Wednesday, June 30, 2010

hotel food

One thing I feel like eating in hotels is microwaved popcorn and coke... I don't know why, but there is something indulgent about sitting in a big bed, watching TV and munching away! I've had to get lunch from the "pantry" so it's a "healthy choice" pasta dish, popcorn and coke.

Do you have travel food? Sausage McMuffin with egg and hasnbrowns is another semiannual fave or so... (sorry I don't know how to link on the "business center PC" but I wrote about this phenomena in May about appealing foods in certain contexts, and I don't know how to paste photos! I am a Mac victim...)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

But I'm not hungry!! How it feels to be pressured to eat.

Twice in the last week or so I have been pressured to eat when I didn't want to. Most of us can easily tap into the feelings we get when we are not allowed to eat, or when we are on a diet. Most adult Americans are currently ON a diet. I know that if I can't eat for whatever reason for an extended time (more then four hours) I will get anxious, irritable, grouchy and food pre-occupied. But, it is not often that adults get overt pressure to eat more...

Last week I was eating lunch with M and Hubby and I was chewing something. M leaned over and kept trying to put a chip in my mouth. "Just eat it Momma!" I would turn my head away, and when I turned my head back, there was the chip, pushed up to my lips which I kept clamped shut. (Does this sound familiar? I watched an almost-toddler go through this very thing at a restaurant last week. Dad kept pushing chopsticks with food at her mouth and she repeatedly turned away, adding a swat every now and then...) "No thank you, " I said after I had swallowed. I think she thought it was funny because she poked the chip at me one more time. I could feel myself getting angry. My body was tense, I was irritated and focusing on my frustration with her, rather than on the eating experience. "In this house we don't eat anything we don't want to. Please stop."

Then again, last week, I enjoyed a large and satisfying lunch only to have the next stop unexpectedly be a place with lots of wonderful foods– and the chef was there. The chef was so eager for me to try the foods that she verbally pressed me at least a dozen times to eat X, Y or try Z. I found myself getting really angry. In spite of several apologies that I was already uncomfortably full (I also topped the meal off with a hot coffee on a hot day) she persisted. I finally said, "I am so full that I am uncomfortable, I am sure your food is delicious but I am just not hungry. It's actually making me upset that you are pushing me to eat." Yet, she persisted... Finally I tried a few bites, and I specifically said, "I am not hungry, but I will eat this to make you happy." (The food was delicious, which I assured her.)

What surprised me in both instances was how upset, angry and physically tense I became. I resented that I was being pressured and pushed. I do this work all the time, talk to parents about how pressuring with feeding backfires, but I had usually been most able to empathize with pressure to eat less, not more food. It was fascinating!

I can only imagine if I was a toddler with the hair-trigger temper, where my main job developmentally is to assert my independence and "do it myself," how I would have reacted! (Moms and dads of toddlers can picture this as well!)

In the first scenario, I might have gotten so upset that I stopped eating before I was full. (It is hard to focus on sensations of hunger and fullness when you're upset.) In the second case, I overate to please someone else. (Might a pre-schooler do this to please a parent or favorite teacher who insists that all the "growing food" gets eaten before dessert?) In both situations, the pressure made it harder for me to tune-in to my internal cues and eat the right amount, and it spoiled the fun!

How do you feel when you are pressured to eat more or less food than you want?

Monday, June 28, 2010

teaching kids to overeat

The summer-camp brochures probably don't say, "We'll teach your kids to swim, paint, get along with others, and overeat!"

My husband told me that while I was in Denver, M asked him to pack her less food for lunch. When he asked why, she said that the camp teachers have a rule that you have to eat all of your other foods before you get your "treat," and she was getting too full but still wanted to eat her treat. (Note, her lunches usually have leftovers like stir fry and rice, and one or two sides which might be a baggie of cherry tomatoes or red pepper, or pickles, maybe some tortilla chips, or yogurt, or carrots, and about twice a week she gets a mini candy bar or fruit snacks for dessert...As with every other meal and snack, the idea is that she gets to pick and chose from what I provide and decide how much or if to eat. I can't predict her hunger so I often pack extra. Some days she eats everything I send, others barely a bite...

Hubby said he was surprised by how mad it made him. (I thought this was cute :) He was upset that they are trying to push her to eat and are interfering- of course he left it to me to deal with so I get to look forward to dropping M off with a note in her lunch bag that says, "M is allowed to pick and chose from what we pack her. If she wants to eat her dessert first and only that, that's fine. Please do not make her eat or finish parts of her meal to get her dessert. She knows how to eat. Please call me if you have any questions." I have told M to hand them the note if they try to tell her anything about eating.

I'll talk to the director and her teachers to get them to "back the $%##!!& off," in a nice way of course. You see, I too am angry that they are interfering with her ability to tune in to hunger and fullness. We work hard to feed well, and it is getting harder as she goes out into the world more, to protect her from harmful interference.

Though, I imagine most parents come in asking the staff the opposite– to make sure the kids eat their "growing food" before the "treats." I am always amazed how many parents pick their kids up from school and the first question is, "Did you eat all your lunch?" while digging out the lunch box and inspecting the contents.

There are lots of reasons why making kids finish their food or arbitrary amounts before dessert mucks things up. Here are a few
1) it teaches kids to overeat. Dessert can taste so good they will often overeat to get to dessert.
2) it teaches kids that the only good food is the treat, and all the rest is what you have to slog through to get to it.
3) it takes over the child's job with feeding, deciding how much to eat.
4) it is hard work for the provider and a waste of effort
5) it sets up a power struggle and conflict
6) children eat LESS well (less fruits and veggies) when pressured

How do your childcare/schools support or undermine your feeding practices? How do you deal with it?

update: this morning I was putting the fruit chews in her lunch and Hubby mentioned that the same baggie kept coming back last week uneaten. M even asked me then not to put so much treats in her lunch so she wouldn't get too full. Annoyed beyond measure, but happy that my little one resisted the pressure and still stopped when she was full...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

is emotional eating to blame for unhealthy weight gain?

Great Ellyn Satter newsletter (#46) on emotional eating. I couldn't say it better, or add much to this, so PLEASE take the time to click over and read it! Tell me what you think!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

easy leftover chicken enchilada casserole

While I'm out of town, here's a recipe for your files!

Whether you roast your own or get a rotisserie chicken, this is an easy supper. (Some stores, Lunds locally sell rotisserie chicken off the bone in the deli department if you're really in a hurry.)

Sorry for the less than appetizing photo. This tastes so yummy we got halfway through the pan before I realized I needed to take a photo!
This is a good one for kids to help with.

Chicken enchilada casserole
4-6 tortillas (white or whole wheat, whatever you prefer)
shredded cooked chicken (1-2 cups-whatever you have)
1 can black beans drained and rinsed
1 can mild enchilada sauce (mild to make it family friendly) or make your own
1/2 med onion chopped
about 1 cup (or more) shredded cheese (any melter will do, part skim mozzeralla, mexican mix...)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray bottom of casserole or square pyrex (can adjust layers for size of pan) with nonstick oil or rub some oil with a napkin into the pan. Have kids help tear up tortillas into 2 inch pieces. This can be really rough, not exact.

Heat a pan over medium with 1 Tbspn oil. Cook and stir the chopped onion for about 8 minutes, until soft and glassy. Add the shredded chicken, the drained beans and enchilada sauce (I usually don't use the whole can...) Heat the mix through.

Assembly: arrange 2-3 ripped tortillas to cover the bottom of the dish. Spoon on about half the mix. Sprinkle on about 1/2 the cheese. Arrange ripped tortillas on top, spread the remaining mix on top of the tortillas and spread the rest of the cheese.

Put in the oven and bake about 30 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbling. If cheese gets dark, put top on or cover with foil. All the ingredients are cooked, just need to be heated through.

Add extra spice for the grown ups if needed after everyone serves themselves... This is a great dish that you can assemble in advance and keep in the fridge until ready to heat. Add extra time if it comes out of the fridge. As you make this, you will learn if your family wants more sauce, more cheese etc. Follow recipes the first time through and think about what would make it better... (Maybe try refried beans? add corn into the casserole? make your own sauce?)

M doesn't reliably like this one (but I keep serving it) so I usually serve with sides she really likes like corn and a more filling dessert like pudding.

Monday, June 21, 2010

modeling manners for the tots

A simple way to get kids used to the language at the table is to model. Even the very little ones who are new to the family table can start to hear the patterns and pleasantness.

This was the phrase I often used and I think helped set the tone for the (mostly) lovely manners we still enjoy years later.

"Would you like some more carrots, or no thank you?"

"Would you like a cracker, or no thank you?"

The almost-toddlers and toddlers may not be able to serve themselves, but when you hold out that cracker or offer carrots you can model the language. With lots of little ones doing sign language, they can often sign for "more" or "all done" pretty early. This was handy for us, and M was adept at the "more" sign pretty early...

When you pass a plate or something to your partner or others at the table, say "please and thank you." Hubby also made a point to thank me for making such a nice dinner, and I thank him when he cooked. It does help to make the table a more pleasant and centered place, which can be tough when little ones are at the table with all the joy, mess and energy they bring!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

"but they're baked!"

I was having lunch at Subway yesterday. It was interesting. M asked to have a smaller sandwich since the last two times we were there she couldn't finish hers (6 inch) We ordered the kids' sandwich which was perfect. She enjoyed picking her toppings on white bread, she had extra pickles, green peppers, lettuce, ham and cheese. She ate a few chips with water. We had had strawberries with whipped cream and angel food cake for a special Father's Day breakfast :)

We are going to a new church and on the way there I said (I admit to trying to sweeten the deal of going to a new church on a sunny day...) "You'll see your teacher Jenny, and then after church we can have the cookies or a cupcake and meet some new friends." She replied, "I already had cake for breakfast. I had enough sweet stuff for today I think." A statement that my four-year-old self would have found crazy! It's interesting to me to see her be able to think about what she feels like eating and be very matter of fact about it. (Though this morning we had crying about why we were not having cake again for breakfast, "No, actually Mom, this is whining, not crying...")

Another family was at Subway and it was painful to watch and listen to. Three boys- and every bite, every choice was argued, and counseled. First the argument for 9 grain bread, then trying to get some veggies on the subs, then the argument over the drink. (OK, chocolate milk) then over the chips, "You know you have to have baked chips, you can have baked Lays or Sun Chips..." Then the kids tried this one, "Mom, can we have cookies, it says they're baked and fresh! That sounds good, right?" Mom shut them down on the cookies, "I know what you're trying to do and it won't work..." Then there was threatening over eating the sub (all three were white bread with turkey,) not just the chips and chocolate milk... Ugh. I felt bad for all of them, mom especially. I always have to stifle the urge to put my card or put a bookmark for Ellyn Satter's, Child of Mine on the table. I have experienced feeding anxieties and am sure mom is not happy about how feeding feels.

It doesn't have to be so hard, and kids will eat better if we let them do their jobs with feeding, stop pressuring and do our jobs with feeding. This Subway eaves-dropping ecperience seems pretty much the norm these days. Do you remember this much attention when we were kids?

On another note, I will be off for a workshop this week, so will be checking in only sporadically. I am getting some great feeding questions via email and blog and will check in with those in the coming weeks.

Kids are smart! Baked? What have your kids figured out? I remember a little girl I was seeing for rapid weight gain when I was in the clinic setting and practicing the standard medical model, and she said to her mom, "Mom, if we get that puppy I always wanted, I would be more active..." Pretty sad and smart.

Friday, June 18, 2010

what are your burning feeding dilemmas?

I'd like to start a new thread where I will ask you, readers, for your feeding or eating challenges and questions. I'll pick one a month or so to tackle on the blog... Are you game? You can send in the questions on the blog comments (helps others who may be going through the same thing or who might want to chime in with their own suggestions) or submit to my personal email. I won't be able to answer all the feeding questions in person. Please title the email, BLOG QUESTION.
Let's see how it goes!

ignoring the weeds and loving our bodies

I've spent a bit of time in our yard recently and realized that I don't enjoy it. I only see the weeds. I sit in my swing that I longed for, and pop up after about 3 minutes to pull weeds. Yesterday I walked by the side of the house, bent down to pull a bunch of weeds–my head was 3 inches from some gorgeous and delicate pink roses– but I didn't even notice them. I stood up to move on and caught a hint of their delicate perfume. I stopped. Looked at the roses, bent down and inhaled their fragrance. It calmed me, it made me happy. It got me thinking.

I hear moms say all the time, "I don't want to pass my body issues on to my kids." How many of us spend our lives only seeing our own "weeds" and ignoring our wonderful bodies? Do you look in the mirror and only see the pimple, the tummy roll, the bulge under the bra strap? We miss out on so much wonder and beauty, and spoil the experience of being in the garden ("life"-sorry for the cheesy metaphor) when all we see are the weeds.

It's not easy to turn this around. But here are a few thoughts. Consciously think about good things about your garden-body. At first this will likely take considerable effort, but let's rewire those brains and see what happens!

Write them down if you have to. Five things every day. Like,
1) "I went for a walk today and my feet didn't hurt." (I've had major feet problems over the years.)
2) when I smile, others smile back at me
3) It felt good when I got a hug this morning. M likes sitting on my knee and giving me hugs.
4) My hands can cut a red pepper into one long strip that coils up and is fun to eat.
5) I liked talking to my friend on my walk today, and I wasn't out of breath, even on the uphills

Focus on what feels good, what attributes you are proud of. This is not easy. We have largely been raised in a culture that encourages us to judge our worth based on our appearance, with a wholly unattainable ideal to compare to.

If you worry about passing on a negative body image to your children, maybe fake it at first. Start with being very conscious about not saying things out loud in front of your children. ("I hate my thighs," or "I can't wear a bathing suit with my tummy hanging out...") Both comments I have heard from women varying from sizes 0 to 18. I know I have far fewer "bad body" days since consciously watching what I say and think (it's pretty effortless now) for the sake of my daughter initially, but I have been happier as well.

I'm currently reading "Life Doesn't Begin Five Pounds From Now" by Jess Weiner about stopping the fat talk. I've also read Roth's "When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair." which I thought was fine as well. And remember, studies show what we know in our hearts, self-loathing and shame are not good motivators for being happy and taking care of ourselves. So back to the garden metaphor. Take time to smell the roses, and ignore the weeds. Fertilize your little garden with things that refresh and fulfill you. A walk? Some funny TV, spiritual practices, a few minutes with a book and some good chocolate?

A disclaimer: I am not an expert on this issue, and would love to hear from my readers about helpful resources etc. Am I off-base? How have your lives changed if you've been able to "rewire" your brain and forget the weeds, even if just for a little while?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

feeding through mood swings

Do your kids go from delightful to dark from week to week, day to day, minute to minute? Do you look at your partner with pride at her antics and think, "We're doing a good job!" one week only to say, "Do you know what your daughter did today!?"

From what I hear, this is fairly normal, particularly for small children, and their older counter-parts, the tw/eens. Whether it's hormones, growth spurts, or sleep deprivation, it happens and it's normal. But don't let these moods sabotage meals and snacks.

I am picking up M after summer camp these days and no matter what the snack is, she has a mini-meltdown over it. So, as the camp counselor is buckling her in (car pick up due to lack of parking) I get interrogated over the snack which immediately turns into howls of, "I don't like red grapes anymore! They taste like poison!" (Camp counselor smiling, trying to ignore the daughter of the feeding specialist...)

I grin and bear it, "Good to see you too honey!" and largely ignore the behavior. By the time we get home or hit the park things usually blow over and she's ready for the snack that I chose.

Handling the meltdowns:
  • Remember the Division of Responsibility. It's the framework that will allow you to weather the storms. You decide WHAT (when and where too) they eat. So, it's the grapes with cheese and crackers or nothing... Your child decides if and how much. If she doesn't want the grapes, reassure her that dinner is in a few hours and she can eat again, but only water until then.
  • Be reliable about structure and balance if you can. I think part of her problem is the snacks at camp are inadequate. A freezie-pop or cinnamon graham crackers is not a balanced snack. Including fat, protein and carb will even out blood sugars and fill their tummies until the next opportunity to eat. I pick her up and I think she's hungry, with low blood sugar after primarily refined carb snacks... (Luckily I get to pack lunch, and I offer an extra snack at pick-up to cover our bases until dinner a few hours later...)
  • try not to get sucked into the darkness. This is hard. I ignore the behaviors I don't like and reward good behaviors. Stay calm and neutral, especially about the food. It is impossible to rationalize with a kid in this heightened state of agitation. "But you love the grapes! YOU picked them out at the store last night!" will not help...
That's about it for now. Still working on some exciting projects. How do you handle the craziness that is parenting/feeding sometimes? I have found that turning up the radio to drown out the whining is not helping either :)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

no harm done? TV weight loss shows. We're all losers.

TV weight loss shows are all the rage, but of course are doing more harm than good, both to the cast and the audience watching. Here is an interview with one contestant about her experience, the eating disorder it triggered and how she is still not recovered.


Nothing better than a fridge full of yummy food and a meal plan for the next 5 days...
I am grateful, and think it's a lucky problem to have that in my giant (pretty standard these days) fridge I still can't find room for everything. I remember my nieces from Paris would come to visit and literally stand gaping in front of the enormous fridge. (Their kitchen was TINY, and they cooked amazing meals on a double hot-plate, toaster oven and a fridge and freezer that was the size of a medicine cabinet...)

My nieces would marvel at the ice-machine (last house, oh, how I miss the in-door ice dispenser...)

After a few days of eating out (kitchen floor is finally dry and protected) I'm looking forward to cooking again.

Have lots of exciting work stuff going on today, so a brief post :)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

dethroning dessert, when bribing with brownies isn't working anymore

It's a little nuts here. Breakfast on the floor on upturned laundry baskets, antibiotics and the upset tummy to go with it (me luckily, not M) and a house full of dust and toxic floor sealer smells, working out of the local coffee shop...
So, I am linking you to my colleague Kathleen Cuneo's newsletter to my thoughts on "dethroning dessert."

Let me know what you think? Are you a dessert briber? Does it work? Have you given it up recently? Are you afraid to give it up?

Monday, June 14, 2010

serenity in feeding

Well, summer camp has started, I'm on day two of antibiotics for strep (3rd time in 2 years-any adults out there had their tonsils out? I'm a little nervous...) so I need a little serenity. This is something I've been mulling around for awhile, though probably not the most original.

Feeding kids can feel crazy, from their irrational food preferences that change by the minute, to the societal pressures moms feel to do everything "right" (have a kid who happily eats all fruits and veggies, has impeccable manners, has a BMI between the 25 th and 50th% if she's a girl and between the 75 and 100th % if he's a boy...)

But, there are things with good feeding that we can and can't control. Feeding with the Division of Responsibility is a leap of faith. It's countercultural so you often won't get support from your family or friends, it goes against every media story or cultural norm to suggest that children can be trusted to eat a balance of good foods, get nutritional variety and eat the right amounts of foods, IF we do our jobs with feeding.

So here's my serenity prayer for feeding...

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
  • my child's genetic weight (may be high or low, can be healthy)
  • my child's temperament
  • my temperament
  • my feeding history
  • my dieting or eating disorder history
  • finances? kitchen set-up?
courage to change the things I can
  • feeding without pressure
  • being reliable about family meals and structure
  • offering a variety of foods
  • my attitude about my body
  • my attitude about others' bodies
  • my cooking skills
  • my "picky" eating
  • focus on healthy behaviors, not numbers on the scale

and wisdom to know the difference
(Knowing the difference is the key! This is where I hope to spread the word...)

    Friday, June 11, 2010

    "somehow we always end up talking about food..."

    Yesterday I was doing some voice over work for a video I'm working on for feeding preschoolers and a lovely woman was sitting next to me. She asked what my video topic was. "I'm a childhood feeding specialist. I help families who are struggling with feeding issues, from picky eating to weight concerns."

    She literally rolled her chair over and we started talking. Another mom at Legoland at the Mall of America confided, "Bribing with dessert used to be the only way to get him to eat anything else, and now that's not even working!"

    This happens all the time, at the park, the grocery store. People ask what I do, and then the questions begin. These are all well-meaning, loving, hard-working, devoted parents who are stuck with feeding, who experience significant stress around feeding, who get terrible advice, or no advice about feeding, who do what seems intuitive, what was done to them, and what is all around them– and it isn't working. We are investing too much time and emotion, investing a massive effort in trying to feed our children well, when many of our efforts are actually making things worse. Moms tell me how often playdate chatter turns into swapping sneaky recipes or trying to get kids to eat more veggies. "Somehow we always end up talking about food."

    I know when I started to have feeding concerns with my daughter, the only reason I was so proactive in getting help quickly is that I saw over and over as a family doctor how the standard model played out, how it didn't work. I thank my lucky stars that I found Ellyn Satter's work.

    Families struggle and agonize for years over feeding. I think because this struggle is the cultural norm, there is not the sense of urgency, or even the knowledge that it could be any different. It doesn't have to be so hard! A great resource is Child of Mine, or How to get Your Kids to Eat, both by Ellyn Satter. Still have questions? Give me a call or an email! I just had a lovely session with a mom from Mississippi who had a few questions to clear up. There is just too much bad advice out there (from our own moms to Parent magazines...) It doesn't have to be so hard!

    How often do you and other moms end up talking about food issues, picky eating, etc? I wonder again if this is a cultural thing...

    Thursday, June 10, 2010

    children's menus? around the world...

    I wonder, my worldly readers, about Children's menus. Most US restaurants have them, according to readers in China and Switzerland, most restaurants DON'T. Where do you live, and do you have Children's menus? I wonder if it correlates with nutrition info aimed at children?
    (My Swiss contact said, no children's menus and no nutrition info aimed at children. Coincidence?)

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010

    conflicting messages

    On the junkmail catalog there was a big line on the bottom
    How about, please don't send me this catalog that I didn't request...

    But, I digress, back to food. At the Rainforest Cafe yesterday (first and last visit) the childrens' menu was a PBS "Curious George Hop into Health and Fitness" that made me want to scream.

    "KNOW WHEN TO SAY WHOA! Try to avoid too many fried foods as well as sweets or snacks without any nutritional value." it admonishes the Kiddies as they ogle desserts bigger than their heads.

    Meanwhile the children's menu offered grilled cheese, dinosaur chicken nuggets, hot dogs, mac n cheese, popcorn shrimp, coca cola products, fries (it did have carrot sticks and corn as an option) and the dessert featured was a volcano of chocolate brownie cakes with ice-cream and a chocolate lava big enough for half a dozen kids at least (menu said serves 2 or more...)

    This nutritional info is aimed at small children. This is not OK. Labeling foods as good or bad confuses kids. It is not a child's job to decide what foods to chose, it is his job to decide how much and if to eat it. The focus for kids and food should be variety, good taste, and joy, not fear, shame or avoidance...

    I could go on about why we have children's menus in the first place, but that is another post.

    I ordered the nachos (gross with a cheese sauce, not real cheese) that was a huge portion for M and I to share and we left most of it behind. M had a mini burger and corn which was buttered so she didn't like it. She only ate half the mini-burger. That morning we had mangoes and tortilla with butter for snack.)

    Would you all be willing to scout out "nutrition messages" that are aimed at small children in the next few days and report back? What do you notice? Are there "health" messages that might confuse kids? Pretty pervasive, no?

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010

    reality bites, why not forbidding "forbidden foods" works

    As a child, my parents were pretty strict about all things "crap," from Barbies to food. I have vivid memories of begging FOR YEARS for a slushie. You know, those neon red frozen concoctions. While my friends had Shirley Temples or enjoyed slushies poolside, I coveted and whined. I don't remember my first one, so it couldn't have been that great...

    Similarly, I remember a vacation in the New Hampshire mountains with relatives who taught at the ski school. I begged for a giant red sucker ALL WEEK. I finally got it, and it was gross. Plain disappointing. I was so embarrassed, and knew my parents would turn it into a lesson of, "We're never getting you crap again," that I ate most of it, ditching the last bit in a snow bank.

    Today M and I were at the mall returning some fancy Stride-rites that had broken after 6 weeks and she started whining for a gumball. "Not now," I said, maybe next time. We passed the machines again and the whining began. "OK, we'll come back after lunch." We had a lovely lunch, and she got a grape gum-ball for dessert with her allowance money. She chewed it, made a face and said, "I thought it would taste better." She chewed a few minutes longer and then spit it out. "I'm sorry it wasn't as good as you hoped." She said she'd try cherry next time. Fine by me.

    She has tried and been able to make an honest appraisal (she didn't like or finish) a chocolate and-sprinkle-covered donut, a pink frosted cookie at the school picnic, several kinds of candy from Regina's candy store, Oreos (Paul Newman-Os,) and s'mores. She recently handed over a half-eaten Rice Krispie treat, and even a half-finished ice cream cone, just because she was "full." (Would NOT have stopped me as a kid!)

    Allowing children to have access on a fairly regular basis to sweets and treats within the structure of family meals and snacks, presented in a pleasant and neutral way with a variety of other great foods takes their power away. I deal with less whining, I trust her to eat something because it tastes good to her, not because she has to prove a point or craves something that is overly controlled.

    Do you have any memories of forbidden fruits not living up to the hype? Foods? Experiences as well? That NKOTB concert you begged to go to? The perm you wanted? Sex?

    Thursday, June 3, 2010

    What is a "good eater?"

    My almost 5 yo daughter out of the blue the other night said, "Daddy, good job eating!" My jaw dropped. I can ASSURE you she has never heard anything like that in our home. I imagine this is something someone has said to her at school, perhaps a grandparent, though with all my gentle (mostly) reminders about letting her decide how much to eat, I doubt it was them.

    I said, "Why do you think Daddy did a good job?" M replied, "Because his plate is empty."
    I was getting up to refill our serving bowls and said, "That doesn't mean he's a good eater. Eating isn't good or bad, you have meals and snacks and eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full, even if your plate isn't empty..."

    I hope I am not witnessing the well-studied phenomena that children under 5 will stop when they are full, regardless of the initial portion served, while children 5 and older will finish the entire portion served them, even if it is much more than they would have eaten if they had served themselves.

    This notion of praising for eating, or relying on external cues for when to stop eating is not OK with me.

    Also, I am curious, Gentle Readers. At what age does a "good eater" go from being a child who will clean their plate, to being a someone who will leave food behind or stop eating before they are satisfied? Crazy, crazy world we live in.

    Wednesday, June 2, 2010

    I hate composting, and other things guilt makes me do

    I like the idea of composting. I hate the reality. The flies, making my way through brush to the one spot on our property line between a fence and our garage where we could put it. (The photo shows my crock in the foreground and the composter in the background.) I've dropped my keys in the mess (on the way to a workshop,) I've had slimy crocks on my counter that I feel bad about for not taking out more regularly, and now I have too much "green" to "brown" yard waste and it's icky. Where to get dry yard waste? It's a major hassle, but I still do it. Same with recycling. Our kitchen is so small that the paper and container recycling takes up major space, but I still do it. Washing and re-using plastic bags is another.

    Note, I have recently started collecting green scraps in a big bowl which I am more likely to take out regularly and is less gross to clean.

    Things I wanted to do because I thought I "should" but couldn't make it happen:
    cloth diapers
    home-made organic baby food
    more public transportation

    I also covet a mini-van even though we only have one child. Maybe someday. Not very ecological....

    What things do you do because of guilt, because you "should," but that aren't very satisfying on their own?

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010

    Mom, what's a "diet?" Dealing with the "D-word"

    Sunday morning I'm reading comics to my daughter and found again that there were at least three that I had to "edit." (Pretty typical for the 'comics' these days.) One was about gastric bypass (the snowman missing the middle ball) another, "Do these pants make my tentacles look fat," and another about dieting. It brought back a comment a reader wrote after my last post.

    "I'm livid that we live in a world where a 4 year old is already getting messages about what is and isn't acceptable in terms of body size and food choices! I thought I wouldn't have to start fighting this until about age 10 (which is when I unfortunately discovered dieting).
    My 4 year old daughter brought home a "learn to read" book about being healthy...I saw "eat lots of fruits and vegetables"--okay, I can live with that. And "get exercise"--okay. But there it was on page 4: "eat only a little bit of fat" Argh! My daughter was puzzled--what's fat? Why can't I eat it?...
    And then a week ago one of the teenage instructors at the ice rink told my daughter that if you eat a lot of pizza you'll get fat (I have no idea what the context was). Suddenly my intuitive eating child is questioning her choices. (read my comments on the blog for my reaction to this gem of an ice-skating teacher...)
    So the question is, when the topic comes up how do I talk about dieting in a way that does not encourage the behavior?"

    Remember, we're talking about four-year-olds here- they are pretty unsophisticated. (I remember working at a summer camp and getting the kids ready for swim time. The 3 and 4 year olds were all running around naked and one kid had underwear on and they all teased him, "I see your underwear!") My first advice is "EDIT" when possible (notice it's an anogram?) As much as possible, try to edit, or not expose them to notions of dieting, weight loss etc. But, as my reader noted, it is near impossible in the world we live in.

    First, when a child asks you about a diet, or fat, or Weight Watchers, ask them what they think. You may learn that they are not really that clued in, or that there is something that you can clarify. EDIT your answer, a 4 year-old doesn't get the complexities, and you need to be careful not to confuse with too much information. Try to stay neutral and pleasant during the conversation. If you are unable, because of issues with the D-word, ask a partner, or trusted adult to take on the issue. Again, a few sentences might be all it takes. I would also be careful not to lie.

    Here are a few ideas, then I'd love to hear from you all.

    On the topic of eating fat, you could say,

    "That book is wrong, and we know better now. Fat is good to eat, we need to eat fat to live. Avocados, nuts, ice-cream, salad dressing and butter have fat in them. Fat can taste pretty yummy! We're lucky we get to eat lots of different foods, including fat."

    On "dieting,"

    "It means that people don't eat as much as they want, or the foods that they want to eat. They might feel hungry allot. I wouldn't like to feel hungry all day. We don't eat that way in our family. We eat when we are hungry and stop when we have had enough."


    "It means that you don't listen to your tummy to decide how much or what foods to eat. When people diet, even if they are hungry, they might not eat. That's not good for your body. A good way to eat is to eat when you are hungry and stop when you have had enough, and to enjoy lots of different kinds of foods like we do!"

    Ask your child if that makes sense, and then move on, change the topic.

    Older kids will have more of a framework and logical thinking to explore the topic further and I will address that in a future post. I am not a child psychologist, but just a few thoughts! I'd love to hear what you think. It's a great exercise to have the words ready for when the inevitable questions come up... Am I way off base? How have you handled this?