If my boys had a nickel for every time I tried to convince them they really did like a particular food, despite their claims to the contrary—well, let’s just say they’d have a lot of nickels. Why do parents do this? Sure, it’s our job to expose our kids to new foods—“eating the rainbow” and all that—but should we force them? Instead, can’t we encourage them to explore different foods and make their own choices? From now on, I’m trusting my instincts (something we could all use a little boost in) and choosing the philosophy of, “Yes we can!”
In Health Is Simple, Disease Is Complicated, James Forleo, DC, discusses how our bodies are always working toward a state of perfect health. He cites a simple example, the fever, which is our body’s way of creating an inhospitable environment for harmful bacteria that can make us sick—in a sense, cooking them to a crisp. But too often we thwart this process by immediately turning to fever-reducing drugs, undermining what our bodies can accomplish on their own. Forleo refers to this incredibly intuitive system—which includes the mind, of course—as “Innate Body Wisdom” or “Inner Intelligence.” Unfortunately, when it comes to our food choices, I believe a good number of us have lost touch with this inner wisdom. But our kids haven’t, and we need to realize they’re often more in touch with their nutritional needs than we are.
Here’s a personal example of a time I didn’t follow my intuition by paying attention to what my body was trying to tell me. I love coffee. I love the smell, the taste, the ritual of adding cream and drinking it each morning. Most times I could drink a cup, maybe two, and go about my day just fine. Other days, not so much. For years, I ignored this fact and drank it anyway, dealing with the consequences when they came up. It wasn’t until a visit with our clinical nutritionist that I discovered coffee was one of the foods I should avoid. Rather than trust the signals my body was sending, I had to hear it from an expert first. Silly, yes?
As for an example of a time I tried to force my kids to eat something they really didn’t want to, that’s easy. Our youngest doesn’t like eggs—he knew this without ever trying them. Now, I knew he didn’t have any egg allergies because eggs are in so many foods he eats on a regular basis. Even though straight-up eggs don’t appeal to him, not even a little, I was bound and determined to prove to him that he did, in fact, love them. After all, eggs are not only a quick and easy meal, they’re also an excellent source of protein, omega-3s, and other good stuff. He had to like eggs. With that in mind, one day I made him try a scrambled egg. Guess what? He was a trooper. He sat down, took one bite…then gagged as he swallowed it. The egg came right back up, along with a few other things he’d snacked on earlier. My son was right all along. He was three and a half and already trusting his instincts. Every once in a while I’ll suggest he give eggs another try—but I don’t force him anymore.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that we never get our kids to try new foods. I mean, really, there are very few kids who would choose to eat anything green. To children, green + food = scary. And I’m also not proposing that we let them eat nothing but chips and cookies because that’s what they feel like. What I am proposing is that we let them join in the process of choosing what those new foods will be. We should trust their intuition with food choices. Let them help with the grocery list, and each week add an item like “green vegetable.” At the market, let your kids help choose the vegetable, making it clear that everyone in the family will be trying it too. They can use their eyes to see what visually appeals to them, and their nose to discover any clues about what it might taste like. Be excited about whatever item they pick out. Go home and try it. Eat it raw. Choose a recipe, together, to cook for dinner one night. Your child just might expose you to foods you wouldn’t have considered otherwise.
My goal for 2014 is to let intuition be my health’s best friend—and to foster that same spirit in my boys. We’ll talk about what our bodies are trying to tell us with the foods we’re craving. Then we’ll figure out what to do about it—just by trusting our instincts.
Are you in touch with your body’s “Inner Intelligence?” Is it trying to tell you anything that you’ve been ignoring?
Photo from iStock/noblige