The more I want my daughter to eat something, the less likely she’ll eat it.
In fact, even casting a mere glance in the direction of her pint-sized plate (just to silently see what’s up) can trigger an eating protest that’ll last at least as long as the meal. Her ability to tune into my eating anxiety is slightly amazing but not surprising because she’s two and no matter how subtle…
Toddlers can smell weakness
If Isla gets even a whiff of my wanting (say, that she’d eat at least half of what’s on her plate in under an hour), hopefulness (say, that she’ll just this once eat a piece of meat without asking for ketchup), or desperation (such as my silent pleading that that she please, please stop pushing everything green off the plate), then she’ll use it to her advantage by abruptly changing her mind about whether or not she’s going to eat.
Interestingly, the idea that Isla has an uncanny ability to tap into a my mealtime vulnerability isn’t just parental paranoia…
Well, not hard science. More like social science—but still totally scientific, nonetheless!
Research backing my theory shows that the more a caregiver acts like they really do give a horse’s precious patootie whether or not a kid eats—as well as how much or little they eat—the more likely said kid’s current and future eating habits will become…. well,
totally screwed up a little wonky.
Difficult as it may be, I’ve taken this research to heart and have learned to stop caring about what Isla eats.
(Or, at least, letting on that I care. The truth is I’m still in the the ‘fake it ’til ya make it stage of this learning process but, hey, this is a two-year-old. So far, the vegetables and proteins are going down, so she seems to be buying into the idea that I really don’t give a you-know-what whether she digs in or not.)
Here, five pieces of research that convinced me to keep servin’ up good stuff (including a variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, high-quality/low-fat proteins—including plant-based—and dairy) at regular two to three hour intervals, while also doing my best to act totally indifferent to whatever happens after they hit the plate. I’ve learned to stop caring about what Isla’s eating because….More. More. More.