Intutive eating is something I feel very strongly about.
It's an ability we are all born with. Unfortunately most of us loose it along the way.
Remember kids wanting to eat all the ice cream or chocolate bars so bad, but having eaten half of it they just leave it cause they've had enough? they're just not hungry anymore?
Now remember when did you last just stopped eating a piece of cake halfway through and left it, because you felt satisfied? The answer is probably a long long time ago, that you probably don't remember. Most of adults, of course not all but most, would eat it all just because it's tasty, disregarding the fact that physically they've already had enough.
Coming back to children most of them still have the natural ability that our body posses of feeling hunger and satiety, thus eating acording to that feelings. It's something that naturally allows our organisms to motivate us to seek food when it's needed and stop when it has had enough.
And for thousands of years it worked. The reason why is because we used to eat food in its unprocessed form. Containing all its micronutriens, fiber, water and ultimately volume. All of those things ensured proper functioning of hunger and satiety control system. Unfortunately a lot of the foods we are now consuming has been processed in a way that deprives it from most of these elements. So in result we eat more than our body actually needs cause the hunger-satiety control system has been hijacked. That's the reason why eating mostly unprocessed, especially plantbased foods is so important.
But I'd like to focus on some things, apart from processing the food, that messes with that natural ability to control the amount of food we consume. It all starts when we are kids, and more precisely with adults dealing with kids.
You probably remember hearing most of things when you were little, at least I do very vividly.
'if you want to eat dessert, better finish everything on your plate'
It doesn't matter if you'll be extremely full after that. You can eat more only if you ate even more before. For me it's nonsence. I'm not saying we should let kids eat whatever they want, and dessert first, but forcefeeding will do way more harm to kid's relationship with food, than occasional dessert before dinner. Teaching kids that they can eat sweet only after 'normal meal' a lot of times actually teaches them to eat regardless of being full, not beacuse of hunger but beacuse someone said they can.
*Similarly with opposite scenario. When a kid eats some sweets first and says he's alredy full and don't want to eat anymore right now. Don't force a "normal meal" and ruin that amazing ability of hunger-satiety control system. When you'll force a kid to eat even though he's not hungry enough times, eventually he'll eat even when he's not hungry more and more. Just let the 'not proper meal' digest and than offer healthy 'proper' meal when a kid actually is hungry.
"it's rude not to try, your aunt (anyone) has put a lot of affort into it. You have to at least eat a little bit"
Another reason to eat that has nothing to do with our body's needs. It's the hunger, physical hunger, that should make us want to eat. Yes, the person who prepared the meal probably has put work into that, but just a simple "no thank you, I'm not hungry" should do. I've learned to answer very politely "I'm sure it tastes amazing and you really put an effort, I appreciate it, but thank you I'm not hungry" And surprisingly it usually works.
Shaming kids for eating too much
If you shame a kid that he or she ate too much it won't create positive relationship with food and assure that next time they'll eat "the proper amount". No, it will just make them feel scared and anxious next time. They'll wonder if they should eat that much even they feel like it. Instead of eating as they feel they'll start to question that ability of natural control. And if they're more sensitive or more susceptible it's a recipie for a future eating disorder.
When visiting a home with kids always bringing sweets
"But you have to buy some sweets for kids", "can't come empty handed".
In my opinion that's just bullshit. If you want kids to like you and remember you in a good way spend some quality time with them, play lego, play hide and seek or just run around with them. It will stay in their memory for way longer than a chocolate bar they got from you.
Giving kids sweets isn't bad but it doesn't have to be on every possible occasion, and it as well can be some homemade plantbased sweets using dates, nuts, some dried fruits or dark chocolate. They'll still eat it with taste and it for sure will be more appreciated, even if just by the parents.