Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Why French parents are superior - Mindful eating and SDT- self determination theory

Pamela Druckerman , the author of ' Why French Parents are superior',

says that unlike American parents who insist on their kids ' finishing' their food and 'cleaning their plates ' before they get desert , French parents tell their kids – you don't have to finish your food , you just have to taste everything.

American parents are concerned with the results- the product whereas French parents focus on the ' process' of eating and the culture around food. The French menu has lots of variety and this promotes ' tasting' rather than filling yourself up. Why does this resonate with me ?  The reason is that ' tasting ' food is the basis of ' mindful eating.'

It is hard to think of one experiencing ' self determination ' – endorsing one's actions at the highest levels of reflection when we are involved with food and eating. Eating is often a reflexive experience where one is not aware of what one is eating, just being an ' object ' who is being filled with food and who will stop eating when one  cannot eat any more.

 Parents and kids may have healthy eating goals and are able to express their 'autonomy 'and 'relatedness ' by participating in family decisions concerning what is served for meals. Kids who are not given some control over their eating are likely to suffer from obesity. 

But we need to ask if ' eating' for them is something intrinsically valuable beyond meeting the basic animal needs of survival or not.

People behave like objects when they merely react to the external stimuli that food provides. How does focusing on ' tasting' make people 'subjects ' rather than objects. ?

By being mindful about eating, we are being subjects , eating slowly, being  very aware of the present, attentive to how the food looks, smells, tastes, feels – texture and sounds. It is about being ' reflective ' rather than 'reflexive.'

Here are 2 links to the classic mindful-eating practice '  eating a raisin made famous by Jon Kabat-Zinn in his mindfulness-based stress reduction program.

Mindful eating promotes good health. People are often ' mindless' about food and are multitasking while eating. This creates a mind-body disconnect so that critical brain signals that regulate food intake may not be received by the brain and instead the brain continues to send out additional signals of hunger , increasing the risk of overeating.

So during the meal , we should not hold conversations while eating but engage in ' mindful eating' and then stop eating and be attentive to the conversation and other people at the table.

According to my religious tradition the ' taste of food ' , is its spirituality. The snake in the biblical story of Adam and Eve was the symbol of materialism and natural drives used in a negative way. The snake was cursed that he would have to eat dust – something that lacks taste.

Family meals promote ' relatedness' among family members and are very empowering for kids development. Mindful eating can help us transcend beyond addressing the basic animals needs of hunger and make eating an experience which is intrinsically valuable.

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