How to Eat Like a 6 Year Old

This morning when I came home from work I asked my son what he had for breakfast as I always do. His answers are much the same cereal, egg, toast, fruit… Today’s answer was a bit different and it still has me shaking my head in disbelief. He replied, “I had cereal mom, but I didn’t eat a lot.” I offered him an apple for the ride to school and his reply blew me away. “No I don’t want anything else to eat because today is a special day at school. We are having donuts and a movie at snack recess today and maybe some other special treats so I don’t want to make my stomach full and not be hungry later.”

I have always been in awe of how Carlos eats. He asks for food when he is hungry and stops when is full. It boggles my mind to see him literally stop eating a piece of decadent cheesecake or what have you practically mid-bite, push it away and state matter-of-factly “I’m all done.” It is as though he is hard wired with an on and off switch that I clearly lack. I am envious of that and as I work towards overcoming a life long battle with food I find myself observing my son’s eating habits in hopes that they will rub off on me a bit. He is healthy, energetic and strong. He does not and probably will never have to concern himself with his weight if he continues to remain so self-aware and maintain the habits he has now.

However, he is a child and some of his habits are tied into his environment. I have never discussed my weight issues with my son. I do not fret about how I look in front of him nor do I obsess about what I eat to him. I educate him the best I can about nutrition, fitness and overall health and wellness. I have done some things differently with him regarding food that stray from the way I was raised. I do not ever force him to eat if he says he is not hungry. I carry a few healthy snacks on me at all times so we are not at the mercy of junk food if hunger strikes. His beverage of choice is water, juice is very limited and he does not drink soda in my presence (I can’t always control what happens when I’m not around, but he seems to think it’s disgusting for now). I start him with a normal child size portion and allow him seconds if he is still hungry after eating everything on his plate rather than present him with an adult size portion which might encourage him to eat more than he wants or needs.

Maybe Carlos’ tummy was a little hungry as he left for school this morning, but he knew it would be full with a more enticing treat in no time.  In the world of Weight Watchers and other weight loss programs this is called pre-planning your day. For Carlos it was a simple decision. Psychotherapist and nutritionist Ellyn Satter sums it up nicely, “The parent is responsible for what, when and where. The child is responsible for how much and whether.”


7 thoughts on “How to Eat Like a 6 Year Old

  1. That’s so awesome!! My husband and I both grew up in homes where treats were not available at all – chips, pop, donuts, cookies, etc. So when we did eat over at kids houses and they had that stuff, we would just gorge ourselves on it because we didn’t know when we’d get to eat it again.

    Fast forward to our kids growing up – we had the normal extra snacks like Little Debbie Snack cakes – it wouldn’t be unusual for a box to last a month, because our kids knew they were there if they wanted them.

    Have a great weekend Aimee!

  2. Eating only when you are hungry – sounds so simple but can be so difficult at times… Sounds like your son has a great relationship with food and is in tune with his body, and that’s awesome.

    Have a great weekend!

  3. Hi Aimee! I really like this post. When you explained how Carlos ate to me, I realized that I did the same when I was young, and even into college. There were many hours in a row when I didn’t eat at all (ex. during 10+ hours of high school and after-school activities on a day with a school lunch I decided was too horrendous to eat). This didn’t hurt me at all!

    I’m back to that now. If I’m busy I don’t stop to eat if I don’t feel like it. All of the “expert advice” is nonsense, all of us healthy people without serious medical problems can skip eating for long periods of time. I don’t eat hardly anything for about 24 hours in a row (about 100 calories) from Monday night to Tuesday night. I’ve done this habit for about 9 months now. This gap of no food each week helps me appreciate eating almost anything in any small quantity. We do not have to eat at specific times; we do not have to eat a certain amount per meal. None of this is true. And I think that naturally slim people eat like Carlos.

    🙂 Marion

  4. I think that is great, and hopefully he will stay that way! I do think that it is something that is innate in kids. Maybe overeating is a learned behavior? My dog is the same way — and I have had pets that are overweight before, but my dog will just not eat if he isn’t hungry, and will only eat until he is full. There is always food available for him, but he never over eats. Since there obviously are dogs and cats that are overweight, I wonder if personality comes into place a little bit? I envy that of him sometimes! 🙂

  5. Aimee…I think you nailed it with that quote. I wish I could have this kind of relationship with food. Although, I have to say, food has less and less of a hold on me over time. Which is very weird. Since I’ve been eating less at work overnight, I find I don’t want or need as much and I really try to listen to my body and eat when I’m hungry. Sounds like Carlos is eating how we should all eat. I loved reading this post!

  6. I think one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to keep their full/hungry switch intact. We’re all born with it but unfortunately environment plays a big part in shutting it off. I grew up having to clean my plate. Always hated that since often it was too much food. When I had my daughter and nursed her, I realized that breast-fed babies stop eating when they’re full and you have no idea how many ‘ounces’ of milk they’ve taken. I determined right then I would do everything in my power to preserve that. I now have a beautiful 33 year old daughter who has never had a weight problem at all and who eats anything and everything.

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