Saturday, March 12, 2011

True Food Freedom!

It might shock some people that my children can choose whatever they want from the supermarket, just like I do. Our financial limits vary from month to month, but within our budget, they have the freedom to choose what they want for snacks and meals. They will very often take their own cart and just go off and shop themselves.

Honesty and balance are important values to me in the relationship with my children. A friend once told me that her child wanted some candy at the store. She suggested a banana and told her child that he would get sick if he ate the candy. I personally would never say something that wasn't true to my children as a means to control, coerce or sway them in their choices. For my kids, some candy would not make them sick. In fact, if I said that to them and they ate it and did not get sick, how would that affect the trust between us in the future? I know they wouldn't take what I said as truth very much after that, knowing that the "information" that I was giving them was false and a means of control.

I believe that any foods in moderation are fine for our bodies. I know there are people with allergies and food intolerance's and I am not talking about those people here. I know there are exceptions to everything. Right now, I am sharing about my children who are healthy, happy and thriving who have real freedom with the foods that they choose to put in their bodies.

What is interesting to me about how some parents process freedom surrounding foods is that they tend to think in extremes with fear as the backdrop. If children have had food restrictions and limits and have been controlled in the past, and then suddenly these restrictions are lifted, the natural response is overindulgence with the foods that were taboo. The children do not know when and if the restrictions will be reinstated, so they get as much as they can struggling for their own autonomy. A grocery cart filled with candy, cakes, soda and chips would more than likely be what their choices would be. This image is what most in our culture think children with food freedoms would choose. In my experience with four children with food freedom, this is not the case at all!

Children with true food freedom make very different choices than the average person would ever guess! Just like you and I have the freedom to choose what we eat and we do not fill our carts with candy, cakes, chips and soda, neither do children with true food freedom.
When kids are allowed to tap into their own inner knowing and bodily cravings and they know about their bodies and what nourishes them, they can make choices in what they are just drawn to. I believe that this is the healthiest, most organic way to raise my children surrounding food. A healthy, balanced person with freedom to choose does not make unhealthy choices. It wouldn't make sense to my kids to not eat a balanced, healthy diet. They love and respect their bodies and crave and desire fruits, veggies, nuts, grains, protein and also sugars.

When some people read about my feelings surrounding food and freedom they assume that I must be ignorant about health and foods. What they do not realize is that I am a research junkie. Being a childbirth educator, LLL Leader and Doula, nutrition is something that I am very interested in. Our family is educated about foods, and yet, we have formed our own beliefs from our own research and experience. Some of the films we have seen about foods are, Dirt: The Movie, Food Fight, Food, Inc. Fresh, Killer at Large, King Corn, Super Size Me, The Future of Food and we are looking forward to the movie, "Food Stamped", about how hard it is to eat well on a really tight budget. I've read from the book, "Fast Food Nation" aloud to my kids. We are very aware and educated about genetically modified foods and organic foods. It is one of my passions in life to learn and be truly informed about being a good consumer when it comes to food. My children are interested too, especially Devin right now. (He cried when we watched Food, Inc. watching chickens being kicked and mistreated.)

I also know that my feelings about the foods I eat is what I will experience. If I believe something is bad for me, it will be. If I believe that my body is strong and healthy and that I can eat anything - even fast food - in moderation and maintain my health, it will be my experience... and it is! I can count on one hand how many time over the last five years that my children and I have been sick. We are so healthy with the mindset that we have about food. We are educated, informed yet still hold our own beliefs as consumers. We don't make choices in fear. We make choices from a place of joy and love in what we are drawn to.

I also do not blame my children's "behavior" on certain ingredients in foods like so many parents in our culture today do. So much is blamed on foods and I believe this attitude is so unhealthy for the parent/child relationship. I feel that the parents aren't taking the responsibility for their role in their children's behavior and are using foods as a catch-all blame bucket. Parents today are desperately trying to control what their kids eat in an attempt to control them. A more respectful way to parent, in my eyes, would be to focus on the needs under a child's behavior, instead of trying to control behavior with food restrictions and limits.

Honesty and trust are paramount to a child having a healthy, balanced relationship with foods also. I personally do not have fears, or taboos with certain foods like many people in our culture today do. There is nothing off-limits to my family. The entire grocery store is our buffet and we choose from everything there, without limiting ourselves when we enter. We love farmers markets and we have a very large garden that the kids help with and enjoy also. We love food and trust our bodies.

I believe that the human body is not as fragile as most people believe today. I know that my body takes what it needs and what it doesn't need it gets rid of. I do not believe that there are foods that can damage my body. I believe that my body is strong, resilient, competent and I trust it completely.

There are so many evolving, changing beliefs surrounding foods today. I personally buy and eat what I am drawn to and know that all food is nourishment to my strong, capable body. Moderation and balance naturally takes place when you have no fears, taboos, limits or controls over foods in the family.

I think coming to this place in life surrounding foods and how I respect my kids choices is a combination of things. It is my personal beliefs surrounding my body and the foods that I put in it. It is the trust I have of my children's choices. I give information about foods and my children have the freedom to choose what they want based on their knowledge and what they are drawn to and craving.

Devin chooses fruits, breads, chicken and nuts when we shop. He loves smoothies too! Tiff and Ivy love berries, hummus and veggies, tuna fish, meats and trail mixes. Orion loved veggies, nuts, breads and fruit. My kids also enjoy popcicles, ice cream, pretzels and yes, even candy and potato chips! When they choose the candy I don't tell them, "You can get that, but it will make you feel sick". I respect their balanced choices and I know that they are healthy, capable and competent beings when it comes to foods. I have faith in their bodies ability to take what it needs and leave the rest.

I think when people envision children having food freedom they are basing their image on the distrusting, disrespectful ideas that most people have of children's choices. Most people have never witnessed truly free children. They are basing their beliefs on children with limits and controls which may have been temporarily lifted. Kids are often looked at as not capable, or experienced enough to know what is good for them and what isn't. I believe that children are so much closer to balance then adults are because of the fearful mixed messages and conflicting ideas surrounding food in our society that we have been conditioned with.

I also believe strongly in choosing foods that make me happy. It may sound simple, but it feels so right to me. In our family we all choose foods that make us smile and make us feel good. I know that happiness and good feelings are my guide in life. I have lived by this belief for almost five years now and our lives have never been richer. I love to share this with others because it is a little secret that anyone can apply to their own lives. Walk into the grocery store with love in your heart instead of fear. Choose items based on love and what makes you feel good. You'll be surprised at your experience and what you bring home!

My children make balanced, healthy choices of what they put into their bodies because they have true food freedom and have parents who value honesty and connection above all else. My only "agenda" is my child's freedom and happiness in life. Healthy, balanced food choices are simply a side effect of freedom trust , honesty and love.... Love of food and love of ourselves.


Rosemary Garden Dolls said...

Giving our children freedom to choose is so amazing. Babies know when they are full and so do children. We are coming out of my having controlled all of the food and, at first, my youngest ate only candy. After 7 months, he is now realizing that I'm not going to take it away. I might add that we have had very little sickness since I let go of the control. No more "food police" in our home!

Jennifer said...

Another amazing post Dayna. Thank you so much for sharing your personal lives with all of us. I always take something away from your post that enrich my family's life.

BirthNurse said...

Thank you for sharing this perspective and your experiences. I appreciate it and have much to think about :)

Anonymous said...

I have to say this, and it is about being in complete agreement with your post. Every time I hear people talk about unschooling and food I am amazed that even people who believe that children can make the right educational choices for them think that food is completely different. But I think a lot of this comes from the fact that people (especially Americans) have such a difficult relationship with food that they can't imagine that the same trust and freedom could actually create a different relationship with food.

Anonymous said...

I'm interested to hear your thoughts about trying to heal the body with foods, such as with SCD or GAPS, therefore limiting what your children can have. I have been struggling with this for awhile now - we let them choose from the "allowed" foods on the list, but restrict other things that they crave in hopes of healing their bodies of intolerances and allergies. My oldest understands the why of what we're doing and has made the choice to try to heal himself. My younger one is having a difficult time of it. Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

So awsome! Another great post! I m so able to do this with my first and third and strugle with it with my middle, she is so picky, but giving her the freedom of choice really has helped her pickness!!! Yesterday at the grocery store my oldest asked for green beans, meat (steak) and gumdrobs! the middle babie picked out, star gummies, and the baby picked out bunny crckers! Along with all the fruit and veggies I picked out! Dayna you rock!

Elisa said...

Another great post Dayna, we have been having freedom food for about 6 months now and it has been so amazing my gorgeous girl had always had a reaction to artificial colours, flavours and preservatives which has never been a huge problem we just found other choices but sometimes she loves lollies that made her break out in a rash, since we threw away the rules on food she has been able to eat foods that use to make her break out in a rash and now no rash no reaction at all TRUST is such a cool thing once I truly believed that she could make her own choices it just all worked amazingly. FREEDOM FOOD ROCKS

Courtney - Web Writing said...

I'm working on becoming more free - we have supportive and nonsupportive around our house - but this post has made me really think if even that is too much of a label. On the other hand, I felt drawn to nothing but fast food for the majority of my teen and early adult years and am now reaping the consequences with energy troubles and a messed up immune system. However, in the natural health circles I've been in - there has been too much concern to the point of paranoia about additives and certain food ingredients. As I'm learning to rebalance my body I hope my kids are developing it internally...

messyfish said...

my son (almost 3) just asked for icecream. I served him a big bowl. He had one bite, then gave it back and asked for a cheese sandwich. He has almost finished it, and will probably eat that plum I put on his plate next! Freedom is good for everyone.

Olga Degtyareva said...

Thanks Dayna for this post and for everything else you have been sharing about your children's food choices and love for cooking.

It has been affecting us on our journey to a greater respect and freedom for our children. I love seeing how our boys love cooking and how they can eat the main meal no problem after having ice cream or chocolate if they choose to. I enjoy communicating with them WITHOUT fear - what a difference it makes!!

I am really grateful for knowing that this approach to bringing up our children in respect and freedom is possible and enjoy seeing what is coming out of it :-)

Thank you! Love, Olga

Mary Herrington said...

My husband grew up with the "Clean Plate Club" and now suffers from obesity. I have never had food rules since I believe the body will crave what it needs. He will look at me guiltily while grabbing chips or a huge piece of cake, and I just smile and say I Love You and trust that your body needs that and walk away. In the last 3 years, with this approach, he has lost over 60 pounds. Freedom to chose isn't just important to teach our children, sometimes it is important to teach another adult.

If we don't own the most basic of choices, what we put in our body as energy and comfort, how can we expect ourselves to make more complicated choices?

My girls love frozen veggies, fruit, beans, quoina, and choose to eat mostly vegan; but they can choose hamburgers, chicken nuggets and cotton candy if they want. It's in the house. The only rule is no gluten or dairy, that sends us to the hospital :(. Other than that, all cabinets and fridge/freezer are theirs 24/7. They are healthy, happy, and no where near the obesity charts. They preferred balanced meals.

After a week in NH at the conference eating out at every meal, all we spoke about on the 5 hr ride home was eating clean, wholesome food so they would feel energized. Next time, we are bringing our crockpot!

henrietta said...

Just came across this post and it really interests me, as I am re examining the whole food family thing and how my background influences the way I deal with the kids. We have a very healthy diet and I don't offer huge amounts of choice at meals, so quite different from you. My kids will eat pretty much anything and if they pig out on sweet stuff at someone elses house, usually complain and come and ask for a carrot juice when they get home!
I have definitely been guilty of discussing healthy non healthy food in front of them, which I am attempting to stop.
There's so much I could ask and say but just a practical question, how do you deal with meal prep, do you all cook different meals, or eat together, or does each kid do they're own thing?
I'm really taken by what you say, and definitely admire your path, but I don't know how I would deal with the practicalities of having say five different cereal boxes floating around each breakfast. We have porridge every day, treats at weekend! God I must sound draconian but it seems to work for us.Food has become so complex eh?

forever growing said...

I just read this and agree with your views. Just wondering where you do shop? My now 11 year old gets to pick and choose. I have her make the meal planning with me in mind. Since it is just the two of us it is easy for her. She had decided a couple of years ago, no red meat, organic dairy from the farm, and farmers markets is the way we shop. But she learned that from the way I shopped. She buys nothing out of boxes or cans, everything is cut fresh, in its own skin and not processed. She knows how to use a ricer and her favorite is forbidden rice. The only difference is if she wants chips she knows they have to be made from scratch, ice cream is homemade, and whip cream is cream whipped. My big thing is where food comes from is a must, and it has to be local to support the neighbor. We have always had food freedom, even when at two she would wake up at 1 am for scrambled eggs, but she collected them earlier that day from the chickens.
I just don't however understand parents that will make a different meal for each child three times a day. That always blew my mind. Short order cook I would never be. But 5 children later 11 to 33, there is not one of them that does not know how to make a wonderful meal for themself.