Finding Peace with Picky Eaters
By Stefanie Sacks, MS, CNS, CDN
Navigating my son Hunter’s picky eating journey hasn't been a smooth road. It began with a labyrinth of medical complexities, sensory sensitivities, and developmental delays. For the first several years of his life, I was on a relentless quest for answers, battling through what felt like an impossible maze of challenges. Tremendous frustration and self-doubt was smothering. I carried the weight of trying to be both a supermom and a nutrition expert.
But it wasn't until I chucked my rulebook out the window and tuned in to the power of listening that there was finally a glimmer of hope—gradually, things started to shift. Then, like a beacon of wisdom, a mentor shared with me Kahlil Gibran's profound words from "On Children":
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
As parents, we're not just guides but also students of our children's journey.
I'm not inclined towards organized religion, but I hold deep spiritual beliefs. The concept that children may choose their parents resonates strongly with me. It suggests that as parents, we're not just guides but also students of our children's journey. Through this lens, we gain profound insights into both ourselves and our children, fostering a mutual path of growth and understanding.
Dr. Stephen Cowan, a developmental pediatrician whom I deeply admire and consider one of my most cherished mentors, guided me through my experience with Hunter with this invaluable advice: "Your role is to offer your child a diverse range of nutritious foods. However, the ultimate decision of what to eat rests with him." His wisdom also reminded me that each decision I was making, although I felt otherwise, was contributing to my child's overall well-being.
With acceptance, I've found a profound sense of peace.
Hunter has been my greatest teacher, showing me the importance of letting go and acknowledging that his path is uniquely his own. While I can offer guidance and support, I cannot dictate his choices. My role is to impart what wisdom I have, provide nourishing options, and trust in his ability to make decisions that serve his well-being. Now a teenager, I've witnessed his palate expand, though he still gravitates towards simplicity and sweetness. Despite his preferences, I refrain from judgment, choosing instead to approach his journey with compassion and understanding, mindful of the challenges he has faced (and continues to face).
The lessons I've learned along the way have led me to embrace Hunter’s journey as our “normal.” With that acceptance, I've found a profound sense of peace.
Explore MoreDiscover All
Understanding Picky Eaters
Around the turn of the millennium, three prominent books emerged as authoritative guides on the subject of nourishing children—Ellyn Satter's "Child of Mine" and "Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family." Satter, a trailblazer in the field, delved into the realms of emotional well-being and fostering positive familial connections in the context of food, eating, and feeding. Furthermore, Walter Wilkoff's "Coping with a Picky Eater" provided a concise and pragmatic handbook, supplying practical solutions for both children and their caregivers in the realm of food.
Repositioning Picky Eating: 5 Ways
Helping families navigate the challenges of picky eating, I've discovered that empathy and compassion are essential ingredients in fostering positive change. It’s not just about coaxing the picky eater to try new foods rather it's about understanding their narrative first and foremost which always offers invaluable insight into the why. Once that’s sorted through, here are five key strategies that I've used personally and use in practice.
Pseudo Health Experts: 5 Ways to Avoid Falling Prey
Navigating the intricate web of my love-hate (mostly hate) relationship with social media becomes particularly evident as I delve into Instagram feeds (Tik Tok, not my thing). Dietary directives, casually dispensed by influencers lacking credible expertise, punctuate the feed. The notion that personal experience, genuine or potentially contrived, automatically qualifies one as an expert is a shaky premise.
You Are The CEO
In the realm of resilience, I've lived the better part of my life with illness, making me intimately acquainted with the patient journey. Navigating the labyrinth of healthcare, constructing robust care teams, and championing overall well-being – I haven't just been through it; I've mastered it. My journey isn't just personal; it's a beacon that guides and informs those I have the honor and pleasure of reaching. Every challenge becomes a lesson, and I wield these experiences to empower others on their journey.