Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Picking on the picky — Part I


OK, so there are points made here that are serious and worth considering, like the apparent correlation with depression and anxiety.

But here’s the thing. I was a legendarily picky eater as a child and I still am. I also have a long memory, especially for feelings. So I feel like there’s an extra angle to this that is, at best, underrepresented here.

Children who are picky eaters can be a source of frustration for parents. I get that. I also understand the attitude behind not kowtowing to a kid’s every finicky dietary whim.

But wherever anxiety came in for me, it was when someone (parent, teacher, host, etc.) confronted me about not eating or undereating. Then as now, I rarely made a production of not eating. If I didn’t want something, I didn’t take it. If I’m in a situation where I don’t like anything that’s being served, I just don’t eat, and make up for it later. I rarely have a ravenous appetite and average two meals per day, so I can do this with no problem. I never hold it against anyone, because I know it’s my issue, not theirs. It’s only when people call me out on it that it gets awkward. I come from an extended family of restaurateurs and amateur chefs in Cajun Louisiana, so it’s been awkward a lot. It’s difficult to justify not partaking in some of the best food in the world. (“Uh … my tongue sucks?”)

The worst was when my parents, who generally accepted my quirks and tried their best to accommodate them, would lose their patience and lecture me on why I was going to die of malnutrition if I ate bologna instead of roast. As an adult with many friends who are parents, I now see it from their frustrated perspective. But as a kid, I was considering drafting a will, because I was not about to let the textures win.

However, at 12, I stumbled upon a major weapon that turned the tables.

Family Circle magazine.

My mom bought a lot of Family Circles and Redbooks back in the day, and I read all of them, because that’s what I do. So I learned a lot of parenting (and makeup) tips that I have never used. But one proved useful: don’t force your kids to clean their plates.

So the next time Mom exhorted, “Ian, clean your plate,” I replied:

“But MOMMMM … Nutritionists say that children naturally regulate themselves from day to day, and in fact forcing a child to clean their plate can lead to obesity.”

“Oh … really? Where did you read that?”

“Your issue of Family Circle.”

“Ah … didn’t know that!”

The increased deployment of barbecue and spaghetti further rendered most future battles moot.

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