Russell’s Real Lives
Taking the fuss out of fussy eating – Martin’s Story
Meet Martin – lively, outgoing, fun, funny, smart and… a fussy eater. What Martin didn’t eat and wouldn’t eat was a long list indeed. In fact, in Martin’s case he’d simply said, ‘no thank you’ to all fruits and all vegetables for as long as anyone could recall. This poses a real problem and an emotional challenge for any parent. When his mom Kamini first approached me, she explained that she was extremely concerned about Martin’s very limited diet, which did err towards the unhealthier side of the food spectrum, but also that his fussiness around eating was stopping him enjoying and experiencing new tastes and flavours – something which was important to this traditional food-loving family.
She explains “Here was Martin, now at 8 years old and still not eating anything with colour, texture or natural flavours was breaking my heart. We couldn’t understand how it had happened or how best to overcome it. I had tried so many different approaches to change his fussy eating habits, but nothing had worked” she continues “Most people have an opinion on how best to overcome the fussiness – from denying the child ‘this or that’ food to ignoring the issue saying he will ‘grow out of it’. As his mom, I knew it was more than just a phase he was going through and if anything, I could see it was getting worse.”
When I met Martin for the first time at my office in Dubai, I intrinsically understood the label ‘problem’ could be in itself, part of the ‘problem’. And after speaking with Martin and Kamini and working through some initial exercises I knew the direction we needed to go in.
I’d work with Martin on some gentle hypnotic suggestions, designed to open-up new pathways of discovery for his mind. And at the same time closing-off the fear of the new he’d been associating with fruits and vegetables. After a few sessions of building and re-enforcing these messages we’d be ready to move onto some practical life-coaching with a twist and this twist was introducing some fun into the equation!
Kamini takes up the story “I was already thrilled with what Russell had achieved with Martin, he was so much more open to trying small amounts of new things. So, when Russell said the next session would take place in the kitchen and not the office I was a little sceptical. But wow, what amazing perception Russell turned out to have. Martin had done the theory and now it was time to understand food more, and put what he’d learnt into practice. To see Martin having such a good time was so wonderful, he was absorbed in what he was doing, the practical tasks Russell was setting were fun and there he was actually tasting the fruits of his labours!”
Irrespective of the issue at hand, there is one unifying feature that all parents have, they are racked with guilt over why their child has an issue to overcome. Surely it must be their fault in some way… Kamini asks “There was no real moment when Martin ‘decided’ he was going to refuse certain foods, it was a simply that he’d always rejected whatever and however it was put in front of him – did I do something wrong?”
The first myth we need to dispel is that a fussy-eating toddler or young child is always the product of poor parenting – this is not the case. In fact, some children are genetically predisposed to having this fussy eating trait and although this research is in its infancy, it’s now widely recognized that these genes play a key role in their willingness to eat, or even try, new foods.
Are parents completely let off the hook then? Not entirely, as there are some things that all parents should be aware of. (These are over and above the obvious concerns around a poor and limited diet, which can lead to obesity and health issues in later life).
On average, a child needs to be offered a new food 15 times before he or she will eat it, so perseverance is required. Eat your meals together as a family if possible, unfortunately in this day and age family meal times are being eroded – think back to how important meal time used to be. Try giving smaller portions and always praise your child for eating, even if they only manage a little. If your child rejects the food, never ever force them to eat it. Simply remove the food without comment and endeavor to stay calm! Remember your child may just be a slow eater so do be patient with them.
And the last word from Martin’s proud mom “I just can’t believe my eyes! Martin is now trying so many new foods. He is so full of energy and wants to explain to everyone how he’d learnt all about diet, nutrition and cookery. And of course, how he’d been dancing with Russell Hemmings!”