. Only time I ever saw the pizza thing was when I was a senior in high school and visited Brown University. I went out for dinner with the current students who were hosting me, and we went to a local pizza joint. When the pizza came to the table, they started throwing napkins in the middle of it just as if this were a natural, normal part of eating. I thought “WTF are they doing?!” and then realized.

    I ended up going to college in Boston where there was better pizza. And of course, desklamp Pop-tarts. You people are, one and all, completely misguided on this subject, though. Two words: FROSTED BLUEBERRY.

  99. I think all you PopTart-lovin’ people must have defective tasters or something, ’cause those things taste like sugar-infused cardboard to me. ;) Now, my Mama’s homemade caramel-pecan rolls ? *swooooon* Or hell, let’s face it, pretty much anything else she cooks or bakes, because she is FIERCE in the kitchen, yo.

    And I eat Cheetos with chopsticks (festive orange plastic ones, natch) so my fingies don’t get yicky. :D

  100. but… but pop tarts are delicious sugar! i was never crazily into them, but then when i became poor and mentioned on a message board that i hadn’t had a cookie in almost a year for monetary reasons, one stranger shipped me a box containing every variety of pop-tart and oreo his local wal-mart had had to offer to counteract the problem. it took me weeks to get through it all, but i now looooove my pop-tarts… even though i don’t think i’ve had one since august. meh. maybe i’ll feel like some next week, or next month….

  101. I had fallen asleep in the chair one afternoon recently, and woke up to find my five year old had gotten the peanut butter down and was scooping up crackers with it by the gobs. When I walked in on her sitting on the counter eating, she immediately looked like a deer caught in headlights, and she said “mom are you mad?” and I said “nope” and walked on to the bathroom.

    I could have freaked out and made some fuss about it and how much of the peanut butter she had raided but I didn’t. As it is, she thinks she is fat. Where does she get this from? After standing in grocery store lines she can tell what is going on with pictures on tabloids of fat women being compared to skinny ones, and that is really sad. 5 years old, and she totally gets that.

    I’m still learning, but I really want my daughter to grow up with a healthy relationship with food. I grew up in a home where I was somewhat restricted, but mainly due to money and the inability to buy alot of groceries. I still feel like I’m wasting food if I don’t scrape the plate clean. I’m slowly coming around to just stopping when I’m full, and being able to throw out /save what is left.

  102. Word to whoever mentioned the lack of pop culture knowledge that comes from not being allowed to watch tv. My mother has a life-long crusade against the Simpsons. Never, EVER were we allowed to watch it. So, absolutely clueless all the time — even, say in science class, when discussing invasive species, there was a handy Simpsons reference that I had no idea about.

  103. I like the frosted strawberry pop tarts myself.

    As for restricting or not restricting kids’ food? I think the whole issue is extremely tricky. My sister has a baby son now, and I think all the time about how tough it’s going to be to teach him that all foods are OK, and yet still instill healthy eating habits at the same time.

    When I was growing up, we always had junk food in the house (Lay’s chips and Little Debbies were the main things I remember). Yet, there was this weird sense that even though it was there, we weren’t supposed to eat it. I would get lectured by my dad for eating poorly (and being overweight), even though my parents were the ones who brought the stuff into the house! We usually had fruit available too, and meals were generally healthy, but I still grew up with a messed-up relationship to junk food. I guess I had the worst of both worlds!

  104. One interesting point to add to this discussion is that some recent studies seem to suggest fairly strongly that taste preferences are genetic. So some kids may genetically prefer sweet and some salty and some bitter, etc.

    I can absolutely believe that. Like I said, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but anything salty, and cheese, are another matter entirely. And that’s exactly like my dad and my brother, whom I resemble physically and in lots of other ways. My mother’s the one who loves sweet stuff, is genetically thin, and has this belief that if a child doesn’t ‘take after’ the same-sex parent there is something deeply wrong. So attitudes to who ate what in our house were kind of complicated.

  105. The healthiest person on earth will get cranky and miserable if denied food for 8 hours. When it’s 2, 3, 4 hours and you get those symptoms, then you’re talking some sort of disorder or sensitivity.
    I developed severe reactive hypoglycemia in high school (likely from a systemic candida problem), and it made my final year hellish. (It got much better with homeopathic treatment, though.)
    Unfortunately, subsequent years of disordered eating have left my body with an inability to alter its hunger sensations — it doesn’t matter what or how much I eat, the feeling of hunger never goes away. :-(

  106. DSRT: I was luckily able to teach my husband how to deal with the OMG MUST EAT OR MURDER EVERYONE IN SIGHT!!!!!!!!! stuff. Basically, if I started failing to function, or became really incredibly bitchy, he’d ask me when was the last time I ate. 90% of the time, it’d be too long ago.

    Of course, 10% of the time I was being bitchy because I hadn’t gotten enough sleep or he was being a jerk, but still :)

    I’ve also been lucky to always be thin enough that I don’t register as an ‘OMG fatty!!!’ (though I am ‘obese’) so I haven’t had as much of the stigma from eating in public, or eating everything in sight in public. I can only imagine how much worse this would be if I was larger.

  107. I’m hoping to head off some bad shit with my kid – we just got a treadmill, and he loves it. However, he was doing it for the first time and was all excited about the calorie count.

    car, maybe you can say something like, “Yeah, it’s really neat how our bodies convert food into energy! That’s why you have to eat, so that your body has energy to do stuff, like running.” That way you don’t make the calorie count thing restricted, or ignore what he’s interested in, but you reframe it a reason *to* eat, rather than a reason *not* to?

  108. And the response by the mother in this story is just ridiculous — it obviously had squat-all to do with the food (since, after all, if it was really an issue she could just say to him, “Uh, X, could you not give Little Filbert white bread and Cheetos any more? It makes him bounce off the walls,” and that would be that), and everything to do with not wanting her kids around Dad’s hawt young girlfriend who he left her for.

    I actually had some sympathy for the mother in the article. It seemed likely that it wasn’t about the food as much as it was about control and the collapse of child rearing negotiations post-divorce, where things like the what the kids have for lunch are very much the sort of thing where she could say “could you not give LittleFilbert X” and he’d ignore it. I doubt court was the first step; divorces get stupidly acrimonious, over things like reading and homework and child support.

    And while I agree that occasional Cheetos won’t hurt anyone and I think the point about food restriction is well-taken, it would be annoying as hell to be the only person responsible for the child’s nutrition & well-being. (Mom makes us eat greens; Dad lets us eat Cheetos! Mom makes us study! Dad lets us watch Batman! If Mom complains, it’s because she’s jealous of Daddy’s new hot wife! Stupid mom!)

  109. I almost forgot to chime in RE: Poptarts.

    Everyone has neglected THE most delicious Poptart flavor of all. They only have it during the holidays. GINGERBREAD! Oh. muh. guh. Squee, they are DEE-LISH.

    Seriously, this year I was so excited when winter rolled around (a season I generally reserve for the bottom of the Loathing Pile, ikk to months upon months of cold and wet) because I knew gingerbread Poptarts would be back!

  110. Kimocean, I think that’s what I realized thinking over this again. We weren’t a junk food free house because my parents pressured themselves into feeding us a certain way. We were a junk food free house because they didn’t like it and weren’t going to spend money on something they thought was neither healthy nor tasty.

    I’m kind of baffled by what causes my blood sugar issues. A few years ago, I started experienced excessive thirst. Which led every doctor I ever saw to think “hypoglycemia + thirst = diabetes.” It took about ten blood glucose tests to convince them otherwise, the final straw being an 82 (barely HIGH enough to be in the normal range) about twenty minutes after eating (a full of carbs) breakfast. I’ve found that making sure I have protein at almost every meal helps, but making sure I have carbs (simple and complex) is even more important. But generally for whatever the hell my body does, the usual recommendations don’t hold water. I wonder if there’s not something going on in the other direction – that my insulin is unusually effective at lowering blood sugar. And as for people who get that when they don’t eat breakfast or lunch??? Dude, skipping a meal?! UNFATHOMABLE. I can barely even skip a snack most days.

  111. I wonder if there’s not something going on in the other direction – that my insulin is unusually effective at lowering blood sugar.

    Yes, that’s the reactive variety of hypogylcemia, that is caused by the body’s overreaction/oversensitivity in terms of its insulin response. (‘Fasting hypoglycemia’, by contract, is the sort that occurs after several hours/overnight without eating.) It can be a precursor (often a distant one) to type II diabetes, but can also occur for other reasons (like the candida problem I mentioned in my case, or simply genetic insulin resistance). You might consider adding a chromium supplement to your diet, as this common deficiency can cause/aggravate reactive hypoglycemia.

  112. I think all you PopTart-lovin’ people must have defective tasters or something, ’cause those things taste like sugar-infused cardboard to me. ;)*

    Amen, Ms. Chilipepper!

    As a mom of two, I think that kids (like anyone) react to food differently; but for my pickier of two kids, he needs to eat a ‘new’ food a few times before he recognizes it as food.

    I was thinking that even in a society who didn’t stack food with seventeen levels of taboo you’d have kids who used food to power struggle. But thinking about it, societies have usually had SOME taboo or ritual or ingrouping through food.

    And that’s really interesting, because it gives our current (white-middle-class) behaviour sort of an anthropological context.

    Even before body-acceptance, this whole desperate ‘consumerist’ (in the literal sense) fetishization of food struck me as an increasingly strange class-and-tribe marker. It came from the hippies I think – the communes were always back-to-the-land food lovers – but I watched it change, and get marketed and sort of weird.

    Suddenly it became the opposite of fat-and-Walmart consumerism, and yet it is marketed inherently about self, about body-as-temple, and about consuming. Yes,there are environmental reasons to buy organic or be vegetarian, but when I was a kid the fact my family was then vegetarian was weird — until suddenly this health-specific fetish caught on. (Since we were veggie *and fat*, I’ve been standing saying but-but-but for a long time, watching popular culture sweep in and co-opt the fringe in which I was raised and then suddenly pop me to the outside because I don’t look right — it’s been really, really weird.)

    So even though it’s both an individualist choice and a consumer choice, a classical capitalist choice, it’s somehow framed as different than other consumer choices, even with groups who rage against coke vs. pepsi consumerist capitalism in other places.

    Only now it’s buying organic B12s and living forever rather than buying pepsi and being forever young, but it’s the same *marketing*.

    And hey! Any person who makes their food decisions based on a love of packaged natural and a hope for health is making a valid decision; it’s the framing as moral and ingrouping that makes me scratch my head. Because it’s fish-on-fridays or kosher without a god.

    I suppose mortality is the godhead now, capable of punishing, and obesity the ‘stain’ of sin; do it right or die, do it right or your sin shows on your hips.

    But it’s not… There’s no upside. No miracles and hope, no presents at a winter feast, no coming together in community, no altruistic outside action. No feeding of the poor or giving your stuff to charity. It’s like organized religious tradition stripped of any of the good stuff. *gah*.

    Of course, maybe that’s simply because those parts of the culture are in a different compartment; they haven’t been woven together by a clergy. Which is also fine! I don’t want this to be seen as an argument for constructing an organized religion. I just find it interesting – secular *morally framed* food restriction. I would have thought that without god there’d be no reason to keep kosher.

  113. Although I’m not a mom, I’ve been a nanny and teacher, and just adore children overall. Being restrictive and saying no (about food and TV etc.) is not really a great policy; instead, I think it’s more effective to get the child excited about a better alternative. When I was growing up, there were no restrictions in my household on TV (then again, I grew up in the 70s, when there was no cable). My mom never criticized the silly shows we watched, but she did get us excited about things that we might not choose ourselves. I remember once that PBS (my mom’s favorite channel) was showing Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast. My mom told me (when I was perhaps 8 or 9 years old?) that it was a FANTASTIC movie and that we should watch it together. So we did, and as we did, she would point out all sorts of things that she loved about this movie (the “living” furniture in the Beast’s castle, etc.). I ended up loving that movie and would watch it every time it came on PBS. And I would always ask my mom about other movies. Note: my mother was also a mad bookworm, and ALWAYS had her nose buried in a book. As a result, my brother and I are also bookworms. So, she didn’t have to say no about silly TV because she opened up alternative avenues for us to enjoy. I think a parent can do this with food and all sorts of activities and behaviors. (Then again, I’m not a parent, so I wouldn’t know. It did work with my charges when I was a nanny, though.)

    I think kids are open to all sorts of stuff–it’s just a matter of exposure at an early age. I worked for 5 years in an American school in a fairly remote eastern European country (from ’95-’99). The kids at the school were the kids of diplomats and businessmen, and they all had it pretty good (nice houses, imported food, fancy vacations, etc.)–and some were a little spoiled. I decided to start an afterschool “film club” at the school because I wanted to expose the kids to great films that they might not normally choose to watch–I was going to emulate my mom. Everyone came to the club because I was rather popular with the kids (and also because I would bake the most awesome chocolate chip cookies for these meetings). These kids were between the ages of 7 and 14. I would show them Kurosawa films (Derzu Usala [sp?], Seven Samurai), Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast, classic Hollywood films like To Kill a Mockingbird, etc. At the first meeting, when they saw the film was in black and white, they started complaining and whining. In the beginning, I had to talk them through the more difficult films, and get them interested. But it was amazing–they all became more and more entranced with each film. At the last meeting, I showed Raise the Red Lantern. Each child was fixated on the screen and there was not a single peep or fidget throughout the 2+ hours of that film. I can’t tell you how lovely it was to see these children all falling in love with these sorts of movies.

    And my mom would take me to the opera at Lincoln Center as a kid. I TOTALLY didn’t get it and wasn’t that interested as a child, but as an adult, I’m now a big opera fan. One just needs to plant the seeds…

    [Sorry for the long post...]

  114. P.S. I love ALL Poptarts, but prefer the ones with frosting. Frosted Cinnamon and Chocolate Fudge are old childhood favorites, along with Blueberry, Strawberry, Cherry… The Apple ones were good, too!

  115. My parents were crunchy hippy types who were much more regulatory of me (the oldest) than my younger bro. I remember him eating Froot Loops out of the box while watching cartoons and complaining bitterly to my mom about the relaxation of regime… I was a granola and PBS kid. Although, I never liked Froot Loops and thought TV was boring–it was just the injustice that got me. My mom was always pretty open about saying that they had been a little paranoid about the first kid and a little loose with the second.

    I remember going over to some kid’s house and having PBJs with Jif, grape jelly, and white bread and being unable to believe that this was actually nominally the same thing as my homemade wheat bread, natural peanut butter, and whole-fruit preserves PBJs that showed up in my lunch all the time. I would have gone for the fakey-PBJs over any other treat, and sometimes, if I’m feeling in need for a little-kid treat will make myself one like that, but most of the time I’m all about the “crunchy” version.

  116. Argh… I should’ve said “business people” instead of “businessmen” in my first post. Sorry for being so backwards!

  117. Vidya, I don’t think it’s reactive hypoglycemia, since when I took that test, I was feeling fine (and other random and fasting tests were all normal) and hypoglycemic symptoms don’t generally occur until 4-6 hours after eating, depending on how much I ate at the last meal. At this point, no one’s found anything pathologically wrong – it just appears that my sugar (and also my salt levels, but that’s probably a coincidence) – like to hang out at the bottom of the typical range. I’m a pretty small person who eats more than guys way larger than me, so I’m thinking this might just be the price I pay for my metabolism.

  118. Pop Tarts are one of the very few “junk” foods that I hate so much, I might not even have jumped at the chance to eat them at friends’ houses just because they were forbidden. :) (Then again, I might have. Sugar’s sugar.)

  119. @MsChilePepper: Exactly. I can’t even remember if I ever had a poptart before college, and I can’t say I’ll ever eat one again. My dad’s apple popovers and cinnamon swirl egg bread though…

  120. Arwen, big fat jiggly WORD to everything you just wrote! Also? I wish you lived in my town. (Well, I say that, except there ARE some cool shapelings that live in my town and have I managed to get together with them? Noooooo. Two young kids plus finishing a Ph.D and oh, look, no social life. I keep telling myself it will pay off someday, but… hm.)

  121. I would have gone for the fakey-PBJs over any other treat, and sometimes, if I’m feeling in need for a little-kid treat will make myself one like that, but most of the time I’m all about the “crunchy” version.

    ha me too! growing up we never had white bread, only potato bread (which to this day, I cannot understand people who prefer white to potato, which is just as smooth and fakey but so much tastier to me), and then eventually I think I started eating whole wheat because I wanted to be healthy or a grown-up or something… anyway, now I am mostly all about the all-natural unsalted crunchy peanut butter with whole-fruit unsugared preserves on 9-grain bread (which itself is pretty sweet, so this isn’t about not liking sweetness!) but if given the opportunity to eat the fake kind I will get so happy (since that was my lunch of choice for oh six years or so).

    what’s especially awesome is those new uncrustables or whatever they’re called, I think they’re made by smuckers? little round white-bread PBJs that are crust-free and filled with fakey PB & J… super fun to eat!

  122. Weirdly enough, my family was the other way ’round – I had Wonder bread my whole life until I left home, and then was all “OMG wheat bread is awesome why have I never had this before???” Seriously, wonder bread sucks to my taste buds, and not for lack of trying on my parents’ part. I doubt there’s much rhyme or reason to tastes.

  123. Arwen… I found what you wrote very thought provoking… I’ve actually been thinking along similar lines last night, and you wrote something similar to what I was thinking…

    In particular, this:
    I suppose mortality is the godhead now, capable of punishing, and obesity the ’stain’ of sin; do it right or die, do it right or your sin shows on your hips.

    But it’s not… There’s no upside. No miracles and hope, no presents at a winter feast, no coming together in community, no altruistic outside action. No feeding of the poor or giving your stuff to charity. It’s like organized religious tradition stripped of any of the good stuff. *gah*.

    I acutally marginally keep sort of kosher, not so much because I regard it as God’s law but more as a connection to my heritage (and being lactose intolerant, avoiding dairy is not so hard).

    The analogy of obesity as the visible sign of sin here on earth… smoker, drug users, people who consume alcohol in excess of what is deemed acceptable for “health,” peole who eat more than is absolutely necessary for maintaining health and energy to engage in appropriate physical activity (someone a while ago talked about the irony of it being “okay” to consume extra calories to train for a marathon but for any other reason it’s not okay to eat an ounce more than necessary) are all horrible sinners. And whether or not a person is eating “more than they need” (by whose estimation?) — being fat is a sign of having sinned.

    Argh. I know we’ve covered this all before. But I totally agree, this is religious ferver minus the compassion, hope, love, caring. There appears to me some form of community, however dysfunctional, in common hate.

  124. A few thoughts as I’m reading through comments.

    - I grew up picky. As in, I spit out the first egg my mother ever put in my mouth, and I really struggled with vegetables in part because we ate a lot of canned due to borderline poverty, but also because it turns out I’m something of a super-taster, and the bitter compounds in most veggies were hard for me to deal with. (I always ate lima beans, unlike most kids!) Mom tried to be accomodating but we had plenty of battles because she was a Home Ec teacher and believed firmly in the “meat, starch, veg” holy trinity of dinner. I had an “aha” moment somewhere in the transition to college and am now an extremely broad eater, though I still have a few categorical things I won’t eat – pickled things, lunchmeats and hot dogs, mayo-based salads, ham, celery. I had to reach a point where I could experience intense and diverse flavors as enjoyable rather than overwhelming before I could broaden my tastes.

    - As far as feeding kids go, the author of the Tigers and Strawberries food blog has been documenting how she feeds her daughter Kat since Kat’s birth about 18 months ago. She is a chef at a Middle Eastern restaurant, and in large part, the baby has eaten adapted (pureed, sometimes ingredient-limited) versions of what the family eats since she has been on solid food. She has very broad tastes now, apparently, because she was not started on that ultra-bland diet so many people choose for babies. There was a good article in one of the major media a couple of years ago about cultural habits around feeding infants and toddlers, comparing the rice gruel and processed bland foods recommended to most white Americans with traditional baby foods in other cultures; unsurprisingly, not everyone thinks babies can’t handle complex, even seasoned/spiced flavors.

    - Like everybody here, I’ve eaten myself sick on foods now and then, though it doesn’t tend to be “junk food” in the past 5 years (OK, I’m looking at you sushi.) I very distinctly recall a revelation I had my first year in college, though, that still sticks with me. My dorm did “top your own Belgian waffles” every Sunday for breakfast, and though Mom regularly made waffles for us, she did not so much serve them with whipped cream, chocolate chips, sprinkles, sugary fruit goo, and ice cream. A few weeks into my first semester, I came down on a Sunday and had this feeling of resigned despair as I looked at the waffle bar. Sugar-loaded waffles didn’t sound good, but I felt compelled to go have one because it was there and it was a treat and don’t we always want treats? Something audibly clicked in my mind and I thought “there will be waffles in the future. You do not have to have waffles today to make sure you don’t miss out and feel deprived forever. If you don’t want the waffles, don’t eat them.” I won’t pretend I shifted immediately and irrevocably into intutive eating at that moment, but it has been a touchstone ever since that helps me decide if I really want those cookies sitting around the office, if I want cake when it’s brought in for a party, etc. I no longer go past the dessert at a potluck and feel compelled to take one of everything because what if there’s never pecan pie again OMG. I guess it goes to show what that “scarcity/forbidden” mentality will do to you if you don’t get on top of it. (And I’m getting better with the sushi – I no longer have to order every single roll I like the look of, plus every single ngiri I like, because those are the ones I like and if I don’t get snapper AND yellowtail AND eel AND salmon AND mackerel AND AND AND this time, there may never be any ever again.)

  125. I could only watch PBS and when I pined for fruit roll-ups my mom bought me something called “fruit leather” from the fruits and nuts type store. On very special occasions (when she got a migraine, basically), we had whoppers. I resented a lot of her parenting in my teens and early twenties, and now, I don’t have a TV in my house and have basically the eating habits that she encouraged when i was a child. while i get that helicopter parenting is horrible and insufferable, i don’t see why i should have to have cheetos and pop-tarts and other shit that i personally view, from a moral and nutritional standpoint, as the downfall of civilization, in my house because restriction is the new hot thing to worry about. isn’t that a kind of helicopter parenting as well? let them do all that shit at a friend’s house, i say. i went to my neighbor’s house basically in order to drink diet coke, eat ramen noodles, and play video games, and i think that’s okay. as an adult i never feel the desire to eat or do those things. i won’t tell my child that she’s going to hell for it, but she’s going to have to go nextdoor to get the ramen and the mario.

    also, yes, michael pollanism is, today, an unachievable dream for most people. that kind of eating, in the u.s., is available primarily to people with an insane amount of privilege working in their favor. that said, i don’t think we all need to embrace cheetos et al in defiance of the sad truth that it costs money to know where your food comes from. if i’ve got money, i’m eating nice fruits and veg and happy meat and cheese from nearby. i’d like to think that exercising some kind of agency over the things i put in my body and my house is okay. i’d like to not get shit from people because, i’ll say it again, i think pop-tarts are the devil’s biscuits.

  126. I totally agree with Laura’s viewpoint about teaching children to develop the skills to make their own food choices. More and more now, I see parents who are absolutely neurotic about what goes into their children’s mouths, and it’s really sad. It’s true; kids raised this way never learn self-control, they don’t develop the ability to discern their own tastes and understand what they are and aren’t hungry for, and they are completely detached from the natural rythyms of their own appetites. They’re also terrified of getting fat. I worry that all of this neurosis is going to create a generation of stressed-out, sickly, guilt-ridden adults with sugar addictions.

    I find myself in inner conflict about this quite often, because I work for a heart-disease prevention non-profit that spends a great deal of resources educating children (and adults) about so-called “healthy eating.” I’ve brought up my concerns to my boss a number of occasions about some of the “knowledge” we espouse in our literature and in the classrooms; and how if it’s not framed correctly, it could lead to disordered eating. He was very understanding, and we’re working on ways to mitigate this, but it’s difficult for me all the same to be towing the line of some things that I just think are not healthy ways to view food. Having dealt with anorexia for years, I know of what I speak. Yet, still, I am forced to some degree to support this line of thinking, and it worries me sometimes. Most of it is common sense information, but kids are getting messages from everywhere now that food is something to be frightened of.
    And don’t even get me started on health disparities based on economic status…

    On top of that, diet talk is rampant at my workplace, and it’s be legitimized because of the nature of the work we do. It’s very triggering for me, and I often have to just shut the door to my office and ignore it.

  127. My biggest problem with Bennett’s article: why the focus on moms?

    My father was the biggest driver of the food decisions in my house. He was very controlling and critical of what we ate and still to this day suffers from very disordered eating. I was able to read the nutritional facts on the sides of packages when I was 6 and debated the merits of one cereal vs another with my mom based on the sugar content. It was a very unhealthy “healthy eating lifestyle” that my parents cultivated.

    I don’t think I was ever that kid that went crazy at a friend’s house, eating up all the pop-tarts, but it was a revelation for me when I had other people’s parents insisting I wasn’t eating enough or pushing another cookie onto my plate.

    Now that I’m older and out of my parent’s house, and therefore out of their control, I eat however I desire. I don’t overeat, generally don’t snack, and don’t fill up my pantry with tons of junk food. I learned to appreciate real butter, lard, full-fat ice cream, bacon, fine cheeses, and other foods forever banished at my parents’ house. My weight has remained steady, no matter what I eat.

  128. I don’t have battery life to read all the no-doubt-great comments, but in reply to your PopTarts question: no. They don’t taste as good as they used to. I wish they did! I had a coupon and gave in to nostalgia and was sorry I did. Not sure if I grew up or they changed ingredients, but like you, I used to *lurve* them and somewhere along the way they stopped tasting as good. Bummer. Probably more heart and tooth healthy in the long run, but bummer anyway!

  129. i don’t see why i should have to have cheetos and pop-tarts and other shit that i personally view, from a moral and nutritional standpoint, as the downfall of civilization, in my house because restriction is the new hot thing to worry about.

    Nobody is saying you have to go out and buy Cheetos by the gallon — we all make ethical choices around food, whether in relation to the environment or global economies or religion or philosophy. But if you tell your kids that pop tarts are the downfall of civilization and absolutely immoral and that eating them means participating in the destruction of the world, then how are they going to feel when they DO go to their friends’ houses and have the devil’s biscuits (which, btw, total LOL)? You say “i won’t tell my child that she’s going to hell for it, but she’s going to have to go nextdoor to get the ramen and the mario,” so hopefully they’ll feel okay about it, since you’re framing it in terms of a decision that they get to make. But clearly, a lot of people get a really different experience from their parents’ ethical stances on food; it seems that a lot of time it comes down to how their parents frame the issue.

    We talk a lot here about food being morally neutral; that is obviously complicated in terms of the many ethical issues that surround food production in our culture(s) — but I still maintain that food is morally neutral in terms of what you feel like putting in your damn mouth. Setting up black and white good food/bad food restrictions in moral terms is inviting a lifetime of shame, guilt, and secret behavior around food.

  130. @ A Sarah – I’d love that. I agree, tho, about having a life such that there are people you want to hang with and don’t. (Sometimes, that’s even my partner. Sigh.)

    @ Cmdr Wattles, isn’t it interesting that pop tarts are “The devil’s biscuits” as opposed to a consumer choice you don’t make? I am not huge on processed food in my house, or platform shoes – but I don’t find platform shoes the devil’s footwear! *g*

    If the devil makes Poptarts, than what does that say of the people taking communion by eating them?

    And I’m not sure I’d agree that ‘Michael Pollanism’ an unachievable ‘dream’ for ‘most’ people. Sometimes people pick Cheetos on their own merits. What I think might be an unachievable ‘dream’, if it’s a dream at all, is marketed organic products, and high end junk food – the health conscious group that also has a sweet tooth isn’t bereft of evening snack options. Organic baklava may be higher in omega 6, I suppose, but I doubt it’ll solve whatever is ailing our society; dagoba chocolate is delicious and fair trade, and I encourage that, but it is also at a price point that makes poptarts more accessible. They’re both bought with ahrm nahrm nahrm in mind, though.

    Anyway: I don’t allow my kids free range access to snacks because ‘they’ll ruin their dinner’ which I’ve worked at cooking and I hate that, and they also make a huge frikkin’ mess. And I don’t buy products that I morally don’t agree with; for example, gun related paraphernalia, Bratz dolls, uh… Froot Loops. (Because of the spelling of Froot). But having moderation in everything, within the context of whatever moderation looks for a given family, is a very good path to take.

  131. “If the devil makes Poptarts, than what does that say of the people taking communion by eating them?”

    Ahhh … pardon? What church has communion with PopTarts?

  132. @ sweet machine- i love this blog! i am one of those people who is always composing strongly-worded letters in my head. i come here for the nuance and the thinking, because i tend to get worked up about things and often somewhat arbitrarily assign a morality to things. sometimes my insufferable liberal ‘think of the children’ self fights with my inner crazed libertarian who thinks everyone needs to get the fuck out everyone else’s house.
    @arwen- just joking with the nomenclature there. i would strongly encourage you all to call CPS if i did in fact tell a child that anything was the devil’s anything.

    and btw y’all so you don’t think i’m some sort of prim foodier-than-thou mother effer, i must say that if loving the whopper is wrong, i don’t ever want to be right. that is all.

  133. Honestly, Bennet’s article stinks. Considering how immensely ill I was as a kid after eating the kind of food this supposed nazi’s ex fed her children I say yes, it CAN be child abuse. To dismiss this sort of illness as kooky is another form of control and suppression and really makes me wonder why Bennet sided with the ex. I eat much like the food crazed slayer of Jews now because it actually keeps me healthy, bodily and most importantly mentally. Perhaps not the well rounded, enlightened sort of healthy some would like to see but screw them, it works.

    I feel so angry for the little boy I could spit.

  134. I loved pop tarts growing up. My mom was restrictive with junk food when it came to me. We always had it in the house, but it was for my skinny sister, and being the fat one, I was not allowed to have any. So, I got to watch my sister eat oreos and twinkies, and I never got any. This, naturally, colored my views on food. It also made me feel really, really singled out. However, sweet breakfast foods, I was sometimes allowed. I could have pop tarts, or the occasional bowl of lucky charms. Every once in a while on Saturdays, my mom would bring us doughnuts, but…my sister would get CHOCOLATE ones, and I got plain ones. How fucked up is that? So yeah, when I left home at eighteen, I proceeded to lose my mind and pretty much live on junk food.

    But as I got older, my tastes changed. It happened systematically through my twenties…first, I couldn’t stand Doritos, then I started to hate twinkies. One day, about four years ago or so, I was eating a strawberry pop tart. Halfway through, I realized that I found it to be disgusting. I gently set it down and walked away. I have never eaten a pop tart since.

    These days, I try to eat as healthy as my budget allows. I love love LOVE veggies, don’t really like fruits, love to cook but can’t do it as often as I’d like (biochemistry major, dude), yet I still think I get a pretty good mix of both “healthy” and “junk” foods. I still can get pretty cranky about what I eat, though. If I can’t have what I want when I want it, the inner child in me starts screaming. And I’m like, dude, chill out. Sometimes, there’s just no chili dogs around. Relax. And I do. I’m getting better with it, but It’s like I’m still trying to make up for my perceived childhood food injustices. One thing, though…I still have to always have chocolate in the house. It may take me a long time to eat it, and I may not want it omg right! nao!! but if it’s not at least there, I get the shakes.

    Thanks mom.

  135. The junk food in the house was bought for our father. We females got carrot sticks, not potato chips, with our sandwiches. He got deli ham on his sandwich. We got peanut butter. Now, looking back, I can tell they were 1) parenting in the First Granola Wave of the seventies, and I am the eldest, and 2) that they were paying a mortgage they could barely afford and making sure their kids had riding lessons and piano lessons and such, and were consequently making sure that no money was wasted.

    But yeah, I loved my grandma, but I could have as many oreo cookies as I wanted at her house, and there were times that was a pretty big deal.

    And then I got older and discovered ethnic foods. I have an Aspie palate with some supertasting involved, and as I have IBS I have to watch what I eat or there will be lower gut tantrums (NOTHING is worth that. NOTHING.) But it does not stop me from the wonders that are rice and curry.

    The problem I keep running into with sweets is that I am such a good cook, that I can’t hardly stand purchased ones. Why would I want a purchased brownie when, in thirty minutes, I can have a blondie with butterscotch and pecans and dark chocolate ribbons that will fill my mouth up and be a whole-body food thing, and it also will not have HCFS which makes me feel like crap? But it took me a while to come to peace with “I can in theory eat anything I want but my body says no to this and that and the other.”

  136. i don’t see why i should have to have cheetos and pop-tarts and other shit that i personally view, from a moral and nutritional standpoint, as the downfall of civilization, in my house because restriction is the new hot thing to worry about. isn’t that a kind of helicopter parenting as well?

    Well, I don’t think it’s so much the “new hot thing to worry about” as it is a response to the fact that it is now quite trendy to morally-encode one’s white and upper-middle-class privilege by being a Careful Eater of Morally Good Foods. (And a Careful Utilizer of the Best Practices in Education. And a Careful Consumer of Media.) And multiply that times a billion trillion if you’re the mom.

    It’s part of the whole white middle class fauxmenist mindset of, “You *WILL* find it empowering to embrace your inner Ancient Woman of Yore who gets off on gazing into babies’ eyes and nursing and buying wooden Montessori toys and crushing organic berries and herbs with a mortar and pestle. YOU WILL! RIGHT NOW!”

    I mean, hey, if people enjoy that stuff, great. I don’t even care if someone has any critical distance about how that’s a manufactured ideal and very earl-aughties, if they truly enjoy it and don’t prescribe it for everyone who is female and a parent. (Btw we’ve done a lot of those things, so I’m picking on my own people here, lol.)

    But seriously, it seems like there’s this insidious thing that white female friend after white female friend of mine has succumbed to… this idea of, “Well, we tried being like the white men in our social set and wielding power irresponsibly for our personal gain. Which was nice for a while. I liked grad school, and working at that law firm was awesome. But then we had kids, and of course our kids deserve Only The Best. So that’s when I decided to sacrifice myself and my identity – in these incredibly privileged ways – so that nothing impure would ever come within miles of my precious children’s eyes, lips, skin, or brains. This is why I now spend ten hours a day on the internet researching the plastics in playground equipment. Because it would be the end of the world if anything happened to my beautiful white, correctly-parented children. Other children? Well… gosh, I’d care about them too if I had any time left over, but them’s the breaks. And my husband isn’t consumed with all this because… um, well, because he’s not. But we have a very egalitarian marriage.”

    And on that note my kid just dumped gummy fish all over the floor…

  137. Hey, er, I was multitasking just now so I think I came across as pissier than I meant, and w/ some poor word choice… I’m sorry. I’d clarify but srsly the kids are destroying the house…

  138. So that’s when I decided to sacrifice myself and my identity – in these incredibly privileged ways – so that nothing impure would ever come within miles of my precious children’s eyes, lips, skin, or brains.

    This also very strongly reminds me of the idea that if you do everything right, you will never get sick and die. It’s true that we are living in an environment that is astonishingly polluted and of which we are struggling as a culture (hell, as a species) to be better stewards. But it’s also true that some people just get sick or become disabled or die too soon. People who are obsessed with purity in the way you describe seem to me to be denying basic existential facts.

  139. YES, Sweet Machine!

    Class-codes aside, it’s also so strange how “natural” things are promoted as a way to cheat death and/or return to an Edenic state. Because, really, what could be more “natural” than shit happening and arbitrarily killing people who weren’t doing anything wrong? that’s kind of how nature works.

  140. I distinctively remember feeling bad for a girl in my girl scouts group. Her mother was super restrictive on everything she ate. When it was their turn to bring snacks she brought saltine crackers with low fat cream cheese spread on them, and saltine crackers with low fat peanut butter (we ate them to be nice but they were horrible) every time she was away from her mom she used to raid every vending machine we came within a mile of.

  141. It seemed likely that it wasn’t about the food as much as it was about control and the collapse of child rearing negotiations post-divorce, where things like the what the kids have for lunch are very much the sort of thing where she could say “could you not give LittleFilbert X” and he’d ignore it. I doubt court was the first step; divorces get stupidly acrimonious, over things like reading and homework and child support.

    Oh, dude, tell me about it. My parents went at it for four years in separate cities before they finally got divorced. It got to the point where I actually had to say to both of them, “I don’t care if (other parent) is the shittiest person in the whole world, I just don’t want to hear it from you anymore.” But what I’m saying is, if that kind of power struggle is what’s going on, the food is really tertiary; parents who aren’t constantly butting heads over ego wars can at least come to some kind of agreement over how the kids are fed.

    And yeah, the whole “Disneyland dad” thing is the kind of thing that makes me think everyone should automatically have joint custody unless they are proven to be truly abusive or totally narcissistic jerks or there’s some medical reason they can’t be caregivers.

  142. So this is a funny aside regarding Poptarts…..

    My husband took my 8 yr old to an overnight trip at the Seattle Zoo. Very cool if you ever get the chance to do it-behind the scenes, morning feedings, night time tours when half the animals wake up and wander, uh, like in nature…lol.

    Anyhow..the tour guide/zookeeper told the group that they once had to transport the elephants to another facility and the elephants (who stress about traveling) usually come down with a bout of the runs. Their remedy is PopTarts! Cases and cases of poptarts, any flavor. Apparently there is some sort of binding agent in the crust of PopTarts that can stop an elephant’s runs!

    I haven’t been able to eat a PopTart without giggling about that story. Strawberry frosted, with a huge gulp of cold chocolate milk……my own personal elephant heaven!

  143. Hey, wow, Regina T, are you in Seattle? How do you like it? I’m leaving for Seattle Tuesday morning for a final round of job interviews for an academic job. I’m not sure I can handle the gloomy weather, honestly, or the distance from family, or the possibility of earthquakes… although the job would be a great fit. The other possibilities are in locations closer to family, with better weather, but crushing teaching loads.

    Sorry, carry on. :)

  144. Oh, crap, that would have been better for the Ning community, wouldn’t it? Sorry. Regina T., never mind, I’ll be in touch that way. :)

  145. OMG you’re killin me. Cherry and Gingerbread PopTarts???
    I will have to drive the 140 miles across the border this week and seek these out. We do not have those flavours of PT’s here in Canada.
    But this is good – I can load up on Dunkin Donuts coffee while I am there…I can taste it now.

  146. When I was pregnant I craved brown sugar pop tarts like nobody’s business. I went through about two boxes a week. My husband, God bless him, had the audacity to come into the house bearing Value Time brown sugar “toaster pastries”. Granted, they were out of the pop tart brand, but he still took his life into his own hands coming home with the cheap stuff. And then I tried them…and liked them more!

    I came from a home that had restricted food choices – more for financial reasons than anything else. Store brand Kix was the closest I ever got to a sugared cereal and we stretched our Little Debbies by eating one nutty bar at a time instead of two. We still tease mom about buying the cardboard cookies. She wouldn’t buy the “good” cookies because we’d just eat them all and then they’d be gone. Well, isn’t that what they are for? Did I fall off the deep end once I had my own money to spend on food? Youbetcha. And several bouts with diets and “lifestyle changes” later, well, here I am.

    My son is two now and I really try hard not to impose any judgement on what he does and doesn’t eat. I give limited choices and always put fruits and veggies on his plate next to the chips and the hot dogs. I am constantly amazed at what he chooses. I’ve seen him pass over pizza for salad and cookies for carrots and hummus. I’ve also seen him lick blue pudding meant for finger painting out of the bowl at day care.

    My hope is that he realizes early on that he has the power when it comes to food – not the other way around. That is a lesson I’m still trying to learn at 38.

  147. Stops elephant runs? Behold the power of the tart! I hadn’t had Pop Tarts in forever because in my brain PTs = junk food. But my husband came home from Costco last week with a case of “Organic Toaster Pastries” which … are fargin’ Pop Tarts. Frosted too. And delicious.

  148. “I’ve also seen him lick blue pudding meant for finger painting out of the bowl at day care.”

    Great, I have just spewed coffee out of my nose and all over my keyboard. However, it is one of the funniest things I have ever read. ROFLMAO.

  149. Y’all are making me crave Pop Tarts now… Frosted Cherry and Frosted Strawberry are my favorites, and only the unfrosted kind are available over here! *grr*

    I tried microwaving Pop Tarts from time to time… but that ended forever the day they caught on fire within the recommended time.

    I’m going to be really tactful (sometimes my mother reads this blog) and not discuss the restrictions on sweets I grew up with. But at least it wasn’t a parent-could-eat-but-I-couldn’t or a sibling-could-eat-but-I-couldn’t situation.

    Someone upstream mentioned an ‘Aspie palate’ thing –does anyone know a reliable site for more information about that? It’s not something I’ve heard of before.

  150. Hey A Sarah….I know..wrong forum and all but a little spiele on Seattle (I’m transplanted 10+ yrs ago now from Indiana)—Beautiful place, trees, water, fresh air, and lots to do (hiking, biking, climbing, boating, fishing, city life, country life etc). Love my new homeplace, but honestly, the rain and gloom takes time to get used to and makes you long for familiar family and friends on those days. No rain in the summer…seriously…drought. Mild climate…few extremes in temperature. Creativeness, intellectual stimulation, smartly educated, melting pot mix of people from everywhere–priceless.
    You’ll see for yourself soon enough :)
    get in touch….I have more to say

  151. OT: A Sarah – Hey! Good luck on your interview. Even if you decide not to take the job, at least you have all of your interview materials in order for the job you DO want. Let us know how it goes.

  152. Kate’s cousing Nancy – you should see the pictures. He was known as Puddn’ Head for about six months after.

  153. Laura Bennett maintains her weight through a combination of daily hour-long runs and nonstop chewing of Nicorette gum.

    What chapped my hide about her essay is that her experience does not jibe with mine, and I think a lot of parents who say “We don’t let X or Y become forbidden fruit, so our kids aren’t that interested in Cheetos/videogames/television” aren’t looking at the long-term picture. Right. I have had your kids over to my house, and they will not eat yogurt that comes in a cup and has no artificial colors, they don’t have a clue what to do with open-ended toys, and they hunt me down to ask where the Wii is.

    Yes, when my kids go to visit friends whose food is less earnest than ours and who have unlimited access to electronics, my kids are no doubt thrilled, and they may go overboard, wanting to try all that stuff. But in my experience, my kids don’t actually like it all that much, because it’s not what they’re used to. Brief orgy of funcrap, then a return to the good stuff.

    In the course of one afternoon, my kid may indulge in more Modern Conveniences than yours. Over the course of a year, less.

    Also, by the time kids are old enough to go on unsupervised playdates, they’re old enough to understand that some food is good for your body, and some is tasty-but-you-can’t-life-off-it, and you need to learn to think about how what you’re eating is going to make your body (tastebuds included) feel. The fact that Laura Bennett evidently doesn’t know parents who do this doesn’t mean that you can’t stress the merits of real food (or real play) without warping your kids.

    Also, brown-sugar cinnamon Pop-Tarts, unfrosted. But really, Sara Lee coffeecake.

  154. “Give a kid a choice, and unless s/he is very unusual, it’ll be Cheetos, Oreos and Coke all day long until the tummy ache sets in. Maybe when they’re 16 and concerned about hooking up with the hotties, they’ll think about eating a salad.”

    I think that we sometimes underestimate the power of taste aversion. When I was around 8 years old, my parents left me alone in a room with a giant bowl of Hershey’s kisses. I thought I died and gone to heaven and ate the whole bowlful. I subsequently blew chunks in the bathroom. To this day, when I eat a Kiss, it tastes like barf. This kind of taste aversion is a natural psychological reaction. Thankfully, it didn’t extend to all chocolate!

  155. My explanation for Laura Bennett’s focus on moms is that she’s one herself, so she’s taken up the mantle, so to speak. In her head, she’s probably a mom first and a designer/businesswoman second. That and I’m sure she catches a lot of flak about her parenting choices because when she went on Project Runway she already had 5 kids, only to discover that #6 was on the way (esp. since she was in her early 40′s).

    Also, when she was on the show, one of my favorite things she said was, “I am not designing for the Olsen Twins.” It wasn’t necessarily a statement about size so much as her dislike of “Young Hollywood”.

  156. I notice some confusion from defensive parents about what constitutes a restrictive diet for kids vs. a healthy diet. We do enough talking about restrictive vs. healthy eating for adults that I’m hoping it’s sufficient to just point out that there is a distinct difference and that we are talking about restrictive diets.

  157. So somewhat apropos of this conversation, my subletters left a box of organic, whole wheat toaster pastries from Whole Foods in my pantry. Oh God, they were awful, awful, awful. I don’t know what chemicals they put in the normal brand but, let me tel you, they are badly needed.

  158. @KateHarding, I have ADHD, and I find limiting the amount of refined sugar I eat helps me. (By limiting, I don’t mean none at all; but I mean no HFCS, no sugared sodas, and watching the amount of sugary junk that I eat–I still eat white chocolate KitKats and use sugar to cook). But I don’t think all ADHD people are alike, any more than all fat people are alike. Some ADHD sufferers find restricting food additives helpful, and some do not. I just know I get weird and dreamy and babbly and unproductive if I eat too much sugar, and that it is not a good feeling. I worry about people who’d rather restrict a kid’s diet to nothing but broccoli because they’re terrified of Ritalin (ok, I love my Ritalin) because I think these are people with Issues about the modern world, not people who are looking at the medical data. But I know too many people with ADHD who find sensible dietary modifications (not too restrictive, not too ascetic, not too inconvenient) help them, along with meds and calendars.

    Also, I loved raspberry pop-tarts better than anything when I was a kid, but as an adult find them a disappointment. I can’t decide if the reformulation is at fault or if my palate (I’m no longer a child in 1960s West Virginia, I live in San Francisco and eat all sorts of delightful stuff we never heard of then and there) is too sophisticated now. Now, gosh this sounds prissy, and I don’t mean it that way…I’d rather just eat the raspberries.

  159. @threnody: I can’t eat pineapple because when I was 16 I drank 11 pineapple daiquiris (so far as I can tell, we did this because we were unsupervised and therefore we could).

  160. Well, “we” may be talking about restrictive diets vs healthy diets, but LB started talking about one mother who had her child on a restrictive diet and then leapt to the conclusion that kids who are thrilled by the boundless crap at her house must be the victims of parents who restrict their diets unduly. Which is crapnugget 1.

    Crapnugget two is her claim that the best way to teach kids to have a healthy relationship with food is to let them eat whatever they want, because they’ll figure it out. I don’t let my kids do whatever they want in any arena that I can think of, because don’t tell anyone, but kids often have crappy judgment. No, really! So while I give them the freedom to make bad choices –even though I do not regularly buy chips — I don’t give them the freedom to make every possible bad choice. And the fact that they may go a little nuts when confronted with more opportunities to eat crap/play videogames/whatever does not mean that their regular lives are unduly restricted, even if they are more restricted than some of their friends’ lives. And it certainly does not mean that they are not learning how to be independent.

    Cliff Notes of the above: Laura Bennett took one incident, assumed a nutjob was typical of everyone she knew whose choices were in any way different from her own, and assumed that her children would turn out better because of her (imagined) wisdom.

  161. I’ll never forget going to a friend’s house, probably in the 6th grade, and she had marshmellows, chocolate chips, graham crackers, peanut butter, and chocolate milk in her kitchen cabinets, at her disposable. No mom/dad saying that’s off limits, or you can only have 2 of those. I was in heaven. And she actually said to me, I don’t understand why you’re eating so much of that stuff…it will be there later, and you can have more then. Probably because I grew up in a super strict household where junkfood was always around, in massive amounts, but there were so many rules. My mom loved potato chips and my dad loved cookies, ice cream, and candy. My mom bought little debbies for us. We were allowed to have one a day, which meant if there were 2 in the pack, only one. The chips, cookies, candybars were for my parents. They shared occasionally, but we just saw it as something forbidden, so we figured a way to steal. I used to wake up in the middle of the night to raid the cookie jars, or chips. I learned to read the labels to see how many were in the bag, and that way I knew how many cookies, etc. I could take without being noticeable. It was a mad science. The worst feeling was when I saw that my dad had all kinds of stuff in his lunchbox that he didn’t eat, and at the end of the week he would throw so much away. And the ice cream that he didn’t eat, my brother and I shared the end of the box, usually with a little bit of freezer burn on top. This craziness stopped sometime before HS, but the damage was already done. My mother and grandmother are wonderful cooks, so there was no lack of well balanced meals. And, I know good food, and how to cook it, but I will never probably win the war over my cravings for sugary junkfood. And as someone mentioned above, because it was strict across the board, tv and movies were very regulated. I never watched the simpsons, or really anything on fox. We weren’t allowed to go to the theatre to watch movies – we had to wait for them to come on tv. So there are so many things I don’t “get.” Most people think I’m weird a lot of the time. The one good thing to come from the strictness is my love of older movies and just how good the old school actors were. OH.. and about pop tarts. I know my name is iheartchocolat, but i despise any pop tarts made with chocolate. Cinnamon, strawberry and blueberry, with or without frosting. But, too many will make you comatose, that’s for sure.

  162. re:threnody- I had a friend who had a strick rule that she never ate anything she had been sick on. One of her big things was hot dogs, a classic junk food.

    I have always tried to work WITH my daughters’ food preferences are. My 5-yr-old loves frozen waffles and pancakes. In order to save money and increase the nutritional value of the food, I make large batches of them that I have added extra eggs, milk, and protein powder. I freeze the extras and pop them in the toaster as needed. She doesn’t know the difference, but I know that she won’t be hungry in an hour. Sometimes the real appeal of an item is the packaging (gogurt) rather than the product itself.
    And for the sake of argument, Cherry frosted pop tarts are considered cookies in our house. Mmmmm!

  163. @humanbeingblog: is there perhaps a medical reason why he won’t drink plain water? (I have IC. If I drink too much water with nothing in it for my kidneys to filter, it goes straight through me and I really do pay for it; and well-meaning friends are always trying to tell me to drink water! drink water!)

  164. “my subletters left a box of organic, whole wheat toaster pastries from Whole Foods in my pantry”

    The fact that the subletters left them behind wasn’t a clue about how they must taste? ;-) Did they leave behind any bars of Chocolove with dried cherries and almonds?

  165. Sadly, I can’t find the link right now, but a post quite a while back on Ethicurian (a generally excellent blog which is what its name sounds like; I’m too lazy to make the little hyperlink) had an instance of this sort of thing being handled really well. Parent took Daughter (age 7 or 8? Old enough to have intelligent conversation, but young enough for tantrums) to the mall for some particular thing they needed there, and Daughter ended up having a screaming fit about wanting to go to Dunkin Donuts. Parent realizes that, as they generally have a pretty crunchy organic lifestyle, Daughter has in fact never been to the magical donut land all her friends go to, and promises that they will go back the next weekend. They do, and she likes the donut well enough but is a bit disillusioned and thinks it’s very odd that people like the fact that the DD stores are identical. They then make their own donuts, which she likes better, and both realize that it was really more about feeling left out of her friends’ experiences than about the junk food itself. Though the same author has posted in the past about her complaining that sometimes the junky processed stuff does taste better than the homemade organic kind, and how to balance that.

  166. My husband and I are vegetarian-I am on my way to becoming vegan-and my kids generally eat what we cook. Most of the time it’s pretty healthy, sometimes it’s not so much. They know how I feel about eating meat and animal products and why, but they make their own choices when we go out to eat/order delivery, if they choose to buy their lunch at school vs. packing the lunch items we buy for them, etc. When they visit their dad, who doesn’t know what veggies are, they eat meat. I wish they didn’t but I think that a healthy relationship with both parents (free of mom and dad bickering and misguided custody battles) trumps my personal eating choices. That said, they do prefer soy milk over cow’s milk, which I find interesting.

    Pop Tarts: Has anyone else tried the whole grain pop-tarts? I think they are fairly new-they are soooooooo good! My husband and I agree that the strawberry flavored kind are as good, if not better than, the regular ones.

  167. Oh I was also going to add that my aunt was very,very into nutrition and would not let my cousins eat any candy or junk food at all when we were younger. Whenever the oldest and I went anywhere without our parents, and she had money to spend, she would buy a bunch of candy and other not so nutritious items and scarf them down.

  168. My nieces are an awesome example of what can happen if you don’t overly restrict your children’s food. They were allergic to milk when they were toddlers, so they didn’t get milk products, but as soon as that allergy cleared up they pretty much could have anything they wanted (for snacks– their mom follows the “I’m only making one meal” rule for mealtimes).

    And yes, sometimes they ask for ice cream, because ice cream tastes good. But these are the children who, when offered cake or fresh-grown cherry tomatoes for a snack, will about half the time choose the tomatoes. The older one will probably pick the tomatoes more than half the time, just because she loves them. They are healthy, energetic, and some of the most active children I’ve ever known. Their parents are Doing It Right, IMO.

  169. Regina — interesting. My roommate, who lives entirely on meaty fast food and turns up his nose at my vegan veggies, also prefers my soy milk to the bovine stuff.

  170. A Sarah, please tell us how it goes!!!!! (and, um, link back to your blog again because I lost it?)

    It was just a few years ago that I even realized that pop-tarts made unfrosted versions. My child has been known to painstakingly eat just the frosting off of the top. :)

  171. Re: TV deprivation, I remember my dad throwing away our TV when I was about 6. Every 4 years we’d go over to my grandparents’ house to watch the Olympics, but other than that, TV was not really something we did. We didn’t have video games, and most of my childhood friends didn’t either so I never learned how to play them. Like Tiana above and a few other commenters, my siblings and I grew up pretty much ‘missing out’ on the Smurfs and whatever else was on TV in those days. And unlike Tiana, I’m thrilled about that. As an adult, I’ve been around friends and peers reminiscing about TV shows and bits of pop culture I missed out on, but I don’t see why I should regret that. I was reading books, building birdhouses, babysitting for my younger siblings, taking music lessons, playing sports, learning foreign languages, playing with friends, and plenty of other stuff. Who cares if I never saw Fraggle Rock or can’t name the other characters in Mario video games?

  172. Slim- I wouldn’t eat yogurt that comes in a cup, either. I find it disgusting. Real yogurt? Now that’s good stuff.

  173. Oh, and A Sarah: Earthquakes aren’t really the natural disaster you have to fear in the Upper Left. Volcanoes are, although the possibility of one blowing up so the city would be shut down is relatively remote. I’ve lived in Seattle, Kent, and Portland for over five years now and never once have I felt an earthquake, and I felt them all the time when I lived in southern California.

    You got me on the lack of sun, though. It sucks between mid-November and mid-February, especially. Get yourself a good light box; they’re worth every cent.

  174. Oh, this post is so wonderful and perfect! thank youthankyouthankyou for posting this!!!!
    I am a mom (with a husband who is equally invested in our kids, ’cause he’s not a douche) and they sometimes eat junk food. AT times I would wrap myself up in guilt. But I’m getting over it.
    And, yes, I was one of those kids whose mom was constantly on a diet, and my food intake was constantly monitored. Surprise, surprise, I became bulimic and then anorexic in my 20′s! And here I am, at 39, trying to re-learn how to eat intuitively so my kids won’t be as messed up as I was.

  175. I get that horrible weak feeling too if I go too long between meals. First I’m irritable, then weak, then both things get worse and worse.

    Yup. I have found that eating more fiber does help with this, since it moderates my blood sugar – but I do still need to be sure to eat something every 6 hours or so. (If I’m not making sure I get fiber it’s more like every 3 or 4.)

  176. Kristin — well, more power to ya for making your own yogurt, but I’m pretty sure that kids who rejected Stoneyfield and wanted tubular yogurt were not going to change their tune at the sight of homemade.

  177. Frosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop Tarts all the way, baby. My cat Addie and I lived on those after I moved out of my parents’ place. She STILL comes running at the sound of the wrapper (like 10 years later….)

  178. Dude, 6 hours is a long-ass time to go without any food whether you’re hypoglycemic or not!

    Well, I usually go a bit less, even if it’s just milk in my coffee. But I started eating more fiber for other reasons and lost the blood sugar crash I used to get every 3 hours and … um … had to learn different hunger cues.

  179. meowser, that’s not TOTALLY true. There is the possibility of infrequent but very, very large and dangerous earthquakes in the northwest, in addition to the volcanic hazards. There is also a not-insignificant tsunami risk (both from far away, and potentially triggered by said massive earthquakes), and landslides are a real problem. Probably high forest fire risks, too. Altogether, it’s one of the most dangerous places to live in this country. So if you move there, just try not to live right at sea level or on a slope with high landslide risk (there are hazards maps for this, fyi).

    I’m finding these comments really interesting. I don’t think it’s wrong to encourage food variety (where possible), or to have some limits within the house (i.e. if I were a vegetarian parent for ethical reasons, I probably wouldn’t have meat in the house and would explain to the kids why. I’m also okay with limiting a kid to something [significantly] less than one million cookies in a day. Same goes for raisins). But I wouldn’t actively discourage my kids from eating meaty foods when out to eat, in the school cafeteria, or in friends’ houses – they should get to make their own choices. It might just not all be in my house. I’m also in favor of cooking one and only one dinner – though having had a picky eater for a brother, I’ve witnessed how sometimes it’s a lot easier to do this if you make sure part of the dinner is something the kids like.

    Also, as a kid I always preferred “wholesome” play like reading and role-playing and playing around outside to video games and tv (though I did those things, too), but FFS, play (like food) does not fall into “real” and “fake” categories. Parents who let their kids play video games and watch tv are not morally decrepit or letting children’s brains rot. Again, limiting the number of hours of tv is probably good just so there’s some variety, but I don’t think moralizing about that is any better than moralizing about food.

    SM, Smores were always my favorite PopTarts, too, to the point that I didn’t quite understand the others, especially the fruit ones (ick). I loved them toasted and hot and gooey for breakfast as a teen, and untoasted and raw as a hiking snack in grad school. They are one of the things I miss the most about being gluten-free!!

  180. I know, 6 hours, holy crap! I can go 4-ish hours without worrying about a blood sugar crash, though I’ll often be crazy hungry after that long. But usually after 2-ish hours I need a snack.

    Speaking of which…

  181. I grew up in a household with 3 sisters who were all quite skinny … I was the chubby one. My mom has always been one for healthy food… she was brought up very much that what you eat is a moral thing and somethings are bad and she would be a bad mother for serving her children sugared cereal and junk food.

    Being that I was the fat one of the family everything that went into my mouth was watched, I was taken to weight watchers at the age of 7, comments were always made about the amount of food I was taking and mealtimes were full of shame for me. While my sisters were all allowed seconds if they wanted them I never was this was the start of me learning to take as much as I could right away for fear I wouldn’t get enough. Even that was commented on and I was made to feel bad about it. I started sneaking food, and hiding my eating and so began a very very disordered and messed up relationship with food.

    To this day eating makes me feel shame and I struggle with my relationship with it. Being I am back living with my parents while I go to college I am back in this enviroment. Now the minute my mom realizes I “Like” something it will not come back into the house because “it is best to remove the temptation to over indulge” now I am not talking about chocolate or cake here (though you will not see those around at all either) but stuff like chicken noodle soup, corn, hell even broccoli slaw mix you know the kind with the grated broccoli stems and carrots and such. Really anything that she decides I have eaten to much of will disappear from our house and not come back in except in controlled situations, like if company is coming over and she knows there won’t be leftovers. So I admit to being a bit like those kids, when I find something I actually enjoy I do tend to eat more of it than normal because I know I probably won’t see it again.

    Now I can say that us being kept from sugar did not reduce me to someone hooked on sugar much like a crack addict, yes there are times I crave something sweet.. but I also crave salad, and lettuce, and yes even liver and onions if I need iron. When living on my own you will never find me buried under a pile of junk food wrappers passed out from a binge, if I want something.. I have it … then I move on because I know I will get it again if I want or need it it isn’t a big deal.

    Being taught as I was growing up that food was bad , that there was a moral factor in all we ate certainly messed up my eating and started me on a road that led here.

  182. I read some of the comments and must laugh. We were brought up on a mix of regular normal food (had a big garden) and junk food (breakfast cereals), then mom switched to health food when I was 10 or 11. The first thing my older brother did when he left home was buy a box of pop-tarts! (Just as he always said he would.)
    I had bulmia/anorexia for 13 years and had the dubious pleasure of learning the hard way how to eat normally and enjoy food. It is possible. It just takes determination, honesty, willingness and practice, and at some point replaces the old habit as a new one.

  183. I had a food Nazi mom (my dad would let us eat whatever, but we were only rarely alone with him), and I was both a restricter and a compulsive sugar-and-junk binger until about 5 years ago, when I moved out on my own and realized I could eat whatever the fuck I wanted, and junk food makes my body feel like crap! Not only that, but I don’t even like sweet stuff that much.. I prefer savory food.

    I admit I find the idea of my future children eating junk food makes me a little nervous now that I’m all into eating ‘real food’, but you just can’t micromanage every aspect of your kid’s lives. Not healthy for anything. You gotta let them live and make their own decisions, and mistakes.

  184. I have an aunt who is a complete control freak when it comes to her kids’ eating habits. She used to be very large, she’s nearly six feet tall and I’d say once weighed well over 300 pounds. Funny thing is, she was at her fattest when she married my then thin, good-looking uncle (he’s still good-looking, just not so thin :P ). So being fat really didn’t stop her from having friends or dating or any of that stereotypical stuff. She became obsessive over losing weight, and now is probably ten pounds under what she should be. She’s had heart palpitations and near fainting spells because she restricts herself so much, but she feels she’s healthy because she’s thin. Her children are 7 and 5, and they are not allowed any junk food. She never has it in the house, and at family gatherings she leers over them to make sure they don’t eat too many chips, or get a piece of cake with too much frosting. Another aunt babysat her son for a few hours, and gave him a chocolate chip cookie. When she asked if he’d like another one, he looked worried and said his mother would be angry if he did. And she was, in fact, quite angry he had a cookie and some soda (she hates for them to have any caffeine). At Christmas dinner, her daughter asked for a second roll, and her mother informed her that it would be too many carbs. So basically, her children are expected to act like perfect little robots, and they’re so scared of angering or disapointing her, they have been known to have crying jags at school when they get their clothes dirty (bad enough for a parent to be called). Everybody in the family is concerned, but because most of us are big, she considers herself better than we are. So much drama!

  185. Poor kidlets, kids are supposed to get dirty and have fun; not be worrying their mother will get mad about their clothes. I do go so far as to say play clothes when they’re going out to play rather than brand new stuff but geez.

    Caffiene can be bad for some kids, but it can be good for others.

    Still this is too overcontrolling. She probably shouldn’t read any biographies they write as adults.

  186. ScatteredMarbles, that’s ridiculous!! Sounds like your mom just wants to control YOU and it has very little to do with food. Can you maybe buy some of your own food and try to regulate your own diet as opposed to having your mom be all control-freak-y about it? Or set limits for her? (though living and home and doing that sounds really hard) Because that sounds just insane…

    My upbringing foodwise was actually so normal, compared to some of these. My parents didn’t have much junk food in the house ever, but would buy sugary cereals as a treat every so often. My mom also guilts everybody about too much butter/fat sometimes, but she managed to instill fairly sane and balanced eating habits in all of us kids. I’m really hoping that I can do that for my own.

  187. I grew up on Norn Irish farm food – meat, veg, potatoes. Spaghetti bolognese was as adventurously “ethnic” as it got in our house. I discovered Indian food aged 18 (thanks, ex-boyfriend!) and have been eating it every chance I get ever since. The “what kids are raised with is what they’ll eat for life” stuff is (IMO) mostly bollocks designed to give mothers one more thing to feel guilty about. Because just like you can never be thin or pretty enough, you can never raise your children well enough, so LET US TELL YOU HOW YOU’RE FAILING.

    Here’s the thing: we’re all going to make bad decisions sometimes. It’s okay. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t even have to try to be perfect! I

    I know you were saying this about food choices, SM, but sometimes I think I need this tattooed on me so I remember to apply it to life in general.

    If I can’t get a first-class degree without sacrificing my real life and my health, I need to stop wanting it & thinking I ‘have’ to have it, because it is damaging me. I need to stop trying to please people all the time, and I need to stop thinking the way I am as a person is inherently faulty or not good enough, especially since the more I read about it the more I think I might have the ADD, which would make my life make so much more sense.

    I have a problem with deadlines and punctuality. That does not make me a bad person; that makes me an otherwise good person who has problems getting shit done on time because of how her brain works. It’s like I have a Fantasy of Being Thin for my personality too, and earning to embrace me as I am would help my sanity as much as embracing my body as it is fixed my relationship with my physical self. I wish I knew how to do that.

    (This brought to you courtesy of the lab report due today I haven’t started due to the overwhelming academic anxiety. *sigh* Is not such a good day to be me.)

  188. *learning

    Also, now I reread that I pretty much just spilled my brain onto SP in a way that had nothing to do with anything. Sorry. Carry on.

  189. My mother never restricted my eating growing up. I am now, and have always been, capable of stopping when I’m no longer hungry and eating without a feeling of guilt. I also never feel afraid that I’m going to eat everything in the world.

    In summary, thanks to my mom for stocking carrots and chocolate milk and cake and potatoes and chicken and pizza. It’s made me a much less stressed-out person.

    Coincidentally, I had a very liberating conversation with the thin waitress at my local cafe. It went a little something like this:

    Me: “I’m going to have the mozza sticks and an iced tea, please.”
    Her: “Okay!” *smile*

    Did you see that? Apparently it’s possible for a thin person to look a fat person in the face, consent to bring them a plate full of deep-fried cheese, and smile, all without a judgemental expression or a sermon either verbal or nonverbal. Apparently there are people outside of the fat acceptance community who are okay with the fact that I can eat batter when I want it.

    Shoot, it isn’t much, but it made me feel like the world might be getting better after all.

  190. As a recovered bulimic/anorexic, it was my main goal to raise kids without eating problems. I have succeeded. How? I never made an issue out of food. We have healthy stuff & some junk, and it all balances out. Children learn a lot by watching — and I was always clear about food. I think it is very important to convey a positive attitude, to let food be food — a source of nourishment as opposed to the enemy. The word “diet” is not part of my vocabulary, nor do we have a scale. Nor are any foods “fattening”. Everything is allowed — in moderation.
    When I was growing up, my mother used to binge and fast, was slim and always on a diet. Not the best role model. So I had to figure out the hard way what “normal” is. Those who learned it as children are blessed. Those who didn’t have a struggle, but it is possible — a learning process.

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