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Episode 113

How Can We Stop Food and Eating From Being Such a Power Struggle?

June 24, 2024
In Episode 113, Kyle and Sara, LPCs, have an in depth discussion on food and eating with Mandy Foster. She speaks to groups around the world helping parents raise children that grow up to be curious learners of food. Sara and I discuss our own personal challenges as parents but also just as people in relationship to food. Mandy provides several specific steps you can take immediately that will completely change how kids and parents approach this subject.

Our Guest,
Mandy Foster

Mandy Foster, M.S., CCC-SLP, CLC, has been a speech-language pathologist since 2003, dedicating over 20 years to helping children with diverse needs. Specializing in pediatric feeding since 2005 with expertise from the SOS Approach to Feeding, Mandy has worked in various settings supporting families with feeding challenges at home and in their communities. Mandy now devotes her time to consulting and mentoring others on how to improve feeding skills and services. She is passionate about sharing her knowledge on pediatric feeding, helping parents and professionals both locally and internationally through various educational platforms, all while striving to make feeding support more accessible and effective.

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Episode 113 Transcript:

Are there daily conflicts happening in your home related to food? One day the kid likes the food, the next day the kid doesn't, or you cook something and half the kids are like, yay, and the other ones are like, that's gross. Power struggles around food are one of the most common conflicts that we see when we're helping coach families. And so we wanted to bring on a great guest for you that, man, after this interview,


There's so many things that Sarah and I want to go back and tweak or change or do differently because she's really going to help you change how you approach food and eating with your kids. Cause don't we all really want to raise kids who have a healthy relationship with food that are really curious learners when it comes to food. And yet many times what we do is just give.


our kids the same hangups we had, or we just approach it the same way our parents did with things like, you gotta clean your plate or, or don't you, you're wasting too much money when you don't eat that. So she's going to give you a completely new paradigm. And by the end of the podcast, you're going to have specific steps you can take with each age, no matter what your kid is one years old, two years old, all the way up into the teenage years about how to approach eating and food differently. So if you are having those issues in your home, jump into the podcast, but before you do,


please leave a rating, leave a comment, because this is the currency of podcasts. The more you guys give us positive reviews, the more, you know, whatever podcast thing you're using is going to promote this podcast and give more parents access to it. So it just means the world to us when you leave positive comments and when you share with other people, it's really helpful. So get ready for your mind to be blown when it comes to food. Enjoy the podcast.


Hello, welcome to the Art of Raising Humans. I'm Kyle. And I'm Sarah. And man, eating can be a big issue in families, right Sarah? I can't, I think it's really common. I can't count the number of times I've heard families talking about their kids and eating and what they eat and what they don't eat. And I know as much work as we put into our parenting, as intentional as we are, an issue that's always kind of risen up, we're like pulling our hairs out. It's like, what do we do about helping our kids eat food?


And I'm telling you like this one's personal for us. So as soon as we heard the guests that we're going to introduce to you today and interview today, as soon as we heard Mandy was good at this and knows something about this and you heard her speak and we're like, okay, I've, there's a lot of families that need help with this. I heard Mandy, I heard Mandy speak for just such a short time and I was eating it up like, I want more of this. This is so good. So today on our podcast, we're inviting Mandy Foster, Mandy. Hello.


Hi, how are you guys?


Good, and Mandy is, she does speaking, she does training, but her main deal is she helps parents understand how to help their kids have a healthy relationship with food. And I mean, I think a lot of parents listening, that's one of their biggest frustrations, but also their biggest hopes. We don't wanna raise kids with eating disorders or kids who just have a really bad relationship with food or just aren't.


insatiable about sugar all the time. And we really want to raise kids. Yeah, who are just who can't go out to eat and just be more open about it, you know, and, and I think a lot of conflicts and families revolve around this. And we're speaking from personal experience. So so Mandy, we're glad to have you. And we'd just love to hear why are you passionate about this? Why? Why is food become a big thing that you know so much about?


Yeah, it's a great question and thanks so much for having me too. This can be a topic that is hard for a lot of families and just to add to what you guys said is it's the source of power struggles a lot in families. And so I think my goal has been honestly, my background is speech pathology. And so I didn't know a lot about feeding when I got into my profession. They don't teach us a lot. They teach us a lot about anatomy and swallowing and things like stroke recovery.


Mm -hmm.


I didn't know this world of kids that were picky eaters existed all through my education. And it really probably started a little bit more as my nephew has Down syndrome. And when I was going through graduate school, he was first born when I went into grad school and he really, really struggled to eat. He has some other things. He has diabetes. He had cancer. So he had a lot of struggles that on top of having Down syndrome just made.




Wow. Yeah.


food really difficult, but I didn't know what to do with him. Like I didn't know he ate chicken nuggets and french fries and chips. And I had no, I didn't even really have a knowledge that I could do something as a profession. And then I just worked at this amazing camp in Colorado and I met some people who did picky eating, feeding in special needs populations. And my nephew went to that camp.


Yeah. Yeah.


And while he was there, he like joined this group and they just had a blast. They laughed the whole time. It was an hour of just pure joy and engagement and curiosity. And they were putting carrots in their mouths and lollipops, you know, on their face. And it just was fun. And I thought, what is this profession that I supposedly know how to do?




And so I just kind of pursued it there. And so my career kind of started in Denver at a specialty feeding clinic. So I worked and I still work for the same company. It's called the SOS Approach to Feeding and their goal is to empower parents and other therapists to learn about feeding. And it is a multidisciplinary clinic as well too. So really pulling in those mental health perspectives, dietary perspectives, sensory integration from OT.


and physicians as well too. And so it's a really amazing way to look at feeding. It's really one of the only ways to look at feeding is you have to look at it from a lot of different views. There is no one way to kind of think about feeding. You have to think about how other professions and how parents and really including parents as partners when it comes to feeding. And so that's kind of what I've been doing for the last 20 years. I know less about speech therapy nowadays.


If you ask me about articulation or our problems or any of that, I've forgotten all of that. And all I pretty much do is feeding now, is pediatric feeding. And as Sarah said, I just have the joy of being able to speak all over the world now and teach therapists and families about feeding. So.




Wow. Wow.


Well, you know, Mandy, when you talked about it being a power struggle, that's something I tell families a lot when we're talking about the free will our kids have is you can see it in a few different ways. Eating is one, pooping is another one, sleeping is another one, and talking is another one. And it seems like those four can cause a lot of fear in a parent and cause a power struggle because really you can't make your kid eat. And so in other areas we seemingly can, but those four,


Kids learn pretty quick that they have the power. They can control what comes in their mouth or doesn't. They can spit it out or they can throw it up. And when you look at it that way as this power dynamic, it does explain a lot from a lot of our childhoods that I know in my childhood, there was a lot of power struggles that I think my parents, specifically my dad, was trying to win through food.


You know, so it was a lot of like threatening if you don't finish this food by this time, you're going to get spanked or something like that's going to happen. And it did as a kid always confuse me. It was just like, he was like, why am I getting, yeah, why am I getting spanked? Cause I won't eat the Brussels sprouts or like, or like, like the weirdest one was getting threatened. If I threw up the thing I ate as if I was purposely wanting to throw it up. Like, yes.


Yeah, yeah, yeah, food's just refining. I'm getting tired.


Yes, yes, yes. Like it's your choice. Well, and I think too, Kyle, one of the things too that, and when working for those of you that are listening that work with other families, so maybe you are in the mental health profession, you're not just a parent, is that we always say that it's always hard to get a diagnosis. It's always hard to have a struggle with your child. But if your child needs glasses, they're not gonna die. If your child doesn't walk on time, they're not gonna die.


Mm -hmm. Mm -hmm.


Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.


your child doesn't eat. The first immediate fear is my child will die. And so parents are living in this world of if they don't eat, they may not live. And even though that seems extreme, a lot of this is told to families. Kids that typically struggle with feeding have had early histories of medical problems. A lot of premature babies, a lot of early NICU babies. That doesn't have to be in case in.


in place to have difficulty with feeding. You can have a perfectly beautiful health history, but it's really, really common. And one of the things that happens in hospitals with those little ones is that you don't get discharged from ICU until you weigh a certain amount. You don't get discharged from the hospital. And so they're really, really focused on weight, intake, caloric volume, and they're scared. And so what you guys know and you do so well is we don't parent well.


Yeah. Yeah.


when underlying fear is really the thing that's taking over. And so I think part of what we work on with parents is recognizing that that's happening. You're afraid. It's okay to be afraid, right? You need to acknowledge that that's what that is. You're afraid. But guess what? Your child isn't gonna go to the hospital if they don't eat that broccoli. They won't. They're not gonna go to the hospital if they miss an entire meal. And so we really wanna empower and equip parents to know,


Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.


What are the warning signs? Like how do I know that this is more than just picky eating? Because parents need to know when they need to intervene and when they need to just kind of back off. And so that's one of the first things to recognize when it comes to feeding. It happens as therapists too. It happens with all of us. I get a little afraid sometimes this kid might, I might not be able to help them, right? And so when fear creeps in as the adult,


we're never gonna be in a good situation. And so I think that's one of the first things, which you guys do so well, is helping adults understand what they're bringing to the table. We actually do a lesson with our parents that says, what are the thoughts and feelings that you're bringing to the table? Were you raised in a home where you had to eat all your food? Clean the plate club, we like to call it. Were you raised in a home where you couldn't have dessert until after you ate?




Yeah, yeah.




where you raised in a home where you didn't have sugar in the home at all. So one of the best ways to think about how you might be impacting your child's feeding, first of all, let me pause. It's very scientifically like research that parents don't cause feeding problems. That there's research after research after research that parents do not cause feeding problems. Even if you're yourself, yeah, even if you're yourself or a picky eater.


Hmm, okay. Yeah.


that helps. Yeah, yeah, that's good to know. Yeah. Yeah.


It's like 94 % of children with feeding difficulties have an organic reason. They have a reason why they're not eating. Now, we as parents cannot contribute well to that struggle. We can make it harder, but we're not the reason that that child wasn't eating. And even in the cases where the parent was the reason, most of them were things like they weren't mixing the formula right or...


Mm. Mm. Mm -hmm. Mm.


Mm -hmm. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.




They were doing something that it was just because of lack of education, not because of something that they were saying or doing. So kids are a little bit resilient. You're probably not causing your child's problem. So yeah, but it's really important to know what we kind of bring to the table as parents.


Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, it's good to know. Yeah.


Yeah, I like that highlighted. That was something I had to think about with, I was raised like clean your plate and things like that. And so there's kids in Ethiopia that are going to starve if you don't eat all that. Yeah. But just thinking, you know, just thinking with my kids and being worried at times when I see picky eating and thinking they're not going to get the nutrients or we're wasting food or, and I'm trying to hold that those thoughts inside, but they're there and to know that they are impacting things by being.


being there, they're still in the room, even if I'm trying to hide them inside, they are in the room and they do have an impact. That was just good for me to know. What I go is, okay, so now if that's me and if there's other, I'm sure there's lots of parents who fit that, then what do I do with that? How do I partner? You said partner with your child. What does that mean? What can that look like?


Yeah, this is a great question. I think one of the things, and in the world of feeding, we kind of talk about ways that are just good, happy, healthy habits at home. They don't mean that if you don't do them all the time, you're going to cause feeding problems. But they are ways that whether or not your child is completely a great eater, doing great, no struggles, you might have a child who struggles a little bit with what we call picky eating.


Or he might have a child who might need more intervention. So maybe they're not just picky. Maybe they really do have something that needs attention from a therapist or a doctor. There's certain things you can do that helps all of those kids, and it's never harmful. And so if done well and respecting a child's boundaries. And so we call them general treatment strategies, just general things to do at home. And one of the main things is eating together as a family.


There's also lots of research that shows that social modeling, we know a lot about mirror neurons and how kids can learn from watching other people do stuff. And so there's a good amount of research that shows that you can decrease your child's fussiness around food by simply sitting at a table with them. Sitting at the table, eating the same foods at the same times. And so...




When parents get overwhelmed, I really like to try to find something simple. You eat every single day as a parent. Every day you eat food. You may not eat the same food as your child, and that might be your struggle. But if you're trying to find ways to help, find the simplest path of least resistance for yourself. And so oftentimes as parents, we're just running around like crazy meeting our children's needs. And so giving that parent permission to sit and eat, even if your child isn't eating with you.


Mm -hmm. Yeah.


like sit at a table and eat. We know that from nutrition research, from healthy habits around food, sitting and eating and not walking around is helpful for us as adults too. But just watching them, one of the reasons why kids struggle is typically because there is oftentimes some underlying things going on. They can have difficulties in the oral motor. They can have difficulties in their sensory systems.




Yeah. Yep.


A lot of times what's happening is that they have these learned pairings that have happened and we don't really know why and where they came from. I mean, immediately, my job is to help you figure out where they came from.


Yeah, yeah. Yeah, to do some, be curious and discover that, yeah.


Yeah, to be curious. And so one of the things that that happens is, let's say you have a child who's a little bit more sensory sensitive. And when they were six months old, you were feeding them and they didn't like the food on their face. And you're a great parent and you notice that. And so you wiped it off. But every time you wipe it off, you give them a tactile defensiveness. And so now they're used to that. my goodness, food's going to I don't like food on my face, number one. And then the way my parent comes to help me makes me go into that.


I see.


fight or flight kind of response that we know infants can go into. And I'm doing that three or four times a day. And that's how kids kind of pair negative things, right? It can happen with reflux. Every single time I eat, my esophagus burns. I don't feel well. It can happen with food allergies. Something's making my tummy hurt. It can happen with constipation. And what's happening is kids don't, they're not cognitively trying to be manipulative. They've just learned that when I eat, my body doesn't feel well.


wow, yeah. Wow, yeah. Yeah.






And I don't, they don't know where that comes from. We know that kids don't have kind of thought about their thoughts until they're way older, right? And so a two year old, a three year old, they're just trying to communicate that something isn't working. And so our job is to be curious about that. Our job is to think about what is it about the food? Do they not like it in front of them? Do they not like it the way that it feels? What is their body experiencing?


I mean, I mean, I mean.




Yeah. The way it looks like refried beans looks, refried beans looks nasty. So I guess I don't eat it. Yeah. Yes, yeah.


The way it looks. they hate the way it looks. We say this all the time, but like, okay, so we as adults, oftentimes you guys probably talk, you talk about this. I hear you talk about this all the time. But we as adults have just different expectations of children than we have for ourselves. And when's the last time you paid for food at a restaurant and it was like slopped onto your plate and you were like, I really want to eat that. I'm so happy about this experience, right? No, we like it when it's like,




That's right, yes. Yes. Yeah.


individually placed and butterflies and chocolate syrup, right? That's what we want to pay for. It's not exactly the same, except they don't like pretty flowers. They like, you know, sticks and shapes and happy faces and they want their food to look good. And that's not because they're high needs, manipulative little rats. It's just because they're humans and that's what humans like. They want to, that's how we were, we were, we were bred.


Yeah. Yes. huh. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.


Yes. Yeah. Yeah.


We were, for years and years and years, we've been told to eat certain things because they look good, right? And things that don't look good, we don't eat to keep our bodies safe. And so kids are just going into really, really primal body safety. Is it safe? And that's what their body is asking them, not their brains. Their body is asking, is this safe? Is this environment safe? Is this room safe? Is this food safe?


Yes, yes, yep.


And if their body is unsure, they're going to respond with fight, flight, freeze. And so our job is to recognize when they're going into fight, flight, or freeze and respond with safety. And you as a parent may not know how to change food to make it safe. You may not, you're not going to know those things, right? You're not going to know how to pair food so that they help your kid, because that's a therapist kind of thing to do. You shouldn't expect yourself to be a therapist, right?




Sure, yeah, yeah. Yeah.


But you wanna learn how to recognize your body's, your child's body signals. So do they look away? Do they run from the table? Do they yell at you? Do they push? Are they jumping around in their seats? The finger splays are big things we see where they wanna touch food like this. That's like a big thing. Do they have body shakes? I don't.


yeah, okay. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah.


You'd have to see that on video. Mandy was doing this weird thing with her fingers. So you got to watch that. You got to watch it on YouTube. That's going to be on YouTube where she's pointing. Yes. Yes.


Yeah. Yeah.


Kyle, you mentioned throwing up. Do they actually throw up? So think about that. When you throw up, your body is actually experiencing a really, really negative pairing with this really powerful.


Yeah. Yeah.


totally. Yeah. Well, you know, I was even thinking, Mandy, as you were saying, that is lots of those same behaviors you were just describing. If there was a dog walking towards the kid and the kid reacted that way, you'd immediately go, I need to provide safety. I need to immediately say, Hey, hey, I've got it. Don't worry. I'm not gonna let that dog hurt you. Right. But if they did the exact same physiological reaction to the food, at least in my mind, I would judge that and be like, come on. Like, it's not that big a deal. Like it. But like, I don't see this like,






I just want to receive that reaction and understand what's happening to my kid right now. It's like, no, I get the dog thing. The dog could kill you, but that food can't get over it. What's your problem?




Yeah, yes, absolutely. And then it's really confusing to us because kids, especially sensory, and I don't know how much you guys have talked with your listeners about sensory actions, but they're not consistent. Our sensory systems, it's not kids' sensory systems are consistent. Your sensory system isn't consistent. One day, your kids tell you no and yell at you, and you have a calm, really balanced, peaceful parenting response, and...


Mm -hmm.


Mm -hmm. Mm -hmm.


Two hours later, they say the exact same thing and you get your fist all wadded up and you want to scream at them, right? Because your sensory system has changed. We have things that have happened to your sensory system throughout the day that make you able to respond well to things. And it's all within our sensory system. Our sensory system really impacts our body's fight or flight or freeze responses. And so how regulated if a person's body is.




a child or an adults helps them be able to manage things in different ways. When our sensory systems need caring and nurturing, we need real comfort things. Any person's does. That's why they call them comfort foods. And so when a child sensory system needs comforting, they need preferred foods. They need foods that look the same, taste the same. They need their preferred foods. When their bodies are really regulated and they have...


Yeah. Yeah.


Hmm. Hmm. Yeah, it's good.


They just went swimming and they get all this good input and they're hungry and everything is just right. You know, it's the just right scenario for curiosity and they feel regulated and their sensory system and their nervous system feels really good and safe. They're curious. They want to know what you're putting in their food. They want to touch that new fruit. They want to taste something and they want to be explorers. And so that's why parents feel crazy sometimes.


because it's like one day they wanted to eat it and the next day they didn't. And that's why. That's why food is not always the same. And that's why our kids don't always respond to it because it's not just about food.


Yeah, yeah.


And even relating that, Mandy, to their safety to go explore the world, how is food any different? There'll be times where the kid will be okay talking to that person, and other times they'll be apprehensive. And so lots of us would see that and go, okay, what's going on here? And we might be curious, like, you were okay talking to that person the other day, but now you're not. Well, okay, because maybe the sensory system is different. And I'm even thinking growing up, I was a very picky eater, but there was a lot of chaos and conflict in my home too as a kid. And so...


as I became an adult and got married to Sarah and our home wasn't as chaotic, our home wasn't as insecure feeling, I felt much more secure married to Sarah, I noticed there was foods that I told Sarah I didn't like that I had actually never tried. It hit me probably in my mid -30s and so it actually gave me a lot more empathy and compassion for my kids eating issues because I'm like, I'm in my mid -30s and I'm realizing,




there are food like tons of food that I put on my checklist that I will never eat that I do not like. And I have never tried any of those. I simply said I didn't like them because they were associated to something else or the way visually they looked or somehow I knew it had some ingredient that I didn't like as a kid, right? So all of those were off of my checklist, you know, even the texture that the texture I thought it might have. And so I started with Sarah's help just even my mid thirties just.


I'm just going to start being more adventurous. I'm going to start trying new things. And I found something that really helped was like free samples at Costco or those kinds of stuff. Because, because, because I had less energy about the kids not liking those. Cause I, my story is, yeah, we're not wasting money. So if you don't like it, throw it away. So then the kids would challenge me and say, dad, why don't you try it? And there's things that even though it was free, I was like, I don't want to try that. That looks disgusting. So I started trying it. It was, yeah, it helped me give compassion.


Because they're great. Yeah.


I don't like that food, yeah. So that's.


That's why when we talk about feeding, it is across so many different professions, is because you just mentioned just that little story, Kyle. I thought about probably four completely different perspectives in that. And one of them is when we're in stress, we typically drop down to lower cognitive thinking. And so we kind of, if we're up at...


you know, logical thinking or logical adults, when we're in stress, we get into a little bit of black and white thinking. This is what I do. This is what I don't do. Right. And kids are the same way. Actually, most of our kids, especially if you're dealing with seven, eight, nine year olds, they're black and white thinkers. They love making rules. Right. And we know that that's hard to combat with. It's hard to be gray and in the muddy in any part with black and white thinkers. Right. It's a rule. And they've created rules around food. And so our job is to help them understand the rules.


Yep. Yep. Yep.


teaching them that rules are more open, right? But we as adults do that. And so there's that cognitive piece. Understanding where your child is cognitively is really helpful. Kids who are in what we would call sensory motor thinking, so around that six to, it can be up to like 18 months, 24 months. They just want to, they're just exploring the world because of how it feels. So if your child is in that age and they're throwing food, they probably don't like the way it feels.


Yeah. Yeah.


feels because they're just thinking about motor and sensory motor or they're in cause and effect. And it's just really fun to throw food when you're trying to figure out in and out play, right? Sometimes they're being wonderfully curious with food and it's just kind of annoying to you because it's making a mess. You know that in between two, three year old to five to seven year old, they're magical thinkers. And so food is magical to them. They don't, it doesn't need to make sense, but also.


Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.




Mm. Yeah.


the reasons they don't like food don't make any sense, right? There's no logical connection to why you ate that Cheeto and now it makes you cry. And it's because some kind of magical thing happened in their head that you don't even know and can't find a path to, right? And so understanding that and how we all think about life is really helpful in thinking about food, right? Because it changes the way that I deal with food. Also,


We use our language and one of the things that you brought up is like I just don't eat that right and so one of the things that we do with kids is we start using language that helps them be open but validates where they are and so My kids at nauseam could tell you this and the second they say I don't like it They stop themselves and they say I mean I'm still learning about that food because that's kind of what we say is You can't make a decision science. I say this all the time scientists have told us


Yeah, that's good.


Mmm, that's good. Yeah, yeah.


that you can't decide whether or not you like something unless you've chewed and swallowed it 10 times. It doesn't mean me as a parent then forces them to eat it. It means I come back and I say, we don't actually know how your body feels about that food yet because you have not chewed and swallowed it 10 times. Today, you don't have to chew and swallow it. It doesn't look like your body is ready, but you can look at it and tell me what color it is. You can use this knife and cut it apart and see if it's soft or squishy. And so,


Sure, yeah.


Mmm, love that. Yeah.


that kind of language helps them not, you talk a lot about scripts, right? What are the scripts in your head? And one of the scripts that gets into kids' heads is, I don't eat that, right? And I'm trying to break that script. I'm trying to say, actually, you're still learning about it. And there's... Yeah. Yeah.


Yeah. Yep. Yep.


Mm -hmm.


kids' heads, adults' heads, that's still in my head. I don't eat mac, I can list the whole thing, so I do not eat, and I have not eaten them 10 times. I ate them once and decided I don't want to eat that again. A long time ago. Yes.


Yes, and that's what all the time. And then you can say things more confidently. Like I, my body doesn't really enjoy salt and vinegar flavors. And so when my kids pull out olives because they think it's hilarious because it literally turns my face red and I like do like a gag response to all this, right? I'm a feeding therapist and probably once in a month I learn about pickles, olives, salt and vinegar chips.


Yes. Yeah, yeah.


just because I have to do the things that I say I need to do, right? Every single time, I have the same responses, right? I know my body does not work well with those foods. But that's what I say. I don't say I don't like them. I say my body has learned a lot about these foods. And what I've learned about my body is that salt and vinegar are not my favorite flavors together. But last week, I got a hamburger with pickles on it, and I didn't pick the pickles off.


Yes, yeah.






I just put more ketchup on it. And so look, my body is still learning about that food. That's what I say to kids, right? And so...


But you know what's funny? It's funny. If you can't see Kyle right now, he's really struggling. He does not like pickles. It's funny you use that example because that's actually going back to the logic idea is it confuses Sarah to no end because I love salt and vinegar chips. They're actually my favorite chips, but I can't stand pickles. And I even love A1.


like steak sauce on steak and that's been I love vinegar things and she's like, why don't you like pickles and it makes no sense. How many pickles have you eaten? Have you eaten 10 pickles? I probably like five. Maybe. It was funny when we were at Costco and the kids did say, dad, I kept saying let's try the samples and one of them was pickles and the kids said, hey, all you want if you eat one. So I did and it actually didn't taste that bad. They're pretty good.




I'm not having...


Yes, yes. Well, that's what's so good about it is like one of the best ways we went, we kind of jumped around at different things, but Sarah, you had asked what are things parents can do. Parents can model their learning. And that's one of the best things. It's, and especially we talk a lot and you guys talk a lot about how, how spouses can help. You know what I mean? And so a family, when we talk about sitting at the table, I don't mean everyone has to sit together. I mean, the child just needs an adult. And so,


Mm -hmm.


Mm -hmm.


They just need an adult. If you're in a situation where from a spouse standpoint, you're just you, or you don't have the timing in your schedule to be able to eat meals together, or you're a single mom, or you're a stay at home mom, and you're at home for three meals a day and you only eat one together, it doesn't need to be everyone. It just needs to be one adult. And I'm the queen of self talk. Well, I talk a lot anyway, but I am the queen of self talk. My husband,


Yeah. Yeah.


who has been on here before, he thinks I'm a little loopy sometimes because I'm like, did you notice that my sauce is more salty than it was before? Yeah, yeah, Mandy. Did you notice that I used lentil squirrely pasta instead of wheat straight one? He's like, yeah, because he thinks I'm like seeking praise from him, right? I'm not, I'm not seeking praise at all. I'm externalizing learning. That's what I'm doing because I want my kids to hear.


Yes. Yeah. Yes.


I want my kids to hear, we change things. We can add salt, we can change noodles, we can change the shape. And so I don't have a really active partner in that because he's like, food is your thing. I'm a really great dad now. I'm working on all the other things. You can still have food. And so I do self -talk at the table and whoa.


Yes. Yes.


Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.


that food was really, really, really juicy. I did not expect that. That made my body a little worried. And so we just self -talk. One of the things, we just did this last week. I do like once a month with my kids. And I think is one of the best ways to just get your, everyone into a curiosity place at their own level is take it away from meal time. If meal time is really stressful, if you know within yourself, you have too many triggers. You really can't just be this open, curious.


Yeah. That's good. Yeah.


relaxed parent at dinner. Don't start there, right? And so what we do is we go to the grocery store and we just pick one thing nobody knows a lot about. Usually it's in the exotic fruit and vegetable aisle. And we just bring it home. And then at no meal time at all, we just explore it. We pass it around with each other. I do this when kids are little too. You don't have to be able to understand language. Last week it was a dragon fruit. And so a red dragon fruit.


Mm, cool.


and fruit they picked. And we're passing it around, we're feeling it, we're touching it whole. You know, we just kind of explore it, have a chopping board, and then we make guesses. Who thinks it's going to be red on the inside? Who thinks, you know, we just guess. And oftentimes I kind of forget too, because I forget what dragon fruit looks like on the inside, right? Or coconut. We have a coconut today too. And then we just open it up and we just are like, whoa, it's.


Mm -hmm. Mm -hmm. Mm -hmm. Yeah.


Yeah. Yeah.


white, it has seeds, it's one big, you know, whatever. Then we peel it up and we cut it up and I give the kids tools and in my head that was $3 and I don't expect anyone to eat it because I didn't buy it for eating. I bought it to learn. I bought it just like I would buy crayons, just like I would buy paint, just like I would buy paper. If I bought paper for my kid and scissors and they cut up that piece of paper and made a million little squares, I wouldn't be mad at them.




Yeah. Yeah. That's good. Yeah.


Yeah, exactly. Yeah, it's good.


Right? Well, I might be annoyed that there's squares all over my floor, but that's the purpose of paper and scissors is to just learn to cut. Right? I wouldn't be mad that a kid used the crayons to color the piece of paper. Right? And I wouldn't even be that mad if they had three different versions before they found the one they liked. Right? Food needs to be like that sometimes. And I don't mean wasteful. And I don't mean buying things outside of your budget that's going to cause a stress point in marriage or in your family.




I just mean every once in a while, we've got to make something for the purpose of learning. And if you can do something like that once a month, you're in the place where because you know this is just like paint, it's just like Play -Doh, it's just like this throwaway toy that, you know, McDonald's toy or whatever. If I'm going to treat it like a learning food, that the purpose is to use it and it to go away, then I'm less stressed.




I'm coming in, I'm not at the table, I have no expectations of eating, and as a parent, I just get to watch my kids. And I get to watch myself. I didn't know that I didn't like that food. I didn't know that I don't like the little tiny bits of texture that came in that food. It's a lot like a kiwi. I wasn't expecting that. You know what I mean? We get magnifying glasses out. We get cheese graters. I get all the tools out, and we just do whatever you want with it. And so...


Mm, yeah.


cool, neat, yeah, that'd be fun, yeah.


That's a good way to kind of step into exploring and helps a lot with you figuring out, I'm not sure why you don't like pickles. Maybe you should get three or four things that are pickle flavored and figure it out. Is it taste or texture? It could just be your dad made you eat one once and now you have some kind of overlay cognitive.




100 % 100 % yeah. It really goes back to Mandy. I always when we go out to eat like fast food, go to McDonald's. I wanted to order the hamburger plane and that meant no condiments and no pickles, right? And my dad would just say we don't have time for that. I'm not waiting for that. So then I just wouldn't eat it. So it was like I got used to just saying fine. I want to. He's like you're serious. I can eat. I won't eat it like I'm just not gonna eat. So don't order me one. So I got used to just kind of like it was a


I just had this rigid line of I'm not gonna eat stuff with that stuff on it. And so that's been really hard to change. So maybe I need to try a Chick -fil -A chicken sandwich with pickles on it and see how good it is.


Yeah, you know, one of the best things is, is you need to be curious because you don't actually know. The thing is, Kyle, when I hear that story, I hear struggle with you and your dad that has all sorts of therapeutic overlay. But my question is, why didn't you want pickles on it in the first place? And so there's something about pickles, you know, is it the flavor? Is it the texture? Is it that they covered up too much of the good flavor of your cheese and your burger? And so what I do is I say, let's get some pickle Pringles.


Yeah. Yeah.


Mm -hmm.


Mm -hmm. Mm -hmm.


Hmm... Yeah. Yeah.


Let's get some pickle flavored popcorn, get a pickle flavored jelly bean, take a pickle, dry it off, get a sweet butter pickle, get a sour pickle. Does that make sense? And then learn about it. And maybe what you'll find is that if the pickle flavor is on Pringle, you actually like it. And that would tell you that it's actually the texture of the pickle. Strawberries is good, a more applicable way to like a parent, probably because pickles, the pickles are commonly not.


Yes, totally. Yeah. Yeah.




Yeah. Yeah.


That's not like a weird thing. You know, pickles, olives, there's some of those flavors. But strawberries would be a good one. Everybody loves strawberries, right? Let's say your kid doesn't. They don't love strawberries. There's freeze dried strawberries. There's strawberry jam. There's dried strawberries. There's strawberry smoothies. There's strawberry sauce, like, you know, the strawberry, like ice cream sauce. And then there's real strawberries. Play around with them and see.


Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah.


Mm -hmm. Yeah.


If you present a strawberry flavor in a different texture, does your child like it? A lot of kids with feeding difficulties have oral motor problems. And so for oral motor problems, strawberries are slippery. They're hard to keep in your mouth. You have to have really, really good oral motor skills. Kids with sensory issues, they're wet. Every time you chew it, it turns into its one texture. And then you start chewing it and turns into mush. The flavor starts to go away.


Mmm, yeah.


And so if I give kids with sensory and oral motor problems a free -striped strawberry, so like the crunchy kind, and they eat them, then I automatically know it's the texture. It's the texture that they don't like. And then I can start introducing free -striped strawberries, free -striped peaches, free -striped apples, and now I'm introducing fruits and vegetables in a texture that works for their body, not for them to eat that for the rest of their lives.




cool, cool. Yeah.


but as a stepping stone to introduce those types of foods. If I put it in a smoothie and I blend it all up, do they like it? Yes. Okay, so now I kind of know its texture. It's not flavor. And so then I can play around and I can be a curious parent a little bit more around what works for my child's body.




One thing as you were talking, it reminded me of as I've heard you talk, I heard you talk previously, I tried to move into a lot of curiosity because I find myself worried that my daughter won't like more foods or is she getting her nutrition? Am I failing as a parent and taking care of my child's body? But as I moved into just curiosity and set that aside, there's a lot of foods she doesn't want to try and doesn't want to eat.


And so I would move into that curiosity. I took off the, I just took off my, any expectation or even hope on my part of her eating. It's like, if she did fine, but the big thing was, what do you think of the color? What do you think of how it feels? What do you, cause I, and I learned from that curiosity, a lot of smell is a big one for her. That how something smells is an immediate, rather, she feels scared of that food or not a lot depends on smell.




And it gave me insight even into things like chicken. So with, you know, I think, you eat chicken tenders. Awesome. We can go to restaurants, we can get chicken tenders. You'll have food. And we would go out and she wouldn't want that chicken tender. And as I was just curious with her, even though it was the same in my mind, the same food, it's a chicken tender. But I learned that she was seeing things that one was really crunchy and, but then we went here and it wasn't as crunchy.


And even at first, what scared her was it was brown and crispy on the outside, but when she opened it, it was white and stringy and completely different. And, and as I was curious, I heard the fear in her voice of this food kind of tricked me, you know, it was this on the outside. And so it helped me so much just have empathy for her and figure out how to support her. instead of, you know, to me, it was just.


Yeah, food is so tricky, isn't it?


I had forgotten that those things were in my mind. None of that mattered. But as I just listened to her and was curious, I heard that, chicken tenders are different everywhere we go. They have a little bit of different batter. They're a little crispier or a little softer. And then when you open them, the chicken inside is different and it's not, you know, so that just really, that curiosity that you were talking about really helped me hear what was going on behind it all.


And so I could then think about, well, how could we feel safe? At what level do you feel safe exploring this food? And sometimes she feels safe enough to try, you know, a different, it was like, okay, this time I'll try it, but she might have to explore it a few times. So I loved what that did inside of me working with her and being feeling like I was partnering with her with what you said. Yeah. And like, okay.


Partnering with her, yeah. Well, and a lot of times it's, we really don't, I mean, I work with kids who I am like, I'm really aware of all of the things that you just said. Like that's my job is to know there's a big difference between chicken nugget at McDonald's and at Chick -fil -A and at Kane's, right? I'm good at that, but there's sometimes where I'm like, kids, you do not know the flavor difference between those two foods. Like there's no way.




Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.


Right? That's what my therapist mind is saying. When I enter into curiosity, a little judgmental. I'm going to show you that there's not a difference between these and we'll play these little games like veggie straws is a great one. There's a green, there's a yellow, and there's an orange, right? There is no way those taste different, right? I'm a really good, no way. And I will play games and I have kids that can get it right every single time. They can do.


Yeah. Yeah, sure. Yeah.






Yes. Yeah.


Yes, yes.


the difference. And I, those kids have taught me so much is that my body is different than your body. Our bodies are not the same. And so my job is to not tell you what your body is supposed to be doing. My job is to help you be aware of your body. And that is actually one thing, especially your kids are a little older too. You need to be very careful with, with older kids. And it happens probably when they start getting out of that magical thinking.


Yeah, that's good. So good.


is that kids are actually, especially if you have a child who has more tendencies towards shutdown of their emotions, people pleasing, those types of personalities are more likely to shut off their body responses and do something because they know you want them to do it. And so what they're actually doing is that they're ignoring what their body is saying. They're ignoring when they're full.




clean the plate cup, I'm gonna ignore that my body is telling me I'm full and I'm going to clean my plate and that's how we can contribute to things like not recognizing when your body is full and when it's hungry. But also, I'm gonna ignore the fact that I just gagged. I'm gonna cover it up. When they start getting older, you're not gonna see it as much. You're gonna see things like eye gazes away and you're gonna see things like just a little bit of.


Yeah. Yep.


a face that gets disengaged. Whereas when they're two, they're vomiting on you, right? Because they're not good at covering up their body feelings. And so one of the things that I actually have to undo sometimes, and you might have to as a parent, for those of you who are listening, is you might actually have to encourage your kids not to eat a food. When you begin being curious about their body, and when you see them touch a food and have a whole body shake, or when you see them have a food in front of their face,


Mm -hmm. Yeah. Yeah.


plate and they gag, your job is to say, I don't actually think you're ready. Let's talk about how you feel. How did that food make you feel? And it is really hard to get to that place. And you have to be a very curious, very regulated parent to tell your kid, I think that we probably need to change that food before you try it because your body is already saying it doesn't feel safe. And the most important thing I want for you is to listen to your body. Like that.


becomes the goal. The goal becomes helping a child listen to their body. And the more we can help children learn about themselves, they will be lifelong learners. They may not be eating all the foods on the planet by the time they're 10. But if we create a child who knows how to listen to their body, who knows how to understand what their body is saying in a place of safety, then they'll be...




they won't have a gap like Kyle did. They'll be 30, 40, 50 going to new countries and seeing chicken feet on a plate and saying, I can be curious about chicken feet. I can be curious about grilled crickets because I know how to learn and I know my body and I know what my body is saying yes to and no to and because I know how to learn, I can be a lifelong learner about food. And that's really what we're trying to create. We're not trying to create,


Yeah. Yeah. Well, even yeah. Yeah, yeah.


eight year olds who are compliant. We're trying to create lifelong learners about eating.


Yeah. Well, it may need that. That's where fear is always opposed to that. Fear doesn't allow for that. So what I'm hearing and what you just said there that's so important is if I'm wanting them to be lifelong learners with food, really curious about the food, then I need the model.


I'm gonna be curious about it. I'm not gonna approach it in such a rigid way, you know? Because I'm even thinking like what Sarah and I did early on and just mistakes we made in regards to this is like even Abby, one of the things that really frustrated us with our oldest is she started to get into the habit of she would eat something and then be like, that is so good. I love it. And then we'd be like, awesome. And then you'd see her later on. She's barely touched it after that.


and then she ends up throwing it away. And that would really upset me. Cause I'd be like, now I feel like she's not even being honest with us, but she would say, no, I did like it at first, but it was almost like she was learning to just give us the reaction that she thought would please us the most, which was that was amazing. And then she was getting good at hiding how she didn't eat it the rest of it. She just kind of scooted it around to make it look like she ate it, you know?


Yeah, well, I mean, because honestly, and if you think about it that way too, she could be pleasing and also she could have liked the very first taste. You know what I mean? And then you're like, wait a second, that chicken, like think about like beef jerky. That's a good one. It feels way different on the first bite than it does on the 20th. And there's sometimes by the 20th bite of beef jerky that I kind of want to spit it out too, right? Like this food is no longer worth chewing anymore.


Yeah. I know, I know. Yeah, I think she was being honest with her. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.


Yeah. Yeah.




Yes. Yes. Yes. And even the aftertaste, sometimes you eat it and then by the time you've swallowed it, it's different. It leaves a different flavor in your mouth, different experience. Mm -hmm.


you know? Yeah.


Yes, yeah, yeah. And I mean, one of the really great ways to think about, if you are feeling like, I can't even do this, like, I know myself well enough as a parent, I know the scripts that are in my head, and I know I need a lot of work to be able to be the type of parent who can help their child in this way. A really great way if your kid is probably five and up is just watch cooking shows. Like Chef Junior, any of what, what do they do the whole time?


Mmm, yeah. Yeah. That's good. Yeah.


They are like, especially that one where they take the leftover ingredients and they make something new out of them. I love that one because it's teaching you that food, you can change food. You can make a sauce for a pasta out of cotton candy. Like what kind of crazy world is this? Right? And so, you know what I mean? Like watching someone change food in that way. So I'm not a huge proponent of just sitting in front of the TV, but that's one of them that I'll tell, watch those with your kids.


Yeah. Yeah.


What? Yes. Yeah, that's cool. I love it. Yeah. Yeah, of course. Yeah. Yeah.


see how they talk, how do they judge food? How do the judges respond? They savor it, they think, they smell it first. If you start watching those, the amount of smelling that goes on in every single, right? Yet when our kids are like, and sniff it and smell it, they're like, and you're like, just eat it, right? No, because really good explorers and really good chefs, that's what they do. And when they get a new food, they chop it up, they smush it, they kind of see how it.


Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.


Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.


Hmm. Hmm.


what is this food gonna do when I start manipulating it and cooking it, right? And so that's a really easy way. It is something where you can just imitate, you need to get mirror neurons and what does it look like to be curious? Watch cooking shows, you know?


Yeah, yeah, yeah.


Yeah. Yes. Yeah. Well, in mainly what I love about that is if we were going to go to an amusement park, something I do is I want our kids to feel free to not be afraid to ride the roller coasters or do stuff like that. So what I do to help them do that anytime we're going to go to someplace like that, we watch.


you know, YouTube clips about people writing those and enjoying them. And we talk about, that one turn looks scarier that one. So and every time it's helped them when we go, they want to do it because they've already seen it. And they've seen people enjoy it. Or like I've been skydiving. And someday I want to do that with the kids be like, that seems crazy. But we watch people skydive sometimes on YouTube and see how fun it is. And the kids are like, Yeah, that looks really exciting. Right. So I could see the same, the same thing happening there. But you know, what I want to do maybe I want to give everybody access to


You know, some of the tools you have, I know we got some kind of tests that we took, right? You had handed out, you know, and I was wondering how could they get a hold of this information? How could they reach out to you or, you know, connect with you better about food with their kids?




Absolutely. So as I said earlier, I speak a lot. I'm primarily to speak to therapists, but we have lots of parent resources. And so the website that I contribute most to that I've created a lot of content around and that I kind of focus most of my energy is to the SOS approach to feeding. And so I can give you that. You can link it, but it's SOS approach to feeding .com. And on there, there's a parent tab and in that parent tab,


Yes. Yeah.




There's just lots of resources. There's a two hour workshop for free. You can watch on YouTube. It talks about eating with your kids and modeling some of that good behavior. It also talks through how do you know if you have a child who is just generally a little bit more on the picky side or do you really need some support? One of the things that I've told Sarah and I tell parents all the time is if you're listening to this podcast right now and you're hearing me say some of these,


quote unquote simple strategies. And you know right away they're impossible. You know that your child is not gonna respond to those. You know that you've tried most of them and they're failing and none of that is working. It might be a sign that your child has more than just picky eating. They might actually have some problems that someone like myself in your area need to begin to look at and help you more. Doing it alone is not an expectation that any parent should have.




So if listening to this, you've already zoned out, because you're like, these are ridiculous strategies that my child, my child doesn't even eat. They eat in the other room and they have five foods, right? And so thinking through that, we have a picky eating versus problem feeder chart. And you can kind of just read through and see some differences between it. There's also parent libraries that you can look through. There's simple blogs you can look through as well. Another amazing resource is one called Feeding Matters.


Yep, yep.


Feeding Matters is a pediatric feeding disorder is the kind of diagnosis for kids that struggle to eat. And Feeding Matters has parent support. You can actually, if your child is leaning more towards that really difficult side, there's parent connections and you can reach out to them. They'll have another parent call you. You can talk to another parent of a child who struggles to eat.


They have a lot of different resources and they also have the questionnaire as well. So there's a questionnaire on both of those websites that you can find in the parent tabs. And so that's really great. And then you can always, if you're local to Oklahoma and you're listening, you can always reach out to me, Mandy Foster. And my email specifically is amandafoster at sosapproach .com. You can also find me on Facebook and message me there or get a hold of Kyle and Sarah.


Yeah, that's great Mandy. I appreciate you taking the time. We have so much to do, right? For us personally to take and now I feel like I'm going to be eating a lot of pickles. It's like it's OK. Hey, for the health of my kids. Yeah, I'll do it right.


I'll tell you how to get a hold of me.


Yeah. I don't want to brace you. When we speak in conferences, one of the environment photos, like what not to do, is my children. And so like my kids are sitting on top of a table. We're listening to music. My oldest is like singing over his little sister while she eats. I have shoes on the table. Like it's a disaster and chaos, right? And I'm the therapist.


Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.


And so I just want to end with like small baby steps. It's really about making slow, slow changes towards changing yourself and how you work and helping your children. And you should never, actually one of the worst things you can do is listen to what I say and one of those podcasts that I've been on or SOS page, go home and change everything. Your child won't stop eating because they're overwhelmed with the change.


Yep, yep.




Yeah, yep, yep.


And so it's really important to not all of a sudden require your family to go into all these changes. Don't do that. They'll freak out. They'll be like, this is an unsafe environment. Everyone's changed. You don't know what to expect. And so just making some of those small changes is helpful. And that's where kids are going to really see it the most. So.




That's right. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.


That's great. So I know this is going to help a lot of listeners, Mandy and anybody who's listening to this. If you know other families, I'm sure you do who are complaining about their kids not eating or being picky. Definitely share this episode with them, let them know about Mandy's work and we'll include all of the links and all that stuff in the info page below. Okay. So thank you for joining us, Mandy. I appreciate it. Yeah, we appreciate it. Thank you. And have a great day. Okay.


You're welcome. Thank you.

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