Advising Food Pushers on Television

Yesterday I went to New York to tape a segment for the Dr. Oz Show. He interviewed a family who likes to eat—a lot. The mother had not realized the extent to which she is a food pusher, constantly urging her children and husband to eat more and more. She also had not realized the potential health consequences of her family being overweight and potentially obese.

I made several points to the mother: 

  1. She had learned as a child from her own family to push food, and now her kids are learning how to be food pushers from her—and she needs to break the cycle now.
  2. Food does not equal love, and especially, extra food certainly doesn’t equal love. Helping your kids become as healthy as they can, listening to them, talking with them, hanging out with them, having fun with them—these are ways to express love.
  3. When she feels as if she’s depriving her kids of extra food, she should redefine her idea of deprivation. Either she’ll deprive her kids of some food, some time—or she’ll deprive them of optimum health. She needs to pick which goal is more important to her. Either they can eat whatever they want, in whatever quantity they want, whenever they want—or they can be thinner and healthier. They can’t have it both ways.
  4. When she herself feels as if others are pushing food on her, she needs to become a broken record, saying, “No, thank you,” “No, thank you” “No, thank you.” If she worries about hurting the food pusher’s feelings, she needs to remember that the food pusher will probably be mildly disappointed (in fact, quite little compared to other disappointments in his or her life) and that the disappointment is likely to be fleeting. She needs to feel entitled to stick up for her health and the health of her family.

I hope my brief contact with this wonderful family will have some impact!

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5 comments

  1. My mother wasn’t a food pusher, but my grandmother was. My brother and I spent a lot of time at her house learning how to binge on cake, cookies, candy, and pop. He, like my grandmother, eventually became obese and died prematurely of a heart attack. I fought this a bit more and have yo-yoed from average to overweight. Now I’m a grandmother myself who spends one day a week taking care of beautiful two-year-old boy-girl twins, and I find myself falling into food-pushing patterns with them that I experienced with my own grandmother. To the point where they’ve already started saying “Cookie!” when I walk in the door. Guess I need to rethink things — thanks for inspiring this. You may have saved our twins’ lives.

  2. A week ago, I noticed myself overeating for a day or two after having dinner with my mother. Was relieved to find that because I noticed it was able to stop, recognize a patter, then get back to normal. My mother overeats to the point of discomfort and leaving the restaurant complains she is too full. I’m carrying my to go box and wincing in sympathy for her pain. It’s painful to watch her hurt herself with food. She’s overweight, and prefers all you can eat buffets and when I was a child and felt upset, she offered food as a distraction.

    it’s important for me to reject what she’s demonstrating. It’s not easy to reverse early learning, but it’s possible. It gets easier with time and distance and although stressful circumstances can trigger a fall back to early patterns, new ones that are more healthy can replace these.

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