Out of all three writing assignments in this class, I was most excited for this one. Food and the practice of eating have always been something I’ve questioned throughout my life. It is easy to wonder why we as humans are required to eat to stay alive. Why do we eat meat? A lot of my questions were answered throughout my years of schooling by my health teachers, and when I took a culinary pathway in high school. I learned about the scientific backgrounds of why our bodies need lipids, carbohydrates, and proteins to function properly.
What I still question to this day is how come some people are able to tolerate dairy, but others aren’t? I have lived my entire life as someone who is intolerant to lactose. Up until recently I thought that was all I was intolerant to, but I found out that I am also intolerant to gluten, whey, and casein. So instead of being the child who didn’t want to eat foods containing those culprits, I was the child who couldn’t. I can’t say that my personal experiences morphed my eating habits, but I do know that they did direct me towards a more healthier life of eating.
Instead of being directed to dairy and gluten products I learned to love fruits and vegetables. I still eat my fair share of dairy free and gluten free junk food, but my experiences has taught me to always be conscious of different foods, and to read food labels. I take precautions now, as an adult, with everything I put in my mouth. If I eat one wrong thing I would suffer severe side effects. I think I can thank my parents, especially my mom, for always providing healthy food options for me to eat. It is very true with what Bee Wilson and Clara Davis stated about food habits. They do truly start from the beginnings of life. If I didn’t grow up by having a green vegetable on my plate for every dinner, then I probably wouldn’t find that the norm in my eating today.
I can’t even state how many times I have heard stories from my parents, and grandparents on how they were forced to stay at the dinner table until they finished their meals. They each speak of how they never complained with what they got for dinner. I specifically remember two different stories my mom and dad always told me and my sister. The first story is when my dad had to go to the hospital because he stuck chinaberry peas up his nose instead of eating them. The second story my mom told me was when she was forced to stay at the dinner table until she finished her Brussel sprouts.
Considering the abundant amount of times these two stories were told, my sister and I never grew a distaste for vegetables. According to Bee Wilson’s research, it could have been possible that my mom ate a lot of fruits and vegetables while she was pregnant with my sister and then when she was with me. She used the example of an expecting mother’s love of eating garlic ended up secreting garlic to the amniotic fluid the baby was living in, which then created a sensation of familiarity for the fetus. Or maybe my mom fed us lots of healthy foods during the first months of our lives.
Specifically, around 4-7 months which is called the flavor window. It has taken my mom 40 or so years to learn to like brussel sprouts again, but my dad still won’t eat chinaberry peas. These were both forced upon them at a young age, quickly causing them to form a diversion from these two specific foods. But in some cases, like my mom, she was able to re change her eating habits. So, I do believe that parenting styles, whether a parent forces a disliked food on their child, or whether they gradually let the child learn to like it…. It all depends on the approach the parent takes. When the child will only reach for what they want to eat, which is shown in Clara Davis’ study.
One thing Clara Davis’ study did prove was that a child has the ability to create their own healthy eating plan. In her experiment she observed 15 children over the course of 6 years. The children were given 33 food options to choose from. I believe her experiment worked so well because the 33 options were pre-chosen to be healthy, optimal food items. If the children had free range of all foods, they may not have made the same choses they did. The experiment concluded with the evidence that the children were in excellent condition. They were x-rayed, and medically examined throughout the entire study.
Some of the children were in even better condition than when they started the study. The children showed no signs of illnesses throughout the study either. This study focused more on the what in regard to food, but Bee Wilson’s interview focused more on the why we eat the foods we do. In Clara’s experiment she discovered that when provided with the appropriate food selections, a child is going to be able to choose the foods they need to survive. It is as if all humans are born with an instinctive ability to determine if they need proteins, lipids, or carbs. This brings up the topics Bee was talking about in her interview.
According to Clara’s study and Bee’s research, if a parent supplies a child with the appropriate foods, then the child will ultimately nourish themselves in the ways they need. Just like when Bee’s second child was having a period of distaste for green beans. Instead of forcing them upon the child, like she did with her first child, she pretended to feed her daughter’s favorite doll. Over time that then redirected the daughter back to wanting to eat green beans. It does all ultimately circle back to the way a parent disciplines and rewards their children. Parenting styles effect a child in its entirety. If a parent is too strict, in the authoritarian style, that might drive the child further away from a food type, but if a parent is equally sensitive to the child’s needs and also direct enough the child will be able to make their own understandings of the situation.
I believe this is something that needs to be of conversation, especially with parents of young children. The topic of food can be a touchy subject, because of the added difficulties of body-shaming and eating disorders. But in order to understand why someone has an eating disorder, it is important to understand the origins of food and eating. When in fact our taste buds can be formed as early as 7 weeks, but they mature by week 15 of gestation. If expecting mothers knew this, then more focus could be put on food and eating habits of children even before they are born.
I truly enjoyed becoming more educated on this topic, one I want to continue to research after this assignment is done. I believe there are still many unanswered questions about eating habits, and why we can and can’t eat certain things. It makes me wonder if food sensitivities and allergies originate in the womb along with our taste buds or if it’s something the individual develops later on. But it can be determined from Clara’s study and Bee’s interview that children are aware of the nutritional component that are essential.
If given the right options a child will be able to make the correct self-choices. It can also be determined that parenting styles do have supporting components to a child’s developing taste for food and their eating habits… which all depends on the way the parents decide to care for their children. Parents have the ability to influence a child’s taste buds and eating habits, but they do not control them, and a child can’t just be determined a picky eater because they don’t like certain foods. There are many different culprits that go into a child’s distaste for a food item, and the habits they pick up involving eating.