By Emily Edling, Montclair State University Graduate Student, Aterra Intern, and Future RD
Ready or not, summer has come and gone and the school lunch and snack packing season is here again.
In healing my relationship with food, I realized that I used to overthink what I packed in the kids’ lunches and snacks. It was a kind of performative mentality, as if our morals were reflected in what I packed for my elementary-aged children.
I recognize my unearned privilege here - we are able to send our kids with a variety of foods in their lunches and our pantry has lots of options. I acknowledge that other families might not have as many choices. Even the mental capacity of worrying what others thought about my kids’ snack comes from a place of privilege.
We want our kids to have enough food to sustain them for all the great things they get to do at school and to enjoy their lunches. Instead of simply packing what they liked and what would be filling for them, I gave an extra thought to what the teacher might think if they see my kid with a chocolate muffin instead of a beautiful bento box of colorful veggies. I chuckle a bit at this now, realizing that this dear teacher likely didn’t have time to stand over the kids at snack break, judging their family’s food choices. Or, as if the lunch monitors were policing the contents of the kids’ lunchboxes. The fact that this even came to mind was evidence of diet culture’s grip on me: that there was a right or wrong snack to send, apart from what my child enjoys eating and would nourish them throughout the day.
Realizing this was also a reminder that my kids are picking up on my perspective of food. If you spend time around kids, you know how they are like sponges, soaking up all the spoken and unspoken cues around them. Are they hearing me elevate some foods over others?
Without self-criticism, I want to notice the areas where I bring this performative mentality that might be trying to meet diet culture’s expectations of me. Another example of this performance seeping in could show up in deciding what you order at dinner with a friend. Instead of ordering the item from the menu that sounds the most appealing, do you opt for something else that might seem ‘healthier’?
When I discovered Intuitive Eating and began to heal my relationship with food, I realized how much mental energy was consumed with overthinking these choices. With permission to eat and enjoy ALL the foods, I have seen my kids (and myself!) relax about the foods that we used to only consider as ‘sometimes’ foods and treats. Now, we don't worry about this fake moral compass around our food choices.
I see that satisfaction is built into our meals and snacks and they eat a wide variety of foods that give them complete nutrition over time. I’m grateful to grow in this area and have more energy to devote to things that really matter - no one is policing my kids’ snack, especially not me.
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Blog Disclaimer: Everyone's Intuitive Eating journey will be different. While I am a registered dietitian, I may not be your dietitian, personally. All blog posts are for informational and educational purposes only and may not be the best fit for your personal situation. Information shall not be construed as medical nutrition therapy or advice. The information and education provided here is not intended or implied to supplement or replace professional medical treatment, advice, and/or diagnosis. It is not intended to replace individual nutrition care or nutrition counseling with a registered dietitian. Always check with your own registered dietitian and physician or medical treatment team before trying or implementing any information read here.
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