Family Customs Dr Viola Zulian

Family customs

My generation is the daughter of post-war children. Our parents experienced famine and poverty. Hunger was customary and frugality was not a lifestyle.

This meant that we grew up with the obligation to finish our meal before getting up from the table. There was no way for waste, it was not even conceived. Simply, since most of them had experienced food deprivation, they admitted nothing but praise for opulence.

De Crescenzo wrote in his biography “I was lucky” describing the war time: …we removed the wallpaper to lick it… because once it clung to the wall with a mixture of water and flour. And that was their source of daily carbohydrates.

This attitude of “having to finish the dish at any cost” gives me a hard time in my daily practice  at the clinic. Most of the problems stem from the fact that in doing so we entrust the evaluation of satiety to an object (the dish – which can have infinite shapes and sizes), without even asking ourselves the question about what our stomach feels.

Food conditioning begins as soon as we are born, when a baby cries, the mother takes it in her arms and attaches it to the breast. Hands up who first didn’t try to give him milk while knowing that the baby wasn’t hungry: me first. Yet by doing so inevitably and unknowingly, we create a link between frustration and food.

Do you have a comfort food? People often include something white and creamy, such as breast milk, among comfort foods: ice cream, cream, milk, cheese, milk puree.1

The link with food continues indissoluble throughout childhood and adolescence “if you do the good I buy ice cream” or “if you take a good mark you will have a nice dessert”. Positive reinforcement is a pedagogical method of which I myself speak. Declined in a food sense, however, may have its price to pay. Will the child expect the prize every time? will develop the association “physical or psychological hurt: => chocolates box “?

Far be it from me to judge the method, I am not a pedagogue. I don’t throw the first stone because I think I used it as a prize recently with my younger son. He had chosen cotton candy if he had done all his homework during the week; (incidentally the objective was not reached and the prize was not consumed). What I tell myself is that if it is a one-off prize, it can maintain its educational value, but not every day 5 times a day.

As an adult, external influences arrive, advertising, marketing, consumerism tell us what to eat, when to eat and why to eat.

Our mind set on the parameter of Western capitalism, believes it needs the snack to regain concentration, a Müller yogurt to make love with the taste, a Coke to have a sexy guy who hands it to us.

In doing so we listen to the inputs that are imposed on us to be happy.

As doctor Berrino says, former medical director of the Italian Cancer Institute, this morning in his interview with the Corriere della Sera, our obesogenous society needs more and more things to feel happy but in reality we know very well that buying industrial and packaged food increases the problem as it this market has an economic, health, and environmental weight.2

So here is that when we have a disappointment, a confrontation, a financial problem, what happens in English is called self-soothing, self-insurance. We eat as if there were no tomorrow until the voices, thoughts and emotions were placated. Needless to say, they will return to the surface quickly and this is the same mechanism that induces them to take drugs, drink or smoke.

I’m not here to do the moral, nor to give a magic pill of wisdom that resolves these vicious circles.

I believe rather than:

1. Mindfulleating
We need to regain our food sensations, learn to recognize them and teach our children mindful eating
2. Pink elephant
if I ask you not to think of a pink elephant, the first thing you will think of is a pink elephant. By this I mean that there is no prohibition in an absolute sense. Otherwise both the adult and the child will become a challenge to transgression.
3. Tasting
In my house this rule applies, you taste at least 2 spoons, if you don’t like it there are no forcing, but not even then «you can eat what you want instead»
4. Questions
Am I serving again because I’m really hungry? Am I eating for gluttony? Why don’t I want to waste? Why so is my mindset? The problem with many of my patients is that they only hear the message of overeating, that is when the stomach is overflowing and its containment capacity is at the limit (i.e. pre-vomit)
5. Hara hachi bu
“Eats until you are eighty percent full” this saying was born on the island of Okinawa, which welcomes one of the longest-lived populations in the world; it means getting up from the table when there is a pleasant sense of satiety and we have the impression that we could still eat a little something. No, let’s wait, let’s enjoy the feeling for a few minutes and then eventually indulge in a fruit.3

With gratitude,

 Firma Dr Viola Zulian

[1] Mindful eating , Jan Chozen Bays

[2] intervista-berrino-segreto

[3] Japonisme, Erin Niimi longhurst, HarperCollins