I’ve been reading and re-reading both of your books and have been putting so many changes into practice, and pleased to find they actually stay in place! I’m a single mother of an 8-year-old daughter, and I would be interested to hear from you how far you think I should take her on this journey with me. Do I let her eat all the sugar she wants, all the sugar she has been eating for most of her life, or should I start to impose restrictions? I understand what you write about how unhelpful it is to make rules, but I don’t know how I can do away with rules as far as she’s concerned.
This is such an important question, one I’m often asked and tough for me to answer. Tough, I think, for two reasons: because it is quite a challenge, and also because the details of how you make any changes will be so individual to you, your daughter and your relationship, it’s difficult for me to make helpful suggestions.
Having said that, there is plenty for me to say on the subject and I hope you can take away something you can use. As childhood obesity is such an important topic these days, there’s a lot of research, including studies on what happens when snack foods high in sugar are restricted. (1, 2, 3)
The general conclusion of this research can be summarised as follows:
“Parents’ use of restrictive feeding practices is counterproductive, increasing children’s intake of restricted foods and risk for excessive weight gain.” (1)
Keeping that in mind, here are some of my ideas and possible strategies:
- My first suggestion is to make changes gradually. I’d say, “slow and steady wins the race”.
- When your daughter asks why a particular change about food has been made, answer in terms of looking after your health, rather than trying to lose or not gain weight. If you can point out an example, so much the better. For instance, “the stomach ache you got yesterday was your body telling you it wasn’t happy with all that cake you ate.” Preferably this is said in a friendly and sympathetic tone of voice.