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Nancy Berk, Ph.D.

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Baby Weight: Are You Feeding Your Toddler or Your Sweet Tooth?

Posted: 09/26/2012 5:06 pm

There are many aspects of parenting that are anticipated and inevitable, but sometimes it's those side effects you never saw coming that really tip the scales.

I believed postpartum weight loss was a given if you signed up for the hectic schedule of baby duty. What I didn't realize was that this weight loss could be thwarted by another person's menu change -- your baby's.

My mother always said, "You are what you eat." What she should have said was, "You are what your child doesn't eat."

That's because when your child's mealtime begins to incorporate real food, you're so focused on strategy and negotiation that calories never cross your mind. Going from liquid food supplier to temperature analyst, taste tester and tempter is a risky role change if you still want to slip into skinny jeans. Sure, it's easy to skip the strained chicken, but once you taste the peach cobbler, all bets are off.

And it gets more exciting as more options are added. Grilled cheese crusts will beckon. Dinosaur-shaped chicken tenders taste roaringly delicious. And you will fall prey to the belief that your child will eat more if you show an interest in his food. (Note: Showing interest doesn't mean eating his entire meal.) Of course the plate will empty faster, but we won't go there. Let's just say that if you obsess too much about your child's food pyramid, your shape might begin to resemble one.

As a psychologist, I should have known better, but I fell deep into the calorie trap. Before we started puréeing produce and tucking it into brownies and PopTarts (joking!), I was the queen of futile creative presentations. Once I used miniature cookie cutters to create the alphabet out of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I ate the consonants. Whether my son showed an early preference for vowels (Too much Wheel of Fortune?) or simply the desire to eat only 5 to 6 bites of his entrée is unclear. I, on the other hand, demonstrated no letter preference as I ate the equivalent of a second lunch.

As a doting parent with dissolving wardrobe options and intentions of increasing our family size by having more children not more meals, I was forced to make some significant changes. I tried to maximize my physical activity and consciously rejected caloric participation. It wasn't always effective, but it became easier when my son began constructing full sentences like -- "Don't eat my french fries." Sometimes a mother just needs a little coaching.

 

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