Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Need help and suggestions....

Okay, so when I was growing up we were all card toting members of the Clean Plate Cult. You ate what was on your plate until your plate was clean. However long it took, you sat at the table. My parents grew up with parents who had survived The Great Depression and I quite clearly recall my grandparents having a slice of bread at every meal. The function of that piece of bread being to wipe the plate after most of the food had been eaten. Then, they ate the bread. Not a speck of food was wasted. So I get that. I understand the history and background of the cult.

I also understand eating disorders. Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge eating and Obesity. I don't understand them very well but I know just enough to be certain that Genea is an eating disorder waiting to happen. Her obsessive need for control, her compulsion to manipulate her environment, her hyper vigilance and constant elevated stress level. I get it that eating disorders are not about the food. Every couple of months she will go through a spat where her behavior focuses on food. Asking for extra and not eating it. Refusing to eat, then stealing food later. Hoarding food, hiding food in the trash, binging, all the usual. Want to tell her she has to eat? She will, and then she will spontaneously vomit. She doesn't need to gag herself, stick fingers in her throat or anything. She will just sit there, and then *splat* she pukes. She will binge drink her water or milk so fast that it chokes her and gags her and her face turns red and she is still trying to force more liquid in while she is coughing and it is flying out the sides of her mouth and down her shirt. She is in absolute control of this, and if I give her a spoon to get her liquids with for one meal *poof* problem over. The Husband and I are to where we can tell when she is being a regular bratty fussy kid versus having a RAD attack, but we are not going to ask anyone else to figure out the difference.

Here is where I need help. We are going to visit grandparents who are proud high ranking officials in the Clean Plate Cult. They are incessant about it. When they are not actually physically trying to force food on my kids, they are talking about their food intake in front of them. I have hinted to them to quit. I have outright said, quit it. I have taken food out of the hand trying to feed my child and said STOP IT. The Husband has tried to explain orphanage related eating issues. Has tried to tell them we want our girls to learn to moderate their own food intake. That Genea is coming from different circumstances and we just cannot make food an issue with her. And we cannot make it an issue with Teena either. I have told them over and over, we want the girls to stop eating when they are ready and to be able to figure out for themselves when they are full. To listen to their bodies and moderate what they eat as to how hungry they are and then to know when to stop.

The kicker is, both of these people are overweight. One directly attributes her weight to being made to clean her plate as a kid. Now she freaks out about food being wasted etc etc. So it is not that they don't know, they just cannot seem to make themselves shut up. On and on and on about how much of this, how little of that, maybe we should give her this, we've never seen her eat an entire plate of food etc. "oh sweetie eat that little bitty bit of food for gramma" and "you make gramma sad when you don't eat your food" complete with a pouty face. I just cringe thinking about it.

So my last ditch effort is to send them some reading material ahead of our visit. Maybe if they see it in writing, writing done by professionals, maybe they will get it then. Because if they don't, I am going to have to supervise every. single. meal. and after that, I will have to insist that all my kids meals be had away from them, which the result of that is then I am making an issue out of their eating. Which is of course, NOT the point!

Here is where I need help. I can't seem to find any good comprehensive articles about trauma, orphanages and food problems. I don't need suggestions on how to tell them to piss off, since that hasn't worked either. I am looking for some basic information that connects all the dots, even if it is graphic. Maybe even better if it is graphic. We have Attachment Disorder, Failure to Thrive, Bipolar Disorder, Post- Trauma, and Post-institutionalization to pick from to start with.

For as much as I may get my nerves tap danced upon, these are two people that adore their grandchildren and would never in a million years want to hurt them in any way shape or form. They just don't understand and I need to MAKE them!!!

So please, if you know of anything I can print out or buy, leave me a link or let me know of a website or whatever. I will be SO eternally grateful!!!!!


  1. When you find something let me know. Our little girl can't leave food behind, even on someone elses plate, My step father in law is the offender, "your grandmother worked soooo hard and that meal and you're just going to leave it? That is not how you show appreciation" So, our girl has decided that if there is a speck of food to be eaten it must be or someone will feel bad. Now that she's full on obsessed with food he badgers us about her weight.

    I so wanna smack him, but he has letters after his name that cause people to come to him for advice. Well I didn't so shut up...
    apparently I'm bitter.

  2. I'm sorry, I wish I could help you. My daughter's father and stepmother have badgered her about what she eats for so long, that now, at a normal weight, she constantly thinks she looks fat. She missed Homecoming, because every dress made her arms look "huge". There is nothing huge about that child, but I know it's mental.

    I know they love your children but sometimes even the people who love us are bad for us, and maybe we shouldn't be around them. Maybe if you told them that they have to get control of themselves (as they are adults) or you would no longer be going to visit them, they might realize the seriousness of the issue.

  3. Oh, I so wish you luck! If I can, I will doing some Googling, although I am sure you already have. The Parents. Sheesh. My Dad still asks WHY my Radishes do the things they do...

  4. I think our families are like our kids, talking and lecturing doesn't work, we need creative action.

    How about a little game? Tell the girls the grandparents have a problem with talking about food all the time, and they need help stopping. Tell the girls to come and tell you every time they mention food and maybe give them a quarter, or make the relatives pay a fine in a jar, or just keep track in a jar so the relatives get a visual sense of how much they are doing it, or threaten the relatives to leave 1/2 hour early for every infraction. I can't think of the best combo right now but something along those lines.
    Or turn it around on them and as soon as you sit down for a meal, either you or the girls or everyone start with "Here grandma just a little bit more, come on, just a wittle bit, come on, you can do it, yumm yumm, here comes the airplane, good job, come on have some MORE..." nonstop :)

    I usually blurt out "food food food that's all you ever talk about" or "isn't there anything we can talk about other than food?" and now my kid says it too and the relatives laugh and it has helped a little.

    Sorry I don't have an article, I've read about it a lot but can't remember where.
    Well there's a very short paragraph here:

  5. I'm sure you've tried this, but I'll throw it out there anyway. When they say something like "gramma worked so hard to make this" or "there's just a little bit left" jump in with, "That's right, we shouldn't waste the food. But it's not good to eat when you're not hungry. Let's put the food in the refrigerator and you can always have some later if you get hungry."

    I used to have a cleaning the plate problem myself, even though my parents didn't have that rule. The problem is that my dad's from a poor country and was always telling us not to waste. As an adult, I have a huge variety of different sized plastic containers. If I'm full I stop, and even if it's just a few tablespoons left I put it in a tiny container, stick it in the fridge and eat it later. No guilt.

  6. How I wish I could help.....
    Needing help in this arena myself. Ugh.

  7. Yeah, I have been both direct and indirect and it doesnt seem to help.
    I forgot to mention that on this trip, the grandparents like to take the girls off by themselves. So that is where it gets hard because I need to KNOW they are respecting our wishes when we are not around, but when we are around, I can see that they are not. I just feel like if they understood HOW severe eating disorders ARE that you can DIE, they would be more serious about it.
    And I REALLY do NOT want to have to follow them all over town just to make sure they are doing this one thing, but I just cannot bend on it!!!
    Hmmm, maybe I should just write a note that says that and send it.

  8. I have wracked my brain about this. We have pretty well run the gamut with the food issues at our house. And I know I've read tons of stuff. But I don't know that I've ever seen it all compiled into one tight article or book chapter -- nothing that covers institutionalization and food issues, RAD and food issues, RAD and control, RAD and various types of adult feedback/attention, and the perils of eating disorders all in one go.

    For eating disorders and their perils, you might try the book Reviving Ophelia. It's been years since I've read it, but at one time it was the going thing on eathing disorders. You may find a short passage or series of pages early on in the book that you could give to the gparents to sum up the eating disorders issues and dangers. Then you could supplement that with a few tid bits on RAD and food issues, along with food issues in post-institutionalized children.

    I agree with you that this is a really serious issue, and I feel so strongly that you are right to be as concerned as you are. And I don't even have girls. We all know that girls are tremendously more at risk than boys to develop eating disorders.

    The kneejerk reactor in me wants to say that the gparents shouldn't be allowed to take G and T by themselves until you have directly witnessed complete reform on this issue when you are around. I would think you have to anticipate that there will be some slippage when you aren't around to observe. So it's a question of whether you want slippage from the current behaviour level or slippage from a reformed behaviour level. But of course G and T are your kids, not mine! And I know gparents are an incredibly important and special relationship.

    I feel for you on this one.

  9. Just a quickie because I don't know how to REALLY help. ;>

    From Dr. Federici:

    Adopting the older post-institutionalized child presents with an even greater risk than the infant-toddler. In remembering how children have lived in institutional settings, the older child has been exposed to even more years of vitamin and nutritional deficiency syndrome, poor medical care, a lack of developmental-educational experiences, in addition to being even further "detached" from maternal-caretaker relationships. The older child often develops a premature sense of independence and autonomy as they are left to their own devices to explore their institutional world; learn speech and language; toileting and eating habits; and relationships. Most of these developmental experiences are done without proper supervision, correction or effective discipline, and are often dealt with via harsh discipline, isolation to cribs or beds, or, more simply, placing all of the older children in a room together without toys, games, or recreation under adult supervision which leads to chaos and confusion and a very skewed sense of a family hierarchy. The child begins to see an "institutional hierarchy" which is very typical to the Darwinian Theory of "Survival of the Fittest". These older children learn habits such as fighting, stealing food, hoarding behaviors, indiscriminant friendliness or fearfulness of adults who randomly intervene. Often the caretaker interventions are no more than isolating the child back to their cribs or beds where they remain depressed, despondent and somewhat confused and disoriented as the only stimulation they may have is their immediate surroundings which is often bleak and impoverished.

    And then maybe a general risk-factor

    and consequences of


  10. (I don't know that the first will really help, because it's about children newly home, but it's all I could find on a quick search.)

  11. I don't know if this can help or not, but The International Adoption Clinic in MN might have some info. if you ask them specific questions.


    This is just a small portion of info from their eating section..."Normal' Eating

    In her book How to Get Your Kid to Eat, But Not Too Much, Ellyn Satter describes normal eating as "being able to eat when you are hungry and continue eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it. It is being able to use some moderate constraint in your food selection to get the right food, but not being so restrictive that you miss out on pleasurable foods. It is three meals a day, most of the time, but it can also be choosing to munch along. It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is in eating more now because they taste so wonderful when they are fresh. Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but is only one important area of your life."

    Additional Resources

    Child of Mine: Feeding With Love and Good Sense. Ellyn Satter, R.D.

    How To Get Your Kid To Eat, But Not Too Much. Ellyn Satter, R.D.

    The Handbook of International Adoption Medicine. Laurie C. Miller, M.D.

  12. The grandparents have food issues themselves. Asking them not to push food at your girls is like asking alcoholics not to make the drinks so strong when they're having a party.
    To some people food is love. Food is security. Food means connecting with family. The more food the girls eat the more the grandparents feel like they're doing a good job of taking care of them.
    This is all bullshit, of course, but you can't straighten people like this out. The best you can do is sit them down in private and tell them your daughters' health is in jeopardy if they are urged to eat more than a normal portion. Show them on a plate what constitutes a healthy portion and make it clear that it is not necessary for all the food on the plate to be consumed.
    Statements like "One more bite for grandma," and "I made this special for you. It hurts my feelings if you don't eat it" are not permitted.
    Make sure they know the issue is deadly serious and it isn't just some crazy newfangled idea that some trendy child psychologist put in your head.
    Your husband and you need to take a united stand so all the grandparents understand that you mean business. Don't let them take the girls out by themselves until you see that they are no longer forcing them to clean their plates.
    Good luck. The grandchildren's eating habits happen to be a tremendously stressful issue between parents and their adult children.

  13. Two thoughts... Firstly, I once heard someone say this and it resonated with me, then I mentioned it to someone in the "clean plate club" and I could tell their eyes were opened. Rare when that happens. The simple idea: I am not a garbage grinder. When you eat food that you don't need that is what you are being. The food is being wasted anyway.

    The other radical thought is - this is a visit. You don't like their approach, but do you really think that a few days in this special situation is going to completely undo everything you have done? I think kids have the ability to realize that this set of people lives that way and WE live this way. I'd liken it to my distress at letting some people take my kids to synagogue. The older kids stayed with a Jewish family when we went away one time. I had my knickers all in a twist about it, then someone looked at me like I was a moron and suggested that if two or three trips to a synagogue undid years of being Catholic probably something was seriously wrong with our family spirituality. I suddenly realized I was being a nutcase. I don't know if these things are analogous in any way, but its a thought.

    Could this food issue hit you in a particularly delicate place? Especially when beloved MIL is involved?

  14. THANKS for the links- I have printed them and am going to send them out in the mail. That is some good stuff people- I never even saw most of the websites before!

    I did seriously scour my brain to really think if I was making this into something bigger than it should be for any reason. I honestly spent quite some time trying to objectively think through MY motivation. It is true that the person this is coming from is up my last nerve and it pisses me off to no end that she is not listening, blowing us off, laughing, and persisting right in front of us. Yes indeed. Pissed off. So, are 5 days going to really matter in the long run up against advertisements, models, magazines, peers, negative role models etc that invade the lives of my girls when I am not even there? And, if there is some small damage, will it last?
    So after seriously confronting myself with my motivations, I decided that yes, this was a battle worth fighting. For Teena, not so much. The MIL even HAND fed Teena on another visit, and though it almost killed me I let it go. But Genea, she doesnt have much of the ability to change up her actions and reactions based on who she is around. When she learns a pattern, she LEARNS it and with her, she is just the type of kid you have to be 100% consistent with. While I truly would love for someone to insist Genea eat so that Genea would then vomit on that person, I really have to step up and say STOP it. She controls with food already. She doesnt have a strong foundation she is coming from like Teena does. Genea comes from a foundation that is cracked and leaky and crumbled down in the corners.

    Is it really so much to ask that close family be expected to try to understand and roll with us even if they think we are dead wrong or whatever they think?

  15. I may be - probably IS - just a power struggle. And the more you try to ask, cajole, tell, insist, educate, the more persistent she will be. I had a grand MIL like that. I didn't have too many issues apart from asking that the children use their manners and eat dessert only after the meal. But, once she heard me say that - she was off and running! She actually put a big piece of cake down in front of Aidan the moment he sat down at the table. Before grace, salad, turkey - anything. It was so obvious it was funny. But, in our case it didn't matter as much as it does in yours.


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