Worrying Can Make Picky Eating Worse
Worrying about picky eating can actually make your picky eating situation even worse. Why? Because when we worry about our picky eater we often feel the need to control eating, which is ultimately creating more pressure and less progress.
Of course it’s totally okay to worry and naturally as parents that’s what we do. It’s when the worry we have creates stress, guilt, frustration, fear, and pressure for our kids to eat. That’s when the worry has started to take control and can lead us to a darker place.
There are two things that children can control and that is eating and using the bathroom. Have you ever tried to pressure your child to eat? If so you either didn’t get too far or your child pushed through and ate the tiniest bite of one green bean that you begged them too.
If you didn’t get very far then you left the table exhausted, frustrated, probably in tears (either you or your child). Your child will most likely come back to the dinner table tomorrow and ya’ll will do it all over again. It’s like a tape on repeat. But why do we keep arguing over what and how much food for our children to eat?
I’ll tell you and it’s one word. Worry. As parents, we are made to worry. When we have a picky eater we worry even more about how much nutrition they are getting. We worry about them gaining weight and staying fueled to have enough energy, to grow, to thrive.
We worry because we want to be able to go to parties and restaurants and have our kids actually enjoy and eat a meal from there.
We may also worry because our kids have a medical component impacting their eating and we know how much nutrition plays a role in keeping their systems regular. We may even worry because we want them to be able to enjoy food like we do and we know it’s hard for them right now.
Letting Go of the worry
I’m here to tell you though, from one mama to another. Letting go of the worry, guilt, and stress is one of the main focus points you must do as a parent of a picky eater if you want to start making progress.
This is hard because our minds are a powerful thing and they often take over with all kinds of thoughts like the good, the bad, and the ugly. Oh girl, I have been there. It will kinda make you crazy and you’re probably wondering “okay, well tell me how to do this”.
Let me share a little about my story and how I was able to let go of the worry, guilt, and stress so that I could help my child become the eater he is today.
It wasn’t always rainbows and butterflies in my house at mealtime. If you know me or follow me on facebook or instagram you know I’m a very health conscious person. You know I looooove my plant foods.
You know I’m a big believer of sitting at the table for meals and eating real whole foods. So having a child that didn’t eat a good variety of foods or hardly any veggies or fruits consumed my thoughts. Literally, it would keep me up at night.
How Worrying and Pressure Makes Picky Eating Worse
Our mealtimes used to be stressful. At times it was a battle to get one of my kiddos to even come to the table let alone tolerate a new food near his plate. It was nagging and complimenting his sister because she got the “clean plate club”.
As a feeding therapist I knew the nagging and pressure of “clean plate club” was wrong but as a mama I was desperate. If you have pressured in any way, don’t feel bad. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s coming from a place of love but it’s also causing more harm than good. Learn from this blog and keep movin’ on mama!
There was tension knowing I cooked this meal and I was most likely going to throw most, if not all of the food away at the end of the meal. Does any of this sound familiar? If you have a picky eater I’m sure you can relate. You may be thinking of some of the stress you have at mealtimes too. The struggle is all too real for so many parents. It’s such a negative place to be in at times.
When I knew we had a problem I put on my feeding therapist hat and really dug deep to help us move on from the trenches of picky eating. And when I say trenches, I mean really deep trenches.
I realized I was part of the problem because I was so obsessed with what my child was not eating that I couldn’t move forward. I was so health conscious that I wouldn’t buy certain foods because they didn’t live up to the quality I wanted us to be eating.
Basically I was preventing us from trying new foods, from letting my child experience an enjoyable meal even though it wasn’t an ideal one in my mind. Did I want my child to eat or did I want to stay stuck in this place of worry, frustration, tension, and anxiety? I wanted him to eat!
One of my favorite feeding techniques is called food chaining and I recommend the Food Chaining book to other parents. Basically, food chaining allows you to make a list of all of your child’s current foods. I even include sauces and drinks when making these lists for my own feeding therapy sessions.
From there you will look at details like color, flavors, temperatures, textures, and categories of foods. You will pick a food to start with and from there you will write out foods that are similar to the current food your child likes.
You will go through the list and overtime you will get to a variety of foods your child is eating. It’s really an amazing strategy and takes time but works really well.
I knew I needed to start with a food my child really liked and then I could build off that and eventually get to a point that I was happy with. The problem was I was sooo health conscious that I was not buying foods that I knew he would eat because of their ingredients.
I wouldn’t make foods a certain way because I knew there was a healthier option for cooking it. I was limiting exposure to new foods, experience of trying new foods, and creating added stress in my life and in my child’s life. I was making the beast that picky eating is even bigger.
But. I knew if I let go of these thoughts and the worry then we could actually start to see progress. I knew in my mind the end goal would be to have my child eat foods that I made from real, whole food ingredients. But, in order to get there I would need to give in a little.
I prayed hard. I talked with a good OT friend of mine. I changed my thoughts. I stopped worrying because I knew this wasn’t our forever; it was what we needed to do for now to get us to point B.
My friend encouraged me to really try to understand that I would get to a place where we were eating the foods I know are good for us. It can be so hard because I know how powerful food can be and that often times it’s certain types of food that are making our kids not feel well.
No, I wasn’t going to let my kids chow down on corn dogs and woopie pies all day, but every now and then I might buy something that I thought my child would enjoy. If it had the potential to give us a peaceful meal and allow for progress towards a different food then it’s a win for everyone.
That’s what I needed to learn. I needed to understand that I could use foods and appropriate strategies to move us from point A to point B. Once I understood this and changed my mindset things started to fall into place.
I let go of the worry that my child wasn’t eating enough. I let go of the guilt that I should have done something sooner. I let go of the stress of cooking meals and focusing on if my child was going to eat it.
Our meals soon became about sharing how our day went, being silly with our food, and just enjoying each other’s company around the dinner table.
Interview with Your Kids Table of how to let go of the worry
Click here to read the whole interview I recently did with my amazing OT friend from Your Kids Table. It’s all about letting go of the worry, guilt, and stress and how it will completely change your life when it comes to working with your child’s picky eating.
This is just one way to really start to overcome picky eating. As a feeding therapist, I get a lot of parents that want me to just do therapy and poof everything is better. Not that they don’t want to do the work.
Parents are actually in a really raw place where they want so badly to see their children start to eat more food. It’s more often that parents don’t understand how powerful their part in helping their child is.
Overcoming picky eating starts with the caregivers. It starts at home, at the dinner table.
Going from a place of worry to a place of peace
I’m so happy to say that almost two years later we are in such a good place. I have two strong, healthy lil ones that eat a good variety of foods, have a positive relationship with food, and know how to listen to their body when it’s full and when it’s hungry.
I’ve also changed and grown in so many ways through this process. I believe my relationship with food is better. I still love my plants and believe in the power of food. I believe that food can and does truly protect and heal our body, but I believe in moderation now more than ever.
That is a healthy place for me to be in and especially for parents of picky eaters. When we can do that, we can move forward in the process to help our little eaters.
Do you have a picky eater? I’d love to hear how I can help you more. Two ways I can help you right now is for you to Click here for a free picky eater meal ideas printable. Also click here to learn why kids don’t eat and how to help them eat more.
My hope is this blog will inspire you and give you some ideas that can help you move forward with your little eater becoming a happy and healthy eater.