"Eating Makes Me Hungry."

May 7, 2013

Notable Stats

Slowdown Rate (SR) – The speed of deceleration caused by your child’s slow eating. It is measured in missed or late appointments per week.

Digestion Protest Factor (DPF) – The circular trap a parent enters when your child is both tired and hungry and instead of food, tired just feeds hungry and vice versa. Measured in your hair loss.

My daughter is hungry. She was born hungry from the time she slapped the medicine out of the physician assistant’s hand sixty seconds after she entered this world. At first, I took that as a sign of strength, given her Hulk Hogan physique at birth, but now I realize she was probably hungry and was trying to bite the assistant’s hand off.

Problem for us parents is that we know the key to quenching her starvation is food. It is a logical equation. If you are fortunate enough, when hungry…. Eat. The food we cook for her, mix for her, pack in little containers that spill and fill our mini-van with crushed crackers that are forever buried in the adjustable seat tracking, all help to squash her state of hunger. But we enter the vortex at most meals because we have learned that she is a living example that it is scientifically possible to eat so slowly that you are actually getting hungrier with each bite.

That is right, you can eat yourself into hunger.

Our problem is that she still wants to be selectively hungry. At three years old she has learned that having a convenient tummy ache with food she doesn’t like may get her the food she wants, but at the heart of it, she is a food critic, a connoisseur. She wants to enjoy her food, one bite at a time. Even if there are 11 minutes between bites.

This is a good thing from one perspective.  As parents we want to reward the fact that she is counter to her brother (who has on numerous occasions, eaten so fast that he has bitten his own finger) and let her know that it is good to go against the grain of a society that is constantly in a rush. After all, I eat slowly, mostly from watching my Mom choke while talking, four times a week, when I was growing up, but I digress. I can appreciate her slow eating, but with a three-year-old, the slowness is just as much a function of distractibility than savoring.

She loves to give play by play of what everyone else is doing around the table. Her brother is not sitting right on the chair, her little sister needs her food broken into smaller pieces, the dogs are not listening. And the event that brings her eating to a total standstill is when you bring your plate over to sit down and eat. She will always want what you have. Immediately, whatever was on her plate becomes less desirable. I could have brought a plate of dog food and liver and she would be interested. Then she starts negotiating. She most likely is one reason why I weigh considerably less than my playing weight from six years ago.

Too much choice on a plate is another challenge. She may like all of the food on her plate, but one selection will always rise to power and create an obsession. Usually that item is on your plate. Sure, we are supposed to share, but given that we probably just cooked and waited a long time to finally sit down and eat, sharing is a lot harder at that point, especially when someone has had food on their plate that is only getting cold because she is too busy looking at your plate.

My daughter is the only person I have come across that could eat breakfast and lunch in the same sitting with the same food and never stop eating. And certainly the only person I know that can eat something slower than the rate of mold growing on it.

Of course this is a challenge when you actually have to go somewhere.

So we try and speed her up without pushing food down her throat. We encourage her to focus and leave the play by play to Vin Scully. We thank her for enjoying my French toast or her Mom’s fruit concoction. In the end, we know it is a slippery slope. That we may end up in the kitchen for hours if we are not careful. Trapped inside a fridge or a box of dishwashing detergent.

So if you have a child that likes to eat and do it at a snail’s pace, find a way to see the silver lining. You want her to see eating positively. Sure, you may miss class, be late to school, lose half of your plate to her, even have to throw the food away for food safety reasons, but she is happy as a lark when she is eating and that is worth something. I just hope my hair grows back.

- Doug Glanville

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