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Eating Like a Child

August 17, 2014

Note: You can more about the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program here or at www.AmIHungry.com.

 

Do you know anyone who eats when they’re hungry, stops when they’re full, and spends the time between simply living instead of focusing on food?

 

This is one of the questions we like to ask in the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program, suggesting that participants think of children if no adults come to mind. This instinctive eating, after all, is how we all start off, although we may not remember it.

 

Even though I talk about this in the program, experiencing it is a different matter. That’s why I found it fascinating when a friend visited last weekend with her five-year-old daughter, and I could observe first-hand.

 

I noticed right off that the five-year-old didn’t necessarily eat a lot at meals. She ate some, but once she got full, she wanted to go play with the cats. And we knew she truly was full because she didn’t even want any more of some of her favorite fruits – watermelon and kiwi. (As an aside, this reminded me of seeing my two-year-old nephew recently, since my sister-in-law knew he had finished dinner once he stopped eating red grapes; he loves them enough that he keeps eating them as long as he’s at all hungry.)

 

Then on Sunday morning, after a light breakfast, my friends and I headed out for a lovely walk on a nearby island. All of us enjoyed the beauty of the trees and the ocean, and clearly my young friend wasn’t thinking at all about food.

 

Until suddenly, mid-morning, she announced, “My stomach hurts. I’m hungry.”

 

I had brought some almonds and grapes and offered to share them with her. She happily accepted, but she didn’t need much, just five almonds and four grapes. Then she was off and about again, investigating the world, that small snack giving her enough fuel to get through to lunch.

 

At lunch, she reminded me of something else we talk about in the AIH program – the fact that our bodies naturally crave some variety in our food. In this case, since she had already eaten kiwi and watermelon the day before, even though she liked them, she wanted something else to go with her lunch.


Watching her reminded me that eating doesn’t have to be as complicated and anxiety-ridden as some of us (myself included) sometimes make it. How wonderful, instead, to eat like a child, following our instinctive cues for hunger and fullness, and the rest of the time explore and play and live our lives to the fullest.

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