11/30/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Flipping the "Off"- Switch: Teaching Your Overeater How to Stop


Nothing like having kids to reinforce the nature part of the
nurture debate when it comes to personality traits.  Forget things like hair and eye color; any parent with more
than one kid knows how different and unique their personalities and
temperaments are, from Day One.

I broaden this to what I call your kid’s “Food
Personality." It is rare for
there to be kids in one family who all have similar eating styles.  More often than not, I hear parents
including myself, talk about having one kid who’s a fairly picky eater, stops
easily, while there are many children who have trouble stopping. 

I call these kids, my Trouble Transitioners.  Since I coined this term for the 6
Styles of Eaters I write about in my book, I have come to see that some kids
don’t necessarily say: “More, More!” because they have trouble with
transitions, but simply because they have a  well developed palate, and love the stimulation of the
tastes, smells and the sensations of the food!  I think back to when my middle daughter who delights in
whatever she is doing at the moment, would be eating bowls and bowls of cereal,
with the biggest smile on her face; humming the whole time.  I had to teach her how to flip the
‘off’ switch by waiting and checking back in with her body 20 minutes later. 

This is the opposite of the Picky Eater; kids whose palates
and senses don’t develop until they are older.  (If at all, there are some adults who are still picky
eaters, and not that ‘into’ food.)  
Trouble Transitioners are so stimulated by the tastes and sensations
(early ‘foodies’; and I say that in the best sense of the word), that they are
on their third helping before they feel the signal that they are ‘Done, or
Full”.  By the time they hear the
signal and stop, they are usually STUFFED.  This way of eating can, over time, become habitual as the
cue to feeling ‘DONE’ and STOP EATING, is triggered after larger quantities.  The obvious result can be weight
issues, which create other problems. 

Parents can worry about how to handle this without at best,
creating bad feelings and power struggles, or at worst, an eating
disorder.  (Although parents, you
can let yourself off the hook, it takes more than that to create a true eating
disorder; some disordered eating, perhaps, not a full blown eating disorder.) 

So in the interest of giving your ‘foodies’ some tools to
prevent problems from developing, here are some tips: 

Enjoy and show your kid that you love how much they love food
and the tastes.  Celebrate this. 

Teach them that they are their own “BODY EXPERT”, and it is
their responsibility to become the best “BODY DETECTIVE” possible.  This means listening carefully to their
stomachs for the signal that they are DONE, OR FULL.  Educate them that some bodies take longer to send the
signal; it can just be a whisper after one bowl of cereal, but they need to
WAIT 20 minutes to hear it well.

While they are waiting, let them do an activity with you like
clearing the table, doing the dishes. 
If they want more, leave their food on the table so they know they have
access to it and can have it if their body tells them they are genuinely still
hungry.  (Avoids power struggles) 

Teach them how to listen to their bodies; Think of gradations
of Hunger/Fullness; 1-7 from Starving, to Stuffed.  Help them to Listen Carefully and EAT WHEN HUNGRY STOP WHEN

There are some foods that lend themselves to stimulating your
tongue and mouth to the point where it makes it hard to flip the “Off Switch”;
some salty foods, or sweet, depending on your palate.  Teach your kid to just step away after some, and remind them
they can have more later.  (Try it

Teaching kids HOW to WAIT and STOP, is a part of preventing
eating problems from developing, and empowers them to eat well for life. 

Happy Mealtime!


For more tips visit me at: or read Take the Fight out of Food: How to Prevent and Solve Your Child's Eating Problems