Tuesday Topic: Food Challenges for Kids from Hard Places

This week’s question comes from Sonya who wrote,

I know my girls were malnourished (both in utero & later) and we have always followed Karyn Purvis’s advice about food….i.e. mostly seeing it as a means to connect & as a way to show them we will meet their needs, etc.

We have two snacks a day, 3 meals & I remind them often of their consistency.

Our youngest (age 7 now) has no food issues, except maybe a tendency to “lose it” when she has low blood sugar.

The older (now age 9…ish) is now quite overweight & has issues sneaking food (has never hoarded, though), is over focusing on cleaning the plate (seriously. licking or touching each crumb with a finger & finishing each drop off her plate), always asks for seconds, & now more recently in the last 6 months, she can’t even sit at the table if her food is gone & she has been told she is done eating. I do have to gently stop her from eating when she has had enough. When she has managed this herself, she has made herself sick.

She starts wiggling this crazy wiggle when her plate is clean & almost physically cannot sit there! As a family that is together sometimes ONLY at dinner (five kids total), this new development is frustrating to me…& I’m also realizing the root of it is that she recognizes she is done & doesn’t want to be tempted by food anymore, most likely.

So HELP!! Any tips? Any other ways to talk this through? By the way, when she sneaks food, she almost always comes & confesses…such a sweet child…but seems overwhelmed with how to to handle it!

I know that many of you have dealt with food challenges and might have some ideas for Sonya. Please take a moment to leave a thought, tip, or encouraging word.

If you have a question you would like me to share as a Tuesday Topic, please email it to me at lisa@onethankfulmom.com and put Tuesday Topic in the subject line.

Have a great day, friends.

Lisa

 

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

16 Comments

  1. courtneycassada
    April 23, 2013

    sonya! i don't have any tips…but i just want to say that i understand. we have a 5 yr old that has MAJOR food issues…will eat until he throws up, licks his plate, eats so fast he throws up. he's been home almost 2 years and it's still a HUGE issue. earlier this year, there were 2 months where he stole food in some form (from someone's lunch…or snack…or his teacher's desk) EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. he spent more time in the principal's office than in class. it ended as soon as it started. we don't know what started it (well, we do know he has these isssues, but why did he start stealing?? and then lying?) and we don't know why it stopped?

    i have grieved over this. i myself now have "Issues". i don't enjoy meals anymore. some days i get myself so worked up before a meal that i can't eat myself.

    we have so many people praying for him…for healing for him from this. i find peace in that. and i am thankful for the faithfulness of friends, because some days i find it hard to hope.

    Reply
  2. Deborah
    April 23, 2013

    My 10 year old adopted son has serious food issues, he inhales the food in seconds without so much as tasting it. He doesn't have a concept of what full is or feels like – he never gives his body a chance to feel it before he is asking for seconds or thirds. If he is unattended around food (for example a party where food is left out instead of portioned and served) he will quite literally eat himself sick). Often times he is done eating and demanding second before I have finished making all the plates and just sitting down to eat myself. I have tried giving him tiny portions (comparable to what I give our 4 year old) so when he ate 2 or 3 the total food consumed would still be a reasonable amount. I have also tried absolutely loading his plate or bowl with twice the adult portions thinking he could not possibly eat it all – but he did – it just took a bit longer.

    Reply
  3. Deborah
    April 23, 2013

    I have found that if a meal contains a heavy carb/starch like rice, noodles, potatoes I can load his plate or bowl with this very filling food and not have to jump up every 2 minutes to get him another portion….. and he doen't end up taking extra portions. BUT – my son doesn't have any weight issues – his metabolism is very fast and he actually appears thin even though he consumes twice what I do. For your weight issue child you might try an 8oz glass of water before the meal to fill the stomach without calories – it is what many diet programs recommend!

    Reply
  4. Kayla
    April 23, 2013

    Have not read this but this book/doctor was recommended in another adoption group: http://thefeedingdoctor.com/ . I have one who has just quirky issues with food. (Not hoarding, not stealing, just things that are a little off.) She often recalls events by what she ate. Her favorite part of the school day is almost always food related so I have to stop her and preface my "what was the best part?" question with "not counting food, what was the best part?" She can smell food on my breath; if I snuck potato chips or chocolate while the kids weren't looking, she will smell my breath and call me out. She came home at 3 and had never been starved but I think it is this huge relearning as living in in orphanage places such restriction on food. In her orphanage, they received 3 meals and 2 snacks but it was always on a schedule, not when she was hungry. If you did get a special treat, there was not a chance to save it as you needed to eat it now or lose it. And the idea of the same food being available tomorrow is not one an orphanage supports as you get food when you see it with no ability to recognize that the orphanage has food stored away for the next day, etc.. Then you come to the US where there is literally food everywhere. The cupboards and fridge are full. It's in the garbage can under the sink (something you don't see in an orphanage). It's on tv and on billboards. How do you navigate all of that when you've come from a restrictive (albeit sufficient) food background? Like I said, I think it's just a lot of relearning. We did a lot with "Love always trusts" when she first came home. That if Mama said no to food or not right now, you needed to trust that she knew what was best for you. And I worked hard to make sure that if I I said no or not right now, that I did follow through on that. (Still try to do that. The other night, she was wanting more French bread and she had already had two pieces plus we needed to put supper away so we could get started on bedtime. I told her she could have it as a snack the next day. We ended up away from home during snacktime but once we were home, I honored what I told her and let her have bread even though she had a snack.) Also I think I try/tried to say yes more than I say no too. I think of things like deliberately serving a smaller portion so you can say yes to seconds or having healthy snacks like carrots that are something they can always have. (And the "if you're hungry, eat carrots" trick usually works to help sort out if they are really hungry or just trying to junk food type stuff because it tastes good.)

    Reply
  5. Jeannette
    April 23, 2013

    One thing that sometimes helps to slow our son down- he wolfs his food too- is to sometimes have him pause halfway through (for example after a hefty salad and before the main course) and get him to talk/ interact with the family/sing a song/ tell what he did during the day etc. Often he is just so focused on eating that he doesn't interact until he is done (and maybe not then). Also, it is a reminder to his securely attached siblings to talk a little less and eat a little more. 🙂 It also gives him a chance to be the center of attention and maybe let him digest a teeny bit before racing on to the next portion.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 23, 2013

      That is a great idea, Jeannette. Thanks for sharing it.

      Reply
  6. Holly
    April 24, 2013

    Just wanted to say thanks for posting this question. Our son has been home a year and a half and we have dealt with many food issues. Some we have found answers to ie. peanut butter as a quick fix and others we are stilling working on ie. shoveling food in quickly, overeating. Praise the Lord for this community!

    Reply
  7. Cathy
    April 24, 2013

    Food is so hard. It doesn't help that I have my own food issues!! Lots of prayer recently about this.

    Reply
  8. Heather
    April 24, 2013

    My oldest has some food issues. He's always had issues with hoarding, obessing about the next meal, etch. After the second time he ate until he threw up we instituted the "apple rule'. In order to determine whether he's truly still hungry or not he is allowed to have an apple if he's asking for more after seconds. It works for us because he will stop eating if he's not hungry but just overeating because something tastes especially good or he'll have the apple if he's truly hungry.

    Reply
  9. Brooke
    April 24, 2013

    We have 2 ET sons, and 3 bio kiddos. Our oldest ET son, age 8, had the most trouble with food. We serve our kiddos first, from the kitchen (not setting pots on table), then serve and sit down ourselves. They may ask for seconds, but nobody gets any until Mama and Daddy have finished eating, so there is no incentive to him for racing through the food before any food cues have kicked in. We then will divide out what's left to anyone that wants seconds, but being done first doesn't get you the lion's share. After that, they are welcome to have fresh fruits or veggies.

    Reply
  10. Bekah
    April 24, 2013

    When my husband and I were house parents in a group foster home setting, we had several boys who had food issues. Many would eat until they made themselves sick if not regulated and would become very angry when we tried to explain to them that they did not physically need to eat third and fourth helpings of dinner. I spoke with their therapist and doctor about how I could help these boys. Their therapist suggested that each day, I show the boys our pantry, refrigerator and deep freeze and remind them that we would always have enough food. Their doctor gave me the following tips: 1) Make sure they drink lots of water throughout the day. Even as adults, we often confuse our thirst with hunger.
    2) Always have lots of fruits and raw veggies on hand to snack on and offer them freely. My boys knew they could eat carrot sticks or an apple or a similar snack whenever they asked. No one ever got fat eating fruits and veggies all day long. Plus, these foods stick with you a little longer than carbs or sugary snacks and help you feel full.
    We had success with several of our boys once we started the healthy snack rule. I hope you do too!

    Reply
  11. Kimberly
    April 24, 2013

    When I read this post it made total sense to me as a mom of a child with ADHD. Are there any other signs of this or sensory seeking in your child? We've found it helpful to give our son something to do at the table- preferably with both his hands and his mouth for that vacuous "down time" after he is full if we want to keep him at the table. Most days we recognize that keeping him at the table for more than 10 minutes is simply too much of a obstacle for all of us and go and do a family activity after dinner instead.

    Reply
  12. Sonya Hillrich
    April 25, 2013

    I love all the great ideas here.
    Thanks so much for posting my question, Lisa.
    My sweet daughter does have sensory-seeking tendencies; we are currently in weekly OT for sensory integration, so perhaps as that continues, we will see improvement in this area, too.
    My husband & I will discuss the various solutions & come up with some solutions that will help our daughter improve!
    Thanks again for the hope!

    Reply
  13. Jessica
    April 25, 2013

    One of my first thoughts when reading the question was what if your daughter could hold something- a sensory ball/squishy ball while she sat there after eating? Also I second the offering more fruit/veggies- offering carrots/apples after we know our daughter has had a normal amount but is just eating more even though her tummy should 'feel' full has really been helpful or offering them as snacks throughout the day. We also take her need for more food that her body can handle as our reminder that she needs to be filled up with more love from us- healthy touch, hugs, singing/dancing together etc.

    Reply
  14. Michele
    April 25, 2013

    I have two suggestions…
    1. We always have an unlimited supply of something healthy and low in calorie/sugar like carrots/cucumbers/celery/apple slices for both snacks and during meals. (This would not work if our child ate until they were sick like some of the above examples but it works for us) Our children are picky about the hoarding and overeating and will only do that with comfort foods high carbs/high sugar/loads of fat. So during meal times when someone wants a third helping of lasagna we just calmly offer the other item instead. Something like "Wow, you are really hungry tonight, let's choose some more apples instead of pasta."
    2. our main dish is always served in the kitchen on the plate and then the table contains the items they can choose to have seconds. That way it is not on the table tempting all of us to keep dipping in and having more.

    Reply
  15. Arabah Joy
    April 28, 2013

    Our daughter has food issues, even after being home five years. A few weeks ago she went to a birthday party and I wasn't there to portion her food. Evidently, she sat in someone's lap the whole time and ate. I was hoping that we had progressed further than that, but she is so cute, everyone wants to hold her and she works it to her advantage.

    When she came home, it was dinnertime. Of course I couldn't NOT give her something, even though I figured she was stuffed. Her belly was huge. I gave her a very small portion, but even that was too much. She threw up and went to the bathroom to eliminate. She was just absolutely filled to the gills. It was very uncomfortable for her, so I took the opportunity to talk about food portions and from that, I told her that if she was willing, she could try leaving a little bit on her plate after each meal. She was so miserable that she was willing to do anything. I reassured her that she would not go hungry. I realize this is a pretty big step for some kids, but our daughter was willing to try it, partly because she felt so bad from overeating. Since then, she has been leaving a bit (a crust, a spoonful, sometimes more) on her plate and we have been working through what "full" feels like. I don't know it this is helpful to you or not, but it seems to be helping her.

    Reply

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