Thursday, April 03, 2008

Let Them Eat Cake

I just finished reading Let Them Eat Cake The Case Against Controlling What Your Children Eat and I thought I would quickly write out some thoughts. It was a bit different than I expected it to be.

The main points seem to be:

  • There are many variety of kids -- if your child is on the high end or low end of the percentile charts, it doesn't mean he has to go on a diet or start having half n half in his breakfast cereal. A more or less consistent growth curve is more important to keep an eye on.
  • Children between the ages of 2 and 11 aren't really growing that fast relative to their baby and teenage years, so what seems like "hardly eating anything" is probably pretty normal.
  • Stay watchful and pay attention to providing a range of healthy food choices, but don't have a fearful, angry attitude about food and the child's eating patterns. Above all, most food issues are not worth battles and tension.
  • Children under age two should NOT have their fat intake reduced; this could be dangerous for the growing brain and body.
  • Most of the additives in food have been thoroughly tested, are better than the historical alternatives (mold and spoilage on food) and don't really change the behavior or health status of most people. The book does discuss some additives like MSG which some people don't tolerate well and which shouldn't be eaten by pregnant women.
  • Even children who are obese often don't grow up to be obese adults (about 30 percent carrythrough, the book reports). A poor self-image often outlasts childhood plumpness so unless the child wants to do something about his body size, it's probably better not to put him on a reducing diet or make any foods "forbidden". Rather, it's better to look at the "big picture" and put the richer foods in a proper context, with a variety of healthy foods served and various fun physical activities engaged in.

This actually reminds me of much of the advice I've read in many standard diet or nutrition books (I like to read those for inspiration at intervals). Especially, the emotional component in eating has been taken more seriously in recent years. Food is an important and legitimate component in almost all celebrations across cultures. Almost every culture, the book remarks, uses sweet food as an expression of celebration. Babies' first food is sweet and fatty. So there is nothing wrong per se with sweet and fatty food.

But quarrels and power struggles over eating can often lead to the "bad" kind of emotional eating in adulthood. The book includes a brief discussion of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, saying that part of the problem sometimes is unrealistic expectations of what weight and eating should be about. It recommends that the parents rather than spend their energy in negative restrictions, rather expand the child's options and have a variety of healthy snacks and foods in the home and make meals an enjoyable relationship-building time rather than a battleground.

If this book's recommendations can be compared to style of homeschooling it is close to what I already do, I think.

By the way, there are some fascinating "unschooling as a Catholic" discussions in the RL archives -- I have linked to the list that comes up in the RL search engine. Look especially at the ones that have several pages.

1 comment:

Matilda said...

Thank you for this review. I struggle with this myself having picky eaters and lots of different body types. I think I will see if I can get this one from the library!