Over the past years I have met many different children and their families who have found eating to be an adversarial part of their lives. As someone who truly loves food (maybe even too much) I feel for these children and their families. Eating is an valued act in many cultures. Unfortunately eating issues are complex. Often many factors have led to a child not enjoying eating. Chronic allergies causing food to lose flavor, anaphylaxis leading to the fear/awareness that food can kill, gut dysmotility, gut inflammation, sensory integration issues, trauma from a choking event and these are just a few on a mountainous list of reasons why a child may not enjoy eating. Children often out of fear will become extremely restrictive in their eating. As a parent with nutrition knowledge it is terrifying to watch your kid eating the same three foods day after day. Meals become stressful for everyone involved. Food delight is eventually lost for all involved.
I have recently been coaching on this concept of food delight as a likely healing pathway. I would argue that food delight has been lost for many Americans as a whole. The concept of savoring each bite of our supper seems absurd in our busy lives. I was reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life and came across what he calls The Apple Meditation (chapter 2). Even with my own mindfulness practice I can tell you I cannot remember the last time I actually savored an apple. When he suggests to smile at the apple prior to biting in I actually laughed out loud. But why do I find this hilarious? Is this revered teacher being ridiculous? Or is it that my own American lifestyle has me too busy to slow down and find the pleasure that is available to me in the beauty of the apple itself and in each bite I take? What is my relationship with pleasure in general? Eek. Cricket. Cricket.
Pleasure and enjoyment are absolutely contagious. This way of creating desire is what the entire American advertising industry is based upon. The folks in the commercials aren’t just bored with their new phone or car. They are loving every second of it. So that we might as well…
My simple theory is we can all benefit from more food pleasure. More mindfulness can provide actual enjoyment if we stop ourselves long enough to create space for the experience of eating. Food pleasure is contagious even to the most picky of eaters. Make food that is beautiful and delicious to you and your family. Show pleasure when you eat and describe what you are experiencing to your child. They may not jump right onto that broccoli but I bet you will at least have their attention when you begin describing the pleasure you get from its funny shape and brilliant green and the crunchiness. Man…now I want some broccoli. I’m telling you. Ham it up. It’s ok to be over the top with this. It’s ok to feel totally silly. But if your picky eater starts adding foods to their favorite three by you having fun and enjoying yourself wouldn’t it be worth it?
The apple in your hand has the body of the Cosmos.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
ebook available for download at the San Antonio Public Library