Figuring out how much to eat is done through a felt sense in the mind/body. Knowing when to stop eating is connected to knowing when to stop working, playing, or doing any activity. In “The three faces of overindulgence” authors Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/26/2016, p. B2), explain how to talk to children about what’s enough. The effects of overindulgence described in the book, How Much Is Too Much: Raising Likeable, Responsible, Respectful Children in An Age of Overindulgence by Clarke, Dawson and Bredehoft, produce children who have “difficulty in delaying gratification, irresponsibility, disrespect and defiance of authority, incompetence, interrelational problems, and trouble developing a personal identity.”
The first form of overindulgence involves parents doing too much. This includes over-focusing on children and asking them, “Are you hungry?” too often or forcing them to eat or eat more than is satisfying. Parents who constantly push sweets and treats at their children, especially as rewards, are encouraging them to develop a “sweet tooth” and also may be overriding their hunger or satiation signals. This goes for adults, too, who constantly think they’re hungry and need a snack when they’re actually experiencing emotions. If you had parents who pressed you to eat or to eat more, you may have been overindulged in the food arena.
The second form of overindulgence is due to over-nurturing kids and not encouraging them to age-appropriately do things for themselves. The book’s authors say that “Children can experience identity confusion if too much is done for them” leaving them without the “opportunity to discover their own strengths or build confidence in overcoming obstacles.” Perhaps this happened to you and now you don’t have adequate life skills and, therefore, turn to food for coping and comfort.
The third form of overindulgence is “not providing enough structure” for your children who need “rules and clear consequences for breaking the rules, as well as rewards for good choices. They need boundaries and clear leadership from their parents.” Perhaps you were left alone a great deal as a child and didn’t have guidelines around food—or anything—leaving you to eat whatever you wanted whenever you wanted it. Perhaps you now go to the opposite extreme and push your children or grandchildren to eat, without realizing the negative effect it might be having on them. Seek balance and encourage sensing enoughness in yourself and in your loved ones. These are excellent habits for children and adults alike.
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