Sunday 18 January 2015

Food Anxiety

About a month or so after Missy came to us, we realised she had big issues with food. This blog post explains one epic tantrum and I also talked about in Food (not so) Glorious Food.  We knew there had probably been times when she wasn't fed by birth mum, or was fed at the wrong time of day. We knew she had been fed a lot of sweet stuff.  She was a little overweight when she came to us. But neither the FC or SW said anything about food being a constant feature in her mind, an anxiety that could cause major tantrums.

For quite a while food was a huge issue. Out of 10, it was a 9 at least.. But I'm happy to say that for now her anxiety has greatly reduced, probably 2 or 3 out of 10, on a bad day maybe a 4. I've mentioned in a few posts recently that this food anxiety has reduced and a couple of adopters have mailed me to ask how it was reduced as they have similar issues with their children.

So I thought I'd post the things we've done.  Of course, not all these points may work with your children and I think it could largely depend on the background to their food anxiety. 

1.  Meal times and snack times are the same times every day. Missy's thinking gradually changed from wondering if she'll be fed to knowing she will be fed.  She will still ask when snack time is if we're running late but she no longer constantly asks when she'll next be getting food.

2.  When she came home to us, she would eat her meal very quickly (strange because the FC had said she was very slow).  Calmly, we pointed out she was taking too large bites or eating too quickly. In fact we virtually had to teach her how to use a knife and fork properly and show her the right size mouthfuls to put on her fork.  We did this a lot and praised her when she got it right.

3.  She just didn't understand portion sizes at first and would get angry if we had more on our plates. We calmly explained at what seemed like every meal that we gave her the right size portion for a child. We explained we wouldn't be looking after correctly if we gave her too much to eat.  She gets it now. Only occasionally she'll question the portion size and we will matter of factly say "you have the right size portion for a 7 yr old", leave it at that and change the subject. 

4.  We'd wonder out aloud if her tummy was getting full. Was her tummy sending the right messages to her brain? "I bet your tummy is loving that food and is feeling full now".  At first Missy would of course say she wasn't full. One day we went out for breakfast at a canal side cafe where we all had fried breaky. Missy insisted she wasn't full and kept eating until she was almost green. Daddy had to take her outside. Now I'm not advocating you feed your child until they are sick but in Missy's case she then got what it was like to feel over-full.  Even now I sometimes say "I'm so full, I wonder if you are" or if she is struggling well say that she doesn't have to eat everything on her plate.  I'd say it took nearly two years before Missy really recognised she was full and left food on her plate. I cheered inwardly when she did this.

5. One of the reasons she would clear her plate was because she wanted a pudding.  I think at the FCs she had a pudding every day (plus other junk food).  Daddy and I don't often have a pudding after our meal plus we wanted to move her away from this addiction to sweet stuff.  We don't have puddings during the week, maybe a yoghurt at the most but will have a pudding with our weekend meals and when we go out.  She knows this now and understands.

6. Others eating around her when she isn't.  This still can cause a few issues but so much better than it was.  I remember one instance when a family member gave her breakfast, not realising this wasn't the right thing to do.  I knew it would cause a major tantrum when the rest of us sat down to breaky and it did.  The first Christmas here Daddy came home from work on Christmas Eve, exhausted, hadn't had lunch, and so sat down with a sandwich about 5pm.  Missy sat next to him and stared, he felt like she was burning holes in him.   One thing we started to do was give the the choice - you can either have your breakfast now, or wait and have it with us, or you can have your snack now or wait and have it with Daddy and me. Thankfully we can now eat most of the time in Missy's presence if she has already eaten and I think has just been a matter of time.

7.  Buffets.  For many of our children these can cause difficulties so we always put the food on the plate for Missy, usually a small bit of everything, rather than let her do it and pile it on.

8.  We find the positives in food.  For example, we watch cookery programmes together (she loves Jamie and Mary Berry), we bake a fair bit, we let her try things she may not have eaten before - Daddy and Missy play a little game whereby she shuts her eyes and has to guess what she's just eaten a teaspoon of (obvs not for everyone, a degree of trust needed here), it may be something new like capers or a sauce.  We  took her to a big food market in London where they give out lots of trys and she (we) loved it.  I've started doing a weekly menu planner and I get Missy to help with this.

I think that's all I can think of for now.  If I or Daddy think or anything else I'll add it in the comments.

Probably the main reason for her lessening anxiety is the predictability of food.  We also noticed on holiday last summer that her food anxiety didn't appear at all and put this down to her being so relaxed and having a great time.  She spent hours in the pool and didn't badger us for snack times, recognised she was full and made good choices about food. It was blissful.

By no means has the food issue disappeared.  Life still revolves around food.  She will remember events by what she had to eat and if she knows we are going out to eat then she will continually talk about it.  I wouldn't be surprised if, when she is at secondary school, and has greater access to food by herself, she may well have an eating disorder.  I'm quite sure she'll put on weight and/or become anorexic.  Harsh to think this way already but we have to be realistic.  Of course, she may well have no issue with food whatsoever, although being female I doubt this!   She even said herself yesterday when we were out, "do you remember when I squished your cake, that was silly, it's stupid to worry about food".  But at least, for now, she is moving in a positive direction.


1 comment:

  1. Hi, just to say I really enjoyed this post. I've been following your blog for a few months now, happened upon it through the Mumsnet bloggers network, but a bit by chance really as I don't read loads of blogs and am quite selective! I've really been enjoying yours. I'm a mum of 2, soon to start the adoption process for no3 - social worker came this week - eek! Your advice and guidance, as well as honesty about the struggles and pitfalls is just so timely and helpful for me and my husband as we think through more about what this means for our family. Thank you!


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