The Sugar Series: Emotional Eating

I was sitting in Starbucks the other day when I saw the mother of this adorable little girl order her child a Cake Pop and a Grande Mocha Frappuccino.  The caloric content of these two products is 580 calories and 71 g of sugar.

71 grams of sugar = 17.75 teaspoons of sugar

It is my opinion that regardless of current weight, no child should be consuming that many empty calories. But it begs the question, what kind of motivation do we as parents have to give our kids “food” that is poisoning their bodies, leading to early death, and increasing the likelihood of body image issues and depression? We always hear about how we should teach our girls to love their body no matter what the size but wouldn’t this little girl have a better chance of loving herself if she was healthy and not overweight?

Last time I checked, 7-year-olds didn’t have the ability to walk themselves to Starbucks and whip out their VISA to pay for their grande frapp. All parents, save for those with economic hardships, have the power to limit the types of foods their child eats and the power to choose how they nourish their child’s body. Furthermore, we have the responsibility to teach our children what it means to eat well, live well, and be well.

When I first saw this girl in Starbucks, I tried to give the mom the benefit of the doubt and thought, “maybe they’re celebrating something and this is a big treat”.  I know that I’m guilty of this. When we have a big moment in life or when I feel bad about something the boys have had to do (i.e. the dentist), my first reaction is to take them out for ice-cream! But why are we using such extreme amounts of junk food to celebrate achievements? Why can’t we teach our kids (and ourselves!) that there are ways to celebrate life and our accomplishments that don’t involve a “treat” of 71 g of sugar and half a day’s worth of calories. Calories that won’t nourish one single cell in their body.

By connecting events with indulgence (either anxiety-related [i.e. the dentist] or celebratory-related [i.e. getting a new job]), we are building an emotional connection that forms a life-long habit. We condition ourselves to think that every time we have a sad or anxious moment in life, indulging afterward makes us feel better. Or that great achievements aren’t complete without some form of caloric indulgence.

It’s been a difficult one to break but our family is trying to make a conscious decision to re-train ourselves in those moments and instead of using food to soothe or celebrate, we go for a fun family bike ride, find a new park to play at, or go for a movie “date”.

For the most part, our children are at the mercy of what we give them to eat. But they are also watching us for cues on how to make decisions of their own. Their realm of “normal” stems from the reality we create for them and they will take that “normal” into their adult lives.  The day will come when they are old enough to make their own decisions and our one shot at parenting is over; our role turns into “maintenance” mode and we no longer have the same amount of influence that we once did.

We are all flying by the seat of our pants when it comes to this crazy job of parenting. I’ve made a lot of choices that I thought were good only to discover years later that I was completely missing the mark, maybe even doing harm (I’m talking to you, soy formula). But whether your child is 2 or 20, you are still one of the greatest influences in their lives. Lead by example, refuse to cater to bad habits, and show them love that goes beyond a sugary treat.

Domestically Yours,
Natasha Kay

Next Up in the Domestica Sugar Series: The Toxic Cocktail: How To Beat the Soda Habit

3 thoughts on “The Sugar Series: Emotional Eating

  1. Charis says:

    I’ve been thinking about this too lately. And while we are mostly healthy eaters and my kids(particularly my daughters) are down right scrawny, we totally fall into this trap. It seems to happen in seasons, sometimes we don’t do this at all, and then we have phases when we do it a lot. And what is it about going out for ice cream? lol That would be us too.

  2. Charis says:

    oh, oh, oh, would you do an article on common things we give our kids that we think are healthy but actually aren’t? and then some ideas for alternatives?

    • Natasha (Domestica) says:

      I love this idea, Charis! I’m totally on it. 🙂

      In fact, I’ve been concocting a blog post on “natural” foods that are actually anything but healthy. So this will fit in perfectly.

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