Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chew On This

Hansel teeters around 50lbs.
He's 8.
Most times he looks ok. But then there's the days where he doesn't.
Dark circles under his eyes makes him look like an extra from Oliver.
You know, as in: "Please sir, can I have some more?"
Except, most days he doesn't ask for more.
He's a picky eater. Mealtimes are a struggle. A struggle that I believe has been exacerbated by my separation from his Dad.
Psychologically he is trying to control what he can in his out-of-control life.
And food is the ONE thing he can control right now.
He's stubborn and smart. So the more you try to MAKE him do something, the more he digs in his heals and fights back.
Reverse psychology doesn't work. Withholding rewards doesn't work.
I learned this a loooonnnngggg time ago. His Dad hasn't.
Mealtimes at His house are a battle of the wills which my EX is not willing to lose.
Hansel has been force fed. Made to eat his dinner for breakfast the next day. And then lunch. Punished.
All to no avail.
Now red flags have gone up. His therapist is concerned over the beginning of an eating disorder.
I've tried talking with PC, asking him if he'd rather be RIGHT or have a peaceful relationship with his son.
"If I give in, then he wins," PC tells me.
What, exactly is it that he will win????
Hansel's therapist has tried to reach out. Numerous calls have been made by her office in an effort to set up an appointment where she can share her concerns and perhaps offer some guidance.
So far, PC hasn't been available to set up a time to come in and speak with her.
"We keep missing each other," is what he says. The therapist tells another story.

At my house, I offset the malnourishment with vitamins and Carnation Instant Breakfasts with every meal.  I don't punish if Hansel doesn't eat. Nor do I purposely make foods that I know he won't try.
I make an attempt at keeping a balanced offering of foods, so he can choose to try something.
I try not to make a big deal out of it either way, in spite of my fear of him becoming ill.
We don't have the same struggles as he does at his Dad's. But he still doesn't eat well enough, for me.
My stress is sometimes palpable, and I see him reacting to it.

I'm asking for advice.
Support.
Opinions.
Something constructive that will help my kid develop a healthy relationship with food.

***
In case you're wondering, this is what he will eat:
  • Pasta (mostly DRY, sometimes w/ tomato sauce, and always with TONS of parmesan cheese)
  • Bread (wheat)
  • Waffles
  • Bagels
  • Pancakes
  • Chicken
  • Beef (sometimes, but plain)
  • Pork
  • Baby carrots
  • Iceberg lettuce
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Oh, and ketchup, hot sauce and vinegar. On EVERYTHING. 
  • V8
  • Bacon
  • Sausage
  • Cheese
  • French fries (McDonald's ONLY, and he will NOT eat potatoes in any other form)

19 comments:

Adrienne said...

my son definitely will fight you about eating if you let him. we dont have the same issues as far as aversion to foods but our kids are generally picky eaters and they will not eat if they do not like something. For me, the trying not to make a big deal either way works. Have you tried the sneaky chef? It has worked wonders for some people... google it, you may find a few recipes to try.

Anonymous said...

His list looks similiar to my daughters. She's a picky eater too (so was I but I outgrew my pickiness with age!).

I would make him a lot of chicken salads with cheese.

Can you have him experiment with salad dressings and see if he can concoct his own special dressing with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, etc... ?

Sending hugs to both of you.

~Lisa @pbajmom

The Step In Mom. . . said...

My step son was like this. He told me (this was when I first started dating my husband) he didn't like hamburgers... and then we went to Wendy's and he ordered a hamburger.

Obviously I am not a therapist, but kids should eat what they are given. It isn't like you are feeding him liver and onions. If he doesn't want to eat, that's fine, but then he doesn't get a snack afterwards.

My stepson is now 12 and sometimes still tries to gain control over what we will be eating. He will go thru the theatrics of setting everyones plates at the table except his ect. But in the end he always eats.

I would personally stop fighting him about it. This is what we are eating. Eat it or don't, that is your choice, but this isn't a restaurant. If you choose not to eat, then go to bed hungry. Once all of the DRAMA and fighting surrounding the food is gone, I bet he will start to eat what he is given.

It isn't that he doesn't like the food, he just wants the attention. Stop giving him attention as far

Amy said...

When I got my divorce many years ago, My already potty trained child who had been trained for many years - started going in his pants. The kids counselor told me that she thought it was a control issue. As in - everything else in his life was out of control and this was the one thing he could control. The adults in his life (mostly me) had changed all these other things on him, this was the one thing that no one controlled but him. She recommended that I ignore it. That the more I pushed it, the more he was going to dig his heels in.

It seems like your son eats a pretty good variety of food. He likes some fruits and some veggies. I think I'd cook and then keep the healthy stuff that he likes in the fridge. I used to cook dinner and then tell the kids (with 5 kids - someone always "hated" what I made for dinner that night) that if they didn't like it, they could eat a sandwich. (no chips, no junk food).

Don't know if any of this was helpful or not- Good luck!.

Wicked Stepmom said...

Adrienne,

I bought Deceptively Delicious years ago... but shit is it a lot of work puree'ing all those damn veggies! Hansel didn't particularly care for most of the recipes either - except for:

brownies (w/ spinach)
hot cocoa (w/ sweet potato)

I'll look into The Sneaky Chef, though. Thanks!

MJ Schrader said...

wow.
Years ago, I was anorexic. Not in the normal sense, my marriage was dead and in some ways I was as well. The stress turned my appetite off, I could eat 3 bites of something and be completely full.

One day I realized I was pregnant, and woke up and started eating. But 2 years of barely eating took it's tole, I lost the baby a week later. For years, my heart would suddenly beat erratically, pounding my chest like a heart attack. Still, when stress gets to me, I must force myself to eat.

This is to say, if it goes on too long it can hurt him for a while. He is 8, can you talk to him about his future? Asked him why he won't eat? But then, in 2 years, I didn't see my ribs sticking out, I just was not hungry.

Remember ensure for kids or whatever it is. Congratulations on knowing what he likes and for feeding him Carnation Instant Breakfast. If you need anything... please let me know. ~ MJ Schrader

Wicked Stepmom said...

Amy,

My therapist suggested the same thing... I always have healthy options in the house as snacks. If there's a bag of chips in the house once a year, that's a LOT. Usually, it's fruits and yogurt all the way.

Thankfully, he loves Carnation Instant Breakfast, so I make him at least three a day (with FULL FAT milk). Thinking I might look into protein drinks, that body builders use to help bulk him up.

Thanks for the reassuring words of encouragement. :)

Wicked Stepmom said...

Thanks, MJ. I tried Ensure years ago when he started becoming finicky. He doesn't like the taste. So Carnation Instant Breakfast w/ FULL FAT milk it is. I remember I drank them when I was a teen to gain weight (put on 10lbs). I wasn't anorexic, but I certainly looked it - just had a terribly fast metabolism.

I've spoken to him about both the current and long-term effects. He's somewhat intuitive (in a 6th sensory way) and quite sensitive - energetically speaking - to those around him. As he becomes more aware of this, he's coming to understand (I hope) that his body needs a little extra "meat" so the energy can be absorbed as right now it just bounces around!

The ex-expat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stef said...

My ex's daughter was a MAJORLY picky eater. Like would only eat chicken lunch meat, processed cheese, cadbury chocolate, dairy food and THAT WAS IT.

We used star charts to get her eating but it took about 6 months.

To be honest, it looks like Hansel has a great list of foods there. He's got carbs from breads, pasta etc. Protein from meat and cheese. He's got some fruits and vegetables etc. So he has a somewhat balanced diet.

But you seem worried about his overall calorie intake.

Perhaps you could try getting him to help out in the kitchen in some way with you. Baking favourite foods etc. He loves pancakes so that's something you could do together. Does he like cookies and cakes? It kills two birds with one stone, firstly he's spending time with YOU so he's getting extra love and then he's starting to spend time with food and see it in everyday life.

I hope things get better soon, sending you lots of cyber hugs!

Cristine said...

I think that you are on the right track, by not pushing him and making sure that nutrious foods are available to him.

Finding the root cause of his lack of eating is essential, it cannot be solved without this information. A solution will also need to involve both parents. I empathize with your frustration with PC in this matter, and I hope that he soon understands the importance of meeting with the therapist for his son. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

When I joined my stepfamily w/3 small boys I ran into many of the issues that you have stated. I finally gave up the 'war mentality' and had each of the 3 boys sit down and write down 5 foods (main dishes) they liked alot and 8 fruits/veggies that they liked and agreed to eat if I prepared. I rotated through this list for what seemed like FOREVER before they tried anything new.

I used to feel the way The Step in Mom felt, but I stepped back and reevaluated. When food is used as a control (by anyone) the results are usually unhealthy. Forcing kids to follow my guidelines didn't solve the root cause of the issue.

I also involved the kids in meal preperation and planning, this helped.

SoMo said...

I have a similar problem with my son (5 yrs old). Our basic rule, after making him sit at the table one night until he ate which resulted in him sneaking to throw away the food and getting punished for that, is that I make it it is up to you to eat it. I do make an effort to make/offer things that I know my son will like. This concerns him so much that he will ask me in the morning what I am making for dinner that night or what are we eating for the rest of the week. I decided that I didn't want this battle, because it was unnecessary.

I do make sure that he has many snacks available to him and often he is eating more than 6 times a day. I started thinking about the whole day instead focusing on one meal. If he doesn't eat one meal, I know another one will follow soon enough.

All this clicked for my husband when he talked to another dad who was having the same problem with his son. Basically, that dad's approach was to have a jar of peanut butter sitting next to the TV with a spoon and letting the boy eat it whenever he wanted.

I agree it is a control issue. We had a similar experience with potty training. I, also, think that my son has a problem with some sensory things, but I have never(nor do I plan to) had him evaluated. I just remember that I don't like certain sensations, feelings and textures and respect that for my children. Make sense?

Fake Mommy said...

I have always been extremely picky and as a child I remember the more stressful my parents made meal times, the less I was willing to eat and try new foods. I wish I could remember where I saw it but there was an article about how picky-ness may be a disease. The only way my parents could keep weight on me growing up was to make me "special dinners" so that the family did not have to suffer and only eat the 5 things I was willing to eat. Just encourage he eat a lot of the healthy foods he does like and don't make meals more stressful than they already are. As much as meal times may be stressful for you as his parents, it is just as stressful, if not more stressful for him. I still have anxiety about eating with colleagues and friends.

Anonymous said...

No reader here.. I, too, have an 8 yr old, a daughter, extremely picky like I was, back in the day. Pick and choose your issues, he will grow out of it, and seemingly the more you focus on it, the more an issue. Tell your vex you two should be on the same and let go of the ego's for the sake of your kid.
Looking forward to reading your blog...likely ibwill be on the same path.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry about your struggles...re:eating issue. I remember a sage piece of advice my clinical supervisor gave me years ago..."When I worked as the Clinical Director of the Psychiatric hospital, all the youth followed the rules, regardless of the diagnosis, or reason for admittance. It was the best-run unit of the entire hospital."

I would suggest cooking dinner as usual, of course, taking into consideration your son's healthy preferences. Basically, if he's hungry, he will eat. If he doesn't eat, there's no snacks. Tomorrow is a new day. At some point, he will learn to eat what's on his plate. It sounds like you've removed the emotionality from your responses. You can't control what happens at dad's, but you're in control of your menu. When your son realized "the eating rule," he'll eventually comply.

Good luck, mama!

MrsPsychoMama (Linda) said...

I'm sorry about your struggles...re:eating issue. I remember a sage piece of advice my clinical supervisor gave me years ago..."When I worked as the Clinical Director of the Psychiatric hospital, all the youth followed the rules, regardless of the diagnosis, or reason for admittance. It was the best-run unit of the entire hospital."

I would suggest cooking dinner as usual, of course, taking into consideration your son's healthy preferences. Basically, if he's hungry, he will eat. If he doesn't eat, there's no snacks. Tomorrow is a new day. At some point, he will learn to eat what's on his plate. It sounds like you've removed the emotionality from your responses. You can't control what happens at dad's, but you're in control of your menu. When your son realized "the eating rule," he'll eventually comply.

Good luck, mama!

Anonymous said...

Barilla Makes a pasta that tastes/looks like regular, but has as much protein as a chicken breast. Lifesaver.

Anonymous said...

Just remember he won't starve himself and will eat when he is hungry, I have found with my step daughter that if we ignore how much she eats or doesn't then she is more likely to eat until she is full.