Trying New Foods

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A mother asks us: My child sometimes gets anxious when I introduce a new healthy food. What can I do to entice him to try and eat it?

Elyse Falk, MS, RD, Mom and Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, Mom answers…

Elyse Replies:

There are a few important things to remember when introducing your child to a new food.

First, it is a good idea to introduce the new ingredient with other foods that they already like to eat.

Next, make the entire process matter of fact. Tell your child that you found a great recipe that you know your friend’s kids really like, and you thought they would like it too. You can tell them what it is (a grain, veggie or protein) and maybe what nutrition it has. But that’s it. Keep it simple.

In my home, I eat the kinds of dishes I like in front of my kids so that I can be a role model and show them how much I enjoy trying new foods. Don’t get me wrong; there are recipes I have made that I just have to say, “Ugh, this really doesn’t taste good,” in front of them, but I think it also shows that I am human and that they can dislike certain foods too. The most important part is trying them. (Some parents choose to impart a “one-bite” rule in their homes, but I wouldn’t push it if it’s going to cause a tantrum.)

Don’t forget that food isn’t always love at first bite. It may take a few attempts for them to taste the new ingredient, so remember that exposure and repetitiveness is key. Try to introduce the new food in different ways by changing the flavor, texture (pureed vs. whole) or cooking method (steamed vs. roasted).

Friends and family may be your best allies too, as sometimes, siblings or friends could entice each other to try a new food. For example, if one sibling likes the food, and the other one has never tried it before and sees his or her sibling really enjoying new flavors, it usually draws interest and the desire to try them too.

At the end of the day though, remember that you don’t want to place too much pressure on your child. If they see you getting angry over the fact that they didn’t taste or like it, they may feel added pressure or anxiety the next time. Just teach them that, in certain instances, it is ok to reply, “no thank you,” and let it go. Children’s taste buds change every day, so don’t lose hope.

Laura Replies:

If your child is really picky, like my boys are, then start by exposing your son or daughter to the new food before even asking them to try it. Exposure is essential. Place the food on or perhaps just near their plate first. They don’t need to eat it, but they do need to leave it be. Even this can be a challenge. My boys still move the food away from their plate—and far away at that. But eventually, it gets on to their plate and stays there.

Once you’ve accomplished that simple yet monumental task, try implementing the one bite rule. If they refuse to take even a small bite, instead of making a big deal, instead try the one lick rule.

My boys are typically ok with the one lick rule. My oldest son, who is now 5 and a half, is even coming around to the one bite rule, of course, as long as he can spit it out if he doesn’t like it. At this point, if I can ask him to take one bite and swallow, he will—but only with certain foods.

Billy, my youngest, is still in the “one lick phase,” unless he sees something he actually wants to try. Billy has made a ton of progress. He tries a lot on his own now, even though he usually doesn’t like it. I know I was the same way as a child. I only ate macaroni with butter or cheese for almost two years. My mother took me to the doctor at the time; he said I would grow out of it, and I did.

I am still, however, quite picky with the quality of my food. I’ll try anything—even pig’s intestine—so long as it’s prepared well. In this sense, the kids definitely surprise me by which foods they will and will not try, so at least they inherited that from me too.

In the case that your child truly, adamantly does not want to taste an ingredient, you may benefit from simply letting it go and trying again a month later. You never know how their taste will evolve, especially at such a young age, so continue to offer and or expose them to new and different foods periodically. While it may seem like it at times, your children are not only going to eat mac n’ cheese and chicken nuggets forever, well – we hope.

Moms: Are your kids anxious around new ingredients? How do you get your kids to try new foods? Do they get their picky tendencies from you?

Dear Restaurants, Are your chicken fingers real?

Dear Restaurants: Are Your Chicken Fingers Real??

My family recently traveled to South Carolina for spring vacation. I chose not to bring any food along for the kids in order to both decrease the amount of schlepping and expand their intake. I recognize, as a registered dietitian, that my children’s exposure to food is probably more limited than if I were just a regular mom. Their pickiness may partially be my doing; but after seeing some of the chicken fingers out there, sometimes I am quite happy that my boys are as selective as they are.

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Our trip began at the LGA airport. While there, we went to one of the new nicer French restaurants, where I ordered a tuna nicoise salad and my hubby ate salmon. Bobby wanted grilled cheese, but the restaurant only offered croquet monsieur, so I asked for that to be made into a grilled cheese. Billy said he didn’t like anything and was not eating, so he didn’t. He was fine with that and so were we. (I packed a PB and J just in case he got hungry on the plane anyway.)

The second challenge of the trip came about during Easter brunch, which we spent at their grandparent’s clubhouse. Fortunately, there were plenty of options on the menu. There were even chicken fingers (thank goodness, or the boys may not have eaten all vacation).

Honestly though, I’m getting to the point where I just want Bobby to move past chicken fingers—even in nicer settings. I seriously believe that the chicken fingers served in most restaurants are of the same quality as those at fast food chains. I would never bring my child to a fast food chain, and yet I allow them to practically consume ingredients of fast food quality with the hope that my modeling will have an effect on their future intake. Sometimes, it can be frustrating and difficult to tell whether it is.

Anyway, back to the clubhouse.

Billy refused all food. I made him a kid-friendly plate with mac and cheese and fruit. He didn’t eat it, but he didn’t make a scene either.

As for Bobby, I created a plate with chicken fingers, sweet potato fries, mac and cheese with lobster, and fresh fruit. He refused to eat anything at first and finally conceded to the chicken fingers and the macaroni (sans lobster). Of course, I silently wished the chicken were grilled and the macaroni whole-wheat. After all, it was Easter. There was a lot of candy at the kids’ fingertips, and I wanted to supplement their sweet tooth with something more nutritious in order to balance their blood sugar and meet the demands of swimming all day.

Each day of vacation, we faced the same dilemma: “What can the kids eat off the menu today?”

While I typically enjoyed items like heirloom beet and goat cheese salad, Bobby requested grilled cheese on whole-wheat with fries. (The whole-wheat was my doing.) Billy ate sliced cheese, that is, if he liked the cheese the waiter brought him, and shared some of Bobby’s fries. French fries are somewhat of a recent behavior. Not a mother’s dream, but at the end of the day, food is food. I’d have to use breakfast and snack time to sneak in apple slices, applesauce, raisins, bananas and veggies squeezers.

At dinner, my husband and I encouraged the boys to choose a dish off the kid’s menu. I was not bringing food to every restaurant, and while I would love for my children to eat off of the adult menu, we’re just not there yet.

The kid’s menu typically consists of pasta with cheese or sauce, pizza, chicken fingers, grilled cheese and hamburgers. Bobby varied his choices each night. The one evening he chose chicken fingers, I actually felt like sending it back; the strips had no semblance to chicken. Instead, there was this big puffy fried breading-like cloud engulfing the meat. I held my breath. Bobby didn’t even want it, though he picked at some of the meat once I pealed the fried layer off.

Dear Restaurants,

Please offer baked chicken fingers or grilled chicken on the children’s menu. Please pair this with fruits and veggies or baked French fries. Kindly serve whole-wheat bread as the grain of choice and let parents request white bread if they want it.  

Thank you,

Laura

I don’t understand why more restaurants can’t make these simple adjustments. When we vacationed in California last year, Bobby ate quesadillas (though he has since taken this off his list again). Kid’s menus in California were a breath of fresh air compared to what we were dealing with in South Carolina. On the west coast, menus teemed with nutritious options, from grilled chicken to fresh fruit to corn on the cob and veggie sides.

By the end of our week in South Carolina, I wound up making Billy a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He ate whole-grain pancakes with chocolate chips at the diner on our last morning. (By the way, every breakfast place offered whole-grain or whole-wheat pancakes. I’m grateful that the diners in South Carolina served whole-grain pancakes with real fruit.)

Perhaps most surprising about the weekend was that the kids didn’t eat the Easter candy their grandparents gave them. This was amazing. Believe it or not, their baskets sat untouched on the counter the entire week. My oldest son actually told me he liked the New York City Easter Bunny better because that Easter Bunny brought toys, not food! They did, however, munch on the jellybeans grandma left out on the table everyday and the ice cream she offered. And that was just fine. All I ask for on vacation is a sense of balance. If 75% of their intake is made up of nutrient-dense foods, the rest can consist of “sometimes foods.”

What made the trip a success? Well, I now know the kids are getting to an age where they can behave themselves in restaurants. While Billy needs a little more help, Bobby can always find something to eat. Then again, Billy can always just eat sliced cheese if nothing else is available. I definitely do not expect a restaurant to cater to his food preferences—or lack thereof.

Although eating out at restaurants increases their exposure, table manners, patience and other positive behaviors, at this point, I’ve come to realize that eating at home is probably the best option. My boys get so many “sometimes foods” during snack times, at friend’s homes and even when visiting their grandparents that it’s ultimately in their best interest that I feed them, and so that’s what I’ll continue to do for the most part.

Moms and dads: What do your children eat when dining at a restaurant? Do you think the chicken is real whole chicken or equal to that of the chicken served at fast food chains? 

 

Q: Can I teach my child with attention difficulties to be a mindful eater?

A Westchester Mom asks the question:

I have children with attention difficulties and because of this, I feel that their ability to detect hunger and fullness cues are dulled. Can this be taught?

Moms, Laura and Elyse respond:

All children, whether they have attention difficulties or not, can benefit from a quiet, calm and soothing environment that’s free of distractions, but it’s just as important to time all meals and snacks too. Here are a few tricks of the trade that can help teach your child how to recognize internal satiation cues over time.

Set the mood. Give your child a 5-minute warning that their meal will be served. Take this time to turn off any screens that may be on, and maybe turn on a little light, relaxing music in the background. The atmosphere can be a critical element as you begin to create a calming environment.

Take control. Because a hyperactive child may be impulsive, I recommend keeping the food on the counter or stovetop to prevent impulsive behaviors during the meal. Once your child is ready to eat, you can then go ahead and plate their food. It’s okay if your child requests seconds, but it’s a good idea to ask what their stomach feels like before going ahead and serving more. In other words, ask what their hunger or fullness level is before dishing out a second portion.

Hungry vs. Full. One good way to determine whether your child truly wants a second portion is to have them create a unique scale that allows them to express their hunger or fullness. Keep in mind that even adults may have difficulty determining the difference between hungry and full based on biological factors. A deficiency or resistance to the hormone leptin, for example, can impede on the ability to determine fullness. More research is needed to identify whether this holds true for children too, and if so, what the exact trigger is [1].

Create your scale. Try designing a child-friendly chart that ranges from 0 to 10—0 meaning starving and 10 being extremely full.

Let your child think up their own descriptions for the numbers 0, 3, 5, 7, and 10, but begin by asking them to describe what 0 and 10, or starving and stuffed—the most extreme sensations—feel like first, as these are most obvious. What does “extreme hunger,” or a 0, feel like? Is it dizzy? Is it crying? Is it sleepy? Is it a meltdown? Does your belly hurt? Are you nauseous or queasy? Then ask them to identify the opposite extreme. This would be overfull or stuffed and equal to a 10 on the scale. Does this mean belly pain? Belly sticking out? Nauseous? Want mommy to rub belly? Pants may be uncomfortable around their tummy? Not interested in eating more food? Can’t sit at table any longer? Can’t eat your favorite food if offered?

Each of these descriptions will differ slightly from one child to the next, but ultimately, it will help to jump-start this identification process, allowing them to both feel and recognize internal satiation cues. If it’s difficult for your child to verbalize their feelings, try using faces (happy, sad, etc.), stickers or pictures of children who appear happy, sad, angry, etc. to allow them to relate to the emotion.

Once extreme feelings are identified, then narrow it down by establishing what it means to be neutral, or not hungry and not full. This would be a 5 on their scale.

If your child is at a 5, but claims to still be hungry, then it’s appropriate to serve enough food to get them to a 7 on the scale. At that point, you probably wouldn’t need to serve an entire portion. (Of course, the amount will differ for each child, and individual parents can estimate and then let their child determine the rest.)

If your child responds that they are at a 7, explain to them that their body received all of the nutrition it needs for now, and they can have something to eat at the next meal or snack when their body is hungry again. (Remember, this all depends on your child’s personal scale. This may be a 3 for them.)

If your child asks for food in between meals or snacks, explain that food is only necessary when they are truly hungry, which may be when they feel like a 3 or higher (again, this may vary). The point is to teach them the difference between hunger and fullness, and while they should trust that you’ll serve them more when they are truly hungry, the scale will also allow them to identify whether they need more or not on their own.

Example of a H/F scale

10 = Belly Pain

7 = Comfortable fullness

5 = Neutral, can eat a little more

3 = Stomach growling, stomach empty, need to eat

0 = Starving

Institute a reward system. You can also consider offering a reward for positive behavior, for example, when your child sits nicely at the dinner table. The reward should be age specific, and consistency is key. This reward should not be food. The reward is not for eating but for sitting at the table. Never reward for eating or use food as a reward.

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One way to facilitate a reward system is to utilize tangible measurements of time, such as an hourglass. This can be placed before your child so they can monitor their behavior too. Start small, and work up to greater accomplishments. For the first week, if your child sits at the kitchen table for more than 10 minutes, regardless of what they did or did not eat, they would get a reward. At week 2, if the child sits at the table for 12 minutes, regardless of what they eat or how much, they would get a reward. Helpful Hint: The sand timer from Lakeshore Learning Center offers different time ranges from one minute to ten minutes.

Of course, all children—not just those with ADD or ADHD—have limited attention spans when it comes to sitting at the table. These strategic tactics are simply inspired by behavioral techniques utilized for children with special needs, though the goal is a common one: to ensure that your children get the nutrition they need.

  1. Aronne, LJ, Bowman A. The Skinny: On Losing Weight Without Being Hungry-The Ultimate Guide to Weight Loss Success. New York, NY: Crown Publishing Group; 2009.

Guest Blog: Elyse Falk

Hi, I’m Elyse Falk and I am a registered dietitian in Westchester, NY and a mom of 3 wonderful, energetic boys, ages 11, 8, and 4. I initially decided to become an RD because I love good food—you know, the kind that makes your body healthy and strong—and immediately knew I wanted to raise a family that would grow up appreciating good, wholesome food as much as I do.

Through my education as well as my professional and personal experiences, I have learned that both parents and their children must play active roles in cultivating a healthy relationship with food.
As a parent, I am responsible for determining the types of food that are in the home and preparing these ingredients in a way that my family will actually eat and enjoy. In order to do this, I am always planning a day ahead and thinking about how to serve meals that include at least 3 to 4 food groups. Looking at my childrens’ diets as a whole, I ask myself: Did they get their fruits and vegetables for the day? What about lean proteins and low-fat dairy?

But it’s not just about what they eat; I am also in charge of structuring their meals and snacks throughout the day, deciphering how they eat too. My ultimate parental role is to educate my children so that they understand the difference between when to eat foods that “do good things” for the body versus when to eat “sometimes foods,” otherwise defined as those products or ingredients that don’t offer much nutrition for the body.   
Something I’ve discovered is that “sometimes foods,” like cookies (my boys love chocolate chip cookies), don’t necessarily need their own place and time. Instead, I find that they should be neutralized in order to eliminate the notion of treats. If they ask for cookies, for example, I allow my boys to eat them with their dinner, a decision which neutralizes dessert so that it is not necessarily the highlight of their evening intake. When I first started combining dinner and dessert, I was fascinated that my son actually went back and forth between eating his veggie burger and cookie at the same time, finishing both without an issue. This also proves how insignificant dessert really is to children; all they’re really hoping for is a “sometimes food” at some point during their meal.

All parents, myself included, need to serve as a role model for healthy eating. One way I accomplish this is by sitting down for meals with my children and showing them how I enjoy consuming delicious, wholesome food. As for the kids, at the end of the day, they are the ones who are in charge of how much food to eat and whether they want to eat certain kinds or not. While I encourage them to try new foods, I won’t ever push them to the point where it becomes an issue. (I do expect them to say, “no thank you” and “please,” though. Manners are important too.)

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As my boys get older, they seem to be developing more adventurous tendencies. If one tries a new food, the others seem to want a taste too. (This is incredibly funny to watch as an outsider.) As they’ve grown, I’ve also learned a thing or two about their eating habits. For instance, I don’t celebrate if one of them tries a new food, because as soon as they see my contentment, they’ll stop eating it (it has to do with control). I’ve also discovered that some days they can eat me under the table whereas other days they’re just not as hungry.

Being an RD and working with clients with disordered eating habits has made me particularly sensitive to the way my boys experience food at home. As a mother of 3, I know that food can be both necessary and fun, and yet I’m also aware that it can cause stress and concern at times too.
Laura, my friend and colleague for 10 years, has asked me to join her efforts on Mom Dishes It Out and to contribute my experiences and expertise to give her readers yet another perspective on finding joy and balance in moderate parenting and feeding. I am happy to be a part of this project and hope all the feeders and eaters out there know that it is a constant balancing act, but it is one that is worth every minute.

Too Much Weight on BMI

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Too Much Weight on BMI
By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE

A few weeks ago I was asked to share my thoughts on Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative with radio host Rita Cosby. I researched the campaign at length while watching the boys play soccer, and what I came up with is that the movement is generally positive. I do believe that a bit of tweaking is in order, however, and that certain ideas could be rephrased. (Check out the complete podcast here.) As I continue to think about America’s “obesity epidemic” I think the measurement called Body Mass Index is overrated and has the potential to misdiagnose ourselves and our kids.

At the end of the day, it always comes back to this same question: “What can we as parents do to prevent disease?” This includes obesity-related disease.

I recognize we need measurements for statistic purposes and possibly diagnostic tools. However, I think BMI should be emphasized less and instead we can focus on behaviors and a cluster of measurements. BMI is only one measure, and it’s not always reflective of a person’s state of health.

BMI is based solely on height and weight. (You can read the official definition from the NIH here.) Weight can be a funny subject though. After all, the number on the scale is not always reflective of how healthy a person is. Therefore, one’s body mass index is not going to accurately reflect a person’s health status.

As parents, healthcare facilitators and makers of change, we must remember that obesity does not always equate with overeating, high cholesterol and/or inactivity. A dear client of mind, for example, has a BMI that would qualify her as overweight, and yet she is a shining example of good health. She runs marathons, eats a balanced intake of food, and has an ideal cholesterol ratio.

Let me let you in on a little secret: I, too weigh more than the black and white number recommended for my height, otherwise known as my “ideal body weight.” Me—a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and “paragon of health (by all other measures)”!

Granted, there is a ten percent range above and below IBW. I fall into the range above my IBW, as many people do. That being said, you can see how easy it can be for someone above their IBW to assume they are overweight, even when it’s not true. I’m by no means overweight, rather I am the weight that is appropriate for me.. If someone were to slap a label on me based on weight alone, or to use Weight Watchers’ recommended weight, I would be over my goal number.  Well, I don’t need to lose weight, so the point is, using these means to determine a person’s health with a Body Mass Index are somewhat antiquated and inaccurate.

Remember that muscle weighs more than fat. Otherwise, most hyper-muscular football players (even Tom Brady!) would be considered overweight too, if only by their BMIs. Some people are also more densely built than others. My nephew, who is visually lean and bony, qualifies as obese according to his doctor, though if anything, he could stand to gain a few pounds.

Whether lean and dense or round and curvy, we are all decidedly beautiful. We must remember that BMI is not a measure of self-worth. Rather, it’s merely one tool that aims to measure health—and a flawed tool at that.

On the flip side, I also work with a number of clients who have extremely low BMIs. These individuals are struggling with their health.  They may use unhealthy behaviors such as skipping meals or starving themselves to keep their weight down and or BMI low. So you see, a low BMI may not be indicative of health either. What we need to be sure of is to take our focus away from the body mass index and to instead consider healthy behaviors as a whole.

So if weight isn’t the ultimate measure of health (nor is one’s appearance), then what is? Blood pressure, liver function, Total Cholesterol/ HDL ratio, endurance, energy and other daily habits are much better ways to gage a person’s physical condition. As parents, political pundits and health care professionals, we must move toward size-acceptance, promoting confidence and self-esteem in our children. I propose to start with the following:

  • Foster a positive opinion of food in the household.
  • Feed your children a balanced intake of whole grains, lean proteins and heart healthy fats.
  • Tell your children you love them. Have them look in the mirror and tell themselves they are loved. Tell them they are  more than a number.
  • Encourage healthy behaviors by setting an example.
  • Focus on your children’s efforts and behaviors, not on outcomes or measures. Praise them for trying a vegetable or sport rather than for being a veggie eater or a great baseball player.

Quick Tips For Moms on Helping Cultivate Healthy Habits

Whether it’s Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign, my friend’s talk in Westchester to the PTA or the development of a new Food and Nutrition Committee at my son’s school, Moms and Dads are advocating for positive change for health promotion. We walk a fine line while doing this as we don’t want to create more problems in regards to the already challenging job of feeding our children. Here are five simple tips to include in your “lunch box” of tools.

 

Teaching Not Preaching to Your Kids, Healthy Habits

Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE

Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services (www.LauraCipulloLLC.com)

www.MomDishesitOut.com

 

 

 

 

 

 1. Don’t preach instead lead by example:

  • Let your children know you are off to spin class or pilates
  • Plan active vacations whether it be skiing or hiking in Colorado

 

2. Practice exposure therapy

  • Try new foods with your children especially on vacation or during the holidays. St Patrick’s Day and Mardi Gras offer different cuisines to tantalize your taste buds.
  • Leave the veggies on the table even if you know the kids won’t eat them.

 

3. Take your child food shopping

  • Shop at the farmer’s market or a food store that emphasizes sustainable, local agriculture and wholesome foods such as Whole Foods.
  • Limit shopping at grocery stores that offer more colorful, child focused boxed and processed foods.  There marketing sucks your kids in.

 

4. Encourage Trying, Not Winning

  • Tell your child you are proud of them for trying a new food or a new activity. It’s not whether they like the veggie or if they played the game correctly.
  • Focus on the great effort and fun your child had at trying a new sport like roller-skating not how they didn’t fall.

 

5. Practice self regulation

  • Let your child choose how much of the dinner to eat. No clean the plate the club!
  • Ask your child “Are you hungry, thirsty, bored or tired?”

 

A Therapist's Changing Body – Guest Blog

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Today’s guest blog from Psychotherapist Jessica Aronson touches on a question that many working women and expecting moms often wonder. What can we do as parents or professionals to teach others (kids and adults alike) to both respect and feel comfortable with the inevitable physical changes as they grow, from puberty to pregnancy? How can we learn to cope with our bodies through different stages of life?

As you know, this is a topic I hold near and dear to my heart. Her account is decidedly honest, and I hope you enjoy. Please feel free to join in the conversation in the comments section below.

A Therapist’s Changing Body

By: Jessica Aronson, LCSW-R, ACSW, CGP Psychotherapist http://www.wmhcnyc.org/aronson/ www.jkpassages.com

As I anxiously and joyously await the arrival of my second child, another boy, I am reminded of the process all over again. It’s no longer just my client and I sitting in the room; with my son growing inside of me, there are three of us now.

My clients in particular are heightened to these changes. Having worked with eating disorder patients for more than 10 years, I’m familiar with—and prepared for—the comments: “You look great, did you change your hair?” or “You’re so little,” or “You’re wearing colors today.”

So it wasn’t all that surprising that the comments continued as I too continued to grow and change. People have remarked on how big I’ve gotten; how my skin has broken out; how uncomfortable I must be (and am). The list goes on.

At eight months pregnant, there is no way to hide my belly. It now shares the sacred space of a therapy session, a place that’s otherwise reserved solely for my patient and myself. That being said, I nevertheless try not to talk about my pregnancy or my changing body with my patients at great length, as it leaves me exposed and vulnerable as their therapist.

When the situation seems appropriate, however, I do push myself to inquire as to what thoughts and feelings my changing body and unborn child brings up for them. Clients have shared feeling uncomfortable by the size of my belly. They’ve expressed sympathy as well as the desire to take care of me by offering me a seat on the couch. They’ve expressed fears about my maternity leave.

Of course, there is no way to avoid these changes—or the physical changes any woman experiences during the course of their pregnancy. And while I know it is so important to use my own position as an opportunity to help my clients explore their own feelings and fears about pregnancy and weight fluctuation, I am also honest when I say that, as a therapist, I feel very exposed and vulnerable in doing so. Sure, I am happy to make this sacrifice to benefit my clients. I’m just far less enthusiastic about sharing it with strangers.

Many of my clients stayed with me through my first pregnancy, but I still struggle to cope with my own discomfort (as the baby kicks and moves inside me), as well as anxieties and fears that arise while in sessions with patients. Like any transition or change in a therapist’s life, this too is major. We just can’t hide or cover this one up.

 

A Moment of Momzilla!

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Last winter I took my eldest son, Bobby, and my nephew skiing for their very first time. When Bobby did great on his first run, I decided to take my nephew down the mountain too. Of course, it was ridiculous to think I could handle 2 beginners. Bobby ended up falling.

I was convinced I had ruined skiing for Bobby forever; he was resistant to sports to begin with. I had already scheduled private lessons for the boys 2 days later, so I sent them anyway.

Bobby was not exactly excited to get back on skis after his initial spill. He resisted. He acted out. It was ultimately a failed attempt.

Hoping he’d maybe forgotten about his first experience, I tried to get him back on skis on another weekend at a different mountain. This time, he was like a limp noodle, refusing to as much as stand upright let alone listen to his instructor. Bobby only wanted to ski with me, but that was impossible since I had unfortunately been in a ski accident the week before and was forced to sit on the sidelines for the rest of the season. I was so distraught.

Maybe it was the concussion speaking, but I just couldn’t understand how my son—my own flesh and blood—didn’t love skiing as much as I did. I was looking into buying a ski house. What would I do with Bobby if he hated skiing? To add insult to injury, my nephew, whose parents don’t ski, was having the time of his life. I couldn’t stop thinking how reversed the situation was.

To me, this was a catastrophe. Sad to admit, but I even cried about this to my therapist. It wasn’t so much that Bobby hated skiing or that my dream house was quickly becoming a nightmare. No, it’s because I was suddenly becoming this mother that I didn’t want to be—a momzilla of sorts.

Refusing to accept Bobby’s athletic distaste (how can a dietitian’s son be physically inactive?), I gave the whole sports thing one more shot (he refused to play soccer too)—this time with mother-son rock climbing. The result? Bobby thought that scaling the smaller wall was fun, but when faced with the full rock wall, he went running for the hills. (Well, really, he hid under the mat as though he were a small animal.) I, of course, said all the wrong things—and hated myself as each word escaped my mouth. I offered rewards. I made threats. I knew I was completely out of line.

Both my therapist and husband said I was overreacting. They said when my son was ready, he would participate in whatever physical activities he wanted. So, heeding their advice, I dropped it. No more sports classes, no more private instructors, no more pushing or comparing or dreaming. I needed to let Bobby be himself and grow into someone different than who I may have thought he’d be, at least at that age.

Well, guess what? This fall, I enrolled Bobby in a school soccer program. I know you’re thinking, “Here she goes again.” But my husband and I send our children to progressive schools that encourage self-exploration, teamwork and learning through activity, and I hoped he would react differently in a more supportive environment, especially now that Bobby was older. I sent him to a soccer program that focuses on having fun—not on drills—and it worked. He loved the class and never complained.

Since turning five, Bobby has taken to a few other sports too. He smiles through swim lessons (my husband initially taught him to swim since he hated the classes), has started skateboarding (and is doing well) and has even attended a 2-week sports camp with a classmate over winter break.

Apart from giving him enough time to acclimate to new athletic endeavors, I think that Bobby’s peers have positively influenced him as well. As a colleague of mine, a pediatric development specialist, taught me, when kids try new activities, they don’t have to do them well. It’s more important to offer encouragement and praise for trying. So this is what I have been doing and I think it is effective in building self- esteem and acceptance.  After his first swim lesson, Bobby said to me, “I know why you are proud of me. Because I was scared, but I tried it and I had fun.”

As parents, we need to focus on building our children’s self-worth as they learn to cope with their environment. Give your child time to be who they are, not who you want them to be. I caught myself being a momzilla and changed my ways. It’s a delicate issue, but as parents we have a responsibility to handle it with care.

Have you ever found yourself facing your inner momzilla?

 

3 Strikes and You Are Out!!

 

Photo Credit: athene.noctua via Compfight cc

Don’t let food be your child’s voice
Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE and Mom

While in session this week, my client expressed frustration, disappointment, and anger toward her parents, in particular her mother, when recalling the holidays. My client, a vegetarian, is recovering from an eating disorder. Upon returning home for the holidays, her mother tells her, “I bought you food. It’s in the other refrigerator.” Excited, my client feels respected and goes to make lunch. But when she opens the refrigerator, she only finds one red pepper—and there’s mold growing on it.

Strike 1.

Next, her parents tell her to choose a restaurant by a famous chef they all adore, that way everyone will be satisfied.  She makes a decision and tells her mother. Mom’s response: “Oh, no one will like it there. We are going to a different restaurant.”

Strike 2.

At the restaurant, mom orders for the family even though the kids want something different. My client ends up with a dish that contains cheese. She is lactose intolerant. Now she needs to order a new meal, wait for it and eat while everyone else waits for her to finish.

Strike 3.

You’re out, mom! Thankfully, my client practiced patience and used her coping skills, and before long, she returned home to her own apartment where she reigns over the refrigerator.

In this instance, it’s clear that my client lost her voice among those of the rest of her family and developed an eating disorder to express her lack of recognition and pain. This is a perfect example of how sometimes we may not truly be listening to our children. Sure, we may hear their voices, but there are moments when we simply miss the boat.

As mothers, parents and caregivers, we are all busy and consumed. It’s not just my client’s parent; it could be any one of us. But, whether a child is 3 or 30, we all need to recognize that they have their own needs and personalities. They need to be heard, respected and acknowledged in order to build their self-esteem and prevent them from using food to numb, to cope, to ask for help, or to ask for more love.

What do you do to let your children know that you hear them? How do you acknowledge them and prevent food from becoming their voice?