Monday, October 24, 2011

31 Days to a Cleaner Diet {15}: What to Do When Your Best Efforts Fail

After my post yesterday about snack foods (and kids, specifically), I just wanted to share from my heart about my own struggles with my son, Luke, who turned 2 in July. 

I am no psychologist, so I have no real way of explaining my son other than to share what happened in our lives and what I know about him now. 

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that we moved last August (2010) from Pennsylvania to Connecticut.  Luke was 13 months old when we moved.  Within 24 hours of moving in with my parents, he gave up basically all meat and vegetables.  My son, who previously would happily gobble up anything and everything we placed in front of him, suddenly turned into a terror at mealtime.  Food became a battle, textures became super scary, and many, many, many tears were shed at mealtime (by all 3 of us). 

I thought I had it bad then. 

Fast forward to 9 months and 1 day later (oh yes, I counted), when we were finally able to close on our new house here and move out from living with my parents.   My son, bless his heart, was basically sad for about a week.  He cried a lot and it was hard to make him smile. We had just uprooted his living situation again, and this time we’d taken him away from his Nanny and Poppy and Uncle Josh, to boot.  Thankfully some friends came to visit us not long after we moved, and he was happy to see them and has been back to his happy-go-lucky self ever since. 

But he now no longer eats any form of eggs, yogurt, or applesauce, either.  And mealtimes are still super stress-inducing for me.  Our son frequently gags up food, gets terrified of new textures (this extends to textures he touches as well as textures he eats), and screams in literal fear when we even put a new food on his plate (not even asking him to eat it – just to look at it, as the child food experts say to do). 

I have a very, very, very limited selection of foods that I can feed my son.  We have tried EVERYTHING.  Seriously.  All the tricks that well-meaning (and sometimes not-so-well-meaning) friends and family have shared with us, we’ve done them.  To no avail.

The bottom line is, I cannot force my sweet boy to eat anything.  Anyone who tells you differently has either never had children or abuses their children (and yes, I’m being serious). 

We have actually tried to put bites of food in Luke’s mouth, thinking that if we just pop a new food in, he will be delighted with how good it tastes and realize that he does want to eat it (ha!).  Our intentions were sincere and loving, but it only resulted in gagging and more screaming and tears. 

He is still too young to understand most cause and effect situations when they’re not immediate, so the whole “just take one bite and then you can have xyz” approach doesn’t work AT ALL with him. 

We’ve tried every trick in the book, and not one of them work for our family.  (Although he does have an appointment on Thursday with his doctor to talk about the gagging and see if there is something there that can be helped, since he gags on food all the time, even food he loves.)

Why am I sharing all of this with you?  Because for a long time, I felt alone.  I feel like everywhere I go, I see kids blissfully eating whatever their parents place before them, or easily trying new foods at a restaurant.  Many times, I feel like the only mom I know who has to bring her child special food or else he won’t eat a thing, since new foods are terrifying to him and not exciting. 

Until two weeks ago, Chris and I had literally never met parents struggling with food to this degree with their children.  We had dinner at a family's house from our church.  They shared how their 3-year-old son has severe food and texture and gagging issues, as well.  Only recently has he understood that if he doesn’t eat what’s on his plate, there are no {healthy} snacks to be had later.  Even now, they still have to compromise with him because of his texture issues and fear of food.  He must simply put one bite of a new food in his mouth, and he’s allowed to spit it out if it’s too overwhelming to him or he doesn’t like it. 

He is a sweet, smart, hilariously cute little boy.  He’s just scared of new food, like my son.   His parents are intelligent and kind.  I seriously wanted to bawl my eyes out at their dinner table - here were normal, loving, healthy-food-eating parents who were going through THE EXACT same issue that we are. 

It’s impossible for me to not associate Luke’s two moves as a 1-year-old with his big issues with food.  I know a lot of child psychologists say that food is the one area of life that toddlers feel they can control, and when we up and moved our boy two times, I can see (although again, I don’t claim to be a psychologist) how throwing his life upside down might lead him to stress out big time about the food choices that are before him. 

This is an on-going, daily struggle in our house.  I cry quite frequently about it.  And I literally cried the other day when Luke ate one pea and one chopped piece of cooked carrot and tried an apple (although he gagged the whole thing up)…..because those were the first new foods he has tried in over 14 months. 

The only thing I can do is continually let him “look” at new foods on my plate (putting them on his plate makes him cry and sob so much that he then doesn’t want to eat the food that is on his plate already).  We try to make sure that the food he eats is of the best quality we can give him….whole grains, organic milk, organic fruits, etc. 

And honestly, when my son wants to try ANYTHING new, even if it’s not a healthy food, I encourage it, because that is earth-shattering for him. We make a ridiculously big deal out of him putting anything new into his mouth. 

So I guess I just wanted to end with two things: if you’re a mom (or dad!) of a kid with food issues, take heart.  I certainly do NOT have all the answers (or any answers at all, really), but I feel for what you’re going through.  I understand the embarrassment you feel at times, and the fear, and the just plain frustration of having to make special menu items on a daily basis.  You are not alone!  I pray frequently about this, and I encourage you to pray for your child and that the situation would change (and I am happy to pray for your little one, as well). 

Second, if you ARE blessed with a child who eats well (or if you don’t have kids yet and think you know all the answers, lol), try to show grace to those of us who do struggle with this.  (Although if you see a kid eating only twinkies and soda all day, feel free to judge. haha) But seriously, try not to assume you know what’s going on in a family.  Sometimes moms and dads struggle with all their hearts to change their child’s eating habits, and nothing works.  They’re not being lazy, or ignorant, or unconcerned with spoiling their child.  It’s hard and humiliating enough to be in their shoes without having to deal with little comments or “looks” from others. 

I read a great quote on a website that said something like, “You can’t control what your child chooses to eat, but you CAN control the food that is set before them.” 

If you’re dealing with a child (or children!) with food and texture issues like Luke, do your best to present that child with the best choices you possibly can.  That’s really all any of us in this situation can do. 

And feel free to e-mail me on the days you want to pull your hair out. :)


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{Click here to see the other posts in this series.}


  1. Psst... Lance doesn't eat pasta, eggs or cheese. Those are most kids ole standbys so I totally understand your texture issues. Feeding kids and being responsible for their nourishment is so stressful. I like that quote about being able to control what we put in front of them. Good reminder for those times I'd rather he eat something even if horrible for him verses nothing. Thanks for sharing! Great post!

  2. Bless your heart! I'm so sorry you have such a difficult time with your sweet boy eating new foods! Ask the doctor to check and see if his tongue is tied. My nephew had the most trouble gagging/throwing up until the doctor figured out his tongue was tied. He had it fixed in May and has been completely different since! He was 2 1/2 when he had the surgery done.
    This is a great post! Thank you for sharing your heart!

  3. girl, i love this... i'm going to have to catch-up on your 31 days!!! my kids are the SAME way. same way. they don't want to eat anything. and then they have allergy issues which complicates it all the more. i just pray. pray that God sustains them.

  4. My kids are now 16, 14, and 12, but I remember vowing to NEVER fight about food. Like the doctor says, they WILL NOT starve to death. Offer them healthy foods, and let them decide what and/or when (within reason) to eat it. Also, does he have the same issue with drinking? You could try fruit smoothies (in a NON-see-through cup, LOL. Best of luck to you, and MOST of us Mom's know never to judge - you never know what someone else is going through!


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