Is Your Tween Hiding Her Lunch?

REAL GRANDMOM ASKS: My 11 year old granddaughter is hiding her sandwiches and lunchables that are packed for her lunch in her room; sometimes before she even leaves for school. She takes a bite out of the sandwich or lunchable and puts in back in the container and seals it up, then hides it in her room. She doesn’t have an explanation for this and you can tell she is embarrassed when you talk to her about it. None of the food is new or disliked, that is why this is such a puzzle to us. My daughter is going bonkers over this and I simply don’t know how to advice her. Maddie has hidden evidence of “sneaked” food before when she was very young but this is a new behavior.What do you think? Thanks,Debbie A., a perplexed Grammy

 

REAL MOM LAURA ANSWERS:

Thank you Debbie for your heartfelt question.  I am sure many other grandparents and parents share in your sincere concern for both their daughters and their  granddaughters. There are a few things you can do without alarming your granddaughter. Be sure to keep this a confidential as possible. It is  a very sensitive subject and privacy will help to ensure your granddaughter’s privacy and thus minimize any shame or embarrassment. I will answer the question directed at a mom (or dad) since mom (or the primary caregiver) will need to do the follow through.

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In general when any tween is hiding food, consider checking in with the school nurse or guidance counselor (in private) to see if your tween is:

A)   Eating a different type of food at school?

B)   Eating any lunch at school?

C)   Attending lunch at school (some students hide during the lunch period to avoid social anxiety, bullying or to enable skipping the meal for restriction purposes)?

This will give you a better idea of what is happening for your daughter.  There are many things to consider such as is your child:

A)   Embarrassed to bring a home packed lunch?

B)   Perhaps your child doesn’t like the way their food smells?

C)   Perhaps your child is uncomfortable with their changing tween body?

D)   Has anyone said anything to your tween to make them feel shameful of their body?

E)   Is your child restricting their intake in effort to gain a false sense of control due to changes in friends, family, school…?

F)    Is your tween newly aware of her body and thus restricting her intake to prevent it from maturation?

Next and most importantly, sit down with this wonderful child and let them know you are there to listen. Let them know you promise not to be angry (if you truly do) and can help to support them. Validation is the most important piece. Moms don’t need to solve every problem rather we just need to listen.  Tell your tween you love them and are there for them when they feel ready to share. Giving your tween an unbiased outlet and a few hugs may get them to be honest with you.

If your tween is not ready to confide, you can also offer to take the tween food shopping to see if that helps to resolve the issue. This may give you a better sense of what is going on if your tween actually takes you on the offer.

If the issue continues, it is best to have your tween see a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (therapist specializing in eating disorders) or a Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian (RD specializing in eating disorders). This accreditation is only given to experts trained in the  prevention and treatment of eating disorders by the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (www.iaedp.com).

Kids Eat Right

On Teaching Healthy Lifestyle Habits to Families
Erica Leon, MS, RDN, CEDRD, CDN
Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian
Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor

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Hardly a day goes by without a headline warning of the dire consequences of our kids’ increasing weights and BMIs (body mass indices). Yes, we know that obesity leads to many chronic health conditions, from diabetes and heart disease to joint and breathing problems. All too often, however, I have seen the negative consequences of focusing exclusively on a child or adolescent’s weight and body mass index. I am seeing an increase in the number of kids and teens on diets, and I am also seeing an increase in eating disorders and disordered eating as a result. I believe there must be a middle ground—and a different way of reacting to expanding waistlines.

 

I believe this middle ground is a philosophy called Health at Every Size (HAES) and a way of eating called “Intuitive Eating.” Simply put, we change the focus from the number on the scale to healthy behaviors from the inside out. We must educate families to take an active role in preventing weight issues in kids. Embracing a healthy lifestyle means honoring and respecting our genetic body types, fueling them with health-promoting, satisfying foods, learning to distinguish between physical and emotional hunger, and moving our bodies because it just feels good!

 

Having taught weight management programs for overweight children in the past, I have seen the stress levels caused by frequent weight checks on a scale. I am excited to implement a wonderful program called Healthy Habits, written by Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD, into my practice to teach families how to eat in this healthy, balanced way using a system of “everyday” and “sometimes” foods. This eight-week curriculum is grounded in the health at every size philosophy, teaches parents and kids how to make healthy but non-depriving food choices, and promotes movement and exercise for pleasure. There are no good foods or bad foods. Parents learn limit-setting skills while kids learn portion control, honoring hunger and fullness and coping with challenging situations around food. I believe our best hope at preventing health problems associated with overweight and obesity is involving and educating the entire family about a healthy lifestyle.

 

I would like to share part of an essay that my nineteen-year-old daughter, Rebecca Leon, wrote:

I have what my family calls the “round genes,” which basically means that due to good old-fashioned genetics, I’m destined to have curvier hips and a slightly fuller figure than most. Throughout my 19 years, I’ve struggled with accepting this fact and have fallen in and out of love with my body more times than Justin Bieber has gotten into trouble with the law! Although I’ve never had an eating disorder myself, admittedly, I’ve grappled with some dangerous dieting habits. Last year I auditioned for very competitive musical theater college programs where looks are as important as skill.

“My solution was to eat less (way less) and exercise a lot more, even though I was already dancing 3 hours a day. I won’t go into any more detail, but to make a long story short, for a few months, I wasn’t eating nearly enough food for the amount of calories I was burning. Although happy with my looks and feedback I was getting, to put it mildly, I felt like crap. I felt cranky all the time, had no energy, wasn’t satisfied with the way I was performing, and I would freak out at any sign of bloating. Luckily I have a supportive, nutritionist mother who has been teaching me about healthy eating since the day I was born. The truth is, your body needs fuel in order to perform at its best. I soon realized that by depriving my body of its needs, I was, in turn, putting myself at a disadvantage. When it came time for my auditions, I went back to eating more regularly. Thankfully, I was accepted into many programs, which would have been impossible had I not given my body the energy it needed to perform well.

 “The best way to feel good is to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Living in this manner is the key to honoring and accepting your body. Let’s face it…human beings are lazy. Most of the time we look for shortcuts and the easy way out. Well, unfortunately there is no shortcut or easy way out when it comes to health. Depriving your body of food may seem like the quickest way to lose weight, but in reality, it’s not at all worth the emotional or physical stress, not to mention putting yourself in danger. Even though maintaining a healthy lifestyle is difficult, the hard work pays off. Personally, I feel the happiest when I have a daily exercise routine planned out and stick to a balanced, healthy diet that allows me to indulge in a yummy dessert every other night.”

 

August is “Kids Eat Right Month,” an initiative from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to educate and empower our children towards a healthier lifestyle. I believe Healthy Habits enables families to do just that.

 

For more information on Healthy Habits, click here.

For additional free resources on “Kids Eat Right,” click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Look into Beauty

A Look into Beauty
By Lauren Cohen, MS Nutrition and Dietetics Candidate

Hey moms and dads, with bathing suit season around the corner, we need to be sensitive about our children’s body image. Read on for our Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services student volunteer’s take on body image.

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Google must read my emails—that is the only explanation.  The pop-up advertisements that I regularly endure are riddled with images of weight loss, new diet fads, and ideal ways to get fit and fab in time for bikini season. Even with everything I know about nutrition and health, it can be overwhelming and tempting.

 

Body image is a big component of health. It’s easy to feel pressure to lose weight or tone-up when every magazine in the stand has “The Best Way to Cut 10 inches in 10 Days!” The Internet can be a firestorm for Photoshopped images of celebrities and friends trying to reach a threshold for beauty and health. In a now infamous quote from Cindy Crawford, she laments how she “wished [she] looked like Cindy Crawford.” The most important fact we can take with us as we move forward is that images on a screen do not reflect reality. They are airbrushed, red-eye removed, filtered and can only speak to a flash of a moment. Social media pages like Instagram and Pinterest are created with the sole purpose of making our lives appear beautiful through a filter. And while they continue to be useful tools in our professional and personal development, a certain type of pressure comes along with the territory—a pressing need for beauty.

 

It would be of little value to try and work a definition of beauty into this blog post when its reach extends so far beyond our simple understanding of it. I like to think of beauty as a complex, personal, and intimate experience of appreciation for something. But even that is too specific and too general at the same time.  So when photos and quotes surfaced of a girl calling herself The Human Barbie, I felt a compulsive need to learn more.

 

Valeria Lukyanova, a 5’ 7” Ukrainian Model, boasts measurements of 34-18-34. This is a very dramatic hourglass shape. Just to put that into perspective, Judy Garland (one of the many women Lukyanova cites as an iconic image of beauty) was 4’11” and measured out to 33-25-31. Lukyanova began to pop up onto my radar through ads on body image; I didn’t click on anything until a quote appeared from a GQ Magazine interview.

 

“Everyone wants a slim figure. Everyone gets breasts done. Everyone fixes up their face if it’s not ideal, you know? Everyone strives for the golden mean. It’s global now. Remember how many beautiful women there were in the 1950s and 1960s, without any surgery? And now, thanks to degeneration, we have this.”

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After this I was hooked. Her sweeping generalizations and overwhelming misunderstanding of health (and humans) was intoxicating. How did her opinion of beauty become so superficial and why does she assume we all feel this way? I loved my Barbie Dolls growing up; does this mean I was programmed to believe that beauty is strictly superficial? Is Barbie a sin against body image? Or does an interest in her just mean I loved playing dress up?

 

Certainly Barbie can take some of the blame—the same way that pop-culture and our Instagram accounts can—in that they generate an ideal concept of physical beauty. It forces us to think that beauty is a series of dimensions that, if we work out enough and become an Breatharian (someone who lives on air and sunlight alone as Lukyanova preaches) we will attain the ideal look. It perpetuates a theory that beauty and wellness is something that we can see rather than feel, experience, or share.

 

Beauty is one part physical but a great deal more emotional. Consider Disney’s newest film Frozen. While the film still features two slender female leads, it takes a bold step towards understanding the emotional elements of beauty. It’s the story of two sisters; one of which harbors a secret talent to freeze the world around her. While at first, it seemed like an ugly and dangerous compartment of an otherwise beautiful girl, she was able to overcome her fear and learn to love this unique trait that was distinctly her. It wasn’t just beauty she could see, it was beauty she could feel. It was a love for herself, just as she was.

 

So how can we sift through the ads and the images around us? The trick has to be learning to strike a balance. These ads aren’t going anywhere. We aren’t about to delete our Facebook pages, or Instagram accounts. We are not going to stop purchasing People Magazine. There will always be a Heidi Montag or Valeria Lukyanova (and don’t worry, men, there is also a Human Ken!) We have to remember that when we look at them, we are not looking into mirrors. Keeping in the very front of our minds that beauty and wellness aren’t only defined by how we look and our body’s dimensions but by a combination of who we are and how we choose to conduct our lives and choices.

 

How do you think beauty and health is portrayed in social media and pop culture? What changes would you like to see made to improve the concept of beauty and wellness?

TriplED

TriplED
A personal blog on being a triplet…a triplet with an eating disorder!
A blog by Courtney Darsa, Dietetic Intern at the University of Delaware

 

I am a triplet.

 

The first reaction most people had when I told them I was a triplet was: “Oh my god, that is so cool!” Yes, being a triplet does have its perks and certainly makes for a unique experience. But for me, being a triplet came with its downfalls as well. I have a brother and a sister. It was particularly hard for me to have a sister the same age as I was. We had the same friends; we were involved in the same activities—and even worse—we shared a room! We were never apart. It felt like a constant competition. This was particularly true when it came to appearance. My “disordered thoughts” relentlessly told me that my sister was thinner and prettier than I was. I assumed everyone liked her better than they liked me. I felt as though I was living in my sister’s shadow and that I had to be exactly like her—“perfect.”

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This perfectionism caused me to become obsessed with losing weight because I wanted to be just like her. I started to run track in high school. I even took it to another level by running more than what was required—longer than the other sprinters. I was burning calories and that’s what mattered. I was a sprinter, but not for long. My coaches quickly saw my “love” for running and introduced me to distance running. And so began my career as a cross-country and long-distance runner.

 

I wanted to be thin and “perfect” like my triplet sister. So I asked my mom to take me to a registered dietitian early in my sophomore year. I wanted to come up with a regimented meal plan that would benefit my training—aka lose weight! Unfortunately, the RD provided me with a meal plan that helped me to lose weight and further my obsession with calories. This caused me to spiral in the wrong direction. Due to my obsession about wanting to be thin and never really feeling good enough, I found myself losing weight at a more drastic pace than ever. But I was accomplishing my goal and becoming more like my sister. To my absolute amazement, I was receiving compliments about my new appearance. I was finally getting the attention I had longed for! However, I was not healthy. I was obsessing and isolating.

 

This continued until my very close friends and, much to my surprise, my sister stepped up and told me that they were worried about me. They were concerned that I might have an eating disorder. Of course, I felt attacked and totally denied it. I even wondered: “How could they think such a thing?” I’m fine! Well, my friends and my sister didn’t think so! They went directly to my parents and told them how worried they were. They thought I had an eating disorder. Unfortunately, my parents, who in hindsight were obviously in denial, ignored the subject. I too, was in denial!

 

I soon found myself training very intensely for my upcoming cross country season, sometimes running up to 60 miles a week. My undiagnosed eating disorder became worse. I was severely underweight and always exhausted. I slowly started to see my performance decline, but chose to ignore the signs. My performance was negatively affected and my relationships with family and friends were compromised. I was irritable, moody and depressed. Being perfect and skinny like my sister was not all it was cracked up to be! Unfortunately, I had dug myself too deep a hole to easily get myself out. At the end of the cross-country season, my coach noticed my eating disorder’s effects on my running performance, pulled me aside and told me that I had to stop training until my weight was “stable enough to handle the training intensity.”

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Running had become my whole life; I was utterly devastated. Slowly but with much resistance, I gained enough weight to start running again—but my self-esteem continued to unravel. I hated the way I looked and my disordered thoughts continued to tell me that I wasn’t good enough. I had achieved my goal of being thinner; however, I was far from perfect. I was still living in my sister’s shadow. For the remainder of high school, I was able to maintain my weight at a “stable/higher” level, yet I felt like an emotional mess. I restricted and binged. I realized I had no tools to express my emotions and that food had gotten intertwined. I was so obsessed with food that I decided to major in nutrition and dietetics in college. No one could convince me otherwise!

 

It didn’t take long for my new college friends to notice my unusual eating habits; they approached me in the fall of my sophomore year—and encouraged me to utilize the student-counseling center. With much anticipation and great fear, even though my friends accompanied me, I met with a psychologist where I discussed my personal issues with eating, body image and low self-esteem.

 

I was diagnosed with EDNOS—Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. This roused so many mixed emotions—anger, relief, shock and fear—which I still had no idea how to express. After attending many sessions however, my thought processes began changing. I was determined to get better and to start developing a healthier relationship with food. I took more steps than ever to move onto my personal road to recovery.

 

I began journaling everyday and confiding in my close friends. I was learning to express my emotions. To truly commit to recovery, I also had to do the hardest thing—tell my family what I was going through. This was not an easy task, but I readied myself by practicing during my therapy sessions. I told my family about my eating disorder and my feelings. Again, to my surprise, they were extremely supportive and understanding. Knowing that I had their love gave me the strength to continue through the recovery process. Most especially, having my sister at my side gave me even more courage to push through to recovery. During my senior year of college, I continued with weekly therapy and worked on separating my emotions from food. I learned to separate the eating disorder voice and my own real voice.

 

Being able to differentiate between “the two voices” allowed me to develop a much healthier relationship with food. I started to slowly take on the task of eating “fear foods.” This was a gradual and difficult process, but through much work and determination, my eating habits improved. I began to establish a neutral relationship with food. I learned that food is for nutrition and does not determine who you are as a person. Separating food and feelings was the key for me in my recovery. I was finally able to start to recognize my own voice!

 

Perhaps the best thing I discovered during my recovery was who I really was. For the first time in my life, I was no longer living in my sister’s shadow. I learned that the way you look has nothing to do with who you are as a person. What you have to offer to the world is far beyond your physical appearance; it’s who you are on the inside that truly matters. By finding out who I truly was, I was able to strengthen my relationships with my friends and my family. Most important, I was able to develop a close relationship with my sister.

 

I’m now one year out of college and finishing up my dietetic internship. It’s true when people say that so much can change in just a few years. I was lucky that I forced myself to major in something that I ended up loving. Learning how to have a healthy relationship with food was so important and crucial for my own recovery. Due to my own struggles and my eventual recovery from an eating disorder (and as a future registered dietitian), I’m determined to help individuals grappling with eating disorders to develop their own healthy relationships with food. I also know that it’s important for all dietitians to screen their clients for disordered eating and eating disorders. Being healthy is not about being a certain weight. Being healthy is a balance that honors your body.

What eating right means to this mom and RD…

What eating right means to this mom and RD…
By Laura Cipullo, RD CDE CEDRD CDN and Mom

 

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recently asked RDs to explain what eating right means to them. So I asked my assistant, my interns and my student volunteers to describe what it means to each of them. They shared their definitions with me—and therefore with you—at www.EatingAndLivingModerately.com.

I really think my blogs—and even simply many of the titles of my blogs—paint a very accurate picture of what eating right means to me. But just in case you may have missed my continuing message, here’s a short synopsis:

One Size Does Not Fit All

I’ve learned that diets basically don’t work! And I learned this fact more than twenty years ago! Since then, via earning my RD credentials, attempting to balance my own state of wellness, and working with clients, I’ve definitively learned and absolutely believe that ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL! Every individual carries a different set of genes, brings a different mindset and lives in a different environment. So although I believe all foods can fit into a healthy lifestyle, how I educate my clients (and my children) depends a great deal upon their personal situations. The concept of eating right is truly unique to each person’s unique needs. We need to go back to defining diet as habitual nourishment, rather than a quick fix.

Mixed Meals with Internal Regulation

For me, eating right became much easier when I let go of perfecting my diet and made the decision to eat all foods. Yes…carbs, proteins and even fats! I began using internal regulation methods rather than external regulation methods such as calorie counting or using a scale to “weigh my health.” Eating “imperfectly” became my perfect! For example, this means that if I eat a cupcake with my boys or share a meal with a client even though I’m already full, I don’t think twice about it. Rather, I enjoy the taste while I’m eating and remain mindful of my overall lifestyle. Learning to eat meals mixed with all three macronutrients and snacks with two of the three was essential—and still remains my ideal means for structuring food intake throughout each day. Actually, many of the techniques I use to feed myself and my family as well as what I teach all of my clients are based on the knowledge I’ve gained as a diabetes educator. Eating in harmony with the endocrine system (insulin, blood sugar, mixed meals, rate of absorption and fullness, etc.) and empowering intelligent decision-making are integral to wellness.

Some Food From Boxes

But I also know that eating right must also be realistic! Being a mom of two and having a full-time career which requires my working out-of-my-home two nights each week means learning how to create— and quickly prepare—healthy meals with just a few basic ingredients. It means sometimes eating a Kale Caesar Salad with salmon, or pasta with fresh asparagus or just pizza. It means actually making my children’s meals—even if not totally from scratch. At the very least, what I prepare is much less processed than fast food or take-out. And it also means my family and I can choose to eat vegan chili for lunch with chocolate chip cookies for snack!

The 75/25 Approach

My personal eating behaviors reflect what I teach in my book HEALTHY HABITS: The Program plus Food Guide Index & Easy Recipes. Although I created this book to help parents and educators teach children how to feed and eat in healthy ways, my husband, my children and I all practice these lessons in our daily lives. As explained in HEALTHY HABITS, I employ the concept of consuming what I call “everyday” foods (nutrient dense and sustainable) the majority of the time  (in general about 75%) and “sometimes” foods (low nutrient dense and less likely to be earth friendly) the remainder of the time (about 25%). And I use a “hunger/fullness scale” to help determine my portion sizes.

 Eating a Variety of Real Food

As evidenced by massive, ongoing research, nutritional science is neither black nor white. We always hear what the latest study has found or is associated with; it may, in fact, be in extensive conflict with a study completed just a year previous. So I personally try to stay in the middle—what I like to refer to as the grey zone. If I’m not eating excessively of one food or nutrient, I genuinely feel this will help minimize my risk of developing disease—such as diabetes, heart disease or even cancer. Being in the grey zone also helps to keep me at ease mentally. The mind-body connection is an important part of eating and being healthy. The yin yang symbol of balance bearing the apple and the cupcake on the cover of HEALTHY HABITS truly summarizes my definition of health and healthy eating and therefore, eating right.

Focus on Behaviors

And one more thing, eating right does not get measured on a scale located in your bathroom or in your doctor’s office. Here’s what is truly measurable and absolutely remarkable: The behaviors we engage in on a daily basis and how these actions and interactions affect us as complete, unique individuals. For me, that means being a mom, a wife, a friend, and an RD who eats, moves, rests and, of course, laughs!

Have Some Fun

So while you’re trying to live a life with what you deem as eating right, be sure that flexibility, spontaneity and “ a light hearted” attitude accompany your food choices. Again, this is the grey zone rather than the extreme zone.

 

Do 13 year olds really think about six-pack abs?

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Do 13 year olds really think about six-pack abs?
By Mom and RD, Elyse Falk

 

Boys and body image! Wow…what a perfect topic for me to be blogging about right now. The scenario goes something like this: My almost 13-year-old son comes home after a Bar Mitzvah party for one of his friends. It’s 12:00 am. I drag my butt out of bed to make sure he’s OK and to ask him how his evening was. As I walk sleepily down the hallway, I unintentionally catch a glimpse of his reflection in the bathroom mirror. He’s standing there, shirtless, flexing his muscles in the mirror and pulling in his abdominals. “Really?”…I think to myself. Not knowing quite what to say at that exact moment, I utter something innocuous: “OK. You can look at yourself tomorrow. It’s past midnight. Get into bed.” He quickly pulls on his shirt, and I, in turn, make a mental note about it.

 

As the days followed, I became aware of a noticeable decrease in his food intake…especially one night while we were eating dinner together. So I asked him: “Aren’t you hungry?” He answered: “Well, I’ve just been watching how much I eat and my stomach looks smaller when I eat less.” Because I’m a registered dietitian who specializes in counseling clients with eating disorders, I almost had a heart attack when I heard his response! “Listen to me, dude!” I said. “Your body is strong from karate and the recreational sports you participate in during the year. Your body is healthy from all the different foods you eat. You’re getting bigger and taller because you’re a teenager. Your body is changing so much right now! You’re starting to become a man! Your belly has gone through many changes throughout the last two years. It’s gotten bigger and then, when you grew taller, your belly became smaller again because that’s precisely what happens when you go through puberty!” He seemed to listen to what I was telling him, looked at me briefly, and simply said “Hmm….” He came into the kitchen a little bit later and, without any hesitation, ate some cookies. I didn’t say a word. The conversation hasn’t come up again since!

Photo Credit: Aka Hige via Compfight cc

Here’s what I’ve learned: The knowledge that boys (as well as girls) can and do fall prey to those troubling messages in the media about body image and dieting. In addition, puberty is often a very difficult life passage for any tween. When our bodies undergo various changes during puberty, our psyches do too. Many suffer with dismal thoughts and awkward feelings; throwing in the need to “fit in” by “looking a certain way” during this adolescent stage directs even more attention to their bodies. Please understand that it’s natural for your tween to be curious about his/her body’s new changes and how food affects those changes. And it’s most important for you to know that this is a crucial time for us, as parents, to watch our words and to keep our eyes pried wide open for the little (sometimes almost microscopic) clues our kids may be displaying. A particularly vital task at hand is helping our boys understand how food helps their bodies and that the changes to their tummies, their voices, and their broadness are all normal and need to be balanced with the consumption of healthy foods and fun physical activities…but most definitely not controlled!

 

Elyse Falk is a registered dietitian who specializes with clients who have disordered eating/eating disorders and practices in Northern Westchester and can be reached at ebfalkrd@gmail.com.

Food Lessons

What Moms Learn From Their Kid’s Food

Scenario one:

Just recently, my two sons and I walked into Starbucks for a morning snack. I told the boys they could get one “sometimes” food but not two. Bobby, my oldest, chose banana chocolate chip cake; Billy, my youngest, ordered vanilla milk. And he had already eaten a lolly—and a granola bar. It was only 9:30 am! So, we went outside to sit on a bench while eating our morning snacks and waiting for an appointment I had scheduled. In short order, Billy proceeded to beg and plead for a piece of chocolate chip cake—and I had to deny his request. But please keep in mind that I’m trying to get him to understand his body’s needs for him to eat more nutrient dense foods and his need to understand the difference between “everyday” foods and “sometimes” foods.

Yes, of course, Billy can surely have “sometimes” foods, but I knew he’d have many more “sometimes” foods during this particular day since we were headed to NJ to visit with family. So after I said NO, I offered to get him a bagel with peanut butter. He stood firm—and again said NO; he wanted only the cake. Not even considering whether this was true hunger (which it wasn’t), I just knew we needed to put some focus on more nutrient dense foods since returning from our beach getaway trip. Well, after five minutes, he changed his tune and started saying he wanted me to pick him up. Soon after that, we ended up at home where I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on sprouted grain bread for both boys. By this point, Billy had totally forgotten about the food, the cake and the desire to eat—for whatever reason. He actually didn’t ask for food until about two hours later when I gave him his sandwich, a pumpkin cranberry Squeezer and water. He was happy and content. Then later, my oldest son Bobby asked for cookies for his snack; of course, we gave both boys cookies. I didn’t limit how many they took. They probably ate four or five cookies each during an hour period in-between playing.

 

Lesson One:

One child can learn from another as I noted (with a giant smile, I might add!) when listening to my oldest son explain to my youngest: “You can’t always have both. You can have either the cake or the flavored milk but not both all of the time.”

I think Bobby clearly gets it. But it seems he has from a very young age while little Billy just isn’t there yet. All of our kids, yours and mine, each have their own personalities; what works for one child may not work quite as easily or well for the other. We need to remember that each child is an individual especially in regard to food and eating as well as psychological points of view.

 

Lesson Two:

Sometimes, when our kids are asking us for food, they are really asking for something else entirely. Maybe a hug, maybe more “Mom” time, maybe…you fill in the blank! Flexible boundaries around food can actually help your child. Avoid extremes but stay within a structure that is both flexible and reasonable.

Walking with Purpose

By Guest Blogger: Rebecca Weiss

For the past ten years I have been invisible. I’m not a superhero, and I’m not joking. Since the early 2000s, I, as an overweight, middle-aged woman in New York City, have been completely invisible.

This has played out like a humorous montage in a sitcom. I climb up a flight of stairs from the subway, and the people coming down the steps run right into me. I walk out of a coffee shop with a cup in each hand and the person in front of me drops the door in my face. I walk down the street with my husband—no small fellow himself—and people part ways and let him through while I am swallowed by the crowd. Back when George Bush was president, I posted political stickers all over lower Manhattan and no one noticed my acts of vandalism. I really was invisible.

I got used to it. People didn’t see me, and I didn’t make an effort to be seen. I stopped getting my hair cut, stopped wearing makeup, stopped buying new clothes. By the time I was up to 230 pounds, I was wearing my husband’s old khakis and baggy t-shirts everyday and always had my hair piled up on my head.

I often laughed to myself when someone from my neighborhood, or one of my kids’ schools, or just the grocery store, would acknowledge my husband but not me. It got to be quite comical at times. I stopped to help someone whose car had broken down and she waved me away, not realizing that I have ridden the same train with her to and from the city every workday for the past six years.

Since beginning a fitness program about a year ago, and eating more mindfully, I’ve noticed many changes in myself. I’ve got more energy, I sleep well, I don’t suffer from stomach-related ailments any more, and I can run, climb stairs and dance like a fool without getting out of breath. I’ve reveled in my discovery of these things. And, just recently, I’ve begun to notice something else: People are seeing me again.

It seemed like a fluke at first. One morning my train pulled into the station, and the other people waiting to board made room for me in line. Some even said hello. Next, a barista at Starbucks acknowledged my presence without me waving my hands in her face. Then, it spread: salespeople offered to help me in fitting rooms, coworkers complimented my outfits, some people actually apologized after bumping me with their bags on the street. I had forgotten how to react in these situations, so I adopted a nervous smile and tried to go with it.

I’m not saying it’s been a complete 180 and the world embraces me now. It’s certainly nothing like when I was in my 20s, sashaying down the NYC sidewalks in platform sandals and short skirts, with men coming up to ask for my number. I know those days are long gone, and I’m not sorry to see them go. But, whether they see me as a set of legs, or as a mom, or a woman on her way to work, it’s notable to me that they actually do see me. Of course, I still get the door dropped on my face at the coffee shop from time to time, and pushy people on the train are still pushy—this is New York, after all.

Now I wonder, is it just my weight loss that’s brought me back into the visible world? Could it be that I walk differently, hold myself differently, address people differently? When I was heavier, was I showing myself to anyone? Or, was I hiding in my oversized clothes and unkempt hair? Perhaps I wanted to be invisible.

Regardless, the fact is that I’m here now. I walk with purpose. My eyes are bright. I’m taking up the space I choose. No matter what I weigh, I’m here, and I’m not going to disappear again.

A Comment from MDIO:

When reading this, I expect that Rebecca is just now becoming present and comfy in her own skin. No longer does she want or feel the the need to hide. Yet– Moms and dads, despite what our kids look like, what shape or size their bodies are, lets vow to love them, and help them find self worth so that they can beam from the inside out from childhood through adulthood.

 

About Rebecca: 

Rebecca Weiss is a writer, mom of two, and director of communications for a New York City auction house. In 2012 she started a fitness and wellness journey. She is a monthly contributor to Mom Dishes It Out.

Teaching Nutrition in School

Like so many things affecting their children, parents tend to disagree on whether sex, sexual orientation or religion should be taught in school. Well, this mom (and an RD) often wonders if nutrition should be taught in school.

Teachers are not experts in nutrition nor are they educated about pediatric or adult nutrition as part of their college curriculums. Yet, many classroom teachers are giving lessons on “calories, good and bad foods, and even having students log their foods to see why they are so fat.” And I’m not making this stuff up. My client’s mother recently told me exactly what her daughter’s teacher had said to the class. If you’ve been reading my blogs regularly, you’ll easily imagine that at this point my nails are, at least figuratively, scratching the chalkboard!

Stop! Hold on just a minute! Do we even realize that these kinds of discussions and activities help create little food police and body dysmorphia? Moms, dads, teachers and kids: Do you know how many calories you burn in 24 hours? In 168 hours? Do teachers know how many calories kids are burning…especially since every kid hits puberty at a slightly different age? We typically do not know these answers; nor should we be obsessing with them. Also, do we really know if the calories on a package are correct? News flash: They are not being regulated and/or checked for accuracy! So why are we relying so heavily on these external measures? Be cautious and recognize that this black and white/all or none mindset is an unhealthy one. Instead, think about using an internal regulation system and try eating nutrient dense foods the majority of the time.

Most importantly, please know that foods are not “good” or “bad.” How can food be a moral issue? When you teach your children or your students that a particular food is “bad,” think about how they’ll feel if they eat the food. That’s right. They’ll not only feel bad and guilty; they’ll also probably start to hide these foods. Instead, try to make all foods neutral. For example, teach children that milk is milk. It’s a dairy product that is high in calcium and protein and comes from cows. Broccoli is a food that grows up from the ground and helps our bodies fight getting sick. Because foods vary in nutrient density, our bodies and kids’ growing bodies need certain foods more often to meet specific demands. You can describe each food’s nutrient density or just call them “everyday” foods or “sometimes” foods as described in my book, The Mommy Manual’s Healthy Habits. 

And why are some adults teaching kids to identify how “fat” they are? Our children are already being bullied by their peers…and now they’re learning to tell themselves how bad they are! I say this because our society (not me personally) continually states (overtly or covertly) that “fat” is “bad”! Why don’t we teach children how healthy they are or how special they are?

 

Even First Lady Michelle Obama is singing this new tune. She has been quoted saying she does not discuss weight with her daughters, nor does she weigh them.

So, why not use something like what the children’s nutrition tracker calls “An Apple A Day”; it motivates our youngsters to eat their veggies and be active. My boys love this tool and have actually turned eating and being healthy into a friendly competition.

Meanwhile, it’s not just one misguided teacher who shares this “good” and “bad” food misinformation. Even one of my son’s teachers labels certain foods as “treats.” I have told my son I will no longer acknowledge this word as it indicates something special. For example, ice cream is a snack choice, not a special reward. The point here is that nutrition is a sensitive issue…especially in my world where I am privy to the teary-eyed triggers that influence the development of eating disorders. And yes, binge eating is an eating disorder. Most adults don’t have their own nutrition needs in order, so it’s particularly scary to me as a mom (and as an RD who cares about her clients) that nutrition education is being taught without regard to both biology and psychology.

I know…quit my yapping and do something! Right? Well I did…and I continue to do! First, I’ve educated my sons’ school on appropriate food language and they’ve made this information part of their Health and Wellness Curriculum. I recently planted strawberries with the students and talk food and nutrition with them on a regular basis. Second, and on a much greater scale, I’ve finally finished my 8-week plan for creating healthy habits for children. The complete program is available to download. Moms, dads and teachers alike can use this book for lesson plans and nutrition education on subjects such as what carbohydrates are or what qualifies as an “everyday” food. In short, teachers can teach about nutrition but should consider using a positive approach and promoting things kids can do rather than what they shouldn’t be doing. For instance, my sons’ school just made pancakes with blueberries and did a “dairy study”. The result: My picky boys came home eating blueberries and having tried goat’s milk. Now that’s what I call a beautiful educational experience! 

So what do you think? Is nutrition education appropriate for school?

What positive programs are your schools implementing?

Would you like to share your nutrition education success?