Saturday, March 19, 2011

Snack Attack Experiment

I've begun an experiment today, and I may be criticized for it. 

Pre-Experiment Observations:
What happens when there is a large family and a rare bag of chips is opened up?  Everyone grabs at it frantically trying to get their "fair share" (even if they aren't hungry).  They are all competing for it.

What happens when a family rarely allows play food (junk food) and same family attends a pot-luck or party?  Chips!  Whoo-hoo!  Cookies!  More!  Grab, grab, munch, munch, munch.  Mom doesn't allow this stuff.  I better get it now while I can.

If desired play food is off-limits or limited, it's wanted that much more.  If, however, the playfood is always available, it will lose its appeal.  If everyone has their own, competition eating will stop, and eating while not hungry will be greatly reduced.  If allowed to eat on own in the open, closet-eating will be avoided.

-Give everyone their own stash box with favorite treats:  this week its Doritos, Peanut M&Ms, chocolate-covered granola bars.
-No one is allowed to take from anyone else's.
-They can request different play foods for their stash.
-The stash does not have to be empty to request something different
-I will shop once per week to restock.
-Real foods will also be prepared and provided for snacks after school, etc.
-Real foods will be served for meals
-Continue educating family about real food vs. play food:  what sustains fullness, what the body needs, what gives energy, what zaps energy, what will help moods, etc.

I worry there won't be any internal stop signals, and we'll eat until we puke.  I'm concerned that the high salt or sugar content will be addicting, and they will lose all desire for real foods.

I'm not worried about my 10 year old daughter, though, she still has Halloween candy and is amazing at listening to her body's hunger signals (she hasn't been corrupted - LOL) and asks for fruit for snacks (she even asks for Brussels Sprouts for her birthday meal, she loves them).  She's a great example to me, an example of a natural eater not affected by the diet perspective or junior high.

I'm curious as to what my 11 y.o. son will do.  He's very much like me.  I'm curious about how I do, too, come to think of it.

As far as my 5 y.o. goes, I don't have a clue what to do I know he will stop snacking when he's full but I wonder if he will fill up on playfood and lose his appetite for real food.  I hope to steer him away from that and educate him as we go along.

When I see obese children, I judge, "What's wrong with the parents?  Why do they let the kids eat whatever they want?  That's child-abuse!"  I hope I am not going down that road and do more harm than good.  My desire is to instill in them a positive relationship between food and their body and not fear or shame, and that real food is the norm and there is room for play food.

I began the experiment on myself a couple of weeks ago by bringing in a bag of peanut M&Ms to use as my pacer food.  The bag was eaten very quickly and in secret I didn't want to share.  The second bag is still there.  I haven't binged on it.  And now that my kids have their own stash, I will eat these in the open without shame.

I know, I know, there's going to be the diet mindset that will say those M&M calories are going to add up, and I should choose carrot sticks,* instead, or trick my body into thinking it's not hungry by drinking a glass of water.  This is not about dieting.  This is about getting OUT of the diet perspective.  This is about getting a better relationship with food and learning it's not the enemy and that the body is not the enemy.  This is about learning to not binge on forbidden foods anymore (and we know THOSE binge calories add up, too).  This is about foods not being forbidden.

*I do serve carrot sticks, by the way, as well as collard greens, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, salads, spaghetti squash, and several other varieties of veggies as you are welcome to read about on my veggie-quest blog "What Am I Supposed To Do With That?"

The idea for this experiment is influenced by what I'm learning from Eating for Your Soul.  It may fail or be a success.  I'm open to either outcome.  It's all a learning experience.  It's time to bring in a new way of thinking.


  1. Interesting. I'm wondering if eating 'bad' foods is in part simply habit. Your taste buds get used to pizza and pop tarts. Do taste buds ever get used to carrots and cabbage?

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  3. Yeah, I'm a little nervous about habit-forming with the play food...closet-eating is habit-forming, too, and thinking there are forbidden foods plays with the head, as well.

    I believe taste buds get used to vegetables. I'm proof to that as well as my kids. It took repetition and experimentation and patience. (I don't use frozen nor canned vegetables, everything is fresh).

    My daughter is the only one that "loves" her vegetables and would choose some of them over junk. My boys have their favorites but would probably choose the M&Ms over their favorite veggie if both were in front of them.

    My oldest son will eat all his veggies, the 5 y.o. is still very picky. That's okay, the others were, too, but I'm happy with how their palates have expanded. They are getting a good relationship with real foods, I just also want them to be at peace with junk/play food and not feel shame about eating them. I hope I don't totally screw them up and be the subject of some therapist session.

  4. My kids are the same way Gina! It's frustrating to me, because I don't deny them junk food... I just simply don't buy it. But once we get to our family parties (which are often), they can't stop shoveling the food in. Once at a thing where there were donuts, my kids tried to take three each!

    I'm anxious to hear how this goes for you. The only reason I don't think I could do it, is I don't trust myself! Their snack box would be inhaled by me while they were at school! Lol.

    Let me know how it unfolds!

  5. Very interested to see how this goes! I think you could be on to something here..

  6. I have another rule. If you must binge eat, eat one or two good things, like a carrot, apple, or some water, and then eat the doritos. You'll be surprised that you can drop you salt and calorie intake by about half.

    But I think the stash box is a good idea.

  7. I'm interested to see how it goes.
    I don't think this would work for my family, we would all overeat on the junk.
    What I do to solve the "fair share" dilemma is giving everyone an equal portion up front. Whenever I make popcorn we each get our own bowl, the same things with pretzels or chips. Sometimes I use ziploc baggies.
    We only get candy on special occasions and weekends and I almost always let each child pick one thing from the candy and the checkout, that way it's smaller size candy bar or package.
    I will admit to getting treats for myself and/or Michael more often (when the kids are not with me) and I do "closet-eat" so the kids don't see it. I don't think the "closet-eating" is as bad as my habit of eating too much sugar.

    We do have a child that puts on weight easily so we really watch out for that and make sure we don't keep a lot of junk at home. That way they don't even ask for it because we don't have any :).

  8. Gina, very interesting!!! I will be curious to see how it plays out.. AND I love that your daughter listens to her bod!!!

  9. I think experimenting is a good thing. Keep us posted on how it's going -I'm interested to hear!

  10. Just curious about this idea. As a zoology major, what do you think about the tendency of all animals to 'prefer' high-calorie foods as a survival instinct? To clarify: sugar, starches and fats taste 'good' because it is more advantageous to the body than low-calorie food sources like grains or veggies. You know, bigger bang for your dietary buck. Any thoughts?

  11. Dear Anonymous - I really like your question. My quick reply was generating more questions and ponderings in my head. I'd like to post a more thought out response.