I know it’s inspirational for many people, and may motivate some overweight, unhealthy viewers to start exercising and eating nutritious food, but I still don’t like The Biggest Loser. Watching obese people being yelled at, humiliated and slave-driven through intense workouts is not my cup of tea. Yet, on one of maybe four occasions when I have seen some of the show, I heard something that has stuck with me ever since. One of the female contestants was pouring her heart out to her militant trainer. She told him and the whole world watching that when she was a kid, her father was a severe heroin addict for a few years, and they hardly had any money for food. Every single day, her father would give her a couple dollars and send her to the fish and chips shop to buy chips – all they could afford. I was astonished. This young girl had eaten nothing but French fries (chips) for three whole years, and she was still alive! Yes, she was morbidly obese and emotionally scarred, but she was a living, walking, talking, 26-year-old woman.
Why did this affect me so much? Because I had a 2 year old daughter, who I was learning to take care of and feed well. I fed her only real whole animal and plant foods with no additives, preservatives, pesticides, chemicals, trans fats or refined sugars. I fed her three meals a day and two snacks a day. I sat with her at mealtimes for 30 minutes to an hour, patiently waiting for her to eat as much as she needed for her nutritional and hunger needs so her immune system could be strong and all her bodily functions would run smoothly. It’s amazing the satisfaction a mother gets from feeding her kids. And the dissatisfaction a mother feels when her kids aren’t well-fed. Sometimes she would want only one particular food and nothing else. Sometimes, she wouldn’t want to eat much or anything at all. As with any mother, this worried and frustrated me immensely. She needs to eat. She needs her nutrition. She’s going to get cranky, tired, sick, underweight, malnourished, diseased!
Yet, here was this lovely – yes, obese and distraught and probably riddled with disease – but lovely young woman who had lived on salted potatoes fried in trans fats for three whole years. Not a single piece of meat or vegetables. Not much nutrition AT ALL. And she was fine. She was alive.
This example of the human body’s resilience made me realise that we parents need to relax a bit about feeding our kids. All we need to do is offer them plenty of nutritious food, then let them decide if and how much they want to eat. If they don’t want to eat their dinner this time, that’s okay. They will survive! Our kids won’t starve to death!
Kids Can Survive on Chips, But it Doesn’t Mean They Should
Too often, when our kids won’t eat what we’ve given them, our desperation to feed them makes us run back to the fridge or pantry for something else. Anything else, just eat, eat, eat! I know this is why parents feed their children frozen chicken nuggets, boxed macaroni and cheese, processed snacks and other ‘kid food’. I know this is why I see families out to lunch with the parents tucking into a beautiful salmon salad and the kids eating fries and a chocolate shake. The irony is that our parental instincts are to nourish the kids so their little minds and bodies thrive, but we end up feeding them nutritionally void ‘kid food’ that actually harms their minds and bodies. If we really thought hard about the damage junk food does to kids, we’d realise it’s better for them not to eat at all, than to eat crap. After all, though this woman on The Biggest Loser had shown me an example of someone who survived on chips, she also was an example of how that upbringing led to poor dietary habits which greatly damaged her physical and emotional health.
Our bodies are resilient; they can store energy and nutrients for times of famine. Your child’s survival instincts are strong and she won’t let herself starve. So continue to serve up wholesome meals and snacks, provide a good example of healthy eating, and don’t resort to junk food just to stuff your kids stomach with something. You are doing an amazing job nourishing your kids, especially compared to a drug addict who cannot scrape together the money or effort to provide food for their family. And that drug addict’s daughter is doing fine. And soon, thanks to reality TV, she might even become better than fine.