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  • Writer's pictureTalia Cooper

Put your toys on the lower shelf

Every morning my daughter runs to her play area and wants the toys that are out of reach— the stuffed animals up in the hammock, the puzzles on the top shelf, the blocks in the bin just an inch above her tallest stretch.

I used to think those were her favorite toys that I happened to put in the wrong place. I figured if I just put them on the lower shelves then she could get them herself and everything would be great!

At first this was true, but soon her attention shifted; she wanted the costume bin on the top shelf, the art supplies out of reach. I moved those farther down… and the same thing happened: she wanted the next top shelf toy. The toys on the bottom shelf just didn't have the same allure.

And that’s when I got it— this is what it's like to learn intuitive eating.

In the intuitive eating world we use the word “habituation” to describe an early phase in the process where you take foods previously labeled “bad” and give yourself full permission to eat them, thereby removing the power from that food. The food stops being naughty and exciting, and becomes just food.

Toy shelves are the perfect metaphor: habituating food is about moving your toys to the lower shelf. Put them right within reach. Eventually they’ll stop having that same power over you and become what they’re meant to be: regular old toys. You might still love them, but they'll stop being so aggravatingly, tantalizingly out of reach.

Take away the allure of forbidden foods and suddenly it becomes easier to think about your body and to wonder: “What do I actually like? What do I actually want?”

P.S. Pictured below is the perfect example: these sparkly pipe cleaners used to be stored carefully in the art supply bin and I kept hesitating to pull them out because I thought they should be for some special art project (???). My daughter wanted them everyday. Finally we put them in this wine crate (??) on the floor where they now sit, mostly untouched.


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