Having picky eaters has taught me so much as a parent. I have endured an agonizing amount of dinners where my children refuse the food I've prepared, and push their plates away and whine for something different. And each time, I've felt a gripping fear that my children would never learn how to eat, and ultimately that I'm a bad mother for not raising better eaters.
Oof, it hits like a punch to the stomach.
Our journey to peaceful family dinners has been harrowing, and hard won. I've made plenty of mistakes along the way: short-order cooking, begging, bargaining, and forcing them to take bites... usually this ended in tears (for me and my children). But after what seemed like the hundreth time of serving carrots and having my children whine, in a moment of sheer exasperation, I managed to finally raise the white flag and say, "You don't have to eat it. You're the boss of your body." From that point on, dinners were different. Better. As I wrote in my book, Raising Intuitive Eaters, "the tension left our dinners like air out of a tire." AND paradoxically, the more I let my children take ownership of their intake, the better eaters they became!
These days, if you were a fly on the wall of our family dinners, you'd probably hear us tell our kids over and over, an obnoxious amount of times:
"You don't have to eat that -- you're the boss of your body."
"Your brother doesn't want you to hit him -- remember, he is the boss of his body."
The phrase that began as a white flag-- a zen mantra that calmed me at every dinner-- as evolved into a message about body empowerment, consent, and autonomy. Hopefully, my kids are learning that they get to have control over what happens with their body, with food and physical touch. And that nothing should happen without their consent. When diet culture seeps into my kids lives, I want them to have the wherewithal to say, "Hey, I'm the boss of what I eat. Not you."
Now the phrase, "you're the boss of my body" rolls off my tongue so easily, I've said it to several of my clients in session. "It's okay if you don't want to try [that] -- you're the boss of your body!" I wish I could describe the mixture of reactions! It's such a basic concept, but I don't think people are used to hearing this, at all -- especially not from their health care providers.
Do you know you can refuse any type of medical intervention (like getting weighed) that feels uncomfortable? You are the boss of your medical care.
What does that even look like to be the ultimate authority on what you need, what feels good, and what does not? To determine you'll allow, where you'll draw boundaries. To feel into what is pleasurable, energizing, nourishing; versus what is painful, triggering, or unproductive?
Being the boss of your body is being the expert owner of your physical vessel, and the compassionate shepherd of your sacred soul.
Were you allowed to be the boss of your body growing up? Were you allowed to determine what/how much you ate? Or were there stipulations and rules around food: "finish your veggies if you want dessert."
What life experiences have impacted your ability to trust your body? How has this shaped your relationship with food? Movement? Self care?