Needless to say, I watched his family in awe and inspiration. You didn't have to have dessert even though it was THERE?! You didn't have to have 2nds?? There would be MORE food later?! I never knew this fairy tale style of eating existed and my mind was blown. I now understand it's not quite as rare as I once believed but is a product of so many factors and skills that don't come easy to many families.
My husband's food story
My clinical and research experience has taught me he has these abilities in part because of how his family approached food and likely related to our society's approval of his body type (long and lean). He is the oldest of 3 boys and comes from a wonderful, supportive family in which all foods were plentiful, all the time. While I didn't know him growing up, he's shared that eating was and is about fueling athletics, enjoyment, and socializing. They were never shamed for eating too much or "the wrong" foods. All types of foods (including "treats") were plentiful in their house. If they were hungry, they were encouraged to eat meals instead of snack foods. His genetic build is naturally long and lean and he was encouraged from early on to eat when he was hungry and stop when satisfied - because there would always be more later.
In his own words:
My food story...
Nutrition was an interest for my mom - she loved learning how food can change health. Naturally she was frustrated with our fixation on chips, cookies, soda, pastries, and ice cream. She had plenty of fruits / vegetables around and tried to sneak them in wherever possible. But since we didn't eat together, we could easily skip them. Like so many parents that I see now, she was terrified at how much and how quickly a family of six could eat a gallon of ice cream and frustrated we'd skip over the fruit. So like most, she opted to hide the "treats" or never buy them and would scold us when it disappeared from hiding spots.
I quickly learned that if a preferred food was there, you had to eat a lot, quickly because you never knew when there would be more. So forget others - it's every man for himself. I remember coming home from a grade school activity and seeing that dinner (pizza) was made and gone. I'd cry, not because I was hungry and had no other choice, but because something was made and no one saved any for me.
But what she (and many other parents don't quite realize) is that by never having the food in the house, having no meal rhythm/structure, AND never being taught how to enjoy it without shame, created a circumstance in which some of us (including me) ate in secret, beyond the point of satisfaction / fullness, and without consideration of or connection to others.
How this affected me later
So naturally I felt the only way to be "safe" was to never buy it or avoid social situations in which it was around. But that only left me feeling further out of control and seeking more rules and ways to control my food. For years, I relied on (and failed) using tools such as calorie counting, food diaries, monitoring macros, meal planning, cleanses, "clean eating", and other popular diets. Unfortunately, these "tricks" that I tried and failed (yet still preached to my clients - SMH...I'm so sorry previous clients) only furthered the damage and escalated the feeling of being out of control.
I still remember the excitement of a new diet / approach and the hope that "maybe THIS will 'fix' me" only to be crushed a few days/weeks later by deprivation and disappointment. Observing my husband's eating and understanding Intuitive Eating has given me much clarity (and healing) into what it means to honor physical and emotional need (for more about INTUITIVE EATING, check out this blog post). It took me many (many) years to differentiate my physical needs from the self-imposed and situational fears that there is "never enough food" ... paired with gentle reminders that, "there will be more" and "I have permission to eat."
I'm certainly happy with how I approach food now. I eat what I prefer without guilt or shame. Health and food chemistries are considerations, they're not the defining feature of the meal. I know it can sound too good to be true, but with practice, patience, kindness, and reflection, it's a world that exists.
Moral of the story...
We all come from a different food background and that has a strong impact on how we approach and interpret food. To pretend there's a "one size fits all" approach to nutrition and health is madness. Certainly there are core features - all bodies need "enough" food and nutrients, but how you get there is entirely individual.
Stay nourished friends!
DISCLAIMER: The information presented here is meant to be for general education. If you want individual guidance to reach your unique health goals, please contact me or a local dietitian directly
Dietitian, personal trainer, mother, wife, runner, and triathlete staying healthy one bit and bite at a time