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I was witness to the start of emotional eating...

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Old 11-08-2010, 08:50 AM   #1
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Unhappy I was witness to the start of emotional eating...

I was at my daughter's mother in laws house this past weekend (we are good friends). While there a bunch of women were sitting around, including my daughter and her sister in law (the mother in laws daughter) who is 21 years old, a few neighbors and one who brought over her very cute 17 month old grandson. He sat on his grandmas lap so nicely for about 10 minutes and then all of a sudden he burst out in tears.

His grandma couldn't get him to stop crying. My friends daughter, the 21 year old brings out a thing of dunk-a-roos (small cookies with a dipping cream) and a small black and white cookie.

I'm like, "I don't think he's hungry, I think he just got a little scared and overwhelmed by all the strange people". She's like, "but this will make him happy". I'm seething, but trying to hide it.

The grandmother says I don't even think he's ever had this kind of stuff before (given that he's 17 months old). But the 21 year old waves the dunk a roos in front of his face, it's foreign to him, he's not interested, she puts in near his mouth, he's not interested.

The same thing happens with the black and white cookie.

And I keep saying, "he's not hungry, that's not what he needs". And I get back, "yeah, but it'll make him feel better, it'll make him stop crying"

After the cookie attempts fail, she brings out the big guns. A long, laffy taffy candy. She unwraps it and dangles it in front of him, he turns away. She actually puts it in his mouth, he turns away. She gives it another go and sure enough, he takes the bait. He is now sucking on this sweet candy - and stops crying.

And there you have it. This child has now learned when he is stressed, scared, or sad that sugar/candy is a soother.

I was quietly flipping out, my daughter sees this and is trying to tell me to keep it down and I did. But I feel as if I just witnessed a massacre. And I can't get it out of my head. Especially given that the perpetrator is my daughters sister in law and what the heck is she going to do to my grandchildren?

I always known that we do this to our children, I honestly can't precisely remember what I did with my own (though I would do things differently now), but here I saw it unfold right before my very own eyes. I saw it. From the beginning. I was powerless to stop it. I felt helpless.

This boy needed a hug, a change of scenery, some quite time, his mother. And in absence of that, he got - sugar. And so it begins....

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Old 11-08-2010, 09:06 AM   #2
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Exactly, rockinrobin, exactly! That is how it starts, and then years later people say they don't know "why" they eat when they are upset.

It's conditioning! Might as well be a rat in a cage!

So glad that you didn't flip out... That wouldn't have helped matters... but it's soooo hard to watch people make the same mistakes over and over again. It's one of the hardest parts of getting older.

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Old 11-08-2010, 09:06 AM   #3
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The tough thing is, we just can't dictate to others how to live their lives or how to raise their kids, regardless of how much we feel it directly affects us. The best thing one can do, is gently and calmly bring up the issue once of the genuine concern, and then let it be. I totally agree with how you're feeling though and they're valid feelings.
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Old 11-08-2010, 09:18 AM   #4
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The really sad thing is before this he didn't know what the candy was, he was completely uninterested in it. But now that he's had it he'll want more. =(
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Old 11-08-2010, 09:24 AM   #5
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I have never been a parent, so I can't claim to even begin to understand the challenges of being responsible for a cranky baby, let alone trying to raise an "issue-free" child. I'm sure all parents make mistakes, whether they realize it or not, that is going to plant the seeds for some complex down the road for the kid. I remember I had a urinary tract infection when I was about 4 years old, and my mother, grandmother, and aunts all had a panic attack about it. They cried and argued over what to do about it, made a big scene, and eventually rushed me to the ER in the middle of the night. In retrospect, it was a fairly minor issue. They should have kept me comfortable, assured me I'd be alright, taken me to the doctor to get antibiotics, and used the situation to teach me that when you're sick, go to the doc, feel better, all is well. Well, the way they handled it was a very traumatic event. I was shown by the women who I trusted to take care of me and protect me that my little health issue was a dramatic crisis. And to this day, I blow health issues way out of proportion. I get anxious about little headaches and sniffles. I know that in the moment, they had just been concerned about me, they didn't think they'd scar me for life, but how they handled gave me a real complex that I'll always have to struggle with.

And I'm sure the same is for this situation. In the moment, the mother had a crying baby. I'm sure she's soooo tired of hearing a crying baby. I'm usually one step away from insanity when there's a crying baby on an airplane, I simply couldn't imagine the stress of living with one. In the moment, she made the decision to pacify him with sugar. I doubt she was weighing the pros and cons of "hmm, this taffy will make him hush but he'll probably create the connection in his mind that sugar equates to comfort. This may lead to disordered emotional eating." She was probably thinking "my baby has been cranky all day and I want to enjoy my family...what do I have that will make him quiet right now??"

Certainly not to defend her, I would be as shocked and offended and frustrated as you. But all parents make poor decisions on occasion to deal with a situation at hand, and it's easy for me to point fingers and critique how they handled the situation when I'm observing that one instance when the parents are facing raising this human being for the next 18 years or so. You're a mom, so you have much more of a right to critique than I do, haha.

But yes, I witness origins of disordered eating all over the place...constantly. And I know we can all remember a few instances in our own childhoods that "broke" our ability to eat normally. Pacifying kids with food like this baby, rewarding with food ("If you're quiet in Church, we'll go to McDonald's after"), comforting with food, entertaining with food, etc etc. And then, often times, this is compounded later on in life when emotional hormonal pubescent teens (especially girls) start to be critiqued on how they eat when they're already struggling to find and establish their identity. They've been pacified, rewarded, comforted, and entertained with food their whole childhood, but suddenly it's "should you really be eating that?" and "don't eat that, you want to keep your figure."

Sorry for the novel This is an issue I feel strongly about. We're planning on starting a family in a few years, and I ponder quite a bit on how to teach my children healthy normal eating when my own is so disordered.
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Old 11-08-2010, 09:25 AM   #6
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That must have been really hard to just sit and watch. I'm not an emotional eater, but I've known people who are, and it's tough for them.

Hopefully you will have more influence over what happens with your grandchildren even if indirectly, as I'm sure your kids have taken notice of all the changes you have made in your life.

I wouldn't have even thought to feed him if I knew he wasn't hungry. I mean, would someone change his diaper if it didn't need it? I don't think so.
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Old 11-08-2010, 09:32 AM   #7
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What really concerns me is that the grandmother didn't say or do anything to stop the situation! From your post, it doesn't sound like your daughter's sister-in-law is actually related to the baby, let alone the mother, so the grandmother should have been the one making the decisions for the baby. Her comment that the baby hadn't even had the cookies/candies/whatever before shows that she probably didn't really feel entirely comfortable with the 21 year old's calming tactics. Even putting aside the issue of feeding a child when he is not hungry, there is no way that any of the sweets offered to the baby were appropriate for a 17 month old. Why was the grandmother so willing to let other people feed her grandson candy?
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Old 11-08-2010, 09:43 AM   #8
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I'd have been one ticked mama once that baby was returned to me. I always fed my babies well and only wish I'd led by example better earlier!

I'm also against pacifying children with constant supplies of cheerios, but that's another rant.

I am guilty of many things, but pacifying my children with food has never been one of them. Their grandparents, on the other hand, are terrible and it drives me insane! We get bombarded with every reason for eating except hunger without any help from our loved ones.
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Old 11-08-2010, 10:01 AM   #9
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Personally that drives me NUTS. Babies and candy and cookies.
Seriously.
I never took that great of care for myself, but I always tried to take good care of the kids. Their snacks were RARELY cookies, and then only one. Candy, soda etc were BIG no no's. It was all about carrots and apples etc.

Unfortunately, I think that younger parents these days just do not know any better. Which is sad. This girl is 21, so that means she has been raised with all of the high sugar convenience foods. Of course she is going to do what makes her feel better. She will have a toddler and then an elementary schooler hopped up on sugar, teachers and doctors will call him ADHD and pop him on medication to calm him down. Rather than seriously look at what this kid is putting in his body.

Sad.
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Old 11-08-2010, 10:11 AM   #10
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That must have been extremely frustrating to sit by and witness but keeping calm and quiet about it was definitely the way to go. It's always easier for the "outsider" to see what's going on and exactly what the logical consequences are going to be. I often find myself cringing at the way people parent - not just with food but with a million things in general but I remind myself that parents are human and they get tired, cranky, frustrated and sometimes fall back on patterns that aren't the healthiest to keep calm in the situation.

Hubs and I were talking about this not that long ago. We were discussing some of the things that our parents did that set us up for a lifetime of weird reactions/neurosis. We don't have any kids ourselves but he has a daughter from his first marriage and he asked me how we could be sure we weren't messing her up just like our parents messed us up. I told him truthfully that we would mess her up, we're human and therefore not perfect. The only thing we can do is try to mess her up in new and exciting ways and not repeat the same mistakes that our parents made.

And when she grows up she'll do the same thing and the cycle will continue.
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Old 11-08-2010, 10:31 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nienna View Post
What really concerns me is that the grandmother didn't say or do anything to stop the situation! From your post, it doesn't sound like your daughter's sister-in-law is actually related to the baby, let alone the mother, so the grandmother should have been the one making the decisions for the baby. Her comment that the baby hadn't even had the cookies/candies/whatever before shows that she probably didn't really feel entirely comfortable with the 21 year old's calming tactics. Even putting aside the issue of feeding a child when he is not hungry, there is no way that any of the sweets offered to the baby were appropriate for a 17 month old. Why was the grandmother so willing to let other people feed her grandson candy?
Yes, the grandma was uncomfortable, rightfully so. She was well aware that her son and daughter in law don't give their child sweets.

The grandmother, who knows the transformation I've been through and has actually spoken to me about weight loss (she is quite heavy) kinda looked at me guilt-ily, but quite honestly, I think she was relieved that he stopped crying. She was happy with the *quick-fix* and was not thinking much about the consequences.

It's funny, I feel almost more inclined to keep quiet, since everyone there was aware of where I've come from. No one wants to hear *diet* advice from a former heavy person. Diet advice? This was soooo much more than that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eliana View Post
I'd have been one ticked mama once that baby was returned to me. I always fed my babies well and only wish I'd led by example better earlier!

I'm also against pacifying children with constant supplies of cheerios, but that's another rant.

I am guilty of many things, but pacifying my children with food has never been one of them. Their grandparents, on the other hand, are terrible and it drives me insane! We get bombarded with every reason for eating except hunger without any help from our loved ones.
I too fed my little ones fairly well. I used to say all the time I wish I put as much care into their food as mine.

But I am certain I used food as a pacifier. . My kids were little long ago, but I clearly remember filling up my diaper bag with food when I took them out with me to do my errands. I needed to get my errands done, didn't want them to cry and would break out the little baggy of cheerios. Then baby carrots, a juice box, etc. Guilty.
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Old 11-08-2010, 11:40 AM   #12
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Robin, thanks for bearing witness -- for observing this so keenly & writing it out.

This, I think, is the level of consciousness we need to attain to lose weight & then to maintain the loss. But it's very far from the way some people live their daily lives -- the way we ourselves once got through each day. Think how much work you had to go through before you saw things this way & understood the consequences. A lot of people still have to do that work.

I'll be thinking about this one little scene on & off today at the office, as I confront the various stresses involved with an average day at work.
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Old 11-08-2010, 11:53 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rockinrobin View Post
But I am certain I used food as a pacifier. . My kids were little long ago, but I clearly remember filling up my diaper bag with food when I took them out with me to do my errands. I needed to get my errands done, didn't want them to cry and would break out the little baggy of cheerios. Then baby carrots, a juice box, etc. Guilty.
I used to catch grief about this from family members. If my babies were fussing during a service people wanted to give me food to pacify them but I preferred to stand and rock, play a hand game or distract them in some other way. I refused to use the easy fix. I see why people do it. It's definitely easier. But I always wondered, when does it end?

I'm not saying my way was any better though. I have a little guy who's not so little who befuddles all my little theories. I thought I was doing all the right things. It worked with one kid, but not the other, which tells me what we do with our little ones plays a minor roll in how they turn out. Either that or my poor example really did a number on him.

I swear, I thought I could write the book on bringing up a child to have a healthy relationship with food. I breastfed, made my own baby food, went heavy on the veggies, allowed them to choose how much they would eat (never had to clean their plates), initially used fruit/yogurt as "dessert", never pacified with food, packed lunches for them at first. We used to limit "screen time" severely. My children didn't play video games until around age 8. I'm honestly not sure where it went wrong.

Contrast that with my best friend (who has recently changed her ways) and she allowed video games at three, unlimited TV, junk food galore, food as a pacifier and required her children show her their plate before they were allowed to be finished so she could make sure they ate enough FRENCH FRIES! And her kids are skinny, healthy and athletic.

I don't get it.
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Old 11-08-2010, 12:07 PM   #14
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I don't have children, but I understand that feeling of frustration. I have a niece and nephew, both of whom I am involved with daily, so I can imagine how terribly frustrating it must have been to watch. If the lady was not related, the family should have jumped in. What really hit home for me was not just the candy, but how we train our kids to certain things; how much WE were trained, and now just how much we need to UNtrain ourselves. On a positive note, now that I know I can get to work in a better way to be healthy, not just beating myself up when something doesn't work. Thanks for the post.
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Old 11-08-2010, 12:57 PM   #15
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WOW! I feel your angst because what will happen in the future is probably exactly what you are predicting.

I grew up in a very abusive household. Years later and lots of personal work after that period, I discovered I DO in fact emotionally eat, and I learned that from my mother, who would cook elaborate dinners, and pretend as if none of the abuse which was taking place right under her nose was actually happening. I commend her, because she has done so much of her own work, and made amazing restitutions, but still her offering comfort mainly in the guise of food, was the main thing that triggered my obesity.
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