As a Fat Mom, This Nutritionist's 'Toddler Tip' Helped Me Conquer Some Huge Meal-Time Fears

Lauren Gordon

joey eating
Lauren Gordon

I should start out explaining that I have a very complicated relationship with my body. It's one I've been open about -- both pre-baby and postpartum. The summary is: I try not to actively hate myself for being fat, but I am keenly aware of how my being fat plays into every facet of my life. And, despite what online trolls have tried to tell me in the past, it's really not a "me" problem -- it's a social one. 

I've been defending my body, and my right to exist in it unbothered, in some way or another my whole life. I love fat people, and I love them whether they are healthy or not and whether they love themselves or not. Because, simply, they are people and they (we) deserve to be loved.

But I won't lie; being in a larger body is oppressive and there have been many attempts to escape it. Particularly in my relationship to food. I've yo-yo dieted, I've fad-dieted, I've demonized certain foods, and I've stressed-eaten it back  -- all of it in an attempt to be more palatable to society.

  • I've landed in a place where I have a simpler goal: to be healthier in general. And it's an especially important goal to accomplish because of my son.

    I constantly worry about passing down the unhealthy parts of my relationship with food and my body onto him. Obsessing over food in any capacity is mentally taxing. It misplaces value on yourself, your worth, and ultimately your relationship with your body. Every time I gave him a cookie or chips, or whatever, I had a split second panic attack that I was failing him because my associations with those foods is somewhat of an association with failure.

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  • In an attempt to start making sure his relationship with food and himself was a good one, I committed myself to offering a variety of foods. 

    I never forced him to finish his plate. I made sure he wasn't only eating chicken nuggets. And at first, everything was great. My son had a great appetite, was in an age-appropriate weight range, and at least tried any food I put in front of him. 

    And then he became a toddler.

  • With toddlerhood came a constant battle around food time. 

    Lauren Gordon

    One day he loved peas and carrots, and the next he'd toss them in a fit of rage. Avocados (specifically guacamole) were gobbled up, and then he only would eat the accompanying chips. He LIVED (honestly, actively still lives) for snacks and "real food" was tossed aside. 

    I tried everything under the sun to get him back to eating a decent variety of foods. We got "creative" about where we ate. We hid veggies in unassuming ways (TBH I still do this). And eventually I landed on bargaining. Promises of a treat in exchange for each just a "bite" of XYZ became the norm. And truthfully even that wasn't working well. 

    My pediatrician assured me that this was normal, and although logically I knew he was right, it ate away at me.  

  • Because if I am being honest with myself, I worried that my son will be fat like me.

    Not because being fat is bad on its face. It does not mean you are an unhealthy person. It doesn't mean you are worth any less; that you are undesirable, or unworthy of love. 

    The reason I worried about it is because, frankly, people suck and aren't very kind to fat people. I worried that no matter what I did to instill self-worth in him, that if he is fat in the future, people could easily undo that work with a harsh word or cruel cold shoulder. 

    I know for me, even when my loved ones insisted I was beautiful and my doctors assured me I was healthy, the cruelty of others impacted (and impacts) my self worth. And the thought of my son enduring that because I couldn't get him to eat a freakin' vegetable nearly crushed me with guilt. 

  • As the mealtime wars waged on, I began diving into research and I stumbled upon this post by Melissa Vasikauskas, a single mom and dietitian.

    "Do you find yourself arguing with your kid to finish dinner before dessert," she asked in her caption. "Do you find yourself playing attorney, trying to make deals and negotiations?"

    Um, hi, yes. Have you been spying on me, lady?

    "In the first picture my little one took one bite of taco and said 'actually I want to start with my Oreos,'" she further explained. "I know this can be really scary. Many of your own fears may start coming to the surface. 'What if she only eats the dessert and no dinner?....What if she just demands more and more and more dessert? ....There's no control here! ....She'll never learn how to eat healthy!' These are all common reactions but really what they are, are just our own fears and insecurities being projected on to our children."

    Wow, was I ever just read for filth.

  • She then provided her "after" picture, and let me tell you, I was pretty stunned. 

    eating
    Melissa Vasikauskas/Instagram

    "YES she nibbled on the second Oreo and she didn't even finish it," Vasikauskas wrote. "The concepts of restriction and binging are manifested within our psychology. When children have constant, unhindered access to sweets it creates a sense a food security making them less likely to overeat them."

    It also apparently inspires them to try other things that are on their plates. Instead of getting discouraged that all they eat on their plate is the fries and forcing them to try the chicken or squeeze in a pea, letting them go for the controlled portion of the thing they want helps them to be more balanced. 

  • I conducted the little experiment at our house, and honestly haven't looked back. 

    little boy eating lunch.
    Lauren Gordon

    Instead of panicking about him eating "too much" of the thing he likes/wanted, I portion controlled it, presented it to him, and let him go to town.

    The other day when he was throwing an absolute fit over eating dinner, I gave him a small Famous Amos cookie to start him off. He ate the cookie, then went to work on his much more balanced meal of chicken, veggie mac-and-cheese (hey, I told you I'm not above sneaking) and blueberries/strawberries. 

  • All in all, my happy little boy is going to follow my lead. 

    Happy  Joey
    Lauren Gordon

    If I eat healthy food in front of him, he'll eat it too. If I stop vilifying myself for eating a cookie, he'll be less likely to overeat those cookies too. 

    I'm not saying I'm perfect or my relationship with food is perfect either -- it's not. I'm still learning. But I'm committed to learning alongside my sweet son so we can both lead healthy, happy, and guilt-free lives.