The Appetite Episode #64:
Food Acceptance: Learning How to Eat (Part 1)
An Opal: Food+Body Wisdom Podcast
Do you know how to eat in a healthy way? Most answers to the question of healthy eating actually have more to do with what foods you should be eating, rather than the HOW; Ellyn Satter digs into this, offering adults scaffolding for the how behind building a healthy relationship to food (both for one’s self and for those adults that are parents, modeling healthy eating for their kids). In this first of a four-part series on Satter’s “eating competency skills,” Opal Co-Founder and Nutrition Director, Julie Church, RDN, CEDRD-S, CD talks with host Carter Umhau, LMHC on the skill of “Food Acceptance.” Food Acceptance is all about the acceptance of appetite and our desire for food.
Ellyn Satter Institute: https://www.
Take the ecSI ( Satter Eating Competency Inventory) here: https://www.
Connect with Opal:
Thank you to our team…
Jack Straw Cultural Center: http://www.jackstraw.
Aaron Davidson: https://soundcloud.
Hans Anderson: http://www.
hello and welcome to the appetite a podcast brought to you by opal food and body wisdom an eating disorder treatment center in seattle washington i’m your host carter i’m how a therapist artist and writer the appetite is all about issues of food body sport and mental health one of the main things that we focus on is our principal at opal of attuned eating and the principle of health coming at every size today starts a four episode series on the work of ellen sattar
opals co founder and nutrition director julie church and i will be sitting down and talking about sanders work around eating competency skills ellen souders research has been primarily focused on the process of both eating and feeding saturday believed in a basic principle that competent eaters not only enjoy food but they are comfortable in their enjoyment of it it seems simple enough but in the diet culture enjoying food isn’t usually shown in a positive light today we’re going to be starting off our four part series talking about food acceptance skills this is speaking directly to the parts of us that are built to enjoy food and that want food and need food and the processes in which we go about approaching food because of this so without further ado let’s begin our first julie thank you so much for being here hi when are we talking about when we talk about eating competency skills i tried to just explain it but
what would you say i know sounds so fancy i think by eating competency from Ellyn Satter is a phrase that she’s coined and then created a research tool a validated research tool around to be able to assess one’s ability to eat with ease eat without disorder and i have been drawn to this tool for several years but especially in the creation of opal in that it allows for us to give a vision for where we are going in recovery and even for the everyday person that i’m interacting with as a dietitian that just finds out on the street or my school or something my kids school or your dietitian how to talk about food they always want to talk about the aspects of nutrients the what in the eating of like what do you eat what do you feed your kids and then even the nuances of treatment and recovery they want so many of those kinds of details are on the nutrition and this model allows for us to dig deeper into eating just that word specifically and give it more particularities more details and really parsing apart things that we so easily can just lump together and call it eating and i would i would distinguish that in the way that you’re describing it as like process oriented rather than result oriented the process of eating and what constitutes the eating process rather than what do i eat and how did that go yeah which would probably be an external measure in some way mm hmm yeah so many people are assessing if they are healthy eaters by what they’re eating and how much of it they’re eating and this just throws that out the window and allows us to be way more into the food relationship component and when i started my interest in nutrition even just as a young college student i recognized right away that i was way more drawn to the psychology of eating and the relationship with food so it doesn’t surprise me that alan souders work in the tool that this is kind of gets me excited and ellen sattar is a dietician social worker most of her research was based at the university wisconsin madison and that’s where she has resided so that’s that’s where i’m from originally is wisconsin and so what’s good things that come
and i have i have been in two different trainings one when i was working in the public health sector the other one was her longer term training that is more so related to chronic dieting and the tools that she uses to help people that are struggling from chronic dieting so
being able to to learn from her in those settings also i think allows for the pages of her work and research and books to come alive a little bit more
so in this four part series as we’re going to be sitting down and talking about the eating competency skills where will we be headed
ellen sattar has created four different areas of eating competence first food acceptance skills second eating attitudes third contextual skills fourth internal regulation skills so today we’re gonna be talking about food acceptance yells right okay so can you describe a little bit about what that is i like to think about this as enjoyment and appetite okay which i really like saying the word
Appetite on the appetite.
I know. Yeah. There’s some good groundwork for us.
Yes. So thinking about enjoyment and appetite in our food relationship. And Ellen Sattar defines it and kind of expands on it saying that our food acceptance skills show that we it names or it sort of shows us more of what leads us to find food, what motivates dots with food, what leads us to be food seeking? And what aspects of it make the eating experience satisfying? So what is going to be enjoyment? And what about eating and the foods that we might enjoy? And the environments we’re in? That just make us like food? what and why are we talking about this first?
Even as a vet here, I would say that, like, you wouldn’t normally start in most conversations around food about what you like, and enjoyment. So why why are we starting there today?
Unknown Speaker 5:56
Well, appetite is the first necessary part to our relationship with food. So if you think of even in the survival sense, right is just that if we don’t have a drive to eat, then we don’t stay alive, we don’t have survival. So I think that piece is just crucial to kind of think that’s one of the reasons we would start there. When you’re talking about survival skills. I was just thinking about something that I probably learned in elementary school about this. So anecdotal, but like cavemen being able to recognize berries, in a bush, like the color read as a development in nature, for our eyes to be able to distinguish food from an edible stuff, right? I mean, really have no context or others beyond this little memory, but that there’s something even enjoyable in the color of red that we would be drawn to that in a way to distinguish who could eat that, or Oh, I want that. That doesn’t necessarily talk about enjoyment, but definitely the pole pole. Yeah. I think that even your question of why would we start there? I think it’s interesting, because culturally, and presently, in the way that we talk about food, in this present day, we don’t start with enjoyment. And most often, appetite is not something that’s going to be put in this place of like, tap into your appetite, find what that is really asking you to go for and find and eat like, No, I mean, most of what we see advertised and available to us in the diet culture, right is telling us to squash that appetite. And don’t you dare possibly enjoy food? Or if you did, if you if you actually really did, think about that and know what you really enjoyed with food, you are not going to be trusted, like you are going to go out of control. And so if you right, that enjoyment would be the exception to the rule, like sort of the indulgent Oh, I think about all those like yogurt commercials of like, very thin women like having this sort of sexy experience with like a crimper lay flavor. Yo play. Yes, maybe that’s very nine days, but it is but I remember it was like this indulgence of follow your desire, but you know, should be the exception to the way that you eat rather than the rule. Yeah, yeah. And Ellen Sattar in her book secrets of eating healthy family. One of the stories that she shares in the section related to the food acceptance skills, name’s Larry Linder, as a nutrition writer that named the fact that even in the development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, when the phrasing was being chosen, there was debate around enjoy a variety of foods or eat a variety of foods. And that the US government has always chosen eat. Because there was a debate and conversation around enjoy would lead to too much of the indulgence or too much of the pleasure or isn’t communicating the right message. So American.
Unknown Speaker 9:06
So I think that’s a good anecdote and kind of a picture of like, what happens when this doesn’t go? Well, you know, is that we are in the present day a product of trying to squash our enjoyment and our appetite when it comes to our food relationship. And instead try to make it all about the nutrients and the my pyramid and my plate. And so we’re going to be talking about kind of how these eating competency skills apply, and how they can be built for different people in different phases of life. I want to talk first about how this looks as a parent, teaching a child how to eat or buying food for their children, etc. And I just want to say, from the get go, we’ll be doing this in all four of the series to kind of understand these processes. And we’re starting with
Unknown Speaker 10:00
The parent because we were all parented at one point. And so to think about our relationship with food, we have to first think about where it all started. And what we might be still holding on to in terms of the ways that we’ve, we’ve understood how to eat, what to eat, when to eat. So let’s start there now. And we can think about both what that looks like, actually, for a child, and what that might even look like for our inner children as well. Yes, that’s great. Yeah, as a child, their food acceptance skills are starting to be developed, all of these skills are developed, even in that beginning of infancy into childhood. But food acceptance skills, especially, specifically, is just enjoyment, again, we’re coming back to the appetite. And you think of as a parent to a child, there’s attentiveness to a child’s cues around that, and then also their response to eating. And especially I think of the infancy and when the solid food starts to be introduced. And there is more of an exploratory kind of experience with food. And that’s where food acceptance skills really get to be experimented with is that okay, so a parent in their household, you know, I don’t know pee, and chicken and pasta are regularly served in that household. And so therefore, when they start to do solids, for their children in that household, they start to give them little bits of that meals, and maybe off their own plate, or maybe it’s just on their little highchair, whatever it is, right, whatever that style might be for each family. But I think the reality is that as that child is exposed to something brand new, what does it look like for them to experiment and to find enjoyment, to be introduced to something so brand new, doesn’t always lead straight to enjoyment? Right. So one of the things that’s talked about in food acceptance skills, is that with the parent child feeding relationship, the parent does have to allow there to be a lot of trials of food, as a child is trying to take in a new food, and to get to food acceptance. So we may see a child touch food, maybe take food and schmear, it on their body schmira just on the plate, maybe throw it right, put it in their hair, and then some gets in their mouth. And some actually taste their taste buds, but maybe they’re just smelling it. And that’s enough of an first exposure to it. So experimenting with those new foods is a beginning point of food acceptance.
I was just thinking about some of the complexities of that for a parent trying to feed their child, particularly like a parent on a budget is watch watching their child throw, like food across the room. I’m sure that would be enraging. And it would be hard to think about, oh, this is just experimental. Like, my child gets to just enjoy this. Yeah, it would be so hard.
Yes, yes. Yes, there are so many buttons that can push for a parent. If it’s the financial, maybe it’s cleanliness, maybe it’s personality and time, I would say that that as a parent was probably one of the hardest parts of it is like fine figuring out how much time do you let them explore with the food? before you’re like, Okay, meal done, you know, because there were parts of that that was pretty uncomfortable for me. So I think you’re right, yes, it does make lots of challenges there. The other part to the parents experience of developing these food acceptance skills for their children, is that a parent’s role in the feeding relationship is decide what foods you’re going to serve in your family. And I think it’s really a powerful thing to stop and pause as a parent to go, Okay, what are the foods from my upbringing that I want to continue to have in my own household? What are the foods that that represent traditions that are a part of my eating, and also what are the some other cultural practices or beliefs or routines and rituals that come along with food that are also true to who I am that I want to also pass down to my children. And it is, as maybe you even listened to in a recent podcast or food memories podcast, talking about food brings up joy, and it connects to emotion. And so as a parent, to help with food acceptance skills, it is just a knowing that that upbringing, your traditions, your cultural beliefs, and practices and rituals, matter, to helping your children also develop those food acceptance skills. So I think of all of those aspects, but I guess I would just encourage the parent that wants to try to develop their child’s food acceptance skills, to just have a lot of patience and continue to offer food right, you know, the offer a lot of different kinds of things. And then being consistent, and that is going to help your child be able to grow in familiarity with those foods, and that messiness, maybe it is the peas and the spaghetti or whatever you’re putting on that and you
Unknown Speaker 15:00
I know that the jumping into kind of thinking about in the eating disorder recovery process. When I think about food acceptance skills, it’s actually one of the phrases that we find to be the most applicable because we find so many clients that have stopped having food acceptance skills, they like no longer can come to an environment where there’s new foods that they have either, or foods that they have chosen to reject and their eating disorder. And they therefore don’t know how to handle the eating environment anymore, because they aren’t able to be flexible in the moment, they aren’t able to just eat to feed themselves in that moment. And we have to go through a process we find a lot of the exposure work that we do in the eating disorder treatment environment, is this food acceptance skill building of them going, Oh, wait a minute, that food in front of me, I kind of am scared by it again, even though maybe I was introduced to it as an infant, and I did all of that messy stuff. But wait, I’m 25 I’m 45. And now am I supposed to like just put it up to my mouth and touch it? Or just that smell? I can’t do it. You know, it’s not like socially appropriate anymore, right to do what we did in infancy when you’re an eating sort of treatment, but we find that that’s kind of what the clients almost need. Is that opportunity. I’m sure you saw that Carter when you were no i i definitely did. And I was just thinking specifically about the i don’t i don’t know why i had a meatball sub in my mind. But I did. The meatball subs were definitely served at Opel at times. And that’s a food that you eat with your hands and is messy. And I’ve heard you say so many times, like, okay, eat it with your hands. Like don’t we’re not taking a knife and fork to that, like try it with your hands first. You know, and and you’ve said that about these foods that I think as an adult someone’s trying to be very careful with and very clean with and someone that has a disordered with disordered relationship with food might fear that messiness, for a lot of different reasons. But it’s intriguing to me to think about that in this context, that the adult in them that’s sitting at the table might go, Oh, no, no. And yet, they have to sort of invite this younger part of them to be like, okay, it’s, it’s just going to be messy. It’s gonna be, it’s gonna be awkward. Maybe I might get sauce all over my face. And the sandwich might break in my hands. But maybe this is gonna be delicious, delicious part of there’s so much that blocks one’s thought that they’re going to enjoy the foods that they have lived without in their eating disorder. So well. I don’t need that. Right. But yeah, it’s been it. That’s exciting burritos, I think another good one like that. Yeah. What would this look like for a healthy adult? I think all of us that kind of are just eaters out there. I do think there are ways that maybe we also have not allowed for ourselves to be a kid, sometimes in the food environment. And maybe you’re someone who’s connected to enjoyment and appetite. I think just let yourself rejoice in that. And allow yourself to know that is a very important skill in your eating competency. And know that that matters. And don’t throw that out as something that is just, of course you enjoy food and have a drive to eat. I would say no, there are a lot of people who have lost that. And so rejoice in it, be grateful for it and continue to nurture that.
Unknown Speaker 18:16
And if you’re someone who is still afraid of your enjoyment, and fear your drive to eat your appetite, perhaps you don’t like to try the samples at the grocery store. Or don’t want to suggest to your friends that you want to try that new restaurant down the street this weekend. Because you’d be fearful of your appetite being seen. Maybe take a pause, explore that and reorient yourself to your appetite. Perhaps maybe taking a risk to express that enjoyment with food to a friend or follow your whim to try that new flavor of ice cream that you’ve had your eye on. I love that. Yeah, it made me think of this past weekend I was not feeling very good and had sort of been lying around in bed and had not had a breakfast yet. And then I was like I don’t want to move like I’m just so tired. And so I had to consciously think like Okay, is there any food that sounds remotely good to me in this moment? And let’s get you to that place that has that food like make something work to get your body right now because obviously you need to eat and don’t think I had tried in such a long time to just consciously think of like what is what is the like only thing I’m gonna enjoy right now or what is what is that and it was such an interesting sort of skill to use to get me eating just when I was feeling ill
Unknown Speaker 19:31
because it’s such a motivator if we can connect to some enjoyment. Yeah, well and in these four eating competency areas, food acceptance skills also speak to moments where you do just need to eat also and so sometimes it like I think your tool of using enjoyment as the draw like going oh, that’s but yes, like I’m gonna find some that tastes really good. is part of that. I think
Unknown Speaker 20:00
There’s also a moment where we just need to accept what’s in front of us. So if you’re in the midst of a busy day at work, or you’re in a foreign environment, if it’s in a different culture or in a different person’s home or something, to also just be able to accept the food and nourish your body. So both places like is a food acceptance skill, I think. So I also think that that is a important skill to nurture to be able to accept. And yes, enjoy can also be on a range maybe right like enjoyment to blissful like, wow, is there a pleasure, but also to just know that you can be feeding yourself and you can be proud of that and be kind of enjoying the fact that you’re feeding yourself to?
Yes, yeah, that’s such a good point. Sometimes it’s just about what is exactly in front of you.
Yeah, but and that’s like, that’s the draw the appetite, right? Like you’re going going, wait, I know, I need food. And this is what’s here. And so therefore, I’m going to do it. This is why I love that we named that the podcast, the update, because there’s just so much nuance on it. And it covers so many different bases in terms of what it feels like to be human, maybe to really stretch it very far. But I feel that way, that it’s about listening to desire, and it’s about listening to need, and it’s about needing to sort of do all of that at once and try to make sense of the world when you’re someone with an appetite. Yes, yes.
Thank you so much for joining us today and learning a little bit with us and with me about food acceptance skills. We are going to be pausing here and coming back next time with our second part of the series, we’re going to be talking about eating attitudes. If you want to learn more and do some research of your own. In the meantime, definitely check out Alan souders book. It’s called secrets of feeding a healthy family. I do not have a family that I am trying to feed and I have still found it quite helpful, both as a clinician and as a person, just eating so check it out. And if you want to learn more about opl make sure that you’re following us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter or all three if you’d like. If you want to learn more about our programming, make sure that you go to Opel food and body calm as well. Just you know there’s often some fun stuff going on on our Instagram. Often after the episode we will be adding little tidbits or shots from our recording time. So if you’re not following along there, that can be extra fun to find us there as well. So join us next time for the second of this series. And make sure to subscribe so that you are up to date on our releases. Thank you so much for listening and thank you to Daniel Gunther at jack straw Cultural Center to Aaron Davidson for the appetites, original music and to Hans Andersen for editing. Talk to you soon. Bye
Transcribed by https://otter.ai