Choosing Food

The idea that one can learn to feel and know one's own body and choose foods accordingly is shocking to most people. I wouldn't have thought it sensible or possible, when I was younger, but having given my three children the option to turn down any food, and to try any food, to choose their own quantities of food has shown me a whole different aspect of human learning and instinct.

It should make sense. Early people wouldn't have continued to eat what wasn't good for them if they weren't starving. If they had options, they would have chosen the things that seemed (for whatever range of reasons they might be choosing) good. There are food taboos and preferences all over the world. Some are credited to religion or superstition. Some are medicinal. All were, originally, local.

In a situation in which there is an abundance of food shipped and traded all over the world, then how does one choose? This is what is coming to be called "a first-world problem." In terms of learning, though, in the context of the life of a family choosing unschooling and mindful parenting, the question is answered every time food is bought, presented, consumed or considered.

Joyce Fetterolll, on facebook, on July 20, 2012, in response to someone complaining about "the idea that children can eat whenever whatever."

It bothers you because you fear that kids can't discover what their bodies need. You fear that certain foods have power to override need.

Those of us who have been radically unschooling for 15+ years had to take it on faith that kids could freely explore food and not become slaves to chemicals and sugar as the natural foodists were certain would happen.

With now adult radically unschooled kids it's safe to state that chemicals and sugar don't control what they eat. They make choices freely based on what they prefer. Kat was a skinny baby, a round pre-teen, a skinny teen and now is an average weight 21 yo. She doesn't crave or avoid sugar. I've seen her leave a single bite of brownie on a plate. She eats what she wants -- and her choices are naturally quite healthy. She stops when she feels done. She *could* have had candy and ice cream and cake for breakfast. But she *chose* more standard fare.

(In fact if she wasn't hungry right away in the morning, the signal that she was ready to eat was sometimes her dipping into the candy bowl that was on the way to the kitchen. I'd then ask if she wanted me to make her something. I can't ever remember her saying no thanks in order to eat candy instead.)

This is very typical of radically unschooled kids.

Someone wrote:
*** I myself have no self control when it comes to food. ***
Someone else (I will credit it when I find it) wrote:
Were you radically unschooled? Did you have food freedom in a supportive home where healthy food was also freely and easily gotten?

This is a totally theory, but I suspect there are three big factors in adult issues with food. One is stress eating. We're living more busy -- and therefore more stress filled -- lives. There's so much people want to do and leisure is equated with lazy. Constantly packing days -- even full of fun stuff -- is stressful. Stress causes a need for quick energy like sugar and carbohydrates.

The second is self deprivation. Anything someone enjoys that's limited becomes a big desire. When it's available, it's natural to cram in as much as you can before it disappears. I once ate 3 bags of Halloween candy before Halloween, "proving" I couldn't be trusted. But what I'd discovered was how I reacted to deprivation. The only time candy came into the house was once a year at Halloween. Once I'd made chocolate readily available and allowed myself have as much as I wanted -- I did eat 3 bags of almond M&Ms before I felt I'd had enough -- then my cravings stopped and I can easily not feel like having more than one or two Dove chocolate miniatures a week.

The third is control and reliance on external "right" ideas about food. Being controlled is stressful. It makes people sneaky. It makes people feel guilty for wanting what others say is bad for them. It makes people distrust and stop listening their bodies. Instead they listen to other people's ideas about what they should be eating, making it very difficult for people to discover what their particular body needs.

Radically unschooled kids get to discover that. Part of the problem for parents watching their kids explore is that young bodies need different food than adult bodies. They tend to have small stomachs and large energy needs. They generally need to eat smaller amounts of high calorie foods more often. Kids like Cap'n Crunch cereal not because they're ignorant and sugar is more powerful. It's because their bodies need those quick calories.

What parents can do to work with their kids' natural needs rather than against them is to make lots of healthy foods the kids like easy or easier to grab than the snacky foods. Then add in anything else the kids ask for. So they kids aren't faced with the choice between grabbing something easy and quick or taking the time out to put together and eat something more involved before they can get back to their busy... [? my cut and paste ended there.]

I looked again in 2023, and cannot find the original; sorry!

Yahoogroups flushed their archives a few years back. Also, if someone totally leaves facebook, their posts go with them.

The Full-Plate Club