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January 05, 2010



Wow ~ what a great post about an interesting subject! I've thought some of the same things as an adult adoptee, but never really related my food issues to crying out for comfort before. Yet, so real.

Tonggu Momma

As an adoptive momma, I think about this often, most especially because we took my daughter in for weekly weigh-ins and worked with a registered dietitian during our first few months home as we fought off a failure to thrive diagnosis. And - wouldn't you know it - my daughter, now five, is a total foodie whose favorite thing to watch on TV is The Food Network and who wants to be a professional chef when she grows up. Much of what you said resonated with me. It's something I will continue to watch carefully as the Tongginator grows older.


i am often flabbergasted by the assumption that we are all so "different". in reading this it was incredibly, INCREDIBLY difficult not to breakdown. i felt like i was reading my history. i have not been adopted but grew up in an "alcoholic" family with a father who was absent due to the drinking, then literally when he began taking overseas work for years upon years (he only came back to the states in 1998). yes, they stayed married. twisted, strange, and unbelievable to me was the nature of their relationship and the damage was profound and so deep that it is with me still to this day. i've embraced the loss of him (essentially i have never had a father, not in the true sense of the word "dad")- and i've moved on. but the FOOD. my god how my mom doled this analgesic upon us. we each got our OWN soda 12 pack every week. we had a "junk drawer" with our OWN chips. a "candy" drawer. it's amazing we're not all overweight. i struggle but my entire family is lean and fit. but what is PERVASIVE is the obsession with food- from my dad- who to this DAY will first comment on your weight (gain or loss) to every sibling who is either "never eating" or eating too much. and if my most athletic and thinnest sister gains 5 pounds. well... it's what she talks about. such preoccupation with what will be consumed, when, how-

it's an illness in and of itself born out of our loss and all that was done to fill the void- to hush the violence- to quell our fear- to mend our breaking hearts.


Wow! I am absolutely blown away by this amazing post. Although I check your blog regularly as an adoptive mom of a Chinese daughter, I am also an eating disorders professional. As such, I am so moved by your beautiful, yet painful post, and you bring up so many deep issues. Thanks so much for sharing from your heart.


Great post. I definitely think I have a "weird" relationship with food. And I can totally relate when you talk about the idea of being "perfect". I think I still struggle with this.

Anywho... just wanted to say this was a great post.


This is an incredible post, Paula. Incredible. I have reason to think about this daily, as we're dealing with food issues with my 16 month old. Before I had kids, I wanted to do everything I could to raise them with a healthy mentality toward food. I was dx'd with Type I (juvenile) diabetes when I was nine. I was a tiny little kid - I weighed about 50 pounds at age nine - and spent the next six years hungry b/c back then, they kept us on a very strict, controlled diet. Insulin delivery was so antiquated (a few shots a day) and I suppose it was the best they could come up with at the time. But it was pretty awful. It was horrible for my parents, too, to have to tell a ten year old kid who is hungry (and on the small side) that she can have plain lettuce or a pickle. By the time the standard of care switched to carb counting, I'd literally been hungry for years. When I was able to start eating, I grew six inches in less than a year and gained enough weight to be a size 2 for my 5'7" frame. Issues ensued. Lots of them. I mean, OMG, I was huge. :) I still struggle with the issues. I wanted so desperately to raise my children, and especially my daughter, the "right" way with food. (This was NOT my parents' fault, BTW. This was medical care at the time.)

My son wasn't fed properly, but he came home, adjusted after a long time and a lot of hard work, and doesn't have any visible food issues right now. He's a light, picky eater by nature and he's typically small for his ethnicity as compared to Americans. He's entirely healthy, has been constant on the growth charts, eats when he's hungry and stops when he's full.

My daughter, on the other hand, came home with a horrible intestinal parasite, weighing 12 pounds at eight months of age. She couldn't keep anything in her little body - it came out one way or the other any time she ate or drank anything. She was always hungry. It was hard. Once we finally got rid of the parasite and she could keep food and formula down, she couldn't get enough. I'd watch in a mix of awe and horror as my nine month old baby ate two full peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, two giant bananas, and 12 ounces of formula. After she moved out of that phase, which lasted about four months, I was able to look at it objectively. I think half of it was a result of being frantic about having access to food, and the other half was true hunger and her body telling her what it needed to catch up. She grew almost six inches and gained twelve pounds in less than eight months.

Unfortunately, she uses food as a control tactic and meal time can be brutal. It's stressful and overwhelming and it concerns me for her future. As you said, women/girls have enough food issues when all other factors are "typical." Add in the lack of food from her early years, and the fact that she was adopted and lacked control, and you have a mama that thinks about it a lot. :) I'm sure she often read off of me when she was younger and I was worried about her being so small. I worked very hard to feed her when she was still sick.

Anyway, sorry for the long comment. As usual, thank you for sharing your incredibly perceptive and deep thoughts. So many of us appreciate them. I'm so glad to see you posting regularly again. You're a gifted writer.

Jae Ran

Hm, I left a comment before about food issues with children who were in foster care or institutions, but maybe the link I left made it go to spam. In any case, I want to encourage adoptive parents to think about the importance of food, and especially considering how adoptive parents control over food impacts kids who have experienced not having enough food or other issues around food security/control as babies and young people.

Very little is written about the relationship between food and loss. I wrote a piece on the www. mnadopt. com website, under "Fact Sheets" (under the Information tab) under Parenting, titled "Food Issues."

Paula O.

Thank you for the link, Jae Ran. (Sorry, I didn't see a comment from before.)

I found the article you referenced so helpful - as were so many other pieces under the Parenting tab - what an incredible resource. Here it is again for everyone - if you have a moment, please check it out:

And yes, we need to do lunch soon! :)


oh oh...
"Clean Plate Winners" is a terminology very common in my extended family. It came from my grandfather who grew up with a lack of food (not because his parents couldn't afford it, his father was a coal baron in the early 1900's, but because his father used it as control). So yes, he had "food issues" and always commended us grandchildren as "Clean Plate Winners". We joke, and sadly its true, that my grandpa can't finish a meal until he plans out what and where his next meal is going to be.


I also wanted to say:
I hope you don't mind, but I am going to write a post about this topic. Its very interesting and has compelled some thought. I'll be sure to link your original post!


Just found your blog and have been reading intently. I am a psychiatrist and I have a daughter adopted from Korea at 10 months. She was 25 pounds at 10 months, and very large by Korean and American growth charts. I think she had been fed anytime she showed any distress by her foster mother. I in no way mean this critically of her FM, she loved her very much and cared for her so well. Willow was eating 8X8 ounce bottles a day, and taking solid food at every meal as well. When she got home I let her feed on command and she only ate about 4 bottles and solid food. I know that in the 4 months she was with her fm, she was not underfed, so it was difficult for me to understand the food hoarding behavior she has exhibited from toddlerhood onward (she is 5). I thought why would she hoard if she was well fed, but you have opened up a different perspective. I don't think it was lack of food that caused her to hoard, but rather asserting control that she would have that form of comfort available if her fm (or primary caretaker went away). She had experienced loss at an early age and sustenence is so intertwined with role of caretaker. One other very interesting topic is her love of Korean food. We attend a predominantly Korean church, and Korean language school. I am a terrible cook, American, Korean or anyother cuisine. So she had not really experienced Korean food from the time she came home until about 1 yr later when we started attending Korean school. It was amazing watching this toddler, devour, Korean rice, Bulgogi and kimchi. From her first korean food (in america) until the present day, she devours it and can eat far more in quantity then any other type of food. SHe has firmly convinced me that babies acquire their mother's taste associations in utero! After reading this post, I think that when she eats Korean food, she strongly associates that with her early months, sustenence and connection with her mom, Korean fm and her life she left behind so she tries to get as much in as possible, in an attempt to "save some for later"

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