I get a lot of e-newsletters these days from folks who work in the eating disorders field. And I like seeing what "the field" is up to.
The one that arrived in my mailbox yesterday, though, is so egregious that I must share, because I think it typifies so much of what's wrong with the way we think about food and eating these days.
First off, the newsletter came with a title that suggests that its goal is to empower parents to help heal eating disorders. Naturally that got my attention. It opens with a couple of abstracts of recent studies on eating disorders. That part was good. Then there's a plug for the writer's new book. Fair enough. All of us authors do that stuff.
But then--now remember this is all going out under the aegis of eating disorders--there's a list of "10 Healthy Eating Tips for Your Child." And here's where things get ugly.
1. Encourage your child to drink water. Lots of it. Drinking water is essential to losing weight as it keeps the metabolism healthy and functional. Plus, lots of kids feel the urge to eat when, in fact, they are not experiencing hunger, but thirst. Are you aware that drinking soda pop leeches the calcium from your child’s bones? Water is undoubtedly the better way to go!
Note the assumption* here: That "healthy eating" involves losing weight. For a child. Children should never be put on diets and should rarely if ever be encouraged to lose weight. This woman knows nothing about healthy eating. Or feeding children.
Plus, drinking lots and lots of water to feel full is a classic eating disorder strategy. I thought we were trying to heal eating disorders here, not cause them.
2. Is your child not crazy about drinking water? Why not stir in small spoonfuls of his or her favorite jam? Or squeeze in a bit of lemon with honey and you have made lemonade. You can make it festive with a mint leaf tucked on the side of the glass.
Have you ever known a child who wanted to drink water with a little bit of jam in it? Again, this is a strategy designed to fool the child into feeling like s/he has actually eaten something with calories in it. A big no-no in my book. You can't fool Mother Nature and you sure as hell can't fool the body.
I could go on here, people, but you get the idea.
* And you remember what Felix Unger said about assumptions: They make an ASS out of U and ME.